I would always class myself as a record collector. I got my first 7” single aged 3, and grew up with vinyl. And while the ages of cassette, CD and MP3 have seen me adopt the new formats, I’ve always stuck with vinyl alongside them, for all the reasons any diehard vinyl fan will tell you they prefer vinyl. And I do prefer vinyl. But this year, for the first time in a long time, I passed on Record Store Day.
RSD has become quite divisive in recent years, with many complaining about the way greedy so-and-sos who don’t care about the music will buy up everything they can get their hands on and cash in by flogging it on eBay at insanely inflated prices. And people will pay the prices because they don’t want to miss out. It’s what collectors do.
And yes, I’ve done it myself, and been on both sides of the transaction: I’ve paid overinflated prices for releases out of desperation, and I’ve also bought items knowing they’ll be worth a packet in no time because the supply is nowhere near correspondent to the demand. Limited editions will always have that special appeal to collectors.
But people do have a choice, and this year, I opted to exercise my choice not to go and buy a stack of vinyl, despite very much wanting to.
It isn’t so much that RSD has been hijacked by greedy capitalists, and I’m not even entirely averse to queueing for stuff if I really want it. But I feel that RSD has lost some of its appeal, and moreover, sight of what it was all about in the first place.
As I understand it, RSD was about celebrating independent record stores. Sellers of vinyl. And s such, it was also a celebration of vinyl, the format, and what the format offers as a holistic musical experience. The medium is the message, in a way.
Most people queueing outside stores on RSD probably don’t frequent record stores on any other days of the year. Personally, I’d much rather celebrate record stores all year round, by dropping in and picking stuff up when the mood takes and finances allow. And for me, the record store experience is about the browsing, the mulling, and the milling. Charging in to buy stuff with a shopping list in hand and jostling for an item before it’s snatched from under your nose is not an enjoyable or even remotely pleasant shopping experience. Being pressured to grab goods – especially when you know the items have their pieces fixed high but not to the benefit of the retailer – really kills the buzz.
People in Leeds ‘Crash’ the RSD scene in 2014
But this year, above all, the releases themselves simply haven’t inspired me. It’s a perfectly personal thing, of course, and I expect that my working as a reviewer has only further jaundiced my outlook. The more bands I’m introduced to, and like, the less possible it is to obsess about owning every release by every band on every format. In my teens and early 20s, I would purchase single releases on 7”, 12”, Cassette, CD and whatever numbered / coloured / poster sleeve limited editions were going. Now… I’d rather buy five releases by five different artists, rather than the same release by one artist five times. In short, I’m still a collector, but not a completist.
And while I’m by no means averse to going out and paying for a physical copy of an album I’ve been given in digital format ahead of release to review, can I really justify doing so in the name of Record Store Day? Again, the frenzy that RSD has become pressures the decision to be made on the spot or even in advance.
This year’s list of releases features a bewildering number of reissues. I have no problem with reissues per se, but I’m not about to purchase yet another copy of something I already have on original black vinyl and CD with bonus tracks just because it’s on red vinyl, or a picture disc. I just can’t get excited about queueing up for ages to fork out £20 for an album I already have, and if I don’t already own it, chances are I could pick up a second hand copy of the original for the same price or less.
The same applies tenfold for singles lifted from albums that have been out for donkey’s years. And similarly, can I really justify parting with £6 for a limited 7” of a track I already have on album because it has an exclusive B-side? At any other time, a band could release a single in a run of, say, 500, and it would still be available a month later. Of course, it’s great for labels to be able to put something about and recoup their costs much more quickly, but it seems absurd that because a record is released on a certain say, it’s going to sell out before lunchtime.
Clearly, I can’t stop the madness, and RSD still does a great job of raising awareness of record stores and vinyl, and I still applaud that. But it’s because I so love vinyl and the whole record store experience that I jumped the RSD ship this year. I’ve still got another 364 days of the year to show my appreciation and support record stores by buying from them in more sane and sedate circumstances.
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