Record Store Day needs to re-evaluate importance of major labels

Last Saturday, I spent the very early hours of the morning wide awake and waiting. I was sitting on a blanket with a close friend and my brother, playing Scrabble and talking about music. This is what Record Store Day is about. Neither the resale “flipping” of records, nor the titular “limited” releases and reissues are the purpose of the holiest third Saturday in April.

Fast forward one sunrise, a half-assed game of Scrabble, three hours of conversation and one mad rush into an already tiny room and I found myself with every release I had my eye on and a whole day ahead of me.

This is my fourth year in a row camping outside of my hometown record store, Stinkweeds in Central Phoenix. Each year has been just as good, if not better, than the last. It seems as though every year though I have the same internal argument and the same conflicting emotions about RSD.

 

 

In the months leading up to RSD, I always tell myself that this year is the year I don’t go. The year that I say no to overpriced major label reissues, the bottom feeders who make a quick buck reselling the titles online and the about-to-burst price bubble for new releases.

The choice is made all the more difficult by the financial pressures to participate. If I don’t support my local store on the most competitive day of the year, then the store would suffer from not having my business. But if I do support it, I send a vote with my dollar saying I am in favor of what is happening.

RSD has become such an event that stores can’t afford not to participate. As a result they end up being forced to order RSD exclusives to win customer’s dollars from competing stores in the area. RSD traps record stores by making it financially impossible for them not to participate.

Additionally, this year’s list of releases was simultaneously the weakest and most expensive ever. Truth be told, nothing was really that important, and my anxiety over not getting everything on my list was nullified by my confidence in Stinkweed’s selection. In years past, I put things back and made decisions as to what records to leave behind. While this year was no different, the decision was much easier to make this year as opposed to the past.

As much as I talk myself into it, I keep coming back. Next year, I will probably try to set up camp even earlier. The allure of making the very worthwhile trip up to Stinkweeds is always too tempting to avoid, and there are always more than a few things on the list too good to resist. For now, the pros of RSD still outweigh the cons.

I know that there is practically a drop down list of reasons to hate RSD and the institutionalized celebration of a niche culture, but I have hope for the future. Even though the central RSD organization is completely asinine and has literally turned the day into a Black Friday-esque situation, there is a long list of worthwhile and affordable records, including Arizona’s own Destruction Unit.

The fact that the Destruction Unit/Merchandise/Milk Music split 12” wasn’t on the “official” RSD list, yet still made it onto a few big name blog’s RSD lists, is impressive and a sign of hope for the future. As with most homegrown things, corporations catch wind of it and hop on board, RSD being no different.

Major labels have been involved in RSD for as long as I can remember, and while they do put out some cool things, the effect they have on smaller labels is just too much to handle. The thought of smaller labels being priced out of the holiday that labels and stores worked in collaboration to establish is just absurd.

I would hate to apply politics to this and sound like a modern day, vinyl aficionado, anti-federalist, but a decentralized RSD body would serve the population much better. Regional releases and a more pronounced effort towards local bands and organizations are exactly what Record Store Day needs. Otherwise, my favorite Saturday of the year will be reduced to a sea of bland wide releases and manufactured collector’s items.

Reach the columnist at jpbohann@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @JordanBohannon

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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