Record Store Day 2018: not just a gimmick for sales

Music

8 am Saturday morning I arrived at Truck record store in Cowley. A queue outside stretched all the way down the street and was composed of people of all ages. Record Store Day is an international event promoting independent record stores where special edition records, and a few cassettes if vinyl is now too mainstream for your hipster identity, are released exclusively at independent record stores to attempt to keep them afloat. Hundreds of records are released on a first-come-first-served basis, resulting in desperate vinyl junkies lining up from the early hours of the morning.

The appreciative staff made the experience as enjoyable as possible for the music community

The first person set up camp at 12.30 am, so I hardly have the right to moan about the 2 hours it took until I reached the shop. In fact, these 2 hours ended up not being anything to moan about at all. The appreciative staff made the experience as enjoyable as possible for the music community. They were out with the rest of us selling coffee, cake and passing out quizzes (I am too embarrassed to say how few answers I got). There was also ample time to chat to passers-by asking what I was queuing for. Most walked away confused about why so many people were waiting so long to buy an outdated music format. Perhaps they considered informing us about Spotify, but then thought better of it in the face of a hundred impatient vinyl fanatics.

I do feel I got a bit carried away when I started to express annoyance at people walking out of the shop with tote bags instead of clear plastic bags, as I couldn’t see which records they were walking away with and then estimate my falling chances of getting what I was there for.

When I did finally reach the door another member of staff stood with a list of everything they had in. He asked what I was looking for, checked the list, reviewed the shelves, and confirmed they had a few copies left. As reassuring as this was, the part that enhanced the experience most was the opportunity to have a chat with a friendly face about how the day had been going, and hear his approving comments on my choice of Music From Before The Storm by Daughter. This also gave a calm buffer between squeezing into the stuffed shop, and the wait until I was released to trawl through the nearest free stack.

The list of releases is usually dominated by reissues of records that have had so many ‘limited’ reissues that the standard edition seems to be rarer. Especially since the labels are painfully aware of how people will ignore whatever ridiculous price tag they stick on. This years’ selection did include a distastefully high number of Bowie and T. Rex reissues, that are still always taken immediately. But, apart from this, I was delighted by the number of bands releasing LPs and EPs on vinyl for the first time, as well as the amount of records on the list that are renowned for being rare. Releases from Trampled By Turtles and Sigrid were just some of the records I was excited to get my hands on. Without sounding too pretentious, it is incredibly satisfying to flick through a stack of 12” records, searching for anything recognisable and sliding it out to admire the cover in all it’s glory. Stating that Wriggle Out The Restless by This Is The Kit is one of the “700 coloured vinyl limited edition (splatter orange + blue)” does, slightly shamefully, give me great incentive to buy it – but that is the point.

If you look past the high price, record store day is a huge step forward in making music a social and physical idea again

It is disappointing that some of the records are still priced so highly, I was told they would have boycotted a few if it weren’t for the demand, and also that many of these records instantly appear on Ebay. Yet, if you look past this, record store day is a huge step forward in making music a social and physical idea again. Also, any excuse to keep these amazing shops open is more than welcome.

We shouldn’t need Record Store Day as an excuse to shop at independent record stores. Truck, just like many others across the UK is a beautifully laid out store, with a great range of music and friendly, knowledgeable staff. It is also encouraging to see how so many stores like Truck are exceeding the expectations of the day with live bands and DJs, showing the day is deeply about music and the communal experience, not just a gimmick for sales.

Record Store Day is a great introduction for many to try a record store, but my hope is that this is part of a wider revival of independent music shops not just a stand-alone day. Looking ahead from this, they have a range of events from listening parties to intimate gigs coming up that are definitely worth checking out.