Monday, April 22, 2013

Record Store Day 2013: A Brief Reflection

Ah yes, Record Store Day... there's nothing quite like rising at the crack of dawn to queue with a legion of fellow sad fucks, each armed with a wad of cash and in pursuit of limited, grossly overpriced discs of plastic. This year, I set my alarm for half past five, and about an hour later took my place in the line outside Newcastle's Reflex, behind 42 even more eager/dedicated/tragic individuals who'd beaten me there. It was a sign of the deranged, obsessive extremes music can push us to, but for me the sheer diversity of those present also offered the first indication of all that's good about this annual gathering. I, a staunch advocate of miserable Scottish music, stood with my Dad, an old punk hunting Street Dogs and Undertones singles, and even in those early stages we found ourselves accompanied by everything from skinny-jeaned indie kids to prog dinosaurs to mod revivalists, all looking to grab their own slice from several hundred exclusive releases. There were even girls! Not many of them admittedly, but enough to shatter the myth that obsessive musical disorder is an exclusively male trait.

Of course, there was also a less rosy side to proceedings - namely the innate knowledge that not all present shared our intentions. Were those seen leaving with five bulging bags genuine collectors with more money than sense, or would their first activity upon returning home be to fire up their eBay accounts? It's a distasteful inevitability that's existed ever since the celebration's stateside genesis in 2007, and one that's worsened year-on-year as its popularity and coverage have likewise intensified. Come midday, former Arab Strap vocalist Aidan Moffat reported his own 7"'s to be fetching up to £40, even though some could conceivably have been left on the shelves, while my own cursory evening search found no less than 140 Paul Weller singles up for auction - that from a limited run of 2000. "Despicable," as the former aptly put it.

My Stash
Mogwai/Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Split 7"
Admiral Fallow - Tree Bursts In Snow LP
Sigur Ros - Hvarf/Heim LP
Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight LP
Elliott Smith - Alternative Versions From Either/Or 7"
The Twilight Sad/Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Split 7"
Frightened Rabbit/Lau - 'Norland Wind' 7"
Anyway, speaking of Aidan Moffat, he and collaborator Bill Wells' split with fellow Scots The Twilight Sad was my number one priority, and as sod's law would have it was also the only item on my wishlist I couldn't secure at Reflex. As you'd imagine, frustration ensued, though this did at least give me an excuse to visit the city's other remaining independents, of which we're fortunate to have quite a few. Around 100 yards down the road, JG Windows provided my next stop, followed by a slightly longer walk towards Beatdown, situated near the train station. Neither possessed the holy grail, but the latter did bring about the impulsive purchase of Elliott Smith's Either/Or outtakes 7", which being my favourite record of his was too inviting to pass up. My last chance lay with the excellent RPM, which unsurprisingly given its reputation and size still had a queue more than three hours after opening time. At such a late stage, I was all but resigned to failure, but lo and behold there it was; that familiar morbid artwork shining out from a singles box, heralding the discovery of my prize.

My day then was an unqualified success, and by general consensus the same seems to have applied to the event as a whole. There's no doubt it's of huge importance to the shops in question. That much was proved at 9am, when Reflex's owner revealed they'd made more in the first hour or so of trading than they had in the whole of the preceding week, yet there remains a dissenting minority who call into question the reality of the occasion. Along with the eBay sharks, complaints over the increased involvement and profiteering of major labels were abundant, as were claims the affair had somehow lost touch with its original exclusively well-meaning sentiments.

Then, clearly, there's the issue of legacy, and whether a single day of publicity really does enough to promote businesses which operate the year around. The attention gained through such hysteria, however, is surely priceless - some would say of equal importance to the cash raked in - and indeed it was virtually impossible to pass by participating shops without catching a sense of that festive atmosphere. This will surely have rubbed off on the odd oblivious passer by, not to mention the online and HMV shoppers whose interest may have been piqued, be it through in-store performances (local acts Nadine Shah, Frankie & The Heartstrings [DJ] and The Lake Poets were just some of those making an appearance), the general madness, or merely the sight of so many people with big square bags skipping around the town with enormous smiles on their faces.  Many customers have, needless to say, been lost to the digital age, but with physical music enjoying a resurgence and major retailers seemingly incapable of moving with the times, one could make a case for these independents being more vital than ever.

1 comment:

  1. I am that sad old punk of a dad and the obsession is all my fault I'm afraid. I got all I wanted too, but Ali did spend more than me!