16 April 2023

Record Store Day means different things to different shops and customers

| Chris Johnson
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Phil Place in Dynomite Records holding a David Bowie album

Phil Place from Dynomite Records has a novel approach to Record Store Day. Photo: Region.

Record Store Day is not what it used to be.

Some would describe it as bigger and better than ever, while others would say it’s been hijacked by corporate interests to the detriment of vendors and buyers alike.

Whatever your take on the calendar’s big annual event for vinyl lovers, there will be no missing the long queues and busy counters at record stores across the country – Canberra included – on Saturday, 22 April.

Landspeed Records, the capital’s largest store, always attracts a huge crowd on Record Store Day, with this year expected to be just as popular.

The line-up of eager buyers starts way before the store opens, all competing for the treasures to be found inside.

Landspeed promises “a large selection of limited edition RSD releases”, but you have to be there in person as “there are no pre-sales or holds available on RSD releases, they are sold on a strictly first come first served basis on the day.

“There is a limit of one copy of each title per customer (you can buy as many different titles as you want though).”

While Landspeed in Canberra’s city centre gets the district’s main RSD releases and is always swamped by eager vinyl enthusiasts, some smaller stores have come up with more novel approaches to the big day.

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Songland Records in Weston Creek has traditionally called for used vinyl to be donated to the store so it can in turn donate proceeds from the sale of them on the day to the local RSPCA.

Further south in Kambah, second-hand record store Dynomite Records goes all out to attract its share of RSD buyers.

“We’ll have a marquee out the front full of bargains, lots of discounted records, giveaways, free pizza, free coffee and a live band playing,” proprietor Phil Place said.

“We’ll have guessing competitions and really make a fun day of it. We’re going to do a needle drop on a record and the first person to recognise and call out the track wins the record.

“It’s only a small store. It’s only 57 square metres, so we utilise all the space we can every day and the marquee comes out once a year.

“It’s our biggest day of the year really.”

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Record Store Day was founded in 2007 when a group of independent American store owners got together with an idea to help support the industry.

It was hailed as a boon for independent record shops and became a global event when launched in 2008 by heavy metal band Metallica in the US, with a live appearance by punk-turned-folk singer Billy Bragg in the UK.

Subsequent years have attracted various official ambassadors and special appearances from the ranks of the music world’s glitterati.

A number of records are pressed specifically for Record Store Day and are only distributed to participating shops, which must pay on a no-return basis without knowing ahead of time what releases they will get.

It has been that issue, along with the fact limited releases can be found for sale online by “collectors” at inflated prices within hours of the event, that has sparked calls for the day to be reimagined.

Major record labels have also come under fire for over-commercialising what was meant to be an initiative to help keep small shops open.

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During the pandemic and the height of lockdowns around the world, Record Store Day, which takes place on the third Saturday in April, was replaced with “RSD Drops” over a number of dates to participating stores.

“This is the first real Record Store Day in three years,” Place says.

“I’m sort of in two minds about the official releases. Being a secondhand store, they don’t apply to me and the drops during COVID were a non-event for this shop.

“But Record Store Day was initially an idea formulated to try and promote physical brick-and-mortar stores staying open and being able to service the community that’s interested in vinyl.

“I get it that the major record labels are trying to make a dollar as we all are, but I hope it’s not going to damage the day as it was originally intended.”

Disclaimer: This author frequents all of the above-named record stores as a customer and can occasionally be seen lending a hand at Dynomite.

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A few months ago, my grandsons (aged 16 and 13) came across my record collection that was tucked away in the garage. Needless to say, they love the music and went home with a bundle of them. Obviously, they needed something to play them on, so they got a turntable each from their mum for Christmas.

Gregg Heldon8:01 am 17 Apr 23

For some of us, everyday is record (or CD) store day. I buy at least one or two CDs a week. Nothing beats physical music. Nothing more relaxing than an hour of flicking through the racks to see what’s new.
Can’t beat it. I’ve never downloaded or streamed a song in my life and never will. I have ripped some of my CDs to an iPod for use on holidays but that’s the closest I’ve gotten. I also visit music stores on holiday too. Google where they are before we go.

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