Photograph By: Mn-que
April 19th, 2008, marked the first official Record Store Day; a day to celebrate independent record stores, music fans, and all sounds pressed onto vinyl. The day is meant to spread awareness of the culture surrounding a nearly forgotten form of media and the die-hard small businesses that strove to keep the vinyl dream alive.
When Record Store Day was started vinyl record sales, for the first time since the 80's, began to rise and haven't stopped rising since. In fact, it is projected that vinyl will soon regain its status as a billion dollar industry according to an article from The Vinyl Factory.
As sales continued to rise, major labels began noticing the trends and wanted a slice of the pie so they started pressing records on vinyl once again.
Suddenly, once hard-to-find releases got reissued in higher quality, more and more bands returned to releasing their albums on vinyl and Record Store Day became saturated with all kinds of limited special releases, collectors editions, and remasters.
All of this is a record collector's (and vendor's) dream. Record Store Day exclusives helped to get a new generation excited about collecting physical music, but the side effects of this rapid rise in record popularity potentially spells disaster for the indie labels that propped up the vinyl record industry when no one else would.
There are a limited amount of operational record pressing plants, there are a limited amount of working record presses and there is an astronomical demand for vinyl records.
A lot of money is to be made in selling reissues of classic, beloved albums, and that is exactly what major labels are doing. This is great for fans, but, for the small labels that depend on quick turnaround on records to make a profit, this has become problematic.
Alex Sushon, founder of EDM label night slug, once pressed nearly every release on vinyl. Nowadays it can take up to nine months or more to get their releases pressed and that sort of turnaround is not economically viable for small labels.
“If we could get a record turned around in just a few weeks, maybe I would keep producing 12″s for every release” commented Sushon in a recent Facebook post.
Record stores, though typically happy about the rise in sales, have commented on how new music is selling far worse than the reissues. In an interview with Marc Weinstein, co-founder of Amoeba Records, he said: “We sell a lot of jazz reissues, for example, to customers who already own copies of those records. An ultimate 180-gram vinyl version means they can archive their original copy so they don’t have to listen to it any more.”
While audiophiles continue to empty the shelves of all their favourite LP's, indie acts and labels struggle to sell their new releases. Record stores have become more cautious about what they stock, especially when it comes to special collector items; the very kind produced specifically for Record Store Day.
In an article on Bandwidth.fm Bill Daly, owner of record store Crooked Beat, says he has 700 to 800 unsold Record Store Day releases. He says customers are often turned off by the price. When Daly stocked Nick Drakes - an artist who typically sells very well - 2013 RSD release he bought 40 copies at $27 dollars each. Retailing at $40 he only sold twelve.
At the same time Record Store Day remains the busiest day for most record stores and, though owners are feeling pressured to buy into it, it is difficult to ignore the merits of the celebration.
Universal Music's sales manager, Marc Fayd’Herbe, considers Record Store Day "the single best thing that has ever happened" for independent record shops. And despite the difficulty of starting up a record pressing plants to help meet demand, new plants are finally beginning to appear. Third Man Records recently opened up a brand new plant complete with all new record presses in Detroit.
The world of vinyl records has been flipped on its head. Much of the skill required to manufacture the tools needed to create quality records has been lost to time, but slowly people are beginning to relearn the techniques.
New plants are opening new presses are being built and hopefully the indie labels that kept the vinyl industry on life-support during the 90's and early 2000's will find a comfy love-seat to share with the major labels.