Five years ago a group of music enthusiasts founded what has become one of the most important dates on the music calendar every year. Record Store Day is a celebration that happens on the third Saturday of April and has grown exponentially since its inception in 2007. It has become a highly anticipated event, giving a shot in the arm to these churches of music. This year’s edition of Record Store Day saw over 400 special edition releases for the event, which is pretty amazing when you consider that only 10 such releases were offered on the inaugural Record Store Day. To me, today is better than Christmas.
The fact that this is such a special day in the music world illustrates just how important independent record stores are to the community. Music is a huge part of global culture and record stores are integral part of this. While iTunes and digital media have undoubtedly brought with them some amazing developments, such as greater accessibility and easier distribution (especially for smaller artists), the digital age has also brought some ills with it, the shuttering of hundreds of record stores being the most alarming. The collective knowledge of the staffs of independent record stores is something that apps like the iTunes Genius will never be able replicate. That’s largely due to the fact that music is emotional and that’s something that algorithms can never compute. This means that those quantum leap finds in record stores would go away should record stores ever go extinct. What I mean by that is things like Genius work based off what you already have in your catalog, meaning that the suggestions are made within parameters. Well, aren’t the most amazing musical moments the ones where you are taken by surprise or introduced to something unlike anything you’ve ever heard before? Maybe it’s an entire genre to which you’d never paid attention until you walked into a record store and heard on the stereo there. That’s a common story and to me it’s invaluable to the overall well-being of music.
Record stores are every bit as important to music as art galleries are to the art community and book stores are to the literary community. They are a place for music enthusiasts to congregate and talk about music. They are also historical gold mines, boasting extensive used vinyl and CD sections that hold a piece of our cultural history. And it’s the cultural significance that make the existence of record stores so important. The world’s pursuit of efficiency and ease of proliferation have come at the expense of culture. Making a record is so much more than just recording music. Album artwork is part of the message and experience as well. The packaging of albums is also something lost in the digitized age. To a great number of people, buying music is as religious and significant an experience as going to church. A lot of that experience is lost in the digital medium. That’s not to say that iTunes and the like do not have their own reasons for being great – think about how much music you can filter through in such a short time online and the ability to preview is a huge asset. But, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Record stores and digital outlets can and need to coexist.
So, get out there and support Record Store Day! You’ll not only be helping to preserve an important part of the cultural world, you’ll be supporting local business. And, with so many amazing special limited edition releases made for and sold only on Record Store Day, everyone wins!
And for those wondering, here’s what I picked up:
The Black Keys – El Camino (2 x 12″, 1 x 7″), Grouplove – Tongue Tied Live 7″, Otis Redding/Aretha Franklin – Respect 7″, James Brown – Live at the Apollo 7″, MC5/Afrika Bambaataa – Kick Out the Jams 7″, Iggy and the Stooges – Live at ATP 2010 12″, The Civil Wars – Live at Amoeba CD
Tell us what you picked up!