21 May, 2015

Record Store Day

Record Store Day.

It's given me a lot to ponder this week. If I was only interested in having these items for the potential resale value of the day's releases, I could pull that plug right now. A quick check of eBay shows that little of what's been released over the past 6 years has held it's value. Unless it was regional; had low press count; and contained something exclusive (see Third Man Records) - then it's really not been a good investment.

If you only buy what you like - which is where I am, you can easily throw $300 at a small lot of music that probably isn't unique, meaning you already own it, or at the least have heard it. Maybe it's remastered, repressed, on some lovely colored vinyl, or compiled in a unique fashion, but chances are, in this digital environment, you are not hearing something for the first time.

Adding to the RSD landscape are the vampires. These individuals are garnering the most national attention surround RSD. Hated by buyers, I'd hope equally despised RSD organizers, and are slowly serving to put RSD in it's grave. This insidious group of individuals are the eBayers. They show up like a biblical plague on the Sunday preceding Record Store Day Saturday. It's usually a handful of creatures offering every single RSD release at an extravagant price (anywhere from a 100% to a 1000% markup). They guarantee product or a full refund. So, tell me how that works?! Because, right now, no one who organizes RSD has chimed in about the problem. Absolutely no one should be able to guarantee an RSD item, unless of course they are a store participating in RSD. They get away with this BS because they offer full refunds if the item can't be obtained. Is this someone so confident that they will be able to purchase every single RSD item when the store opens that Saturday, or is this someone that knows that the bulk of what's being released is coming to their store? If it's the latter - it's a violation of the agreement between store and organizer. In fact, employees who put all of this together for your shopping pleasure are forced to be hands off until close of business that Saturday. They get to pick from the leftovers. Thank you very much for the giant risk you took, here's some table scraps. But no one is acting, RSD organizers turn a blind eye to it, and eBay refuses to step in because of the refund offer, they claim it's no different than presale items which is not a violation of user agreements. Only the rich or desperate would consider these vampire's offers, but it's not really the point. I doubt they are taking much business, if any, away from the participating stores, the point is - they act immune to the same rules governing the stores participating in RSD, they likely are experiencing none of the risk (because these are individuals working in stores who could simply put the stock on the shelf), they are preying upon the consumer, and tarnishing a brand. They are essentially drug dealers operating on a black market. "Hey buddy, don't get up at 5 AM and waste your Saturday in line, I got what you need right here. Money back guarantee if I don't deliver the goods". WTF!?

In comes the store. Unless you are a heartless asshole, you have to realize what a massive risk an independent store takes to participate in Record Store Day. They purchase ten of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise that they hope and pray will sell. You don't know what you are going to receive until it shows up at your doorstep, you can't return it if it doesn't sell, and god help you if you receive 15 copies of something that patrons of your store generally aren't even in the market for. So, if people like me, that are questioning, "why do I do this" - and I assure you, there's a lot of us, no one is going to suffer more than that record store, that I promise you, isn't making a lot of money to begin with. It's an insidious proposition, you the store can participate in RSD if you meet some guidelines, and you might just do really well, make some extra cash, and have a great, albeit, kind of insane day that requires a lot of prep work. And that's your incentive - give the community of RSD lovers a location to make all their RSD dreams come true, and maybe you will have your best financial month. Don't participate, maybe lose out on some profit, and possibly send a message that we don't embrace the community of music-loving fans willing to line up like it's Black Friday at a Wal-Mart. Arrogant-much? (Domino).

So - back to being heartless. That store you support and love throughout the entire year just bet the bank on RSD XX. Is that your problem? No. Are you responsible for their risk? No. Should you participate in RSD? I'd argue, yes. It is hard to relate to in this era of instant gratification, but their is a bond between consumer and the people who provide the goods. Grocery stores and supercenters eliminated our need as a consumer to have a butcher, a baker, a clothing retailer, a hardware store, etc. Our willingness to connect with the people that live and work in our neighborhood is at a point of extinction. We've leaped off the consumerism precipice and ignored Small Business America, because of being selfish, being frugal, being cynical, being apathetic. That's okay if that's who you want to be. But I will say, the service industry will give you the same amount of respect you offer them. So, if you turn your back (or choose apathy) on your independent record store after the risk they've taken to supply what you want in the luxurious form of exclusive releases and every color of vinyl under the sun - then you've sent a message to them. The message says - your only as important to me as the product you provide. I don't value the interaction, the experience, the atmosphere, the knowledge, the community, the convenience, and least of all you. and eventually, they will stop caring about you,

I'm pretty fucking over it. I have guilt if I don't go, I have empathy for the stores, I can't afford it, nothing I buy is that unique and it's certainly not becoming a college education for my son, and I don't like getting up at 6 AM to stand in line for hours, especially in the fucking rain. I don't know what my future RSD plans will be, I will only guarantee this. If I only have $10 in my pocket on RSD Saturday - I may not show up at 7 AM, but I will show up, and I will give that $10 to someone at Euclid in exchange for something pretty, and something my brain thinks I need. Because it's the right thing to do, it's respectful, and it's all I've ever been shown the other 364 days of the year they were there for my needs. And the last thing I'd ever want is for you to go away.

So, thank you Euclid, Skullyz and Park Avenue CDs , and all the stores that participate for taking that risk for lovers of music. Thank you for bringing us in from the rain, for allowing the morning to be structured, for giving us bathroom breaks, and for holding an event that brings us closer to other music lovers from our city, state, region, etc.