Record Store Day — the annual celebration of vinyl and the brick-and-mortar stores that still sell dying/resurgent format — is Saturday. It was created with the hope of driving business towards record stores, whose numbers have been dwindling in this digital age. How to get people into record stores? By releasing limited-edition records that are only available in stores, only on Record Store Day.
There are hundreds of Record Store Day exclusive releases (here’s the complete list, in PDF form ) featuring music by everyone from Joan Baez to Katy Perry. Participating local stores include Red Onion, Smash, Crooked Beat, Joe’s Record Paradise, CD Cellar and Som.
“As far as tips goes, the main one is to relax,” says Neal Becton, owner of Som Records. “Not every store is going to have every title, so don't just get your heart set on one LP because you may be disappointed. Or if one shop is out, try one of the other shops.” Som will have close to 100 of the releases, and Becton is excited about the ones from Dr. John, Animal Collective and Devo.
Crooked Beat will likely be your best bet in general; the Adams Morgan store said on its Web site that it will have “around 270 of the 350” Record Store Day titles in stock, but no more than 15 of each one. Here’s the store’s full list of what it will be stocking.
It will be more low-key at Red Onion Records & Books. It will have about 60 of the Record Store Day releases, says store employee Joshua Harkavy. He’s most psyched about the Mynah Birds (featuring Neil Young) 7”, an obscure African funk single by the Apostles and a Grateful Dead 12” of “Dark Star” from the band’s famous 1972 tour. “We'll have snacks and refreshments and good vibes,” he says.
Smash Records (stars of that recent small-business American Express commercial) lists a few dozen releases it will have in stock. They include a release with local ties — a 6x7” inch box set of D.C. icons Unrest’s 1993 album “Perfect Teeth.”
Outside of the city, CD Cellar in Arlington and Falls Church and Joe’s Record Paradise in Silver Spring will stock special releases. As an Arlington resident, CD Cellar is my “local” store and the only one I visited last year. It was well-stocked and not a complete madhouse.
For better or worse, the madhouse aspect is what defines Record Store Day. On the plus side, it clearly boosts business for every one of these stores and gives them their most profitable days of the year. But Becton says that “record companies have really piled it on and have gotten a little greedy with the success” and have taken the idea of “manufactured instant rarities” a bit too far. For example, does the world really need a Neon Trees 7” on heart-shaped vinyl?
To counter this, Harkavy says that he’s been “pricing up a bunch of great used records for those who aren't looking for RSD titles.” That might give you a feel for what it’s like in the store the other 364 days of the year.