London’s Record Store Day Sends Vinyl Popularity Spinning

*Originally published on May 5th on AltLDN blog.

With special gigs and swarms of music-lovers packed into record stores – RSD took London by storm this year.

Vinyl seems to be making a lot of noise; from seasoned music-aficionados who devour all things musical, to posers who use records as ‘vintage’ decorations, everyone’s talking about it. Record Store Day is an annual, worldwide event that sees shoppers trolling the shelves for limited editions records.

Physical music in the form of records has come back in a huge way; downloadable music has gone from being a trendy game-changer to being looked at as the ruin of musical integrity.

Southern Record Distributors sell record store day stock to stores such as Sister Ray and Rough Trade. Managing Director of Southern Record Distributors, Andy Slocombe, says: “it has certainly enjoyed a renaissance in recent years – while CDs have followed the opposite trajectory.

“Disposable digital storage devices are compared to the aesthetic pleasure that vinyl offers. A big part of that appeal is in the look and feel of records.”

Shops are seriously sexed-up during record store day. Famous musicians usually join in on the fun and venture into London stores; so if you fancy having a look at Robert Plant’s 12”, then visiting a record store on RSD dramatically boosts your chances.

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Music fans are lured to shops by special release records and free live shows put on by the venues. This year, 7,500 limited edition pressings of Bowie’s earlier songs were released; I Dig Everything – The Pye Singles 1966 contained some of Bowie’s forgotten gems. Bands like Foals, Metallica and Slaves released limited edition records.

The special releases are the driving force behind RSD and are the main reason why people flock to record stores. These limited edition records will never be produced again and are seen by many as being special.

Manager of Reckless Records Duncan Kerr says, “People might be able to get special releases after, but never before, record store day. And they might not be able to get them after because if they sell out – they’re gone. Apart from that, they can share in the excitement of the day and that’s really what it’s about.

In-store gigs help to boost the profile of smaller bands and also open up people to new music. William Shelly, a 24-year-old bar manager, says, “I saw Kiko Bun play at Lion Vibes in Brixton. He’s this really cool reggae artist who I’d previously never heard of. I bought one of his record, too. I was just so into his sound.”

Although RSD will showcase smaller bands, the bigger artists are making the most profit for record labels. Slocombe says, “Record store day makes retailers less willing to take risks and creates overwhelming demand for the certainties and big artists. While the more marginal, or lesser known, releases are often overlooked, and a harder sell.”

As is the case with any popular trend, hipster posers have latched on to record store day and the vinyl uprising as more of a fashion statement than a declaration of their love of music. A recent BBC poll by ICMshows that-  out of all the people who bought records in March 2016 – 48% haven’t even listened to them.

Slocombe says, “A big part of the appeal of records is look and feel of them. But to not even listen to it seems absurd. From a business perspective, a sale is a sale, but as a collector and music obsessive, I can’t see any sense in that attitude.”

Whether you like to admit it, hipsters are doing something good for physical music – they just might not be actually listening to it! The yearly success of record store day is down to the dedication of both music-lovers and posers. Until next year…

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