Do Some Shop Owners Feel Record Store Day has Jumped the Shark?

RSD Chuck D

“It’s going to bankrupt the store,” says one such indie store owner, of trying to keep up (i.e., purchase) with all the releases. Above: Chuck D, the official RSD Ambassador this year.

 By Uncle Blurt

 Here at the Blurt radiation bunker, we love Record Store Day: it’s the one time in the year (okay, one of two; there’s also RSD’s Black Friday) we come out of our hole, clutching our credit cards, and get ready to max out on vinyl. The fact that our sister business is Schoolkids Records of Raleigh, NC, just adds to the eagerness to queue up and gorge on a buffet o’ limited edition wax. And to date, for the most part, everyone else on the planet has been getting excited about RSD, from the customers to the bands involved to the actual stores and the media folks covering the event.

 Inevitably, though, a backlash was due, given that occasional murmurings were already being heard regarding the steady increase in the number of releases—this year there are nearly 450 unique titles—and the corresponding increase in budget headaches on the part of stores who feel compelled to stock as much as they possibly can to meet the increased demand from collectors and fans. Given that the product is sold one-way (i.e., unlike regular CD and DVD stock, a store can’t return RSD product to its distributors if it doesn’t sell), there’s an inherent risk that you’ll get stuck with some expensive titles—last year’s Flaming Lips Zaireeka vinyl box comes to mind—and you can’t necessarily make up that differential simply by selling out of the popular items.

 In an article published the other day by the WAMU-FM blog “Bandwith,” these issues were raised, and quite loudly so, with two D.C. store owners, Crooked Beat’s Bill Daly and Som Records’ Neal Becton voicing concerns that “Record Store Day records are too expensive and too numerous, and stores risk losing a lot of money on records that don’t sell.” Becton stated bluntly, “It’s out of control.” And Daly noted, “’Customers balk at a certain price,” [citing a] 2013 Nick Drake release that, at nearly $40 retail, barely moved from his shelves—even though Drake is a reliable seller at his store. ‘It stiffed, basically.” He bought 40 copies at $27 a pop, and still has two dozen left.” (Daly added that he will be trimming back his purchases starting next year, or otherwise “It [Record Store Day] is going to bankrupt the store.”

 The article also quotes RSD co-founder Michael Kurtz, who while agreeing that the number of releases has exploded and that plans are to keep things under 450 titles, takes issue with some assertions that RSD has become an exercise in greed on the part of the record labels. “I think that’s just a lack of knowledge,” he is quoted as saying, pointing out that people may not realize that many of the labels and the artists “don’t turn a hefty profit” because of all the costs associated with manufacturing and shipping. “The bands are doing it to help the stores,” Kurtz says. “Most [Record Store Day titles] are sold for less than they cost to make, and [shop owners] just don’t know it.”

Read the entire article here.

A related piece, “Record Store Day Vs. the Record Store,” which squints hard at the assertion about labels not making a solid profit with RSD releases, can also be found at the Vinyl Hunters blog.

Meanwhile, here’s the official list of titles for 2014, as well as BLURT’s report from last year.

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