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Record Store Day Celebrates the Independent Spirit

Annual event happens April 16

By Ben Larson

Fort Wayne Reader

2011-04-04


On April 18th, 2008, something amazing happened. That day, people all around the country showed that they were still interested in independent record stores. That was the first official Record Store Day, and was officially kicked off by Metallica at Rasputin Music in San Francisco. This year, Record Store Day will fall on Saturday, April 16th, and looks to be the biggest one yet, with events happening at the Wooden Nickel locations at Time Corners and North Anthony, and newcomer Neat Neat Neat Records on Calhoun St.

Record store day was started as a celebration of music, and the unique stores where you can buy it. If you’ve seen the recent defeatist-tinged documentary I Need That Record! you may even wonder if there are any of these stores left at this point. According to the makers of that film, indie music stores have been circling the drain for years, and it’s just a matter of time before your local record shop is only a memory. It’s true that since the late ‘90s, the combination of big box stores, the internet, and, quite frankly, greedy record company executives nearly killed off the mom & pop stores that people have always gone to for their music buying needs, so Record Store Day was started to bring attention and love back to these irreplaceable shops.

And, believe it or not, it’s helped. Bob Roets, owner of Wooden Nickel, summed up Record Store Day’s impact pretty succinctly. “I think that Record Store Day was primarily started for two reasons: the fact that over 3000 independent record stores had closed in the US since the year 2000; and that the big box stores were “buying” artists to carry their new releases exclusively. Since RSD started, both trends have been reversed.” Wooden Nickel, in particular, has seen double-digit growth since the start of Record Store Day - something that was unfathomable 5 years ago.

So what’s so important about these indie stores? What makes a certain shop worth having around? Why do we need a special day to recognize these stores? Morrison Agen, owner of Neat Neat Neat, said, “anything that encourages a relationship between a community and a store is only going to benefit everyone in the entire community. It creates jobs. It invigorates a culture. I think it benefits consumers, too. I can’t tell you how many times people have come in and told me about how they feel that shopping online for records is such a soulless experience.”

As to those ideas of culture and a unique experience, Roets said, “I think the fact that Tim Hogan (manager of the North Anthony store) and I have been involved with the music industry since the 1970s has helped us to know our customer needs and shape the store inventories to fit them. Our employees tend to be employed at Wooden Nickel in most cases for many years, making them very educated on the music business and more respected by customers for their knowledge than the ‘big box stores.’”

In other words, independent shops offer more than just a place to buy music; they offer a sense of community, and service from someone who knows, and is passionate about the product they sell, and Record Store Day has reminded people of that. Tim Hogan commented on that, saying, “it’s rebuilt interest in independent record stores, that’s for sure. It made people aware that all of these places were closing, and that there were fewer places to look for stuff, so it made them aware of the ones that were still open. People are more aware of independent record stores, and what they have to offer.”

So Record Store Day is reminding people of all these things, and is celebrating this aspect of our culture that many people have forgotten since the advent of big stores such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart, and the internet. And how exactly are they achieving this? Stuff. Lots and lots of awesome stuff that you can only buy at your hometown mom & pop record store.

Right now I’m looking at a list of Record Store Day exclusive releases - items that will only be available at indie stores, and in many cases only on April 16th, and it seems like there is a little something there for everyone. The list is far to big to publish here (though you can see many of the available items on the official site), but, just to give an idea of what’s going to be available that day, there will be RSD-only releases from Nirvana, The Decemberists, Jimi Hendrix, Skip James, Deerhunter, Hank Williams III, Wavves, My Morning Jacket, Neurosis, Polvo, AC/DC, Bad Brains, Peter Tosh, The Flaming Lips, Death Cab for Cutie, Oxbow, R.E.M., Mississippi John Hurt, Daft Punk, and many, many others.

Another interesting thing that sets this year’s Record Store Day apart from previous years’ is that nearly everything that’s coming out is on vinyl, and that’s another thing that record store day is helping to draw attention to - the fact that vinyl has been having a major boom over the last 3 or so years. On the subject of the vinyl resurgence, Hogan said, “it seems like so many people want to buy vinyl now, and get a turntable, whereas 8 or 10 years ago everybody was giving away their turntables and getting rid of all their vinyl.” Roets put into perspective, saying, “our Anthony location recently passed the 13,000 mark on LP vinyl selections . . . RSD has been the single most important event in our industry to help get the word out on a national scale about vinyl.”

There are big events planned for this year’s Record Store Day. Aside from having well over 100 RSD-only releases available at all 3 locations, Wooden Nickel will have 14 different bands playing at the N. Anthony store, starting at 10:30 am, including jazz from Jesse West, folk from John Minton, rock from such diverse acts as Wooden Satellites, Casket Sharp, RP Wigs, Lee Miles, and even the 3-Rivers Djembe Ensemble. The Time Corners location will host another 7 acts throughout the day, including Electric Panda, Black Cat Mambo, and Sounds of Saturn.

Additionally, Wooden Nickel will be giving away over $750 worth of prizes, including an Audio Technica turntable, a $200 gift card, a super-deluxe version of The Rolling Stones Exile on Main St. CD/DVD/VINYL set, a Genesis 6-LP set, and a Jimi Hendrix box set, as well as goodie bags full of freebies to the first 200 people at each store.
Over at Neat Neat Neat, Agen will be having his own special giveaways (including a console stereo); DJ Fresh Ben will be spinning RSD releases all day, starting at 8:00 am, and there will even be an Al Hirt lookalike contest. “I actually have an Al Hirt Record [behind the counter], if anyone questions whether they look like Al Hirt or not. If you bring a trumpet, you get extra points. If you don’t play it, you also get extra points.”

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