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The Flip Side: Record Store Day

By Molly Hazelwood | 7th April 2017

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Stuart R. Saffen, Creative Commons

Record Store Day (RSD) is an annual event set up to spread the word about vinyl. Established by a group of independent record store owners andemployees in 2007, it is a day that brings together everyone who loves the format, whether they be reissues of old singles or new releases: special edition vinyl is also made exclusively to promote the occasion.

There are a handful of record stores in York, not all of whom choose to join in the celebration, but The Inkwell on Gillygate is one store that does. Owner Paul Lowman believes RSD is a way of helping independent record stores across the world. Specialising in Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop and Groove, his shop has been open since 2011. It’s Inkwell’s fifth year celebrating the event and they will have live bands playing for the occasion. Whether or not the day will boost sales is up for debate: Paul thinks that although vinyl is making a return, the expense of buying vinyl means that only the specialists really invest. "There is also the issue of too many reprints of old vinyl rather than investment in new releases, which I’m passionate about," says Paul. "But all in all, if it brings curious new customers in, it has to be a good thing."

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ChrisA1995, Creative Commons

"There are too many reprints of old vinyl rather than investment in new releases. But all in all, if it brings curious new customers in, it has to be a good thing." - Paul Lowman

Another store that celebrates RSD is Earworm Records on Goodramgate. Open since 2013, Earworm has marked the event for the past four years. Co-owner Paul Jackson says that when the occasion started ten years ago, the ethos was to use it to get people back into going to physical vinyl shops. Despite the recent resurgence of vinyl, he believes this is still the case today and his store get exclusive records to sell on the day and rack out some mighty fine secondhand stock. The store also has live DJs playing in the afternoon, generally celebrating all things vinyl: exclusive vinyl purchases are popular on the day,

Every other day, however, is just a normal record store day for Earworm Records. Cash is needed to participate in RSD, and quite a bit of preparation, so once a year is usually plenty for any vinyl selling store according to Paul.

To give an artist’s view, I spoke to Nigel Rogers, a DJ travelling throughout Europe around various clubs, who makes music specifically for vinyl. Although he has, what he thinks, an unpopular view on RSD, many may actually agree: "The clamour to have special editions pressed just for RSD has a knock-on effect and means that often manufacturing times for vinyl take three months." Nigel says. He went on to explain how times have changed and that a few years ago he could have a record pressed within ten days: nowadays, the presses are limited and straining under the weight of major labels who regard vinyl resurgence as a fad. This puts independent labels to the back of the queue and in a more financially precarious situation. Money has to be paid out to wait for three months until the product goes to a distributor, then at least another two plus months until money from sales comes in.

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Chris_J, Creative Commons

"In layman’s terms," says Nigel, "a label is out of pocket by £1000 for six months. Even so, for a minor success, it’s a case of getting in queue behind the latest Justin Beiber special edition. The argument could be made that this day is about record shops, not labels, but it’s often the artist and labels that make close to no money for their art that provide a more interesting stock. Furthermore, larger companies rarely support independents and now choke on things with bad reissues on one day of the year."

Overall, record shops, small businesses, are taking a risk having to buy stock upfront and not being able to return anything that doesn’t sell well. So if you believe they’re worth supporting, now’s your chance to show it.

Record Store Day is celebrated on 22 April this year. More information about the event can be found HERE. If you are in any doubt about vinyl, go and visit The Inkwell or Earworm Records and listen for yourselves.

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