This Saturday, April 17, is Record Store Day. It’s an international celebration of the places where many generations went to pick up new releases by their favorites, discover new artists, look in wonder at covers and artwork and generally mix with a group of strangers who had the same relationship to music as you. Trying to get people to rally for a commercial concern doesn’t, at surface, seem that noble. But record stores, particularly independent record stores, are an integral component of music in our lives.
Though the internet is a wonderful communication platform, it removed for many the tactile experience of shopping for music. I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but there was, and still is, something to a planned trip to a record store. Sure, you can click a button on iTunes or Rhapsody and get a track immediately. Where’s the adventure in that? You walk in and face the rack of new releases, you troll through the used and the import bins and then you hear a song on the stores’ PA and you ask a clerk about it. (As a former record store employee, I can tell you there was often competition among the staff about whose pick for in-store play would actually result in sales!) Often, the record you never intended to buy was the one that changed your life.
Record stores have a distinct connection to their communities. Countless bands were born in the aisles. Peter Buck and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. met when the guitarist was working at Wuxtry Records in Athens, Georgia and the soon-to-be singer engaged in a discussion about Patti Smith. School kids Records in Ann Arbor and its affiliate in Columbus, Rhino in Los Angeles, the original Amoeba in Berkeley, St. Mark’s Sounds and Bleecker Bob’s in New York City, the Record Exchange and Third Street Jazz and Rock in Philadelphia, the now defunct Tower and Virgin chains and countless other stores were staffed by locals who cared about music and were deeply involved in their respective scenes.
Many artists have embraced Record Store Day and are releasing limited edition singles, CDs and albums to mark the day. So, this Saturday, take some time and set aside a little money to keep music alive in your community.