Record Store Day celebrates indie retail music sellers as they ride vinyl’s popularity wave

Apr 20, 2024, 10:00 AM

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - DECEMBER 9, 2019: A copy of the record album, 'Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison'...

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - DECEMBER 9, 2019: A copy of the record album, 'Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison', for sale at an antique shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The vinyl record was released by Columbia Records in 1968.(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Special LP releases, live performances and at least one giant block party are scheduled around the U.S. Saturday as hundreds of shops celebrate Record Store Day during a surge of interest in vinyl and the day after the release of Taylor Swift’s latest album.

There were no announced Record Store Day specials for the arrival of Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” on Friday, but her fans always anxiously look forward to the new albums and accompanying collectible LPs.

In suburban strip malls and big city downtowns, indie record stores are often the first to recognize and promote emerging artists. Years before Swift was setting Grammy records and selling out concerts in Japan, Bull Moose Music in Portland, Maine, was giving away one of her autographed guitars in an enter-to-win contest.

“We were carrying her music before all the big stores. We always knew she would be a star,” said Chris Brown of employee-owned Bull Moose and a co-founder of Record Store Day.

A wave of interest in physical records, especially LPs, has helped keep the independent stores going, Brown said. And LPs have gotten a huge boost from Swift, who has been dubbed the “Vinyl Queen” for releases of her work in limited physical record offerings with specialized content and striking covers.

The Recording Industry Association of American said in its 2023 year end report that revenues from vinyl records grew 10% to $1.4 billion last year. That was the 17th consecutive year of growth and accounted for 71% of physical format revenues.

Record Store Day is a celebration of the estimated 1,400 independent record stores in the U.S. and thousands more worldwide that endure long after the demise of megastores like Tower Records.

While most people stream their music on services such as Spotify and Apple Music, old-school LPs remain popular for collectors who prefer the packaging and the listening experience of records.

“For me, records sound better than any CD,” said Michael Iffland, a 70-year-old retiree who was considering some Beatles singles at the Tracks in Wax record store in Phoenix. “It’s just cool having a record in your hand, looking at the cover graphics and listening to that wonderful sound.”

Owners and employees of the independent stores came up with the idea at a gathering in 2007 as a way to draw attention to their unique culture on the third Saturday of April.

The first Record Store Day was on April 19, 2008, and cities around the U.S. later declared the celebration an official holiday, including New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“For us, records have never gone out of style,” said Waric Cameron, co-owner of Josey Records in Dallas.

“It’s the biggest day of the year for us,” added his business partner, Luke Sardello. “It’s like the Super Bowl of record stores.”

Jamal Alnasr, owner of Village Revival Records in New York’s Greenwich Village, called Record Store Day “one of my biggest money growers of the year. People even camp outside the night before.”

Record Store Day is typically marked by special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products and events featuring artists and labels. Metallica spent hours on the first Record Store Day meeting fans at Rasputin Music in the San Francisco Bay area.

Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal was declared a Record Store Day ambassador in 2009 and a string of other artists followed in subsequent years, including Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop, Jack White, Fred Armisen, as well as Swift in 2022.

There were 387 planned releases announced for this year’s Record Store Day.

Paramore, the event’s 2024 ambassador, will have a pair of physical releases of the digital album that featured celebrity remixes from songs on its 2023 “This is Why” album.

Rock band Pearl Jam will release 15,000 copies of a “Dark Matter” LP, with a ghostly black and yellow cover. Icelandic-American traditional pop singer Laufey will offer up 4,200 copies of “A Night at the Symphony,” a live album recorded in Reykjavík with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

In some cases, the record itself will serve as a canvas. Death Cab for Cutie will release 2,500 copies of its “Live at the Showbox” on pink marble vinyl. Fleetwood Mac will have a limited edition of its hugely popular “Rumours,” still a top seller since its 1977 release, with a photograph of the album cover featuring Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood stamped on the vinyl.

“People get really excited and look forward to the releases,” said Tracks in Wax owner Tim Stamper, who always orders a few. “It’s more important for us than Christmas.”

Jeff Maimon, 38, who was in the store on a visit from Chicago, said Record Store Day “was always a very special day. It’s all about the excitement of standing outside and waiting in line to see what kind of specials you can get.”

A giant block party with 14 live performances is planned Saturday at Vinyl Tap in Nashville, Tennessee, owner Todd Hedrick said. The performers will include Lzzy and Joe of Halestorm and The Watson Twins.

“We’ll shut down the street, bring in five or six food trucks,” along with about 25 vendors, Hedrick said.

“And it coincides with our other favorite holiday, 4/20,” Hedrick added, referring to marijuana-oriented celebrations held annually on April 20.

Swift, who is credited by fans and record stores alike with igniting new interest in vinyl LPs, has not announced any special releases for this Record Store Day.

The hugely popular Swift set a new record this year when she won a fourth album of the year award at the Grammy Awards for “Midnights.” She previously had been tied with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon with three albums.

Swift’s re-recorded “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” last year became the first album to sell more than 1 million vinyl LPs within a calendar year in the U.S. Her “Midnights” album in 2022 became the first major album release to have its vinyl sales outpace CDs since 1987.

United States News

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Record Store Day celebrates indie retail music sellers as they ride vinyl’s popularity wave