WNnG – Musings from the desk of chaz.


National Record Store Day?
October 12, 2008, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Ramble

National Record Store Day just became a sham.

Now, the date itself and the idea are awesome and I stand behind them one hundred percent. The shop and I will celebrate the day always and it’s a great way to promote awareness for local shops and give back to those people that keep you happily in business. However, somewhere along the way something happened, there was a shift and it was corporatized and taken over by the major labels. Which is a shame considering how much people (small shop owners, small label owners, devout record buyers, etc.) got behind last year’s event.

Indie labels like our local heroes, Merge Records, pressed thousands of 7″s for the event and shipped ’em out on their own dime just in celebration of this day. Once the majors stepped in with their ridiculous amounts of ad dollars, a lot of the indie labels seemingly got pushed aside and bullied out by the major labels’ positioning. Posters were printed by the majors, so obviously, there was no indie label representation hanging in shops’ windows. Smaller shops like mine took notice of this and it bummed us out too. Indie, punk and garage labels are what sell in this shop, they’re the ones that help me pay my rent. They’re the ones to which I owe huge amounts of respect and gratitude.

The name lost its point of awareness for INDIE MUSIC and INDIE SHOPS and the supporters of this culture. There’s now some company in Raleigh, North Carolina that wants me to send them a check for participation in Record Store Day. This I cannot do and I imagine there are probably a bunch of other stores that cannot do it either. I’m not mad at “Record Store Day” itself or those that created and spearheaded it, I’m mad that like anything else that starts off good and underground, it got commandeered by a larger company that is now pushing out smaller retailers.

Is this really in the spirit of National Record Store Day? Is this really what it stands for? I can understand if I were asked to send a check for postage, that’s fine, but it’s not what is being asked. A “monetary commitment” is required.

I’m still going to celebrate Record Store Day and have a huge sale and offer gift certificate giveaways and hopefully partner up with local labels and bands, but this just got out of hand. It went to a level that it should not have gone to. The point was lost somewhere along the way and it has rumbled off down the wrong road.

I guess it’ll just become another thing that smaller shops like mine champion in their own way through their own avenues and in that, it’ll be done right. Smaller, indie and punk shops will band together and keep it following the road it should not have left in the first place.

I, for one, am not sending a check to some company I have never heard of to receive a bunch of major label junk no one at this shop cares about. If an indie label I love and respect has promotional stuff for the day, I will gladly send them postage. No one even wanted those LPs that the majors pressed and for them, those were just throw-away dollars. For labels like Merge, it was very real dollar bills and they got the short end of the stick in the deal.

If you’re a local label, local band or local distributor, let’s keep this a National celebration for the network of local, independent record shops and in that we’ll all be a part of something huge and beautiful.

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6 Comments so far
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So it’s the writing of the check you’re objecting to? 😉

Near as I can tell, it’s a joint venture of several of the indie-store co-marketing coalitions, including the Record Exchange-founded Music Monitor Network, and the Schoolkids-fave Coalition of Independent Music Stores.

(more here: http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/PrintFriendly?oid=oid%3A228426)

The whole point of those co-marketing groups was to help the indie stores & micro-chains fight back against the Best Buys & all of that stuff by, yes, pooling their $$ so it’d go further. So regardless of what you think about the point of the whole thing, I’m totally unsurprised that they want folks to chip in.

As for the indie vs. major slant of the thing, none of those dudes has ever really cared to take sides in that, because in their heyday (80s/90s) they were all well aware that they could pay the rent (and enable themselves to stock more indie stuff) by selling a buttload of Dave Matthews & Phish CDs (or whatever) on release day.

Units are & were units, and like I said, the goal was to be able to continue shifting ’em in the face of competition from Best Buy & etc.

I dunno, I personally would’ve always assumed that anything as coordinated-seeming as “national record store day” probably had to be the work of some marketing shill. There are very few “national days” of anything that just arise organically via the good will of the people. National Talk Like a Pirate Day is probably the only new one we’ve seen in our lifetimes . . .

So naw, don’t write ’em the check, but don’t get too ripped up about it, either.

xo

Ross

p.s. Michael Kurtz, one of the names on the website, is a long-time Record Exchange/Music Monitor dude, who was also in a few Raleigh bands, mostly in the ’80s. His brother Danny played bass for the Backsliders & a bunch of other bands, too.

Comment by Ross Grady

Yeah, I definitely understand the point of CIMS and AIMS and Music Monitor style coalitions, I’ve come from stores that are affiliated with them and I’ve been a part of conventions for them. They can be great allies for independent business.

I guess I shouldn’t have railed against the coalitions themselves, they are technically for the benefit of the indie shops. However, once a “monetary commitment” is assigned a “National Day,” it seems to lose value. Even if it is a fun, made-up day. And it inadvertently pushes out smaller shops that can’t afford to participate at that level of commitment. This makes me look like I don’t want to take place in the day because I didn’t get the schwag in.

I respect those coalitions for most of what they do, and I understand it pays the rent for a lot of shops, but for smaller shops like mine, it’s a distant idea. Newer, smaller shops can’t afford to buy into the large coalitions.

I definitely agree with ya Ross, in that I’m not at all surprised either, I just find it disappointing. But yeah, you’re right, ain’t worth getting ripped up over.

Any other thoughts?
-chaz.

Comment by wnng

Chaz,

It’s Michael Kurtz.

I always get a bit depressed when I read stuff like this but I need to stay positive and help you if I can. The amount of work and resources that went into launching Record Store Day was significant. Eric (AIMS/Criminal Records), the CIMS folks, and my group (MMN), along with Newbury Comics, did it all ourselves. When it was over we got lots of emails complaining that folks wanted the free stuff that you didn’t like. Asking folks to chip in to help cover expenses seemed like a fair way to get this done for the stores who want it. In our email to stores about this, we made it clear that no one needed to chip in if they didn’t want, or need, to and that we hoped that the stores who chose not to chip in would still be a part of the day. I think if you go back and reread that email you will see that this is what we did.

Yesterday I spent a good part of my day meeting with John Silva (manager of Sonic Youth, Beck, Ryan Adams, Queens of the Stone Age). I did it because these are great artists and I didn’t hold the fact that they’ve been on major labels against them. They are simply good and they inspire me. Yes, major labels will provide us with promotional materials and that’s fine with us. But during my talks with John I never thought about major label vs. indie. Eric and I are doing our best to get the indies (Matador, Beggars, Touch & Go, Southern Lord, etc.) involved. It’s just hard work but we are doing it because it’s the right thing to do. I can tell you though that these labels can’t afford to create as much promotional materials so they will probably be creating commercial pieces. This was the case last year and we are hoping to grow this part of Record Store Day even bigger this year.

I guess all I’m saying is don’t be a hater. Be positive. We are trying to do something good for the stores. If you you are unsure of what I’m trying to say, please don’t hesitate to give me a call and I’ll fill you in as much as I can on what we are up to. My Raleigh cell # is 919-201-6879. Beyond that, I guess I’d just like to say that I’ll do my best to come visit you and your store the next time I am in NC to meet you and show you my respect. I miss Cosmic Cantina so I’ll probably grab a burrito too.

– Michael

Comment by Michael Kurtz

Hey Michael,
Thanks so much for the reply!! I really do appreciate the follow up from you guys. I definitely understand where you guys are coming from and I love that someone actually thought to create the day…from my point of view it just became a little hurtful for smaller stores like mine. With charging you cut off a good amount of stores that would really like to fully participate in the day, but cannot afford to. My understanding was that Record Store Day was an appreciation day for the indie stores, the labels and the customers – kind of a joint appreciation day celebrated by all. By charging for participation, you knock out a whole tier of smaller shops who also put in a significant amount of time and effort into running these things daily.

I appreciate my regular customers/friends and I’d love to get them exclusive stuff for being regulars, but this just becomes one more thing that shops like mine can’t compete with. It seems to go against the purpose of why I thought the day was started. One more wrench in the gears of the music industry getting on the same page and working with each other. For the most part, we’re all in this business for the same reason I would imagine – our love of music – but this is just another divide. I understand that the majors have more money to put into promotional stuff, that’s always been understood and I certainly don’t look down at bands for being on majors, but it shouldn’t then become a shortcoming for the indies when they can’t participate either. In a way the day itself now deepens the schism between majors and indies yet again. That’s the point I was getting at. I hope there are more Record Store Day releases that pop up on indie labels, that’s something I will gladly put my money towards – I know where it’s going and to who it’s going. It’s supporting a community that I am a part of. Even if major labels put out limited stuff I was interested in, I would buy that to sell in the store, that’s not the problem. It would put everyone on the same page. Some exclusive Replacements stuff?? Yes please! An exclusive Built to Spill 7″?? I’ll buy a handful! Like I said before too, if it was a check for participation that was required for shipping the materials out, I’d get that and I’d be behind it. But it’s not. It’s some fee that goes in the direction of the majors who already get the majority of most shops’ earnings. I understand it probably does not go towards the majors directly, but it’s an exchange for goods coming from the majors when the indie labels support shops like mine more directly and more often. I think that’s the thing that made me the most upset and why I went on the rant in the first place.

So my point is not “I hate the majors and I love the indies,” it’s just that this is one more thing in the music industry that has been taken away from every person involved in the community. Some can participate, some cannot. I was excited about a day in which everyone could participate and feel a part of.

-chaz.

Comment by wnng

Chaz,

Please, for the love of god, participate in Record Store Day. Everyone is invited and you can do what you want.

I am spending countless hours traveling and in meetings to get stuff created for stores like yours. We asked you to help chip in and you cannot. That is totally cool but the bills for the website, the PR firms, the travel, the hours, the materials, the shipping, etc. all still have to be paid regardless of who chips in. The folks who can afford it will pay the expenses of getting both the commerical and promotional pieces created for stores and those who can’t are welcome to celebrate in any way that they can.

Hopefully Record Store Day will be so great that you will be able to chip in next year. If you can’t, that’s totally cool too. Just have fun and make the most of what you have. That’s all any of us can do and it doesn’t make anyone lesser than someone else. It is what it is. Just, please, don’t add to the negativity. We need to be postive and support each other as best we can.

I wish I could give you a list of artists who are confirmed for cool special commercial pieces but I’m sworn to secrecy until the labels make their annoncements. I think you will dig what we’ve come up with. At least I hope you will. Keep on rockin’ it in Durham! I miss my time there…

– Michael

Comment by Michael Kurtz

Hey Michael! That was quick! I do apologize for coming across so negative, I was more so just trying to spur a discussion about it. I have absolutely every intention of participating in Record Store Day on my own level (as I said in the original post), that’s not an issue; I still think it’s an amazing idea and I support it 100%. That being said though, I was hoping to share a little bit more from the perspective of the smaller store. It was just a bit disappointing to see records stores of my size get pushed out. That’s all I was trying to convey.

I will still buy the pieces that are created for the day because I think it’s a very exciting thing to hold something so limited in your hands. It puts that individual piece in a time and place and makes it awesomely collectible. Like my regulars, I’m still a rabid music addict so I get that and I’m excited to see what’s in store (geez, no pun intended). So thank you for that. I was just hoping to help you all understand how smaller shops feel in a situation like this. That’s all.

Last year I heard about the registration for Record Store Day literally a day or two after it had passed, so I wasn’t able to participate then. This year I can’t afford it, so I can’t fully participate again. So both years it was just a bummer to not be able to fully participate in something I already felt a part of. That’s all. I really don’t mean to sound complainy, that’s something I get annoyed at with typing this stuff, you can’t hear tones. I just wanted to offer a look at it from a different perspective. Honestly, I don’t need the free stuff, again it’s not about that at all, it should go to a store that could use it more than mine. Just being asked for funds for something I already put every ounce of my time and money into bummed me out a bit. Really though, that’s just a personal problem.

I’m sure I blew it outta proportion and I do want you to know that I greatly respect you guys for what you’ve created. It’s completely true, we DO need to be positive and support each other as best we can. Let’s do that.

Thanks Michael, I do appreciate this back and forth,
-chaz.

Comment by wnng




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