“We’ve got healthy long-term businesses and a lot a great customers, so we said ‘Fuck it, we’ll celebrate our being here regardless of what the press thinks.’”
—-Don VanCleave


Beleaguered Retail Sector Gets a Boost With National Indie Celebration
Last April, a “nice idea” turned into a runaway global juggernaut when indie retailers combined their efforts to create Record Store Day, which takes place nationwide tomorrow (4/18).

Representatives of Music Monitor Network, the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, Alliance of Independent Media Stores and Newbury Comics came up with the idea for the event at a meeting in Baltimore two years ago and held the first Record Store Day last April, kicked off by Metallica at Rasputin Music in San Francisco.

Don VanCleave told us at the time that the indies were sick of the negative press about the decline of music retail: “We’ve got healthy long-term businesses and a lot a great customers, so we said ‘Fuck it, we’ll celebrate our being here regardless of what the press thinks.’”

And celebrate they did. The incredible turnout nationwide found its way to the national press and created phenomenal goodwill. NPR, USA Today and the N.Y. Times all covered the event. The gravy was, as it attracted massive crowds across the country, it also created huge sales.

Terry Currier tells us that it was his biggest sales day of the year, including the holidays. RSD architect Eric Levin called it the single biggest sales day in the history of his Atlanta-based Criminal Records.

Bull Moose’s Chris Brown said: “It had a halo effect that lasted the rest of the year.” Brown says it was a huge part in setting the stage for making ’08 the best in Bull Moose’s history.

“It was just flat-out fun for everyone that works here.” Newbury ComicsAmy Dorfman said that it beat even their wildest expectations with sales up more than 85% over the previous year.

So, the moment that the event concluded, a date was set for an encore. And the buzz in front of tomorrow’s event is louder than ever, adding some 300 venues, bringing the total now to in excess of 1,000 stores, with 600 individual artists, including Chris Cornell, Erykah Badu, Static-X, Queensryche, the Del McCoury Band and dozens of others, playing intimate sets in stores. There are also contests to win guitars from Silversun Pickups, Disturbed and Brian May.

Besides the fact that so many more retailers are jumping in the pool, Currier is especially excited about how much increased participation is now coming from the label community. Last year, labels created some 20 items for the party. This year, that number has exploded to more than 150, including vinyl, EPs and live pieces (like the Rivers Cuomo performance at Fingerprints in Long Beach).

Radiohead, My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Sonic Youth, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are among those who are putting out DVDs and recordings in unique packaging or limited editions, many with exclusive tracks, live performances and previously unreleased material. Lists of all products, participating stores and artist appearances can be found at recordstoreday.com.

The Breeders' Kim Deal says she and her twin sister, Kelley, personally hand-screened the artwork for her band's 1,000-copy limited-edition vinyl Fate to Fatal EP, also available digitally at iTunes. They'll be making an in-store appearance at Shake It Records in Cincinnati.

MMN’s Michael Kurtz (who is bringing his Noise in the Basement convention to NARM this year) tells us he’ll be at Coachella with an RSD site, looking to partner with Goldenvoice to create a presence at all of their venues moving forward.

"It has exploded," he says. "We touched a nerve. So many people are passionate about record stores. It's like how people feel about wine shops. We had no idea it would be that way, but it is and it's incredible."

Michael Kauffman called to remind us that his HiFive group is handling the Twitter account, with huge numbers following along.

"Back in the day, it was all about the vinyl and big images and posters and all kinds of cool stuff that came inside the packaging," Kurtz says. "We're bringing that back."

The international community that unexpectedly joined in with sister events last year also has increased its footprint.

So here’s to feeling good, at least for a day, about selling records.