WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
For Digital First Media
Vinyl lovers will be out in droves this weekend as April 18 marks Record Store Day, now in its eighth year, and like years before has gotten bigger and bigger. Hundreds of independently owned record stores, including nearly two dozen in the region and in downtown Philadelphia, will take part in giving music fans the chance to nab special, limited edition albums, CDs, DVDs and even a cassette and limited edition record player.
“The big crowds lining up for Record Store Day are happening worldwide, this is now an international event,” said Harold Gold, owner of Gold Million Records in Bryn Mawr. “The crowds are waiting in anticipation for the exclusive releases — some 400 limited editions this year — and most will sell out early that day.”
The date, which falls on the third Saturday in April annually, is often circled by music fans well in advance … even before Record Store Day of the current year comes to a close. So what’s all the fuss about? Why are so many people freaking out about it?
“It really comes down to a few different things,” said Frank Dominici, owner of Deep Groove Records and Audio in Phoenixville. “The current trend [of] streaming and downloading music has left music lovers without any tactile experience. The loss of the album cover art, lyrics, notations about the artist and recording process has left the listener feeling somewhat unfulfilled; [listeners] are less engaged with digital playback and hence are more prone to listen casually or indifferently.”
“The physical LP requires an engaged listening experience,” Dominici continued. “You set up the turntable, perhaps clean the record in preparation for play, then sit back and listen to the songs in the order that the artist intended them to be heard. Seated in front of your stereo you sit back with the album cover in your hands and you become engaged in the music and what the artist is conveying musically.”
According to a report released by Nielsen Soundscan in early January, more than 9.2 million vinyl records were sold in the United States alone last year, the highest since the tracking went into effect in 1991. That was also a 52% increase over 2014.
“Production is way up with brand new records and classic reissues,” Gold said. “The bottom line is that records sound better; analog is warmer than digital, more intimate — and records are cool, with artsy covers and inner sleeves, posters and stickers.”
Gold also noted that there are new generations of music listeners who are inheriting their parent’s record collections. Jason McFarland, owner of Vinyl Closet Records in Norristown not only agrees with that point, but thinks Record Store Day and the rise in popularity in vinyl as a whole brings families together.
“I think it sways people because it is nostalgic,” he said. “This is something that parents who grew up with vinyl can pass on to their children. This is the perfect day for the parents to share this with the kids.
This year the musical holiday is slated to feature releases from big names like The Doors, The White Stripes, Otis Redding, Johnny Cash, Wu-Tang Clan, Ryan Adams, Paul McCartney and the Foo Fighters, whose frontman Dave Grohl has been named 2015 Record Store Day Ambassador.
Metallica is offering up a reproduction of their original demo on cassette and Crosley turntables have built a limited edition Ramones inspired record player. Right there is proof positive that whether the material will be old and reissued, rare and hard to find or brand new, there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone who ventures out.
But what about the owners of the store — what’s it like for them on Record Store Day?
“The excitement of the moment as the doors open at my store and I am playing some Record Store Day release,” began Dominici. “People are flooding in and are vibrating with delight as they snatch their favorite artist’s LP off the wall … kinda of like being in the front row of a Led Zeppelin concert as you hear John Bonham’s cymbals tap out the opening to “Rock and Roll.”
For a listing of all the releases available this Record Store Day along with all the independent record stores celebrating this year, visit www.recordstoreday.com.