Record Store: yay or nay?

In a leaked list, a picture disc for Justin Bieber’s new album Purpose is to be among the in-store exclusive releases for Record Store Day 2016 (RSD). The organisers of RSD have described the list (which includes a Bowie re-release and a remix LP of The Weeknd’s ‘The Hills’) as ‘not complete’ and ‘inaccurate’, saying that it was a mistake on Universal’s part for releasing a preliminary list for last year’s US edition of RSD.

“To make it clear, the purpose of Record Store Day is not to promote independent labels. It is to promote independent record shops (the clue is in the name)”

The list first appearing on the website Modern Vinyl, the site has backed the list, saying it has verified many of the items of the list independently. Some are angry at the appropriation of the event (that many saw as a means to promote both independent record store and independent artists and labels) by large music labels. The fact that Justin Bieber’s Purpose and its ‘topical house’ (it’s fucking dancehall) are included in the 2016 releases, indicates that the niche market that vinyl facilitated might have to look elsewhere for a platform, due to the continuing encroachment of the wider music market and industry into the medium. RSD has notoriously ruined pressing schedules at vinyl plants had due to the mass of special releases and limited editions that are produced for the event, making it more difficult for smaller artists to get their work made on the medium. The event going from 10 special releases in its first year, 2008, to over 200 in 2012. This, largely being due to the big labels grasping for anything they can make money off post-streaming.

This trend is shown in corporations like Urban Outfitters stocking vinyl and feeding off the general ‘indie’ aesthetic. It’s effectively killing the medium as a platform for independent artists. The medium may be falling from grace in terms of its supposed transcendence from economic exploitation from the industry.

RSD released a statement clarifying the purpose of the event: ‘To make it clear, the purpose of Record Store Day is not to promote independent labels. It is to promote independent record shops (the clue is in the name).’  But in even this RSD is lacking, last year three shops in Peckham opted to host their own anti-RSD event called ‘Every Day Is Record Store Day’ and this year, Berlin’s OYE, a centre for European music, is abstaining from the event. The store saying that it is no longer compatible with their own aims.

“Corporations like Urban Outfitters stocking vinyl and feeding off the general ‘indie’ aesthetic. It’s effectively killing the medium as a platform for independent artists”

Record Store Day is turning into more of a financial scheme rather than a legit effort to boost sales for independent businesses. This is just a sign of the bigger issue in the industry: the desperate clawing at any opportunity to monetise the product that most people now get for free.

But in the criticism of RSD and partial shunning of it, the independent music community seems to be at least somewhat closing ranks against the event, and maintaining support and love for music without having to have a day for it.

So don’t blame Justin Bieber’s face (on a record), it’s just a symptom of economic forces far out of its control.

Here’s a video from RSD 2016’s ambassadors, Metallica:

Luke Acton 

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