On Saturday, live bands played live in music stores around the country, retailers were stretched to capacity and vinyl addicts rejoiced. Was there some kind of music-oriented national holiday on Saturday? Unofficially, yes – it was Record Store Day.
Record Store Day is an international event celebrated in more than 20 countries from Sweden to Japan. It was conceived in 2007 by a group of independent record store owners who wanted to spread the word about the unique culture surrounding their stores.
Participating stores must be a stand-alone brick and mortar retailer whose primariy business focuses on a physical location. Its product line must consist of at least 50 percent music retail, and it must be independent. They must also sign a ‘Record Store Day Pledge’ promising to “act in the spirit of Record Store Day, and sell the commercial Record Store Day releases to their physical customers, on Record Store Day; not to gouge them, or hold product back to sell them online.”
In New Zealand, 17 retailers meet this definition. Auckland store Real Groovy outdid itself with four bands and half a dozen DJs playing from 10am onwards. Owner Chris Hart says it would normally host an album release on this day, but as the store has just changed location, the extensive planning process involved was a step too far this year.
“That was kind of a good thing, actually, because we were really, really busy,” Hart says. “The shop was absolutely packed.”
The crowds lasted until after 5pm. Real Groovy’s basement was filled with between 100-120 people all day, and 50-75 more shoppers squeezed into the upstairs section. Hart says the foot traffic was easily three to four times that of a regular day.
Vinyl has been rising in popularity for the last 10 years, Hart says, but the big problem now is that its growth has surpassed the ability of manufacturers to keep up with production. This means that new vinyl records have become “very expensive”, particularly in the US, where Hart says major labels have “commandeered production”.
Real Groovy has seen some complaints about the expense of records coming through. In response, Hart has highlighted that the store is not responsible for setting the price of vinyl, but has tried to even the score by focusing on offering a full range of secondhand records.
“They went amazingly well,” Hart says. “I think everyone really appreciates that.”
Wellington’s Slow Boat Records anticipated such big crowds on Record Store Day that it posted a blog requesting visitors to move away from the doorways and thoroughfares upon entry. A glut of pushchairs and buggies was also foreseen, as one of the three live music acts was Anika Moa with her popular music for children.
Dennis O’Brien, owner and founder, says the scrum of customers did indeed come to pass: “We had lots of pushchairs and small people and mothers crammed up the front.”
After Moa’s gig came a live show by Wellington locals Orchestra of Spheres. Then came Dave Dobbyn with the release for his new ‘Harmony House’ LP.
O’Brien says Dobbyn drew a huge crowd and generously stayed in-store after the set, posing for photographs and chatting with fans. He confirmed that the crowds did translate into an uptick in sales.
However, O’Brien says it’s not just about the money. When Slow Boat first started participating in Record Store Day, it approached the promotion as “a way to make a few bob”, but O’Brien reports there’s been a change in attitude over the last few years. Now, O’Brien says the day is about connecting with the community and putting on an enjoyable event for shoppers.
“Even if we didn’t have Record Store Day, we’d still do it,” he says. “If you just do that once a year, it really gives a good vibe.”