Australian music retailers are again taking sides on what should be the sector's annual celebration of unity, Record Store Day.

The April 17 Record Store Day initiative is uniting independent retailers around the globe on an unprecedented scale. In Australia, however, the project has exposed a rift between the small indie stores and their bigger, rival chains.

For the third successive year, a collection of small independents will celebrate as the Australian leg of the official Record Store Day. On the same day, the bigger competitors will play under the Record Store Day Australia banner.

Australian retail trade association AMRA founded Record Store Day Australia last year when the event's U.S. organizers refused to recognize their participation. AMRA's plans include JB Hi-Fi and Sanity, entertainment chains deemed too big to fit with the international project's "independent" ethos. More than 400 music stores are expected to take part this year in Record Store Day Australia.

There's no love lost from the indies' side of the fence. "I'm extremely surprised AMRA are doing it again this year," says Suzanne Bennett, owner of Melbourne's Basement Discs, one of 50-plus participants in the independents' Record Store Day. "This is meant to be about promoting the little guy - the independently-owned and operated record stores. This is supposed to be our one day in the sun."

AMRA shrugs off the criticism. "From our point of view, a record store is a record store," says AMRA chairman Gavin Ward, who also serves as CEO of Sydney-based Leading Edge Group.

The retailers might be split, but the common message behind both retail initiatives remain the same -- to lure record buyers back into the shops using competitions, giveaways and celebrity in-store appearances as pulling power. The likes of pop singer Damien Leith, alternative rock act Blue Juice, dance act Rogue Traders and classical crossover artist Mark Vincent are among the artists who will appear at participating stores for Record Store Day Australia activities.

"It's probably wishful thinking to imagine all the retailers will band together," notes Geoff Bonouvrie, owner of Mall Music and board member of AMRA. "Ten years ago there was no chain that came within a whisker of being as good as the best independent. That's leveled out now. Now you get that fear factor coming through from the smaller end of the market. They fear the bigger end of town. The market and retail landscape has changed forever."

See the new April 17 issue of Billboard for more on Record Store Day.