Record Store Day Retailers Report Big Spikes, Best-Ever Sales

In a week when overall U.S. album sales were down 2.2% over the same week in 2013, the independent record store sector collectively rode the Record Store Day sales bonanza to an 11.2% gain, according to Nielsen SoundScan (charts below).

Indie stores represented 19.4% of the total U.S. volume of all physical album sales this week, the sector's highest share since SoundScan started tracking sales by store strata.

Moreover, within album sales, the indie store sector saw its vinyl album sales grow a whopping 57.5%. Finally, numerous record stores report that it was their best day ever.

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The vinyl resurgence of the last seven years has been driven by Record Store Day, and if this year's RSD showing continues to be an indicator, look for vinyl to continue its already much-heralded comeback from the commercial abyss.

As it is, vinyl sales have grown from 0.2% of album sales in 2000 to now account for about 3.2%, or 2.5 million units, of 76.2 million units in overall album sales so far this year.

"Another Record Store Day has come and gone, and just when we didn't think it was possible, you have once again managed to top all previous years and make it our best day ever," Permanent Records owner Marjorie Eisenberg wrote in an e-mail to the RSD organizers who forwarded the e-mail to Billboard. When Billboard was at the Greenpoint, Brooklyn store on Record Store Day, April 19, there was still a line of customers waiting to get into the store at 4:30pm.

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Eisenberg is not alone in expressing that sentiment. In e-mails sent to Billboard and in emails from other record store owners forwarded to Billboard by Record Store Day organizers, a consensus appears to be emerging that this might have been the most successful Record Store Day ever, which is saying something for a day that has become the No. 1 sales volume day of the year for most indie merchants, even bigger than the best day of the Christmas holiday selling season. For instance, in an e-mail sent to Billboard by John Kunz owner of Austin, Texas indie store Waterloo--one of the best and highest volume music stores in the country--he reported that "RSD'14 was the best sales day ever in Waterloo's 32+ year history, eclipsing the previous high water mark [RSD"13] by 12%!"

Other merchants said they too were astounded by the day's strong performance. "So just when you think you might have maxed out your sales trends for Record Store Day…along comes RSD 2014, "Dilyn Radakovitz, co-owner of the Sacramento, Calif.-based, seven-store Dimples chain wrote in an e-mail that was sent to the industry, including Billboard. "We've run the numbers numerous times this morning and now it's afternoon here and we still come up with 60% up over 2013!…From 2010 -2014 our sales are up 176%!  Every year we have seen a build but this one is pretty crazy."

The day began crazy as well, merchants report, with long lines waiting for the record stores to open. In Denver, Twist & Shout was greeted with a line of over 400 people; in Dallas Good Records found 250 people waiting for the store to open at 7am; over 150 people waited for Boo Boo Records in San Lius Obispo, Ca., to open; while in Oklahoma City, Guest Room Records had almost 200 people waiting in line by the time it opened. Besides what they found when they opened, some stores even reported that customer began lining up the night before.

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Meanwhile, even in stores where the day wasn't the best ever, store owners and merchants said they were blown away by the day's sales strength. "One of our biggest days in 40 years, top 10 for sure...I'm still shaking my head in disbelief," Boo Boo Records Mike Smith wrote in an e-mail forwarded to Billboard. "RSD accounted for 45% of our sales Saturday, but the other 55% taken alone represents a whopping 4X what a normally healthy Saturday would have been." Indeed, BuzzAngle Music, one of Record Store Day's sponsors, reports that sales were up 646% from the previous Saturday (April 12), in the stores it tracks.

In Tempe, Ariz, Stinkweeds profiteer Kim Lanning wrote in an e-mail forwarded to Billboard, "We went into RSD14 thinking there was no way- NO POSSIBLE WAY- that we could beat last year's numbers…Instead we had lines around the block all day and we beat last year by 36.8%, which is completely insane."

Further west in Hawaii, Hungary Ear Records in Kailua reported a 20% increase over last year's RSD when the store had record breaking numbers, a 60% increase of RSD 2012, one of the owners reports.

Even elected officials got involved in the day. Up in Boston, Newbury Comics executive VP Valerie Forgione reports that the chain's comp-store sales were up 8% over last year, and one of their locations was visited by the city's Mayor Martin Walsh, who bought some records at the chain's Newbury Street store. In Paris, Record Store Day co-founder and coordinator Michael Kurtz, who heads up the Department of Records Stores--one of three coalition along with Coalition of Independent Music Stores and the Alliance of Independent Media Stores--that launched and manage RSD, reports that the new Paris Mayor Anne Hildago met with Doors drummer John Densmore who was launching the French version of his book "The Doors Unhinged," to help celebrate the event and the day, which is called Disquaire Day there.

After a bonanza sales day, Twist & Shout owner Paul Epstein wrote in an e-mail sent to the industry including Billboard, that he went home exhausted but convinced that Record Store Day has helped breath "a whole new vitality into the music business."

INDIE RULES: Independent stores represented 19.4 percent of all physical albums sold in the week ending April 20 (605,000 of 5.3 million) -- likely the highest share of physical albums for the indie sector since SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991.

Billboard's Tastemakers Albums
(chart dated May 3, reflecting sales in the week ending April 20)

1. Green Day, "Demolicious" (Reprise/Warner Bros.)
2. Beck, "Morning Phase" (Fonograf Records/Capitol)
3. Childish Gambino, "Because the Internet" (Glassnote)
4. The Afghan Whigs, "Do To the Beast" (Sub Pop)
5. Notorious B.I.G., "Life After Death" (Bad Boy/Rhino)
6. Various Artists, "The Space Project" (Lefse/Fat Possum)
7. Bruce Springsteen, "American Beauty" (EP) (Columbia)
8. Grateful Dead, "Hampton Coliseum: Friday May 4, 1979" (Grateful
Dead/Rhino)
9. Nas, "Illmatic" (Columbia/Legacy)
10. Jake Bugg, "Live at Silver Platters: Seattle WA, January 20, 2014" (EP) (Virgin/EMI/Jake Bugg/Island)

(The week's top-selling albums based on an influential panel of stores comprised of independent retailer coalitions and smaller regional chains. Titles are ranked by sales data as compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. Full chart viewable at billboard.biz.)

VITAL VINYL: Overall vinyl album sales also hit a SoundScan-era high in the week ending April 20, as 369,000 LPs were sold. That easily beats the previous record, logged with 295,000 LPs in the week ending Dec. 22, 2013. (A year ago, RSD helped yield 244,000 vinyl LPs sold in the week ending April 20, 2013.)

Billboard's Vinyl Albums
(chart dated May 3, reflecting sales in the week ending April 20)

1. Childish Gambino, "Because the Internet" (Glassnote)
2. The Afghan Whigs, "Do To the Beast" (Sub Pop)
3. Notorious B.I.G., "Life After Death" (Bad Boy/Rhino)
4. Bruce Springsteen, "American Beauty" (EP) (Columbia)
5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Live At Monterey" (Experience
Hendrix/Legacy)
6. Grateful Dead, "Hampton Coliseum: Friday May 4, 1979" (Grateful
Dead/Rhino)
7. Tame Impala, "Live Versions" (Modular/Interscope/IGA)
8. Joy Division, "An Ideal For Living" (EP) (Warner UK/Rhino)
9. The Flaming Lips, "7 Skies H3" (Lovely Sorts Of Death/Warner Bros.)
10. The Ramones, "Meltdown With the Ramones EP" (Sire/Rhino)

(The week's top-selling vinyl albums, ranked by sales data as compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. Full chart viewable at billboard.biz.)

SINGLES ACTION: In terms of singles sales -- a normally dormant retail category -- there were 104,000 physical singles sold in the week ending April 20. That's up 68 percent compared with the haul a year ago (62,000) and up 1,200 percent from the week ending April 13 (8,000).

On the Hot Singles Sales chart, the tally is livened up by RSD, as all 25 titles are affiliated with RSD. (We have excerpted the top 10, below.) The chart is topped by Nirvana's 7-inch vinyl single "Pennyroyal Tea" (3,000 sold). The single was originally planned to be released in 1994, but was withheld in the wake of Kurt Cobain's death.

Billboard's Hot Singles Sales
(chart dated May 3, reflecting sales in the week ending April 20)

1. Nirvana, "Pennyroyal Tea" (Sub Pop/Geffen/Interscope)
2. Devo/The Flaming Lips, "Gates of Steel" (Live) (Warner Bros./Rhino)
3. The Cure/Dinosaur Jr., "Just Like Heaven" (Fiction/Elektra/Rhino)
4. David Bowie, "1984" (Parlophone/Rhino)
5. Love/Rush, "7 and 7 Is" (Elektra/Rhino)
6. Frank Zappa, "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" (Zappa/UMe)
7. Poison Idea/Pantera, "The Badge" (East West/Rhino)
8. Paramore, "Ain't It Fun" (Fueled By Ramen/RRP)
9. Fleetwood Mac, "Dragonfly" (Reprise/Warner Bros./Rhino)
10. Garbage With Brody Dalle, "Girls Talk" (Stun Volume)

(The week's top-selling physical singles -- and digital bundles -- ranked by sales data as compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. Full chart viewable at billboard.biz.)

The titles at Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 7 are part of Warner Music Group's Side By Side series, where the same song is performed by two artists (the original performer, plus a later cover). The Love/Rush title was sold as a "mystery artist" single, where the contents of the single were hidden from the customer's view until after purchase.

Some notable entries outside of the top 10 on Hot Singles Sales include: The Black Keys' CD single "Fever/Turn Blue" at No. 12 (both songs are from the band's forthcoming new studio set, "Turn Blue"), Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" (on glow-in-the-dark 10" vinyl) at No. 18 and One Direction's "Midnight Memories" (on 7" vinyl picture disc) at No. 21.