Record Store Day Around the World: The Scene from London, New York, LA, Tokyo and Austin

Photo by Richard Smirke
The scene at London's largest independent record store Rough Trade East on Record Store Day, April 18, 2015.

LONDON

Blazing sunshine didn't stop the punters flooding into Rough Trade East, London's biggest independent record store, which had people camping out from midnight the night before, according to store manager Noreen McShane, who was greeted by a queue of around 500 people upon opening the store.

Among the first collectable items to sell out were the Father John Misty picture disc, Mumford and Sons' 7-inch The 1975, a J Dilla 7-inch and Temples, as well as a vinyl repress of Placebos' first album.

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The store also reported brisk sales of classics such as Bruce Springsteen.

"It seems a bit more civilized this year, calmer, less frenetic, but the volume of crowds is on par and it's still early days. We've got a long way to go," said Rough Trade co-owner Stephen Godfrey after a blistering early afternoon set by British post-punk veterans Wire.

"Due to the popularity of this arcane sound carrier, we don't have any [vinyl] albums here," noted bassist Graham Lewis, who added that vinyl pressings of the band's latest album had been delayed due to the growing number of record store day releases taking over manufacturing plants. To make up for it the band gave away a vinyl test pressing to the most "peculiar" dancer during its live set. -- Richard Smirke

AUSTIN

In Austin, shoppers can choose between honoring their slacker impulses or getting everything they want. Waterloo Records stocks everything, but the 7 a.m. opening time means those who seek the more limited releases need to start lining up in the pre-dawn hours (the store does provide complimentary pastries and bloody marys for those who are up for it).

Those who would rather sleep in can try some of the other stores: Antone's, the longstanding king of blues, jazz, and Texas music, opens at 10 -- and the scene there after opening is downright manageable. By 10:15, there are maybe a dozen customers who pack the small shop, but who leave a fair amount of merchandise on the shelves. The employee with his grey ponytail frantically arranges the shrinking collection of RSD exclusives on the wall as titles sell out, determined to preserve alphabetical order (sorry, out of Willie Nelson's Teatro), as the customers continue to trickle in.

On the south side of the river at End Of An Ear -- the city's silver medalist in the record store Olympics, the Waterloo's gold -- the usual 11 a.m. opening time has been pushed up to 10, and customers queue up for their turn inside the store's back room, which normally sells drums and stereo equipment. Today, it's a Record Store Day showroom, and the fire code keeps capacity limited in the weathered building.

The scene at the store is downright orderly. The room is set up with a cafeteria-style line to tour all of the releases in alphabetical order. The line isn't strictly enforced, though: newcomers who skip ahead receive the glares of their peers, but can be rewarded with the last copy of the Courtney Barnett single, so who's the real winner?

"It's on eBay already for $100," a bearded gentleman says to his friend about the Mark Kozelek reissue of his AC/DC covers album, What's Next to the Moon. "Call the Hastings in Waco," his friend replies, referring to a small chain store that participates in the city 90 miles north of End Of An Ear.

In record-crazy Austin, that sounds downright logical. -- Dan Solomon

BROOKLYN

Billboard got in line outside Rough Trade in Brooklyn around 9 a.m. (when it opened) and got inside around three hours later. The line was down 9th St. to Kent Ave., and then along Kent to 8th, according to Rough Trade co-manager George Flanagan. At noon, the line was still most of way down 9th to control crowd so the store wouldn't get mobbed. So yeah, a pretty long wait but not as hectic on the inside once we got there.

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They did have a guy coming outside to those in line periodically to announce what had already sold out -- a Metallica cassette; a Phish box set; Brand New's Deja Entendu re-release; a J Dilla picture disc; and oddly enough, the Hedwig and the Angry Inch soundtrack, were some of the hot items that went early.

We couldn't find a Vampire Weekend "Step" single (remix with Danny Brown, Heems and Despot) we had hoped to grab, but we got everything else on our list: the Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America LP re-release and a 7-inch of Makthaverskan's "Witness." They had all the RSD exclusives separated on the side and organized pretty well, so titles were easy to locate. Would have been cool to see Phish fans fight over the box sets, though.

Meanwhile, after triumphant show at Irving plaza on Thursday night (April 16), the Buzzcocks stuck around New York for Record Store Day and did in-store signing at  rough trade. Rumors that they would also play disappointingly turned out to be false. Howlin Rain is setting up to play next, and Sondre Lerche is playing and being recorded for a 78. -- Chris Payne and Ed Christman

LONDON

Over in Soho, Reckless Records on historic Berwick Street proves equally and predictably rammed, even if a shop assistant/security guard/door watcher says it's not been busy as recent years. Having progressed no further than 10 feet inside the store after 15 minutes, we give up and join the queue to enter Sister Ray's Soho branch opposite.

After a short wait we're inside, only to hear someone old enough to know better ask a shop worker if they have any of the One Direction singles left in stock.

"That was last year, mate," comes the grinned reply. A few minutes later, a European punter then gets very excited when he sees a Syd Barrett\R.E.M single listed among the exclusives on offer. His excitement dies down a little when he learns that it's not in fact a fantasy collaboration, but actually separate songs from each artist.

Outside the store, Berwick Street has been transformed into a raucous drink and legal/illegal high-fueled street party as The 2 Bears perform a rocking DJ set over on an end-of-the-road stage installed especially for the day. Chic's "Le Freak" is a particular crowd favorite among the refreshed masses.

Across the road,  sounds of the universe record shop is also hosting it's own street party, although it's so busy that we can't get within spitting distance of the stage or store. Whatever exclusives they have left in stock, if any, it doesn't look they'll be making many more sales today.

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Approximately 10 minutes down the road from Rough Trade East, Sister Ray Ace on Shoreditch High Street was similarly drawing in the crowds. A 3:30 p.m. acoustic set by Duke Garwood left no room for maneuver within the vinyl-only shops's cosy confines with a jam-packed 50-strong crowd respectfully silent for the all too brief four-song set.

Speaking to Billboard in the midday sun, store manager Johnny said the day had been "fantastic" and that they had already sold out 70 percent of the store's allocated stock with five hours of trading still to go.

"We didn't have a massive queue to start. Instead it's been a constant flow, which is a bit of a dream really as I worked in a Soho [record store ] last year and we opened at 8 and we didn't get to the end of the queue until 4:30," he said. "Here it's been more of a constant stream, but it's great. Were selling lots of stuff and loads of people have got what they wanted. Lots of smiley faces."

The manger added that the Red House Painters box set has been asked for a lot. "We had one copy which we sold to our very first customer who had been queuing since 4.30am just to get that, so I'm very happy for him," he said. -- Richard Smirke

BROOKLYN

In Bushwick, Brookyln, a small smattering of thin, black and denim clad deep-dark music connoisseurs -- shirts from The Clay, Blitz, Totalitar, L.S.D. patches -- milled about on Flushing Avenue on the loveliest day of the year so far, waiting for Heaven St. to open its doors 10 minutes late or so.

While there werent many RSD exclusives (No More's Suicide Commando, Thai Pop Spectacular, Metallica's cassette reissue), there were plenty of limited slabs on offer -- Dieter Muh's Heterodoxie (200), Prurient's Palm Tree Corpse (250).

Heaven Street is world-class out-there, serving the corner where niche and bizarre crack open a PBR (free with every purchase). There's been much made of the problems around RSD, the clogging of vinyl plants at the expense of smaller labels' catalogs, the market saturation and eBay profiteering -- but at its most base level, music fandom is alive and weird. -- Andrew Flanagan

LOS ANGELES

This media is not available on this platform.Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio doing his part for Record Store Day 2015.

"This is the most I've ever participated in Record Store Day," said TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe. He is not referring to the limited edition single that his band released for this year's annual global vinyl celebration, but something much more intimate: he is sitting across a table sketching a caricature of me.

This mind-blowing promotion is part of Amoeba Records' Record Store Day celebration at Space15Twenty, on the other side of Sunset Boulevard from the bustling Los Angeles music emporium. The event featured performances from Mike Watt of the Minutemen and EV Kain, plus the caricature session with Adebimpe and Julian Gross (the album artist for TVOTR's "Seeds") while the band's Dave Sitek DJs. The promotion represents Record Store Day at its finest: Connecting consumers to music retail with exclusive recordings, artists, performances and likeminded fans while at the same time supporting beleaguered music retail's post-digital vinyl come-back.

Hitting eight participating record shops across Los Angeles' vast urban terrain was a study in different Record Store Day approaches. While some stores seemed to relish the day, turning it into a major event, others took it in stride, integrating a few RSD items here and there into their stock without much fanfare. The latter was especially true for smaller and more specialized stores like Silver Lake's Vacation Vinyl and Glendale's Mount Analog, which trade in more outré genres like noise, psych, industrial and dance music. But for stores like West LA's Record Surplus and Touch Vinyl, Hollywood's Amoeba, Silver Lake's Origami Vinyl, and Glendale's Permanent Records and Gimme Gimme, yesterday seemed easily to be one of their biggest sales days of the year, with lines out the door.

Record Surplus was full by 11 a.m., a time owner Neil Canter said his store would ordinarily have around 15 people. There were three bins of Record Store Day exclusives and a scrum of customers angling for a piece of the black gold. Singer/songwriter P.F. Sloan ("Secret Agent Man") and Creed Bratton of The Office and former member of the Grass Roots performed.

This media is not available on this platform.The Finish Line: Amoeba Records L.A. at Sunset Blvd. and Ivar Ave. on Record Store Day 2015. 

"Judging from the line, it's the busiest Record Store Day we've ever had," says Kara Lane, Amoeba's marketing and events director. "We had a hundred people in line at 3:00 a.m. in the morning; last year we had like two campers. I got here at 7:30 a.m. when we gave out free coffee and pastries and by 8:00 a.m.  the line went all the way around the block." The store is bustling at 1:00 p.m. and outside feels like a block party with free lemonade and ice cream promotions, a prize wheel and discounted product. In the back of Amoeba, however, the scene is entirely different.

In the back of Amoeba, however, the scene was entirely different. "It's like a peaceful military operation," said Alyssa Siegel, the product and fulfillment manager for Amoeba.com who yesterday was among a team of 15-20 people huddled in a repurposed storage room fulfilling customers' orders written on extensive, 10-page RSD "menus." Runners took the RSD merchandise to the front of the store, while line managers with headsets and walkie talkies communicated with the fulfillment team, marking off sold-out releases on a board outside the store. The White Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan" and Metallica's "No Life 'Til Leather" demos were among the sold out.

This media is not available on this platform.Glendale's Gimme Gimme Records.

Origami Vinyl associate Sean Stentz says his store had only two copies of the Brand New album, which people lined up at 9 p.m. were clamoring for. "It's always a fun little gamble," he said. "You roll the dice and you get 30 of something you end up sitting on and one copy of what everyone is waiting for." Glendale's Permanent Records was bustling at 4 p.m, which may have been because the legendary group X and Fuzz featuring the great Ty Segall are still to perform. The counter-person says the store "maybe fits a 100 people."

At 5:00 p.m. at nearby Gimmie Gimmie, things are just slowing down since opening at 8:00 a.m. Owner Dan Cook says the store was packed and he too will have his biggest sales day of the year but notes the difficulty of stocking for Record Store Day. "It's tricky ordering because they are limited editions. I'll order from several different distributors and sometimes I'll get everything and have too many of one thing and nothing of another and what doesn't sell is non-returnable."

Back at Amoeba, sitting across from Adebimpe after a 20 minutes wait in a line, I told him the experience felt sort of like the performance artist Marina Abramovic's MOMA piece involving her silent engagement with individual museum visitors. He laughed and said this was a lot less inspirational. He was wrong, though: Here I learned that he, too, collects vinyl and has roughly 500 pieces which he says are "in and out of storage;" he learned to draw at NYU film school when he "should have been paying attention in class," and the reason TV on the Radio didn't play the awesome new song "Test Pilot" at the Palladium last week was because they have 80 songs to choose from in their rich back catalog.  That's when I decide I must have his new album on vinyl. -- Andy Gensler

TOKYO

Record Store Day has been gaining momentum in Japan after the NPO Music Sommelier Association started pushing the event four years ago. The public service org, created by people who are concerned about the music industry, has set up a homepage to publicize the day and works on promotions with different retailers in Japan. Kenji Suzuki, the Director of Music Sommelier, says, "We've worked hard to get the word out about Record Store Day -- many major retailers participate in campaigns targeted for the day, including Tower Records, HMV and Disc Union." This year, those chains used the day to drop 80 new releases, up from 42 in 2014. One notable absence from this list of record stores: the giant Japanese CD and DVD seller Tsutaya.

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Of all of these, Tower Records perhaps put the most emphasis on Record Store Day. Signs and advertisements were plastered throughout their stores, extremely noticeable at the gigantic, four-story Shinjuku branch. Boxes of product and banners were prominent on both the domestic and international floors. Mihoko Nishi, a product manager in the Shinjuku store says, "Analog sold significantly better today than on an average Saturday -- CDs to some extent, too." All records received a 10 percent discount and the store also offered "a special on actual record players, with a built-in speaker" relates Nishi. Illustrating the spirit of the day, HMV actually worked with its archrival Tower: "We were able to make special orders for records that are usually only available at HMV so we could sell them today," Nishi tells Billboard. -- Rob Schwartz

Updated: 8:02 AM ET, April 20.