Record Store Day 2014 was the busiest day in Other Music’s nearly 20-year history.
Josh Madell co-founded the Other Music shop in Manhattan in 1995, which carries a broad cross-section of underground music from around the world. In 2012, he launched the Other Music Recording Co.
We did a week’s worth of business in one afternoon; the only day that has come close was RSD 2013, and RSD 2012 just behind that. If you are even tangentially aware of the struggles the industry has been facing of late, and particularly the struggles of physical retail, you know what that means to a shop like ours. Both the customers lined up around the block all day and the revenue they added to our bottom line is a huge deal to us. Running a record store in 2014 is a passion, a labor of love and, these days, maybe a fool’s errand — but we’re still here because we love the music, we love the customers, and it’s all we know. We’re lucky at Other Music; we live in one of the best music cities in the world, and between all the artists, the industry, the local fans and the tourists, there is a pretty vibrant market for what we’re selling. Still, every slow Saturday cuts like a knife, so you can be sure that a day like Record Store Day feels pretty damn good going down.
It’s an unbelievable amount of work to pull off, not so much the actual day but everything leading up to it, and we see the negatives of the way RSD has evolved first hand. Record Store Day in some ways has become a victim of its own success; as every major label and mega artist has embraced (or overwhelmed) the event with a slew of releases aimed at the record collector (or speculator) more than the music fan. Pair that with the overwhelming media attention of the last few years, it’s of little surprise that lines are long. The most exciting releases are always in short supply, and the eBay aftermarket is out of control.
For me, perhaps more frustrating than any of these problems is the question of why record stores get one or two days in the spotlight when the download and streaming services seem to have the undying support of the labels year-round. Rarities, exclusive bonus tracks and the like are a daily occurrence on iTunes or Spotify, yet it’s a cause for celebration at my store.
I am a huge supporter of digital distribution, it’s simply a great way to listen to and explore music. But I think it’s obvious that there were some shortsighted decisions made over the last decade by the majors and major indies, and one day, as big as it is, can’t correct that. However, it’s a start, and all the happy faces streaming through our door last Saturday, young and old, regular customers, forgotten friends and newbies alike, are testament enough to that. Plus, I scored some great stuff — the Mayer Hawthorne/Shintaro Sakamoto split 7”, the Dunedin Double reissue on Flying Nun, Otis Redding’s 1964 debut LP, that amazing Devo live record. And, after a long day, I went home, cracked a beer in front of the stereo, and enjoyed some great music. Thank you Record Store Day!
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