Essentially I just really want to explore why, as a vinyl fan, I now find the international day of celebrating vinyl records and the independent record stores that championed them, such a complete turn-off.
Unsurprisingly, it mainly surrounds one thing – price – or rather the inflated version of them.
For as long as I can remember I have found vinyl to be the cost effective way to build a record collection.
In my early days of amassing music, purchasing a vinyl album or single in the latter days of the format’s first phase of popularity seemed like a cheaper way to obtain my favourites than shelling out for cassette tapes and CDs.
And that became even more apparent when vinyl began to really drift off in the mid-90s; record fairs, car boot sales and independent record stores became an absolute haven for the obscure and/or obtaining a long-forgotten single rather than paying extortionate prices for that song’s album or even the anthology box set.
But, just as CD and cassettes threatened to extinguish vinyl forever, the dawn of the 21st century brought about a new musical dimension that loomed over the physical format like a brooding grim reaper.
The digital age – mp3s, Napster, iPods, the iTunes store, Spotify, Deezer and the like – looked for a long time like they would hammer the final nail in the vinyl coffin.
But still it ticked along in the background; my kind of music, heavy metal, punk rock etc. never really turned its back on the vinyl format and that really shone through in the early throes of Record Store Day.
I have to admit, I enjoyed the first few years of Record Store Day, which had genuinely interesting releases and was an opportunity to educate less-musically inclined friends that local record stores should be embraced for their diversity, community and their cost effectiveness.
It’s not just about vinyl either. That CD you left in your old car? Your local record store will have that. That song you heard on MTV 20 years ago and have flashbacks to? Your local record store will have that tucked away somewhere too.
Then…vinyl became popular again. My attitude towards the medium changed again. No longer were records made for gathering dust on a shelf or being tucked away in an attic, they were made for playing.
There’s no point turning around when your dead and gone, ‘yeah, didn’t do much with life but he did have a mint copy of Creeping Death on gold vinyl‘.
And with that, the record companies start to circle like vultures – seemingly blissfully unaware to what switched people off buying music in the first place.
With each year of Record Store day that passes, there’s fewer and fewer records on the list that grab my attention – certainly not at those prices!
For example, in 2018, a 7-inch single of Motörhead’s cover of David Bowie’s classic Heroes was made available.
It was the standout track on their hastily cobbled together covers album of 2017. Lemmy’s gravelly growl adding an extra layer to a track that has shamefully been bastardised by the BBC as some kind of all-conquering sporting anthem – a million miles away from what the song was originally written about.
On this Record Store Day that 7-inch single was priced at £16.99 – released on any other day it retails for half that price or less.
And that is notwithstanding the constant glut of reissues. Is that the £3 version of Back in Black you bought at your local record fair or the ‘remastered’ RSD exclusive version that rocks in at ten times that price.
With the popularity of vinyl increasing, prices are naturally going to go up and that’s fine for new music or genuinely interesting re-releases but lazily hashed together packages that claim an RSD label just to make a quick buck or two.
As RSD becomes more and more popular then the further the movement strays from its initial aims. Instead of celebrating the independent record store community, it becomes a celebration that you can only attend if you get there early enough and if you had a pocketful of cash.
So, for the time being, you’ll find me at my local record store(s) on any of the other 364 days of the year, local record fairs and second hand shops scouring the racks to add to my still-growing vinyl collection.
The irony of writing this blog piece whilst listening to Metallica’s Record Store Day exclusive concert from 2016 is not lost on me either (I just really like the version of ‘The Four Horsemen’ from that show).