Record Store Day draws big crowds, with less indie music

In 2007, Record Store Day was created to help indie stores across the nation. Seven years later, how has the event changed (and does it still help local businesses)?

Record stores across the world–including six here in town–will sell limited-run vinyl records from both independent and major labels this Saturday during the seventh annual Record Store Day.

For at least one local store, it’s the best business all year.

“We had 75 people lined up outside [last year],” said Jay Leavitt, owner of Deep Groove Records located on Robinson Street. “At least double or triple what our best day at Christmas would be.”

Local stores participating in Record Store Day

Record Store Day began in 2007 to promote independent, brick-and-mortar stores, many reeling from the proliferation of digital music sales. Labels and distributors supply rare vinyl to lure shoppers and hook would-be record buyers into frequenting stores year-round.

“The day itself is a wonderful day,” Leavitt said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

What isn’t fun for some record store owners are the weeks leading up to the event.

Music labels release hundreds of limited-run titles, some numbering no more than a couple thousand copies. Those copies are then divided among hundreds of stores and sold to the public.

“You have to zip through it to decide what you want to bring in,” Leavitt said. “Then you have to decide what number you want.” Even after deciding which and how many copies stores want to carry, stores aren’t guaranteed that chosen amount from distributors. “There’s a real mystery to it,” Leavitt said.

Marty Key, co-owner of Steady Sounds in Jackson Ward, agrees that the day is fun for businesses and customers, but says what began as an annual event celebrating both independent music and record stores has become a lucrative opportunity for major labels.1

“I’m noticing indie labels doing less and less, and major labels doing more,” Key said. “It’s more centered to the labels now…it’s kind of like ‘Label Store Day.'”

But both Key and Leavitt say that their businesses do well even without the fanfare of Record Store Day because of Richmond’s vinyl enthusiasts. Even though record stores serve a niche market, it’s a big enough niche for local record store owners to survive.

“It’s pretty remarkable the number of stores we have,” Leavitt said. “I think people in Richmond are spoiled by that.” He said it’s not unheard of for people to travel from the D.C. area to flip through the stacks in RVA record stores.

And while Leavitt admits that vinyl is vogue these days, he doesn’t think they’ll ever play out entirely. “Until the earth crumbles, people will still be buying, collecting, and listening to records,” Leavitt said.

Record Store Day is Saturday, April 20th. Steady Sounds will open at 12:00 AM, and will serve pizza from by Bellytimber. Deep Groove will be open regular hours and provide free doughnuts and coffee to those who wait in line.

On April 19th, Saison will host a collaborative DJ Night featuring Deep Groove Records, Steady Sounds, Vinyl Conflict, and Plan 9.

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  1. This year’s participating major label artists include: Bon Jovi, David Bowie, The Notorious B.I.G., Willie Nelson, and Bob Dylan. 

photo by jeffrey ocampo

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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