Record Store Day, an event meant to increase foot traffic to independent record stores, takes place this Saturday. Just how popular are RVA record shops, and does Record Store Day do as much good as some think?
Click here and you’ll read artists, from Paul McCartney to Andrew W.K., waxing nostalgic about spending time in record stores. “There’s nothing as glamorous to me as a record store,” said the famed Beatle. Andrew W.K. said “There’s a certain indescribable feeling that I was always left with,” after leaving a record store, “feeling motivated and like the world was so full of possibility.” Despite digital music proliferation—be it in iTunes, streaming, or pirated form—record stores across the country have managed to stay afloat. Some have even thrived, and record stores in Richmond are no different.
This Saturday marks the sixth annual Record Store Day. Founded in 2007, Record Store Day celebrates over 700 independently-owned record stores in the US, as well as hundreds of like-minded stores across the globe. Six of these stores are located in Richmond.
Local stores participating in Record Store Day
“It has gained a lot of momentum,” said Bobby Egger. Egger owns Oregon Hill’s Vinyl Conflict. “The traditional record store has found itself almost completely obsolete.” Record stores now need to cater to specific genres and music fans (Vinyl Conflict carries largely Punk Rock and Metal). “People are still interested in buying music,” said Eggers. “That customer is still out there.”
Sean Patrick Rhorer, owner of Archival Digital, a digital music distributor, collects vinyl; the first record he ever wanted was a picture disc of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. His record collection is ever-growing. “Even after all these years, something feels different about holding an LP in your hands versus a CD or even an MP3 player,” said Rhorer. “There’s also something unique about the listening experience that no new technology has been able to capture.”
Daniel White, president of Blood & Ink Records, said that vinyl is still profitable, even though the profit margin is smaller compared to CDs or digital releases.
“Manufacturing cost for CDs were on average $1.00 / unit for quantities around 1000. LPs can be as high at $5-6 / unit. You’re looking at a 40-50% mark up vs. a 90% mark up. While the profit margin is lower, the desirability it higher. We often see collectors buying multiple copies of one record to ‘get all the colors.’ We usually press a record in 3-4 different colors to have some variety.”
Daniel White is very much in favor of Record Store Day, saying that it “brings attention to those ‘mom and pop’ stores that so desperately need it.” He added that he’s heard of “countless reports of vinyl sales going up.”
However, Rhorer is skeptical. “I think the intent of Record Store Day is well-meaning,” he said “but it seems, as with a lot of aspects of music, people have fallen victim to the appeal of the quick money major labels have to offer and have sacrificed the quality and longevity of this annual event in exchange for that influx of cash.”
Despite his incredulity about the yearly event, Rhorer said that Richmond has a vibrant vinyl-buying demographic. “Vinyl Conflict, Deep Groove, and Steady Sounds have all emerged as predominantly vinyl-only stores with great, well-curated selections for their unique audiences.”
Daniel White agrees. “Richmond is one of the best cities for vinyl collecting,” he said. “I’ve traveled a ton and usually base my traveling around record shops. We have some of the best record stores in the country, period.”
To celebrate Saturday’s Record Store Day, local stores will have special promotions and offers. Vinyl Conflict is having Rooster Cart on hand. Steady Sounds will be open from 12am – 2am Saturday morning and then later in the day from 11am – 6pm. The store will offer free food, coffee, and 20% of all used vinyl. Deep Groove will hand out free donuts to customers and a store-branded tote bag.
photo of Deep Groove Records by jeffrey ocampo