Every year on a Saturday in mid-April, independent record store owners host concerts and live events at their brick and mortar shops across the globe to celebrate the culture that surrounds the sale and distribution of physical recorded music. What may seem on the surface to be nothing more than a simple ploy to boost sales for these shops is, in reality, so much more important.
Record Store Day (RSD) is a celebration, and whether its founders intended this to be the case or not, it is a metaphorical tourniquet, tied tightly, saving the wounded, bleeding industry that sells recorded music in the physical format. April 16, 2016 marks the eighth annual RSD, and if you weren’t planning to already, you should head out to the nearest local record store near year and buy some vinyl. (or a CD if that’s your thing)
Now of course, not everyone will care about RSD, because, obviously, not everyone buys physical music anymore. Hell, as I write this article on a MacBook Pro with no CD drive, I remember that a lot of us don’t even have the hardware to play physical music anymore. Data collected by The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) showed in 2014 that, for the first ever, revenue from digitally streamed and purchased music equaled or exceeded the revenue from physically purchased music. (46% vs. 46%)
There’s no doubt: as time goes on and our world and lives become increasingly more cloud-based, we will continue to consume music, and all other forms of media for that matter, digitally. And while we should refrain from rejecting new technological advances, we should also be cautious to not forget what came before.
Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, the LP (long playing) record changed the way artists recorded music and how listeners digested it. While previous formats would have required “albums” to be broken up on multiple records, the LP made it possible for ten or more songs to be stored on one record.
The emergence of the LP coincided perfectly with the rise of this new genre called “rock and roll,” and right as Chuck Berry told us about Johnny B. Goode and Elvis Presley made young girls feel unholy things, the “Album Era” of music was born.
This era, which everyone born from late-1950s to the mid-1990s grew up with, totally revolutionized the way that artists could express themselves through their music. Both artists and listeners were freed from the structured tunes that dominated pop airwaves, and “album tracks” and “B-sides,” songs that previously could have been D.O.A. in the studio, became fan favorites, discovered on albums like hidden Easter eggs.
So in 1964, when Bob Dylan released his first all-original album The Times They Are a-Changin’, he was able to paint a more complete picture of the racism and injustice that he was witnessing throughout the country. Listeners got to not only fall in love with the leadoff track (“The Times They Are a-Changin’”) as it became a hit on radio stations, but also listen and learn from Side 2, Track 1 “Only a Pawn in Their Game”, which told the detailed story of the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evans. “Pawn” never even flirted with the radio, but it’s an important song that showcases Dylan’s talent as a singing raconteur and tells an important-yet-overlooked story from the civil rights fight of the 1960s.
Music aside, “vinyl” had cultural impacts that were far-reaching. Before you could open up YouTube or Spotify and stream virtually any song you wanted the second you wanted it, the only way to listen to music was on the radio or at home, on a record player. As music became the soundtrack for the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the anti-war era that followed it, teens gathered in bedrooms and dorm rooms and would listen to music, digesting the message. They couldn’t Tweet that they were doing this or Instagram a selfie of them huddled together, a smoky haze possible present in the air. All they had was that moment, with that music, and I could only imagine how real and powerful it must have felt.
So this Saturday, April 16, shut your computer, drive to your nearest local record store, and purchase some music that you can feel and hold in your hand. Take in the culture that surrounds record stores, and try to imagine a time when if you wanted to listen an album, your only choice was to go out and buy it.
-Joe Rapolla Jr.
Where to go :::
Grimey’s ::: Grimey’s – at it again with a loaded slate of Nashville’s finest in indie performances. The two that prove to be of the most intrigue (for myself, at least) are HeCTA and Blank Range. HeCTA is at the head of the non-Nashville “sound” explosion while Blank Range are just a hell of a good time to watch on stage. It seems fitting that Aida Victoria would play Grimey’s RSD this year, as the heir apparent to the “Queen of Nashville” title for 2016, and a fine introductory figure to usher in Mayor Megan Barry’s first official RSD as Nashville’s Mayor at Grimey’s. Its all bound to be a grand ole time, but with the name brand clout of Grimey’s also comes the scads of folks that are going to be camping out well before the 10 AM opening – myself included – in order to grab The Roulette Sides by John Coltrane, The Diary by J Dilla, Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team, and The Guest OST before the other waxheads get to them. RIP my wallet. – Sean
The Groove /// Fond Object ::: My annual RSD tradition is walking up to the Groove, purchasing a few things that I want (and maybe can’t afford), like the Jason Molina 7-inch of Townes Van Zandt covers that I’ve been dreaming about adding to my collection and spending the day catching up with friends and listening to great music – like Promised Land Sound, HeCTA and Big Surr. And since they’ve opened, I’ve always split my day between the Groove and Fond Object, driving up to Riverside Village for what is always an incredible lineup, plus plenty of drinks, food, a farm animal or two and, of course, LPs to be had. This year, I’m going to attempt to also catch Lavender Country, Ranch Ghost, Western Medication and Penicillin Baby. I like a challenge. – MRM
And look for Kim over at Third Man Records for bands like Faux Ferocious, and some really sweet special releases like The White Stripes – Peel Sessions Double LP and Jack White – “You are the Sunshine of my Life” Limited Edition 7″.