Tag Archives: National Record Store Day

National Record Store Day is April 16

Saturday April 16 is National Record Store Day.

Used to be that everyone had a great record store story, and I am no exception. But now a whole generation of people have grown up thinking that the record store is located between Appliances and Men’s Shoes at the local MegaSprawl Store. Sad, but true.

That’s why this holiday – yeah, I said it – is important. There are hundreds of live shows, promotions and other celebrations planned and the list grows by the minute. Put down your taxes and head out to your local shop and if you can’t be there, send them an email of support or buy something from them online.

Click here for more information.

Sure, they exist to make money, but record stores provide a cultural service in return. You won’t get that from a soulless chain who impose their religious and political beliefs on art.

So don’t let independent record stores go the way of the dodo.

Strength in Numbers


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Celebrate National Record Store Day!

Once a year is not enough, but it will do.

It’s that time again – today is National Record Store Day. 

As one who has grown up both hanging out in and working for record stores, it warms my heart that there’s a day set aside for the collective appreciation of the independent record store. I’ve spent most of my life living in Upstate New York and have been blessed with some of the great ones. Three of my favorites are within fifteen minutes of my house: Record Archive, House of Guitars, and The Bop Shop

Record Archive is my favorite haunt, ane everyone from owners Richard and Alayna to the crew are first-rate people. Besides a huge selection at their new central location they host artists, musicians, photographers and other creative types for gallery shows and in-stores. They boast one of the largest vinyl collections anywhere and there’s no better place to spend a rainy day (of which there are many up here). Great commercials with The Dancing Record Man (Richard); my daughter even got to be in one. 

The House of Guitars has to be seen to be believed and is a landmark stop for any musician coming through New York. When I first moved to town they were my salvation, and although they’ll never get everything properly filed in a lifetime, chances are if you need something, it’s somewhere in there. First met Greg and Andy from The Chesterfield Kings when they worked the counter many moons ago. They made their own TV commercials long before it became hip – some of them were hallucinatory

The Bop Shop is a quintessential indie store, a labor of love for Tom, its owner; also a cultural mecca especially if you’re looking for that blues or jazz record you’re having trouble finding. In recent times they have been extremely active in concert promotion, bringing people like Ian McLagan, Neil Innes and Wreckless Eric to town. They have survived in a tough industry and a bad economy because of their passion and commitment. 

And I’m sure you have stores like these near you. Check here

Quotes from artists about the day itself. Use the drop-down menu for more. 

Some quotes from store owners (including Bop Shop Tom). 


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Broken Records


I started to type this in response to a few posts about the music industry on Audities, one of the oldest music discussion sites on Al Gore’s Interwebthing, but it got too verbose for a bulletin board reply. (Oh, you lucky blog fans, you and your hand-me-down thoughts…) 

The set-up is this: in their latest stab of brilliance, the major labels are trying to call back the horses into the barn with their new strategy – lower the price of CDs at retail. Of course, this doesn’t mean your mom and pop stores, mind you. Why would the industry support anyone who invested in a business to help move their product to the street in atmosphere that would attract the ideal customer? No, please take care of those big box stores, who are probably only a decade away from making you irrelevant by making you produce product on consignment, since you will have killed off the very competition that was your last remaining negotiating tool. 

But I digress. You can take Marketing 101 on your own time. 

So the Big Three (or four or two – I’m not checking my watch as I’m typing) think they can save themselves and the way that it was, simply by selling a ten-dollar CD. Great idea, pencil geeks…and about twenty years too late. Why they’ll even put the price right there on the spine of the CD so that you can see just how charitable they are. 

Two problems: The box stores don’t want to be told what to charge and they’ll mark it up anyway. And the indie stores can’t make a profit when the margin is now razor-thin and meant for national sales volumes. 

Nice move, dumbass!

So we were kicking this idea around on a list that’s populated by musicians, writers, label people and music fans where the age of the members probably ranges from late teens to Social Security. Some could give a rat’s ass about CDs, others don’t like downloads; although most do realize how hard it is for an artist to survive in this business. So needless to say, we see the pros and cons to the collapse of the industry. My thoughts… 

It’s hard to be objective as I grew up buying singles then albums then (skipped cassettes and 8-tracks) CDs and DVDs. I only reluctantly buy digital downloads, as I am sadly conditioned to think that it’s even less that what I was getting as a CD, which was less than what I got on an album.   

But I must also realize that I live in a world where the vast majority of the target market for most releases is used to getting whatever they want whenever they want for free.   Ironically, most of these people with large digital storage probably amassed a hundred times the amount of music I own in a fraction of the time and an incalculable amount less expense. It’s all there at the click of a button or two or three. 

It travels with them constantly, and if they were to lose it the smart ones have two or three backup copies at different locations – or they could just spend a short bit of time doing it again. I’m amazed, but I’m not jealous.  Even though they never had to turn down an apartment or a house saying “but there is no room for my albums“. 

Three dimensional and tactile

But they never had the pure joy of sifting through racks and racks of albums during thousands of days spent perusing record stores, poring over liner notes, cracking that shrink-wrap, seeing your murky reflection in the black vinyl grooves. And god knows how many gazillions of hours holding and reading the paper 45 sleeve or the album liner notes or (god bless us every one) the gatefold album’s multiple uses if you know what I mean and I think you do. It’s the same reason I would never buy a Kindle. I want to hold a book in my hands, whether I’m reading on the beach, on the train, or in…um…the room in my house with the best echo

I remember vividly when CDs were coming out and the promise was that they would be cheaper to manufacture, distribute, store and sell than vinyl. Yet they initially cost more than the albums and never dropped – even when the cost of blank CDs dropped sixty to seventy percent at retail stores. Yet the prices of CDs went up! You dug your grave with a round plastic spoon, major labels, and you still don’t get it.   

(And wouldn’t this be a great time to remind them that the Miles Davises and the Johnny Cashes and the Van Morrisons of the world who they dropped – because they weren’t selling to the new hip demographic – might have been providing them with an annuity stream all this time? It won’t be too long before the old guard is the highest seller in the physical market simply because the young market moved completely to downloads and the remaining audience is too old to adopt to yet another format.)

The Bird is the Word

So while major labels scramble to survive standing on the shoulders (and corpses) of their artists, maybe they should wake up if they still want to survive for a short time until the last of the tactile people like me die. 

Sell me a CD/DVD package for $10-12.  Put some videos, interviews, demos, documentaries, live cuts whatever on the DVD. Yes, I know I will probably be able to YouTube it. Yes, some zeroid will probably have it on a torrent site before you can say “oops”. But you can certainly put all that together and offer it to enough people like me who will say “that’s a great deal”, and not as many people are going to pirate the DVD as you think. And there are still a lot of us who would prefer to hang on, however futile that cling to the past might be. 

I will DVR my favorite TV shows, but I also wind up buying many on DVD because of the commentaries, the deleted scenes, the documentaries – the stuff above and beyond.   Make it special. It will work with CDs if you do it right. I have the tools to burn my own music and I could go steal it if I wanted to. But I’m right here offering you money to dress it up for me. To paraphrase a great line from Glengarry Glen Rossare you man enough to take it

There are a lot of people rooting for the death of the industry who gloss over the fact that a distribution model is still needed. Sure, I can find your band on MySpace or YouTube if I am purposefully looking for it; maybe  I’ve seen you play or you sent me a link. But with hundreds of thousands of bands now just faceless files in the ether, you’ll never be able to capture me with inventive cover art or the good fortune to be alphabetically racked near someone more famous. I will never find you by accident. You will be just another grain of sand on an endless beach. 

Be careful what you wish for. 

Stores gone. Radio dead. Hey - good luck!

National Record Store Day is April 17, 2010.


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The Record Archive is the Place To Go

Record Archive 33.3

Back in April I wrote an essay about National Record Store Day. As I was spilling my brain into the keyboard, my thoughts were targeted towards a business I’ve frequented for as long as I’ve been in my town, which is a frighteningly long period of time – almost three decades of squatterdom.

There have always been cool indie stores in this town, like The Bop Shop and the Lakeshore Record Exchange. House of Guitars is even a legendary pit stop for every musician coming through upstate New York. And despite a crappy economy, some great clubs and pubs still survive. When I used to travel frequently, I was always in search of the cool record store, along with the clubs that had great bands and the best draft beer pub in town. I’ve been lucky enough to experience a ton of great record stores, from Amoeba to Newbury Comics to Waterloo, but I firmly believe that Record Archive is one of the best shops in the country. They…well, they just have everything.

Today, as they celebrated their “33 1/3 Anniversary“, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a presentation by the Mayor and several local dignitaries…and a few popping corks, of course. Recently moved to a huge warehouse emporium, The Record Archive is the place to go for area residents, but also boasts a thriving international business spearheaded by their massive collection of vinyl. What was once a great local treasure is now a click away to buyers from around the globe.

But it goes beyond all that.

Richard Storms was the first Rochesterian I met when I first came to town. A friend (ex-Flashcube Paul Armstrong) and his band were recording an album in the wee hours of the morning for Storm’s label. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I seem to remember four of us going out for Chinese food and talking shop for hours. Little did I know that our paths would continue to intersect so often, or the thousands of hours I would spend in his stores poring through albums, watching incredible bands play in-store concerts, and just plain hanging out.

Alayna Hill-Alderman, who now co-owns the shop, is a key member of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores and a driving force for all things right in the industry. She’s smart as a whip and manages a wonderful staff who make customers feel like guests and regulars feel like family. Like Richard, she’s worked diligently to keep Record Archive alive and vibrant at a time when businesses struggle mightily, and any artist coming through town has a sharp and savvy ally in Alayna.

So I was honored to be able to witness this honor today…and what a special treat to see that our Mayor is a fan and a customer as well as a politician thankful to have a great business thrive in his city:

Record Archive long view

Mayor Robert J. Duffy and Neighborhood and Business Development Commissioner R. Carlos Carballada joined partners Richard F. Storms and Alayna Hill Alderman at the 33⅓-year anniversary celebration for Record Archive. The store, located at 33⅓ Rockwood St., specializes in new and used CD, DVD and vinyl record inventories, as well as a wide variety of unusual items including incense, vintage clothing and furniture, t-shirts, toys, cards, magazines, gifts and used VHS videos. In addition, the new location features an art gallery space which is affiliated with Rochester’s First Friday art openings and a full performance stage complete with lights, sound and recording capabilities for hosting local, regional and national musical acts.

Record Archive, Inc. was started in 1975 by Richard Storms. The store’s original location was 1394 Mt. Hope Avenue. In 1994, a second location was opened at 1880 East Ave. – which became the sole location after the Mt. Hope store closed in 2005. In 2008, Richard decided to move to 33⅓ Rockwood St., which is substantially larger than the company’s previous East Avenue space. The expansion has accommodated the company’s growing Internet business for both CD’s and vinyl records. The space was originally an industrial facility and needed to be re-purposed to accommodate Record Archive’s walk-in retail and Internet business.

Record Archive is the largest vintage record store in the northeast and is a member of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS). CIMS, founded in 1995, is a group of some of the best independent music stores in America. Its current membership is made up of 29 accounts that handle 59 stores in 21 states. Many of the accounts have been recognized by the music industry and their local communities for their outstanding dedication to customer service and developing artist support. Each member is bound by its shared love of music, a reputation for great selection and customer service in the community, yet each CIMS account is as unique as the market it represents. Most importantly, CIMS member stores continually seek to challenge the jaded, color-by-numbers advertising and marketing of other retailers.

The store has 11 employees, of which seven are city residents. More than $100,000 was invested in developing the expanded space at 33⅓ Rockwood. The City of Rochester assisted with a grant from the Building Renovation Program.

Visit Record Archive on MySpace or the Website.

Website for the Coalition of Independent Music Stores

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Saturday is National Record Store Day

Endangered Species

Endangered Species

Saturday April 18th is National Record Store Day, which unlike so many of the National-YourCauseHere-Day proclaimations, actually has a strong movement behind it. It shouldn’t be hard to find the participating stores in your town, since there aren’t many left – most of them have been forced out of business thanks to label greed, megastores, piracy and the bad economy. (I’d add “asshole clerks” to that list, but having lived through the golden era of vinyl shops I can assure you that even the most surly clerk could not dissuade a buyer from getting an item on his or her target list.)  But here’s a map to check and see who is near you.

These stores fill a need for anyone whose tastes run beyond what the radio tells you to buy this week. Can you imagine what it would be like if the Best Buys and WalMarts of the world were the social arbiter of what can be for sale and where? (Um…what? They already are trying??) You’re not finding The Montgomery Cliffs or The Terror Dactils or Wil Featherman in those racks, and the best help you’re likelyto get from “Tom” – who just transferred from Major Appliances – is that Prince is probably somewhere in the “P” section. And yes, I know you can buy online, some of the smarter indie stores have online shopping as well, having survived there after their only-brick-and-mortar shops had run into financial trouble. We need these stores and we need these people. It’s culture, plain and simple.

So Saturday, there are a ton of indie artists performing at stores around the country to pay respects to an industry whose customers are largely the backbone of their movement. Yet it’s not a selfish move – many of these bands could easily survive on Internet sales and touring, or maybe they’re lucky enough to get their product shoved in the big box retailers. But even those who have transcended the level understand the committment and sacrifice these indie stores endure, and the efforts they make to bring new and exciting talent to the attention of the marketplace so they can compete for your ear and your dollar. Whether it’s a wall of posters and front-racking an artist’s album, or hosting an in-store to help promote an under-known band’s club show, these are the people who step up and help out. So now it’s their turn to get feted.

Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

Visit the website for the Coalition of Independent Music Stores

I’m sure I’m not the only one who killed many an afternoon browsing rack after rack of music, reading album jackets, discovering rarities, getting turned on (or off) by the tunes piping through the store. It was a meeting place for the local music freaks years before Internet lists and social networking sites, when you had to “come down to the store to see this awesome thing I just found” because cell phones, let alone cell phone cameras, were years away. I used to hang in bookstores, too – still do – but I guess back then there were more rockers than readers.

I even worked at a couple, one in a prime location in the heart of a large university, the other a mall store which was part of a small chain. Both owners were guys who were in it for the bucks only – no soul. They had no clue about what music would sell, but that didn’t stop them from imposing strange and atonal playlists at peak selling times (that the crews would ignore the minute the owner left). But conversely, both shops were staffed with some of the nicest, funniest, most interesting people I have ever met, and a few remain close friends today. Somehow we weathered the idiots, the competition, the stench of disco, the vapidity of the mega-hit of any given year being hyped beyond belief, and yes, the pursuit and torture of shoplifters. (Not on our watch, buddy. Because I might want that album.)

Working at a record store is like going to school – you can learn a ton if you apply yourself, as everything is right there in front of you. But even at a surface level, you learn by osmosis. A really good store will have people skilled in different genres, and just by hanging around and listening to their conversations, you can’t help but educate yourself. Sure, it would be nice to have a staff where each person knew everything, but that’s not practical. You probably find that you have more people who think they know everything. I knew a lot going in but learned a ton during my tenure. I was insatiable; more often than not I owed money at the end of the week because I picked up so many things each day. I wasn’t the only one.

Every store seemed to have one or both of these guys

Every store seemed to have one or both of these guys

Today I’m blessed to have multiple options in my town, whether it’s vinyl, used CDs, rare product, weird t-shirts or even (shudder) the newest commercial success. There are still cool people working there, because.. let’s face it – you’re not getting rich working in a record store, you need to love it. And I hang fairly often, although maybe not with the obsession of my youth. It’s not my time anymore…but I’m glad to know so many who have picked up the baton with the same fervor that I had. When I travel I always ask where the good stores are, it’s a must-stop for me.

Go on Saturday. Go for the bands, or the sales, or the food, or whatever is happening at your local haunt. But just go and hang out, and soak it in, and say hello to the people fighting to keep that place alive and special. And hey, if you bought something – anything – that probably wouldn’t hurt either.

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