So, today is Record Store Day.
Some people see it as a celebration of music, small labels and independent shops bring like minded people together for vinyl's very own Christmas Day. Others have said it's a hackneyed gimmick for labels to shift units and some insomniacs to clear up on eBay five minutes after the shops have opened.
This is where an experienced journalist would write "but the truth lies somewhere in the middle (of my smugly executed set up)". But I'm not an experienced journalist so I'm just saying it's the first part (of my smugly executed set up).
Yes, I'm an ambassador for Record Store Day (that's even official). Yes, I have a single out on Record Store Day. Yes, my label is releasing a long lost track of Dub Sex (recorded by the legendary Martin Hannett, available in participating outlets). Yes, I have a list of records that are out that day that I'd like for my own collection. But does this make me biased? Yes, of course it does but it doesn't mean I can't have my say.
I've heard the grumbles about there being too many releases, even conspiracy theories about major labels clogging up the schedules of pressing plants so that small labels can't get their stock in time.
But, for me, these are good problems to have. Pressing plants running at full power with steam and molten vinyl filling up the factories (I'm not sure what causes the steam but it's more to back up my point). Vinyl collectors queuing from 2am with printed off lists of what they want in their hand, a semblance of blitz spirit in the queue as coffee and stories are shared.
Again, if I was an experienced journalist I'd think of a clever take on the 'a dog is not just for Christmas' stickers you get. We know vinyl is not just for record store day but, as another retailer has pointed out: every little helps.
Record Store Day is on the radio, its in the Huffington Post and has room in just about every blog and magazine this week. That's got to be a good thing, right?
With our label we don't have budgets for record pluggers and press junkets - each pressing has to at least attempt to break even. It's the real thing for me - not a vanity project as a vehicle to release something by the guy I heard busking outside the tube station (for clarity, he turned down the deal. Something to do with global marketing strategy).
Nope, each sale is precious to us. Everyone that buys a record by Pavlov's Children, Slowgun or Throwing Up matters so much to us. The more people that listen to records on vinyl and travel to a record shop to spend an afternoon, the better it is for us and the bands we release.
A couple of times a year we pack up all our stock and head to some of the independent record markets to meet other people who have labels, who have chosen the same vocation and are willing to spend a day wearing a bum bag and standing behind a stall full of vinyl. The Independent Label Market at Spitalfields Market in London is probably the best known . Its a chance to talk with people from Heavenly, Domino, Moshi Moshi, Critical Heights, AED, The Quietus and 70/80 stallholders that face the same joys and tribulations as each other, finding listeners for other people's music (and my own in my case, as I'm signed to my own label, which makes for some interesting meetings sometimes. Me asking about the chances of a million pound video and me turning me down).
At one record market, I'd brought a very rare (there's two in the world) test pressing of a Vaccines single we'd released on O Genesis - oddly enough, for Record Store Day a couple of years ago. I tweeted a message and a photo saying that it was available at the bargain price of £25. I imagined within the hour, I'd be faced with someone wearing a T shirt of a band that had split in 1974 after one single, asking for the 12" test pressing for his collection. But within ten minutes I was talking to Alex, the person who had handed over his £25. The thing was, Alex was 9 years old. He was with his dad and a love of vinyl was something they shared and was one of the bonds between them.
I was slightly knocked out that a kid would spend £25 (he was by no means a rich kid - this was all of his birthday money) on a 2 track vinyl 12". I'm sure Alex could have shown me how I could download my entire musical output for free from some file sharing website - I joked about that and it turned out he already had. But here he was, setting out on the thankless task of collecting records. Carrying on the bloodline that started with 78s and despite technological advances and the sheer impracticality, continues to this day.
So yes, Record Store Day isn't for everyone (language pedants, for one, who insist on asking why it isn't 'record shop day' in England - it started in America and we adopted the name. Nothing to get too worked up over). But it is for me and lots of people like me. I'm sure the people working in record shops (stores?) may well curse the early start/ late finish and the fact those Fad Gadget picture discs keep falling behind the shelves
But, it's always worth remembering...
Record Store Day is like Christmas for dogs.