Last week those behind the highly successful Record Store Day (RSD) announced the launch of a weekly microcosm of the initiative, in the form of 'Vinyl Tuesday' - which aims to "maintain and grow physical retail while giving music fans more compelling reasons to support this important part of the music business community", according to the blog announcing the idea.
With RSD growing year on year, and becoming a staple of the annual diary for indie stores, anything which can build on this success is surely a good thing - especially if in doing so it further fuels the resurgence in vinyl sales over recent years and re-establishes it as a key part of the retail music industry.
However, I'll hold my hand up and admit that when I first heard of Vinyl Tuesday, my first thought was "this will be overkill", but having spoken with owners of record shops (I last worked in one fifteen years ago), that's clearly me being cynical. My concern was that this could risk undoing the cache of RSD by spreading it too thinly. I also thought it might end up with either racks of unsold RSD ltd edition stock (many of those selling RSD 2015 titles had 2014 titles still available despite their limited run), and thus a financial burden; or a vast swathe of the rarities ending up on eBay within minutes by touts.
The first concern was addressed by Andy Tucker, owner of the In The Groove store in Henley; "RSD is easily the biggest day of the year in terms of footfall and turnover. So it is a fact that the stated aim of the original organisers, of driving customers back into bricks and mortar stores, has been achieved". Importantly, Andy's store combines second-hand and new vinyl and bringing footfall in means that actually more of his general stock is sold - it's not just the RSD kit flying out of the racks. The second concern was dismissed by Phil Barton, owner of Sister Ray (Soho & Shoreditch) who pointed me in the direction of Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) data which shows that just 2% of RSD stock ends up on eBay.
Sister Ray also covers both new and second-hand vinyl, and Phil reiterates the macro benefit that RSD has had, "The resurgence in vinyl sales has kept us in business. Without it I was close to pulling the plug. It has enabled us to cash in on our vast collective knowledge of the market and catalogue, to provide our customers with a great range of both new and secondhand vinyl stock. RSD has become the focal point of this resurgence."
With this in mind, Vinyl Tuesday should be celebrated as another opportunity to further bond with the new, the born again, or the lifelong vinyl junkies alike. However, it also highlights a (pardon the pun) pressing problem for the production of vinyl - the factories which pumped out little black plastic platters are fewer and farther between than during vinyl's heyday.
Demand has surged, but has done so to the point where a bottleneck has developed in being able to turn new product out in time - in a retail world where supply and demand are king, having one without the other is a stock nightmare. If there's much fanfare around the releases, if they don't arrive on time (if ever), then the Vinyl Tuesday concept could swiftly backfire. Phil Barton reiterates this - where RSD is concerned, "Companies have 365 days a year in which to plan their strategies and as it is so successful they should be planning well advance as there is always production issues involving lack of capacity running up to the event". If an annual event can become disruptive, then turning it into a (albeit smaller) weekly phenomenon could create further havoc for those behind the pressing plants.
With both major labels and independents alike vying for position at the few remaining major pressing outlets, (a feature earlier this year put the number of big plants in Europe at six), a major problem for Vinyl Tuesday will be just be getting promised stock out on time - reliably and to a high quality. Andy Tucker points out, "The real problem of course is that there just isn't enough capacity to satisfy the increasing demand for vinyl. This is where it would be nice for the major labels to step in with some investment in new (or re-tooled) production capacity. I guess it's a decision they will need to make at some point if they see the vinyl revival has legs".
It's exactly this tipping point which Vinyl Tuesday might just play a key role in. The demand is going up, yet production right now is finite - with more of the former on the horizon if the success of RSD transposes across to the weekly rarity bonanza. Played right, with the right collectors' items drawing more vinyl-hungry punters through the doors of record shops worldwide, Vinyl Tuesday could revitalise the weekly new release rush to the 7" section which was where every Monday lunchtime went for about four years of my late teens.
If, in doing so, it means investment is made in building more plants to keep up with demand then it could prove to be a foundation for a healthier, more robust vinyl market for many years to come, but it needs not just the indie labels to make it a success, (alongside the indie stores), it needs the majors to help build these foundations and invest in more vinyl pressing factories, through witnessing at first hand the huge, and regular, groundswell in demand.