For the last two years I’ve taken part in Record Store Day and it’s has ultimately been a pleasant experience. It’s a chance to gain something that I otherwise would never be able to own; the first year I gained Biffy Clyro and Billy Bragg exclusives limited to 2000 and 1000 respectively. As well as that I got to enjoy a free acoustic gig with Band of Skulls while knowing that I’d helped my little old hometown record store remain a haven for audiophiles and pie lovers alike (it just so happens to be a record café called Pie & Vinyl). Unfortunately the more I begin to understand the workings of the music industry the more it loses its charm. For it is, after all, an industry.
[quote]Every year bands release ‘exclusives’ that simply churn out profit and popularity for both themselves and everyone else involved in the industry[/quote]
My issue is that Record Store Day isn’t about rewarding loyal customers for supporting their local music scene with exciting records. The prices reflect this. Small businesses will always have higher running cost ratios than giant corporations, and so it can be slightly more expensive to shop through them. This has been of small cost to the consumer in return for providing a wonderful service and creating miniature communities. Unfortunately this isn’t the case with Record Store Day. Every year bands release ‘exclusives’ that simply churn out profit and popularity for both themselves and everyone else involved in the industry. Think I’m being cynical? This year Biffy Clyro are reissuing a limited run of copies of their seminal album ‘Puzzle’ in a 2LP format. This is a great album which currently sets the listener back roughly £5-£10 depending on where you want to shop. I understand that in 2LP format it is ‘worth’ considerably more and costs slightly more to manufacture, which is why Banquet Records (Kingston) are selling it for £17.99, a meaty price but one justified by the context and value of the product being sold.
[quote]Enjoy Record Store Day, get yourself some great music and take part in as many of the community events it provides as you can, but please remain an informed consumer.[/quote]
Where Record Store Day becomes unfair is that record stores are given free rein to charge what they like for the products, shown to be evident by Pie & Vinyl who want to charge customers £28.99* for the exact same product. Ultimately taking advantage of the fact that consumers, desperate to get their hands on incredibly limited loot, either have to pay extortionate prices or travel halfway around the country. Supporting independent record stores is great because it is vital that we don’t allow global corporations the chance to control and exploit the music industry (more than they already do), but we also risk giving these small businesses the opportunity to exploit us instead. By all means, enjoy Record Store Day, get yourself some great music and take part in as many of the community events it provides as you can, but please remain an informed consumer. As much as we don’t like to admit it and as much as we would rather be listeners, fans and communities of music lovers, we are consumers in a music industry and our only opportunity to ensure we do not become cash cows to be milked is to remain informed.
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*Biffy Clyro’s Puzzle is now available at Pie & Vinyl for £16.99