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soundCHECK with Jamie Harper: The real meaning of Record Store Day

By NDJJournal2  |  Posted: April 16, 2014

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NORTH Devon has lost a record shop, Record Store Day has lost its groove. For scores of die-hard music fans on both sides of the Atlantic, April 19 – this Saturday – has been set aside for weeks. The date marks 2014’s instalment of Record Store Day: an annual paean to independent record shops that normally features a flurry of in-store gigs and limited edition records released exclusively for the event.

Sounds fun, right? Trouble is, the one store in North Devon normally affiliated with Record Store Day, Solo Music, shut its doors for the last time back in February – to the sound of disparaging remarks about supermarkets flogging cheap CDs and the internet.

Anyone with more than a passing interest in music has their opinion about the sad downfall of independent record shops. Whatever. In my opinion huge amount of responsibility should be apportioned to some of the major record labels. Their failure to react to the explosion of the internet as a medium for consuming music was at best sluggish and at worst fatally negligent. And in a not unexpected move, they have begun sucking the lifeblood out of Record Store Day for commercial gain, trampling as they go on the very stores the event is designed to support. Progress.

OK, I don’t own a record shop. I know nothing about nothing. But it’s a fact that Record Store Day was started as a vehicle to remind people that record shops still existed, to celebrate their independence and – ultimately – to drive footfall and increase sales. I also know that you don’t have to go far to find record shop owners who are disillusioned with the sledgehammer-subtle commercial overtones that pervade Record Store Day’s modern incarnation.

Take Philip Harding, owner of Blackcat Records in Taunton. In a series of eloquent and impassioned Facebook missives, he has vented discontent at what Record Store Day has become. And given that Harding was a founding member of Record Store Day UK, his is a uniquely informed view of how the event has changed.

One of the longstanding tenets of Record Store Day is the release of limited edition CDs and vinyl that can only be purchased in store.

“The exclusive releases thing started as a way to get a little attention from the music press and also allow labels, bands and distributors to promote and support shops,” explains Philip.

Labels supporting Record Store Day would offer this exclusive product to record shops at low prices. The shops paid only for what they sold and could send the rest back.

“This was a massive support and really helped” says Philip. But by year three the deals had stopped and the focus was almost entirely on the exclusive product.

This year there are more than 650 “exclusive” titles available. For a shop to buy one copy of each would cost them £5,500. In among the collectibles are “wares that have been designed to either cynically promote upcoming bands or churn out old defunct albums for a quick buck. Some of the RSD product prices are insane and show little respect to either the customer or the shop”.

Blackcat Records will not be stocking exclusive releases. But it will be celebrating Record Store Day. Every item in the shop will have 20% off, there will be a DJ and in-store performances from three of Somerset’s best bands: Henry Blacker, Hacker Farm and Presents For Sally – the latter of whom construct walls of sound falling somewhere between My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth and early Dandy Warhols. A gobsmackingly good outfit who hardly ever play live. Reason enough to go catch them, bag a cheap record or two and celebrate the true spirit of Record Store Day.

You will find Blackcat Records on Bridge Street in Taunton.

CONTACT: Got local music news? jharper@northdevon

journal.co.uk or @testforpulse.

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