“…even in our era of file-sharing and blogs, you can’t replace the actual look on someone’s face when they are playing something they really rate and think you should listen to it too. It’s special.”
Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz)
Saturday 21st April sees the next of the most important dates in any music fan’s calendar. With more anticipation than your birthday and Christmas combined, more surprises than Bonfire Night and more resurrections than Easter, the date sees the return of Record Store Day to our shores, a celebration that the the record industry is still very much alive and kicking.
Established stateside back in 2007 and expanding to the UK the following year, Record Store Day was established in a partnership between artists, labels and music shops alike. By setting up a day of extra-special releases and dealing direct with independent stores, fans were able to get their hands on something truly unique, while stores gained stock the bigwigs like iTunes and Amazon could not get their hands on.
Fast forward to 2012 and this year’s offerings do not look set to disappoint: top picks include Arctic Monkeys’ fantastic one-off release ‘R U Mine?’, special edition releases by everybody’s favourite The Black Keys and new exclusive releases from the likes of Coldplay and Elbow. Newer artists from the class of 2012 are represented by Lianne La Havas, Dry The River and more, as well chances to own modern classics by the way of re-pressings from Bloc Party’s and LCD Soundsystem’s first singles. Even gems from years gone by are on offer here, with limited edition releases of The Beatles, Bowie, The Clash and, bizarrely, Abba.
Beyond the chance to own an exclusive bit of wax however, there lies a more important cause of celebrating record stores. In Manchester, we’re quite lucky to have a healthy music scene that has enabled local independents like Piccadilly Records, Eastern Bloc and Beatin’ Rhythm (all of which are participating) to weather the storms of both the recession and threat from commercial giants. For places like these to survive, we need to remember why they are so important in the first place. Sure, music straight to your iPhone with a click might be the easiest way to buy these days, but where else offers you a chance to rack the brains of other music enthusiasts, or enjoy such a diverse range to browse through? Plus, students, most of these stores have bargain bins that have earned me some classics for a mere £1- you wouldn’t get that on iTunes!
It’s all about the “ceremony” that going out, buying, and collecting records provides. Pretentious? Perhaps, but you wouldn’t say so for other mediums: the rise of the Kindle has helped in the convenience of reading PDFs on the go, but it’s not about to kill off that sense of satisfaction you get when dusting off a good hardback, and so goes the same for music. The commonplace task of Google’ing for that new hot track ‘+ Mediafire’ has become a soulless experience in a digital age, done without a second thought and leaving music as quickly forgotten as it’s obtained. Somehow, the experience of popping down to a shop and rifling through the shelves until you see a cover art that intrigues you, well, that’s an experience we cannot, and should not digitise.
So, if exclusive releases, saving the plight of record stores and the satisfaction of building your own collection sounds like the thing for you, then I shall see you on Record Store Day, down the front of the queue, bright and early!