The Tenth Record Store Day takes place April 22. For the growing number of folks whose musical world revolves around revolving vinyl LPs, it's Christmas, Passover, New Year's Day and the Fourth of July.
The annual celebration and promotion was conceived to nurture a revival in vinyl culture and give a jolt, like CPR, to independent record stores, which began closing in droves in the early 2000s.
The LP surge has been one of the music industry's few bright spots, with sales of new records rising steeply from about a million in 2007 to around 12 million today. Some say we've hit the peak, but some have been saying that for years. But here in Nashville, music retailers are optimistic. Craig headed to East Nashville to see how Record Store Day is shaping up.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST) On a dreamy April afternoon, here on the front porch of The Groove at the corner of Gallatin and Calvin Ave., it's the calm before the storm. Co-owner and East Nashville record retail pioneer Louis Charette says in a little more than a week, it's going to get weird.
“The last couple years, we’ve actually had people posted up on our front porch the night before Record Store Day,” he says. “So while we’re still here trying to get everything set up and ready for the next morning, we step out on the porch and there’s guys and girls sitting in chairs with coolers and radios and blankets and in it for the long haul.”
By that he means overnight.
“We’ve had people camp out in our front yard. Usually whenever we pull up early on Saturday morning, there’s already a line of people down the sidewalk for a good block or more. It seems like every year the crowd goes a little bit more.”
For record dealers, the run up to Record Store Day is all about clamoring for special orders and coveted limited edition LPs from the record companies. The day of is a blur of commerce, crowd control and live music. Charette: “We’re real excited and honored to have Robyn Hitchcock playing here. He’s been a patron of the store for years.”
Also confirmed, Nashville rock quartet All Them Witches, plus more to be announced in the coming week.
“It all started with Grimey’s opening up their shop back in the early aughts.”
That’s East Nashville’s Nekos Barnes, a DJ on WXNA and a record lover, who’s agreed to be my guide to what’s new in Nashville vinyl culture. He’s talking about Grimey’s New & Preloved music, the 8th Ave. retailer whose all-day outdoor Record Store Day shows and vinyl sale set the standard for size and scope.
“Since Grimey’s opened up, we have four or five independent record stores here in Nashville now,” Barnes says. “Everything from Fond Object - there’s one on the East side, there’s a new one that’s opening up right outside of downtown. You have the Vinyl Bunker which is in a garage right behind the Nashville library, which a lot of people don’t know about yet—amazing record store.”
And Barnes leads me over to one of the newest of the new - a place at the corner of Porter Road and Greenwood in a space occupied for the previous decade by the Family Wash.
“One of the things it has over those other record stores is it’s a bar. It serves small plates and what-not. The owner Todd, amazing guy, him and his wife basically took the old Family Wash, gutted it out, expanded it and turned it into a record store slash bar called The Vinyl Tap,” Barnes says.
“I’m Todd Hedrick. I’m the owner of Vinyl Tap here in East Nashville.”
Hedrick stands behind the counter of his shop on a Sunday afternoon, welcoming customers.
“I’ve been a big fan of Record Store Day,” he says. “I think it’s great that independent record stores are popping back up now and there’s so many of them around the country and that it’s something people find worthwhile again.
Vinyl Tap is so new it wasn’t eligible for the limited editions and special releases that are distributed, sometimes contentiously, to the vendors who request them. But Hedrick is still planning a celebration.
“We’ll be having live music inside and outside in our backyard there, so about five bands outside and then maybe about five singer-songwriters inside going for most of the day. We’re gonna have a big sale just to celebrate the day, so 15% off everything in the store all day long. Not only that, but Southern Grist across the street, that awesome brewery over there, is making us our own beer for the day. We thought Record Store Day was the perfect time to both celebrate records and beer, since we do both here.”
Did I mention they serve beer?
“It’s funny because so many people tell us they weren’t gonna buy a record when they came in and they have turntables at home then they had a couple beers and they’re like, “Well, maybe I need that record.” It’s been a good match for us.”
A sober Nekos Barnes flips through used 45 RPM records in Vinyl Tap’s bin.
“My church is my record store,” he says. “For me, I find God in flipping through records and finding something I haven’t heard before and putting it on and listening to it and being either turned off or blown away by it.”
Barnes doesn’t paint a perfect picture of Record Store Day. He’s says there’s a problem with people who buy up stock only to flip the albums for a profit on e-bay. And he’s seen buyers get way too emotional and competitive over records they couldn’t purchase. He’s more engaged by the day’s spirit of discovery.
“My best finds on Record Store Day are when record stores bring out the kind of stuff that’s in the basement, that’s been sitting there collecting mold, and they’re like, “Let’s throw it all out there.” I had a friend who found a Black Jazz record— it’s a San Francisco jazz company—that normally runs $60-100. He found it for a dollar. I’ve found jewels that I’ve been looking for for a long time as a DJ in the dollar record bin. A copy of Ice Cube’s “The Predator” which is not even in print anymore. That’s the fun stuff for me. Of course it’s also about the culture, just meeting people who you might have not met before and talking about vinyl.”
Back at the Groove, Louis Charette says: “I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t a lot of work and a lot of stress and sleepless nights going into it, but whenever the ball gets rolling and the doors are open and you see people excited and smiles on their faces and people satisfied that they got what they found, or maybe they didn’t get what they specifically came in looking for but they found a few other things that they didn’t know that they wanted until they showed up. Everyone seems to have a good time. It’s just a great day to bring the music community together. Hopefully we’ll also make some new customers in the process too. That’s part of why we do it.
That’s certainly what the founders of Record Store Day had in mind ten years ago.
SPECIAL RELEASES ARE A HALLMARK OF RECORD STORE DAY. MTSU STUDENT JOURNALIST OLIVIA LADD REPORTS HERE ON THE NASHVILLE RELATED TITLES MOST LIKELY TO SELL OUT FAST.