Record Store Day 2016 takes place this Saturday, 16th April. Here's our guide to some of the best releases, and why this event still matters...
The Great Vinyl Revival continues, and it's stronger than ever. Year-on-Year, the growth of vinyl record sales has been steady: just last year, vinyl sales were up 70% in the UK, and in the US they were the highest in 26 years. And we have Record Store Day a lot to thank for - this yearly event highlights the importance of small, independent record shops, and the beauty of the format. Sure, there are those who are put-off by the hype, but it's still a date that celebrates music and, if you love vinyl, a chance to grab some cool, limited-edition releases!
Does Record Store Day Still Matter?
In one word - yes! Despite this recent revival of vinyl, sales are still quite small compared to the (declining) sales of CDs and digital downloads/ streaming. Record Store Day is a way to help boosting sales and help small record shops, who've traditionally supported the format even when it wasn't "trendy" as it is now.
Also, independent record shops can be important for any local music scene - a place where people can put up flyers and posters to promote gigs and where local bands can also sell their CDs.
The most important is that vinyl is - still! - a great format to listen to music, and, historically, the most influential. For instance, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards bounded over a bunch of vinyl records one of them had - a chance encounter that led to the formation of The Rolling Stones. All of your favourite artists grew up listening to vinyl records, and became famous because they lived in a time when people valued music and bought more records.
It'd be sad to live in a world without vinyl records... and you don't need to be "nostalgic" to think so. Maybe the recent revival of vinyl means there are more people caring about more music once again, and that's a good thing. Like most people out there, here at PMT we love listening to Spotify, but nothing beats the experience of a good vinyl record. If Record Store Day helps keeping the format alive and kicking, all the better for it!
Sound Quality: Yes, Vinyl is Better
Years ago, there used to be this belief that vinyl fans enjoyed the low-quality, scratchy quality of vinyl records - even if just for a "retro", nostalgic vibe. This is not quite true. In the Eighties, when vinyl sales started to decline and CDs entered the market, labels started to press lower-quality vinyl records. Maybe it was just cost-cutting, or maybe they did it intentionally to boost CD sales... who knows! But the fact is that thanks to the record labels' hype machine, everyone got excited about CDs and thought vinyl was a lower-quality, outmoded format - a perception that stuck for a long time!
A brand new heavy-weight vinyl played on a good turntable will sound as good - if not better - than any CD or digital download
The situation was not helped by the fact that since the Nineties, if you wanted to buy a vinyl record by acts such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bowie etc, you could ONLY find second-hand copies, in most cases usually more than 20 or 30 years old, and often played to death - so the sound quality and cosmetic condition of the records could be far from pristine. So it's true that, for over 20 years, many record collectors may have been used to less-than-great sound quality.
But in recent years the situation has changed dramatically, and today we have a very different scenario: there's a wealth of great, affordable turntables for sale, and most classic albums have been reissued in heavy-weight vinyl. No one needs to listen to dusty, old, scratchy records anymore (though it's true they can have a certain charm.) If you play a brand new vinyl record on a good-quality turntable, it'll sound as good (if not better!) than CDs or digital downloads. You might even have a hard time trying to hear any sort of hiss...
The Artwork Is Important
Popular music has always been more than just "the music". It's about image, attitude, and even lyrics. Elvis didn't change music just because he sang 'Blue Suede Shoes' - but because he also shook his hips in a provocative way. The Beatles inspired a generation not just with their hit singles, but their haircuts played a part too! For decades, the artwork for record sleeves has been very important to any serious artist - and even in the age of downloads it's still considered important, with most acts still paying great care to how their music is presented.
Vinyl is still the best format if you want to appreciate a record sleeve artwork, as part of a fuller "experience" than just listening to the music while you're doing something else.
Vinyl is Not Then - It's NOW!
One of the great things about the vinyl revival is that it's NOT (just) about nostalgia. There are lots of baby boomers rebuilding their old collections, as well as younger people buying classic reissues, but, consistently, some of the biggest sellers have been current acts: Adele, Ed Sheeran, Arctic Monkeys, Noel Gallagher, Tame Impala, Royal Blood and so on. One of the greatest champions of the format is Jack White, whose record label Third Man Records has released many innovative vinyl records (including records filled with water, sides playing from inside out etc.).
Confirming his commitment to vinyl, Jack White opened a new vinyl records pressing plant last year, in his native Detroit. Third Man co-founder Ben Blackwell said: “Part of the concern in this world is that vinyl can very easily turn into an exclusionary thing… But this is going to make it easier for a little punk band to make 300 copies of a 7″.”
Record Store Day 2016 - The Best Releases
There will be hundreds of limited-edition releases on Record Store Day (RSD) this Saturday, 16th April. If you want to make sure you'll grab a specific record, be sure to come to your local shop as early as possible! But RSD is more than just buying collectible stuff - it's about supporting your local record store and having a good time. If you can't find what you were after, don't worry - just buy something else, you might still discover some great surprises!
Here's some of our Top 10 picks to look out for:
- Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, 'The Criteria Sessions': 12" LP 6 Tracks, previously unissued, recorded 1970 produced by Clapton
- Bob Dylan, 'Melancholy Mood': Red coloured 7" Vinyl featuring x4 new songs - "Melancholy Mood", "All Or Nothing At All", "Come Rain Or Shine", "That Old Black Magic"
- Bring Me The Horizon, 'Drown / Thrown': 7" Both tracks 'live' from Maida Vale. Previously unreleased live versions of fans favourites.
- Christopher Lee, 'Charlemagne :The Omens Of Death': reissue of our favourite Dracula's adventures in Heavy Metal.
- David Bowie, 'The Man Who Sold The World':12" LP - picture disc / German Cover artwork version of the classic pre-Ziggy album with Mick Ronson at his best.
- Fleetwood Mac, 'Alternate Tusk': 2 x 12" LP Full double Alternate Tusk LP version from the Tusk box set.
- Iggy And The Stooges, 'Metallic K.O.': Welcome reissue of one of the most chaotic live albums ever, in metallic vinyl
- Nirvana, 'Live On KAOSFM, Seattle -1987': 12" Coloured Vinyl in Sleeve with Insert
- Primal Scream, 'Mantra For A State Of Mind': Cover of the S-Express song, Mantra For A State Of Mind
- Various Artists, 'Psyche France Vol. 2': LP 11 tracks of French 70's Psyche from Warner Music France, could be a great RSD find!
But remember one thing: under NO circumstances buy over-priced RSD releases from re-sellers on eBay. In the past couple of years, there's been a very cynical trend of people exploiting fans, by buying limited-edition RSD albums and singles, and selling at extortionate prices on eBay that same day. This goes totally against the ethos of Record Store Day - if you missed out on something, then tough luck... just accept it, instead of paying way more on eBay! Worth mentioning, finally, that not everything sells out on the date itself. You might still be lucky and find some great RSD releases days, weeks and even months later. Sounds about right - if you love vinyl, you'll know that Record Store Day is actually any day of the year!
Record Store Day 2016 Near You
Watch - the Record Store Day film: