My Popdose op-ed on how to build a better record store day turned into a bit of a lightning rod when Salon picked it up and added an incendiary new headline. In both forums, many people shared part of my opinion and others said I have it all wrong.
One reader pointed me to an article by (no not that) Chris Brown that put the number of RSD titles on eBay in perspective with total titles offered and sold. Another called me a curmudgeon, which is more charitable than many of the other insults hurled my way from people who likely didn’t ready beyond the headline or lead.
If the founders of Record Store Day responded to interview requests from every blogger with an opinion, they would have no time to plan the event. But since we got the Salon bump, they welcomed my offer to share their perspective. So with that, here’s an unedited Q&A with Michael Kurtz, Co-founder, Record Store Day and Chevalier de Ordre des Arts Et Des Lettres, France.
POPDOSE: We agree on the intentions of Record Store Day — to boost interest in people buying physical product and supporting independent music retail. Where we differ is the scarcity angle. Is the “scarcity” angle the main draw for the titles you promote?
MICHAEL KURTZ: No, the reason I was Knighted in France for my work with Record Store Day wasn’t for the limited edition RSD releases. That’s something that’s been done by all kinds of businesses since the early 1900s. I was Knighted because the French understood that RSD empowered the local independently owned neighbor record store. This takes the shape of helping stores to learn and utilize best-business practices year round, empowering them to organize and get their message out in effective ways, encouraging them to bond with artists and give their music value, and to grow their business and employ people in their local area.
I don’t except the “scarcity” issue as legitimate criticism of RSD. Almost all of the music for every single RSD release is ripped and placed on line for a fan who simply wants to hear the music. In addition, we’ve just launched RSD Radio with DASH and the RSD releases can be heard there as well.
If someone wishes to criticize RSD for working with artists to put a lot of energy and love into making special pieces that honor the art of the musicians, well, I think they are probably curmudgeons and have lost their way. They don’t understand that music is something to be treasured like we do. They also don’t understand that most of the active musicians already have mass commercial releases that they typically tour behind. The limited edition RSD releases are simply made to add to the event, create a little magic, and provide fans with something exciting and fun. They are not the purpose of the event. People who think that way are looking through their own myopic lens.
Did Paul Weller have a reason to be disgruntled? You already have a formal statement about it.
The Paul Weller RSD criticism was an awkward moment. RSD UK pointed out to Paul’s UK label early on that they weren’t making enough and they needed to at least double or triple the amount that they were producing. They didn’t want to do that. Obviously, Paul didn’t know that this had happened when he said what he said. That’s unfortunate.
The stores themselves came up with a pledge that they ask all participating stores to sign saying that they will put customers first, not gouge them, or sell RSD releases early or on auction sites for crazy prices.
The vast majority of stores want to reward their loyal patrons and gladly sign and honor the pledge that the stores themselves have created. The few that haven’t we’ve dropped from working with. Beyond that, a large portion of the stores we work with offer free gifts on RSD. These can be posters, CD samplers, vinyl samplers, and buttons.
They also often give free food and drinks and/or other locally owned businesses provide food trucks on the big day. They also have artists perform for free, or have meet & greets with artists and this is done freely. People who only want to focus on the limited edition releases ignore all of this. It’s really kind of sad that they are missing the whole point of Record Store Day, which is to celebrate their locally owned record store.
What are some of the coolest ways you’ve seen stores make RSD their own special event?
Stores will often do fund raisers for good causes. This can be for cancer research, animal welfare, local schools. This is very common on RSD.
One angle I think I missed, even if people go in with a “list” of what they want to buy, they will usually discover a dozen other gems worth buying. What other benefits of RSD did my article miss?
Well, you basically said that people should stay home and not support their local store on Record Store Day. That was really uncool. One of the biggest benefits of RSD is the absolutely massive amount of media coverage we drive both nationally and internationally for local record stores. For example, RSD typically gets the words “record stores” into the top ten trending words on google and twitter for the day. That is hugely important to these stores. You also missed the fact that Record Store Day single handedly relaunched the vinyl business. That is a fact. In doing so, we introduced this wonderful way of listening to music to a whole new generation, and created hundreds of jobs at the same time.
Can any artist/label submit a RSD title — or is there some criteria they need to meet?
We ask artists/labels to provide RSD with all of the details on their proposed RSD. Once we get them we begin working on quantities and types of packaging.
Yes, for example, we did special RSD releases for Spoon and Jeff Tweedy a few months back. The Spoon RSD release led to the band having their highest charting album in their history. Beyond that we’ve shown the stores themselves how they can do it and they are releasing special colored versions of albums year round. The landscape has completely changed since RSD launched. The best way to keep track of Record Store Day year round is to follow us on our facebook page or go to our website.
Why not RSD 12x year?
We are working on a “Vinyl Tuesday” concept right now and hope to launch it in June.
What is on your “must buy” list this year? Which stores are you able to hit on Saturday?
Every year around this time I pretty much collapse from exhaustion and then I get sick. I’m sick now but if I’m feeling better I plan on hitting Generation, Academy, Other Music and Rough Trade tomorrow. Rough Trade especially because the Dresden Dolls are reforming to celebrate RSD and the Buzzcocks and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon are also going to be there to meet fans as part of the store’s celebration.
So, will I be at my local Record Store on Record Store Day? Perhaps. I am with my three year old daughter all day, so if it’s manageable in the afternoon, we will peek in, join the fun and probably pick up the new Caspar Babypants CD if nothing else. If not, I will be there on Sunday to see what’s left. And I’ll return as I do most New Release Tuesdays to peruse the New Release Wall.
I still believe that music shouldn’t be coveted because it’s in scarce quantities, it should be coveted because it’s high quality (the music and the packaging). And that said, a lot of the Record Store Day exclusives are. What is/what isn’t ? Let the fans decide.
Am I a curmudgeon as two people now have stated? Hell yes. Don’t get me started on Screamo, Dubstep, Disney Channel, Kale, Spotify, iTunes 12 and Daylight Savings Time — I’m getting too old for this shit. I also just can’t handle standing in line — but everyone who does is sure to have a great time.
For more perspectives on Record Store Day, check out these articles: