Founded in 2007, Record Store Day celebrates vinyl records every April. In the eyes of some, however, it’s gone from an admirable celebration of vinyl culture to an opportunity for larger labels to frame reissues and special editions around it, many of them clogging up pressing part schedules in the first quarter of each year, and affecting smaller labels in the process.
It’s an issue that was touched on in FACT TV’s Beautiful Swimmers interview, and Kudos have addressed in more detail. You can read their full post here:
Kudos’ physical release schedule will be pretty quiet for the next few weeks.
This isn’t a seasonal issue. The early spring sunshine isn’t keeping shoppers away from the high street. In fact, March and April have traditionally been very strong trading months.
The cause of this new release drought might surprise you; Record Store Day.
Right now, we have 20+ manufacturing jobs in production, all of which have come to a grinding halt while the pressing plants make hay by pressing up umpteen thousand Oasis LP re-issues, Abba 7”s and REM Box sets. We have even had one vinyl plant refuse any order of less than 500 units until after Record Store Day.
So, for the next six weeks, we are effectively locked out of the vinyl business.
Kudos have always been a strong supporter of Record Store Day. We have participated since its inception and have enjoyed some notable successes. However, it now feels like it has been appropriated by major labels and larger indies to the extent that smaller labels who push vinyl sales for the other 364 days of the year are effectively penalised.
This isn’t at all a criticism of the organisers or of the concept. Tom Lane at ERA and Natasha at Resident Records have put a lot of great work into co-ordinating what I’m sure will be a great day for record retail. But for us, at least, it’s at a considerable cost.
Personally I think a re-think is required. One idea would be for RSD vinyl releases to have a maximum press. This would ensure that RSD releases were truly ‘special’ and would take the pressure off limited vinyl manufacturing capacity. It would also help if pressing plants took a fairer approach to how they allocate pressing time. Unfortunately, the few vinyl plants that remain operate in a near monopoly environment, so voting with our feet isn’t an option.
Record Store Day is also no replacement for a more comprehensive appraisal of the plight of the independent record stores. While the oft-mentioned vinyl resurgence is all well and good, what independent retailers could really use is an all round reappraisal of CD pricing and discounts. If we could find a mechanism to globally lower dealer prices, while at the same time cutting the discounts we gave to the supermarkets, larger chains and multinational web retailers, we could make CDs an impulse buy while at the same time levelling the playing field and saving labels a fortune in mechanical royalty payments. (Our inability as an industry to optimise our pricing is a subject I will cover in a later post). For our part, Kudos have long been encouraging labels to reduce CD dealer prices, but, as a small, niche distributor, our influence on consumer behaviour is rather negligible.