On Culture

On Culture: A day for vinyl and schwag

CorrespondentApril 12, 2014 

  • Join in

    • For a list of North Carolina stores taking part in Record Store Day, visit recordstoreday.com.

    • Dex Romweber Duo, Tonk and Chatham County Line will perform Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Schoolkids Records, 2237 Avent Ferry Road, Raleigh.

    • Clay Misenheimer will perform at noon at Edward McKay Used Books & More, 3514 Capital Blvd., Raleigh.

For people like Shaun Smith, Record Store Day means a lot.

The D.C.-born, Raleigh-based Smith can’t get enough of records. A professional DJ, he usually spins on the last Wednesday and Saturday of every month at Neptunes Parlour in Raleigh. He previously worked as the CD and vinyl director at Edward McKay Used Books & More in Raleigh, where he served as the house DJ during Record Store Day in 2011.

But even when he’s in the thick of it – making sure posters, stickers and other promotional items are well-stocked for customers when the day comes – he gets just as excited about it as the people who flock to the stores. During our conversation, he pulls out several limited-edition items he got on previous Record Store Days, including a Peter Tosh 10-inch picture disc and a box set of reissued Stax 45s. Says Smith: “It’s things like this, like this box set right here, that honestly makes Record Store Day the best.”

Record Store Day is when, on the third Saturday of every April, independent record stores worldwide stock up on albums – vinyl albums, mostly – along with the aforementioned schwag, and wait for customers to line up and take it all in. In the Triangle, such stores as Ed McKay, Schoolkids Records in Raleigh and Nice Price Books in Durham and Raleigh join in, even bringing in live acts to perform. This year, Record Store Day happens Saturday, the day before Easter (which, coincidentally, Easter falls on 4/20, or “Weed Day” for all the cannabis connoisseurs).

Record Store Day came about in 2007 as a musical version of Free Comic Book Day (coming up the first Saturday in May), when comics stores lured customers with free, special-edition books. The mission of Record Store Day, according to co-founder Carrie Colliton of Raleigh, was always to keep record stores alive and relevant in this age of digital downloading, file sharing, music streaming and plain-ol’ album-jacking on the Internet. Colliton says that not only are record retailers continuing to prosper, but more stores have been popping up.

“We know that there are more stores open now than when we started seven years ago, and we know that those stores that take part, they see more and more people every Record Store Day,” she says. “So, we feel like we’re being successful in our mission to let more and more people know that record stores are out there, everywhere across the country.”

Smith has noticed a wave of record shops springing up in Raleigh.

“You got the Cheshire Cat in Cameron Village,” Smith says. “You got In the Groove in the Carter Building. You got Sorry State Records. You know, Nice Price stepped up their game – they should be called Nice Price Records now instead of Nice Price Books.”

For some stores, Record Store Day is what keeps them in business. Over at the long-running Schoolkids Records, they’ve been prepping for the day (they’re still working on setting up a beer bar!), even as the store recently moved from Hillsborough Street to the Mission Valley Shopping Center in Raleigh.

“It’s the biggest day of the year by far,” says owner Stephen Judge, noting that the store usually stocks up on 250 exclusive vinyl titles for the occasion. “I mean, it’s like two months’ worth of sales in one day. And last year was the biggest sales day in our 40-year history, by a long shot. … Christmas doesn’t even come close to Record Store Day. So, it’s huge – basically our entire year is based upon it. Everything rides on it.”

With vinyl sales on the rise (as sales of digital tracks and downloads declined last year, LP sales increased 32 percent from 2012) and more and more contemporary recording artists releasing music on LPs, it’s becoming obvious that the young generation of audiophiles is realizing what past generations already knew: You can get more out of your music if you listen to it on wax.

“One of the good things I wanna say about Record Store Day is that it brings old stuff to these young people,” Smith says, “the younger generation who might not have had the GZA ‘Liquid Swords’ or the Pharcyde or whatever crazy, hip-hop reissues that they have.”

Smith agrees that Record Store Day helps bring in the young as well as the old.

“Now, I have kids and their parents coming in, buying their records together,” he says. “It’s really fun to watch that, and they want their own copy. They want their own Beatles record. They don’t want their dad’s Beatles record.”

Lindsey: talkingfurniture@aol.com

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