Record Store Day returns on Saturday, June 12 with around 250 stores participating in the first vinyl drop.
That’s one of the biggest totals on record for RSD, which suggests that many record shops have weathered the pandemic thanks to their loyal customer base and growing online operations.
Noel Gallagher has signed up as the ambassador for this year’s Record Store Day. The second drop takes place on July 17.
Here, RSD coordinator Megan Page previews this year’s event and looks out how a younger audience are becoming LP collectors…
The majors have spoken about their commitment to Record Store Day. What do you think of this year’s line-up?
“Across the board, I think this year's release slate is the best we've had in a really long time, from both the majors and the indies. The types of artists on the list this year – from the likes of Fontaines DC, Wolf Alice, Lady Gaga, Little Mix, Baby Queen – they're really exciting with massive fanbases that are going to be a big draw for the event. So we are actually really impressed with the titles that the labels have come up with to support the event.
“We've got a bit more confidence now, we saw how the record shops took part last year. There were restrictions in place and they still managed to get thousands of people through the door in a safe and responsible way. With a really strong product list, this has got every opportunity to be another big year for record stores.”
What will stores be able to do this weekend?
“It is still before any social distancing measures will have been lifted, so we're looking at doing that in the same way that we ran Record Store Day last year. So it won't be back to the normal kind of celebration, it will be socially distanced queues and bookable time slots. We've also said retailers can put the products online on the same day at 6pm, which takes the pressure off some of the smaller shops who might not be able to get as many people through their doors.
“So it will look and feel a lot different to a normal Record Store Day. But we're really hoping that, if everything goes to to plan, July 17 will be the one where we can bring everyone together, throw a huge party and do it the old-fashioned way.”
What's your sense of how record shops are doing since they reopened in April?
“There's still bit more time needed to rebuild customer confidence. But from what we've heard anecdotally the shops have been busy, especially with their local, frequent customers buying a lot, which is great. Vinyl sales have been increasing and there’s no sign of it slowing down, which is really good for record shops.”
This has got every opportunity to be another really big year for record stores
Has that customer loyalty alongside the efforts of stores been key to them maintaining sales in the past year of lockdowns?
“Definitely. A lot of shops are trying other product lines – we've seen a lot of record shops become venues, coffee shops or vintage clothing stores, so they are adapting and playing a slightly different role to what they might have done previously. But we shouldn't underestimate that there is still such a huge appetite for vinyl and physical music. These places are still playing really important cultural roles in their communities in terms of supporting local music and talent. We've definitely seen a new breed of record shop with younger people coming through and under-30s opening their first business. That seems to be the case with a lot of the new shops that we're seeing open.”
Are the vinyl customers getting younger too?
“I definitely think so. Especially when you go out and see a Record Store Day queue. There are a lot more 18 to 24 year-olds, or even younger, out on their first Record Store Day or having their first record shop experience. The Record Store Day audience is split straight down the middle now between the 40-plus male, who never gave up with collecting vinyl and has been doing it for years, versus the kids who are just discovering it. It’s a real mix. We’ve even noticed some really exciting trends where there's a big vinyl collecting community on TikTok and Instagram. When we announced this year’s titles, we saw a real spike in interest.”
Will there be plenty of media support?
“We have a really great partnership with BBC Sounds, who do an amazing job of supporting Record Store Day, not just on their flagship music channels like 6 Music, Radio 2 and Radio 1 but also on a local level as well. That is something that's really important, because there's a record shop in every corner of the country. Record Store Day is about shining a light on those stores that might not have a media moment outside of that event.”
You’re doing two vinyl drops in 2021 because of the pandemic – what happens next year?
“Once the pandemic is under control, the idea would be that we would return back to our traditional one day. That being said, the drops have offered a lot of opportunity and a really different way of running things. They have a lot of advantages in terms of being able to bring customers in over a number of months and a number of paydays. But what we always say is that Record Store Day is first and foremost a cultural event, and any commercial advantages are a bonus. Ultimately, I think the appetite would be to return to one day.”
Vinyl sales were up 16% in Q1. Can Record Store Day deliver a further boost?
“The most important thing that it has done, and continues to do, is to remind customers why they love their local record shop. With them been having been closed for so many months [during the past year], Record Store Day this year probably comes at just the right time to entice people back into stores and onto the High Street, and give them that feelgood moment of buying in person with other people around them. We've made them realise what they've been missing out on for so long. For Record Store Day, that’s the biggest thing we can do for the vinyl market.”