Record Store Day 2011 reminds us to give the middle finger to corporatism

By Lliam Easterbrook
[contributor]

Once a year, on the third Saturday of April, independent record dealers across the world benevolently participate in Record Store Day.

For us audiophiles, it’s a chance to avidly consume music, but also participate in some mild political posturing against corporate North America.

It is a day for the little guy, with over 700 independent record stores participating in the United States alone, and hundreds more internationally. These small yet privileged independent distributors receive a limited supply of 7” and 12” vinyl singles from a diverse group of artists.

By releasing singles only to independent retailers, consequently the bands are supporting small businesses and audiophilia across the continent by flipping corporatism the big, bad bird. So forget conglomerate big business, corporate giants, and their chain factions like Future Shop or Best Buy, this day is for the ma and pa shops — or the shop your buddy opened after painstakingly trying to get a loan for several years.

Record store day is punk; it is indie; it is grunge; it’s anything but corporate, and everything for small-time retailers.

These retailers get a rare leg up on the competition, exclusivity, and a chance to build a loyal clientele. Most shops — such as Neptune Records on Main Street—Vancouver’s oldest independent music retailer, showcase the event by hosting a series of local bands throughout the day, and by playing the vinyl releases terrifically loud between sets.

It’s win-win for consumer and consumed — Oh, and there’s also beer, lots and lots of beer.

The vinyl releases for 2011 featured oldies and goodies: The Stones, The Velvet Underground, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pearl Jam, Derek and the Dominoes, Fleet Foxes, Bad Brains, Built to Spill, Daft Punk, Dio, Death Cab for Cutie, Deftones, Nirvana, Pinback, R.E.M., RHCP/Ramones and much more. Having shown up late because of work (stupid commerce –– Oh the irony of it all!), most of the singles I desired had been ripped helplessly from the shelves. Having released their second and third albums on vinyl for the first time in over a decade — and on time for Record Store Day, Pearl Jam’s entitled VU, originally released in February of 1985. The Hendrix songs, “Fire” and “Touch You,” were both selected from the Are You Experienced? sessions of 1967 — the latter of the two, an instrumental track, had been previously unreleased until now. Finally, the Fleet Foxes single, with “Helplessness Blues” and “Grown Ocean,” made me all the more anticipatory for the Seattle band’s second LP (released May 3rd).

Overall, the singles for Record Store Day are reasonably priced ($8-$12), and for a good cause — to support local businesses that more or less have to scrap and claw to stay alive amongst big businesses and their monopolies on the system. Personally, I will check out Red Cat (also on Main), Neptune, Krazy Bob’s, Zulu — pretty much the closest independent store I can find, before I walk into an HMV to buy my music. I’ll even willingly fork out a few extra dollars for my vinyl (which is a rare occurrence) at these local independent retailers, just so I can in turn support the independent locale. And judging by the turnout at Neptune last week, there are many others who share this view. So next time you walk into HMV downtown to buy an album, know there are better places to spend your dough.

Viva la vinyl!

Play it loud. Play it proud.

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