The national holiday for brick-and-mortar album retailers returns again this year. We asked Doug Keller to fill us in on the focus behind Record Store Day, and also to tell us about his favorite stores in and around Chester County.
By Doug Keller
When was the last time you bought an album? If you’re a so-called “Millennial” chances are very good you’ve never bought a full album. True enough, pirating and streaming services have hurt music sales over the last 15 years, but National Record Store Day isn’t entirely about market recapitalization. It’s more about adding value to the experience of purchasing music. National Record Store Day offers a chance for people to celebrate music with other people who share their passion for being on the receiving end of auditory expression. It’s also a chance for people that may have never ventured into a record store to explore the unique allure that has kept them open.
One of the biggest factors that led to the genesis of NRS Day is the growing disinterest in the album as a complete and individual piece of art. While iTunes certainly allows some music to find a wider audience, one unforeseen consequence of music’s digital transformation has been the breaking up of the album. In the past, one, two or maybe three songs from a record were purchasable as singles. Now all songs may be purchased individually—or streamed for free even. For many consumers, the financial reality of the situation comes down to owning the one song that they heard on the radio vs. taking a risk on a full album.
Although it may seem ludicrous that someone would hear “Money” by Pink Floyd and not immediately rush out to find the rest “Dark Side of The Moon”, that is the the world we live in. This type of dichotomy (album vs. single) has led to a distinct polarization of people that enjoy music. There are the hard-core devotees that search through thousands of artists like a prospector during the Gold Rush, and then there are the every day consumers who like the songs that are popular on the radio or in the club. For those prospectors, we have Record Store Day.
And the album is far from dead. True the physical medium may be less popular than it was in the past (although vinyl sales have jumped considerably), but that doesn’t mean that the album is riding with Charon across the river Styx. I believe that it will just take an adaptation for most musicians to accept this brave new world.
In my experience, interning for The Key, I’ve seen that a large percentage of bands stream a lot of their music online for free via sites like bandcamp. True many of the bands bands we cover have yet to “make it”, but this model is part of the DIY ethos maintained by many independent musicians . The Internet may be a great way for a band to get out their new album, but at the same time, there are thousands of other bands doing the same thing. As a music lover, this is a golden age because there are so many unique bands that are only a click away, but as a musician this a much harder market to break through.
If National Record Store Day isn’t a wake, what is it? I it’s a a celebration of the musical community. Sure there are re-issues and limited edition albums that will be available on the 18th, but really it’s a chance for people who love music to share that passion. The Internet is a great source for distribution, but it lacks the physical and mental engagement that can only be attained by entering a record store. Sure you can argue about music online, or even get a good recommendation for a band you’ve never heard, but the act of participating in a community isn’t something the Internet has been able to truly replicate. So if you decide to venture out on the 18th here are some shops you might want to check out.
As someone who spends a lot of time in West Chester, I wanted to mention this local establishment. Mad Platter is located on Gay Street, and has that sense of community that every music aficionado loves. I visited the shop in preparation for writing this article, and was extremely impressed by the establishment. The Mad Platter has a great selection of vinyl as well as a variety of music memorabilia. I ended up walking away from the shop with a She and Him poster, but I was extremely tempted to buy the new Godspeed! You Black Emperor album, which was gloriously displayed. I spent a good half an hour going through the store’s selection, and discussing music with one of the store’s employees. I encourage anyone in or around West Chester to check out The Mad Platter.
This is another spot that has sentimental value to me. Back when I attended Conestoga High School , this was the hip store on my section of the main line. Like all the other shops, there will be special reissues available at Shady Dog Records on the 18th.
Repo Records is a really wild spot. You can find an incredible variety of music at Repo that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. If you’re in Philadelphia on Saturday you should try and get to Repo Records at noon so you can check out Girlpool, who will be playing a live set at noon. This band recently relocated to Philly, and have already recorded a killer Key Studio Session.
Last year Long in the Tooth was named one of the top ten record stores in the whole country. If you’re a fan of metal, punk, or indie music this is a location you really want to check out. Long in the Tooth embodies the DIY movement that Philly has come to be known for.
I’m the bass player in The Band of Rivals, guitar player in Duke Maroon, social Media and marketing coordinator at Walnut St. Labs, co-host of World’s Finest Show on WCHE 1520AM, and a social media intern for The Key/WXPN. You can follow me on Twitter.