It’s usually around this time of year I tend to write some kind of commentary on Record Store Day. This year however, I don’t think there’s much to add. RSD continues as it has done for the last few years, with more companies jumping on board to milk the occasion.
While the benefits to the retail side of the industry are still positive, the repercussions on smaller labels remains the same, we still can’t get any kind of decent manufacturing turnaround in the first half of the year. Yet.
I’ve written before that there is a lack of pressing machinery, and this still holds true. However, there seems to be movement in the manufacturing industry, for the better.
Companies like Viryl have been working to capitalize on the lack of pressing machinery and actually developed new technology. Although this still comes with a hefty price tag, developments like this can only strengthen the industry, allowing for greater overall pressing capacity as well as enabling shorter runs.
For some artists and labels the cost of full pressed runs can be prohibitive. The new pressing technology that is appearing at the moment has modernized the process allowing for cheaper runs. The economy of scale is still in play though, and unit prices will always drop the more you get pressed, but shorter runs will make it more feasible for smaller artists and labels to get vinyl out there.
The problem after getting the music pressed is retail. Although vinyl sales are still rising some record shops are still struggling to adapt, the ‘final’ closure of an Edinburgh record store recently is an example of this. Music retail is alive and well as far as I can see, but failure to adapt and diversify stock can be a downfall. By all means, sell the music that you like and are passionate about, but you have to stock the bread and butter releases too.
If a record shop is going to specialize in a certain genre, or even sub-genre, they have to be on the ball, and market themselves as such. Specializing in twee Scottish indie is fine, but don’t market yourself as an ‘all round’ record shop. Similarly, don’t go off the rails and complain about a lack of customers if you’re a systematic arsehole to people that come into your shop looking for something you’ve either never heard of, or just don’t like.
The internet has opened up the world to everybody. It’s easier for people to discover new music and get passionate about it. By the same token it is now easier for record shops to get stock from both smaller labels, and bands who are going it alone. It’s also easier to link bands together, make recommendations and widen your listening.
I can’t honestly remember the last time I was in a record shop and got the “Oh, great album, have you listened to this other guy? If you like this give him a listen.” No joke, it must have been the fucking 90s (if you discount the 3 years I worked in a record shop).
Everybody has a genre that they gravitate towards, and that’s fine. Some people will stick exclusively to that genre and rarely step outside. For others, genre and music labeling holds no sway, they listen to what they like and are open minded to recommendations of others. Again, the internet is a great help in this.
So why haven’t record shops been following suit? It seems daft that some retailers complain about a lack of passing trade, or regular customers when they are limiting them selves to a very narrow market. Retail is tough at the moment, the internet is huge competition, not just in ease of purchase, but lower overheads lead to lower prices, larger stock selection and allow the buyer to stay sat down and just wait for the postie.
Some retailers have forgotten about the retail experience. Yes, that sounds like something out of an 80s motivational business VHS, but it’s true. I’ve been into very few record shops in Scotland and gotten the ‘feeling’ I used to get. Friendly atmosphere, good chat from the staff, good/different tunes playing, a good place to visit. Going to record shops used to be exciting, not just because you’d walk out with some good music, but the experience as a whole would leave you elated on your way out.
I’m not even going to get into major supermarkets stocking vinyl, that’s for next year, or maybe sooner.
Maybe some retailers are stuck in their ways, and that’s fine, but if they persist in that, they’ll have to suck it up when things get tough.
If you’re in the house wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and just before you go out you see it’s pissing with rain, you can’t go out as is and piss and moan when you get soaked.
That’s all folks.