Record Store Day becomes a boon for independents
SALEM — In the face of advancing technology, it seems that the black vinyl record album has gone the way of the Pony Express and the telegraph.
But during the past decade, the sale of records has actually been on the increase as nostalgic baby boomers relive the glory days of rock and roll and curious younger music consumers discover the thrill of analog sound and the joy of the album cover as an actual work of art.
And the renewed interest in records has been a boon for smaller, independent retailers, one that is highlighted during Record Store Day.
This Saturday, more than a dozen New Hampshire record stores will be participating in the seventh annual Record Store Day. Some of the stores will feature performances from musicians, and all of the stores will be well stocked with reissues, special pressings, and other vinyl goodies.
The roots of Record Store Day stretch back to 2007, when Bull Moose Records head of marketing Chris Brown came up with the idea as a way to celebrate the role of smaller, independent record stores.
"What I wanted to do was to get all of the independent record stores in the country — I wasn't thinking the rest of the world at the time — to throw a big party on the same day," said Brown.
Bull Moose has 11 stores in Maine and New Hampshire, including locations in Salem and Portsmouth.
While many of the larger retail music chains lost money and closed, Brown said the situation is a lot less dire for the smaller, independent stores.
"There was a lot of turmoil at that point, but a lot of it was at the bigger chain store level," Brown said. "Music fans and the industry needed some good news, to see that we were still rocking and growing and selling more music every year."
The first Record Store Day in 2008 was a success, Brown said, and by 2009, record labels were taking advantage of the annual event with a steady stream of reissues and special releases.
Brown said the independent stores have been able to thrive because of a better shopping experience and the willingness to try new things.
"It's what makes any good boutique store better than any chain store," he said. "We're flexible, and we're more in touch with what customers want."
Mark Matarozzo at Spun Records on Central Avenue in Dover agrees.
"Record Store Day has been beneficial for us and other independent shops," he said. "We actually opened on Record Store Day 2011, and it has only grown from there. It is our best sales day of the year. Even record shops that don't get all the Record Store Day limited edition releases in still see a jump in business, and most shops will have some kind of sale that day."
Mike Cohen has owned Pitchfork Records in Concord for 40 years, and said Record Store Day has become one of the busiest days of his year.
"It's really nice to have people waiting in line to get in at 9 o'clock in the morning," he said.
As in past years, Record Store Day will feature live music at a number of stores.
Seven-time Grammy nominee Joan Osborne will be performing at the Salem Bull Moose location at 1 p.m.
Although CD sales still make up the majority of music sales, Brown said there has been a definite increase in the sales of and interest in vinyl records during the past several years.
"In part, it's a richer experience," he said. "Some people like the sonic improvement, depending on their equipment, and there's also the packaging with the large artwork and the liner notes."
Matarozzo said he's seen older customers buying vinyl albums out of nostalgia as well as younger consumers drawn in by the sound quality.
"USB turntables have also brought kids in," he said. "They can listen to and rip their favorite records direct to MP3. Certain bands, such as Pearl Jam, Neil Young, and The Gaslight Anthem and many others have never stopped releasing their albums on vinyl as they praise the vinyl sound all the time."
Cohen said that people like the physical nature of vinyl records as opposed to digital recordings.
"Vinyl gives a different presentation," he said.
Bill Proulx, who opened Metro City Records on Somerville Street in Manchester four years ago, expects to have about 100 various Record Store Day limited-edition items on hand on Saturday.
"I have brought in a lot of extra used stuff to complement the day," said Proulx, whose business is focused on hunting down special orders for customers. "There are over 500 titles being released for Record Store Day this year, which is an all-time high. There was about 350 last year."
He recommends shoppers who don't find what they want Saturday at their local record store to keep checking for a couple of weeks because some of the items coming out this year may not actually make it to stores until after Saturday.
Other record shops that plan to take part in Record Store Day include the Newbury Comics locations in Salem, Nashua, and Manchester; Turn it Up in Keene; and Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough.