Why I Hate Record Store Day
I love music. I think it’s one of the great ways to bring people together, especially at a time when the world seems to be crumbling around us. I also have a slight affinity for (my wife may call an “addiction” to) buying records. One of my favorite activities is digging through record store bins and finding that record you’ve wanted suddenly at your fingertips. When my budget allows, I can get lost in the bins of any one of the many record stores that we are lucky to have here in the Twin Cities.
I can recall my stomach jumping when I found a rare, used copy of Spaceman 3’s Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to at a local record store. I had been looking for the LP for years, and then there it was. Pure joy. Even on less successful trips to the record store, the hunt and the excitement of getting new music brings joy to myself and millions of people around the world.
You would probably think I am jazzed for the latest installment of Record Store Day this coming Saturday, right? Well I’m not.
In fact I really hate Record Store Day.
The forced scarcity. The gross consumerism. The zero-sum realization that if I don’t stand in line and elbow my way into a store, I may not get a copy of a record I would love to have in my collection. And the counter realization that if I do have the privilege to be able to stand in line and elbow my way into a record store, someone else won’t get a copy of a record they would love to have in their collection. This is leaving aside the growing reality of people using this as a way to extort music fans by buying limited run records and immediately selling them online for inflated prices.
Why are we celebrating this?
Does this make more people want to be record collectors, or turn us into the angry weirdos who fought each other for a Princess Diana beanie baby? Does this help artists make more money at a time when streaming music is pinching artists and smaller labels, or does it pump artificial profits into larger corporate labels? Does it unite music fans, or turn us into competing “consumers” who scrape and claw to make sure I have the limited-run Run the Jewels LP at the expense of you getting a copy?
All of these questions are rhetorical, because I think it’s clear even the most ardent defenders of RSD can’t argue that this is, at its core, a cash grab to line the pockets of major labels. It’s Hunger Games for vinyl.
I know local record stores probably love having people elbow to elbow in their stores, and I’m not mad at any of them for taking part (and I’m not sure if at this point they would be sane to not take part). I’m mad that something I love is being hollowed out in a empty charade because capitalism invokes that creating a circus where profits skyrocket — even for a day — is a worthwhile endeavor. We can all cringe at people trampling each other rushing a Walmart for a discount vacuum cleaner on Black Friday, but how is that different than Record Store Day?
One silver lining is that most record stores in the Twin Cities make the most of the day by hosting local bands in their shops, and I believe that most, if not all, attempt to make this a day for music fans who aren’t just looking to pad their discog inventory.
If you can print 1,000 copies of a record, and you know it will sell out, why not print 10,000? How is this fake scarcity anything but greedy? What do people standing in line and wrestling with each other for a limited edition 7” accomplish? Why does an event whose name should elicit excitement and joy for every music fan like me just make me feel gross?
I will probably swing by at least a few stores on Saturday to hear some of our great local artists and I may even **gasp** look at the RSD records once the chaos subsides, but it won’t stop that sinking feeling in my stomach that I am feeding a beast that I wish would just go away.