Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Record Store Day

*This is another post that has very little to do with living and studying in America, I just wanted to steal your time for a few minutes and write about another thing I love. Ta.

I really cannot wait for Record Store Day. For all the protests by major labels and certain recording artists about a dying industry, the passion and innovation of people in love with music says otherwise. The fact that I do not currently have a record player does not seem to matter, the special edition releases proliferate through the popular culture at a rapid rate, and within hours are available online. Still, it hasn't stopped me from buying them before, and with download codes and all other assorted bonuses, the initiative to do so again has increased.

It's remarkable that wiping clear the rear-view mirror and reviving analogue music has been one way forward for music distribution. We've seen with Radiohead's distribution of their last two long players, TV On The Radio's new film/album on YouTube and The Flaming Lips' remarkable gummy skull as creative ways to embrace fans and still line their pockets. However, it is Record Store Day, the event first conceived in 2007, that has grabbed my attention with a vice like grip. For the third Saturday of April every year, artists and stores spoil fans with new releases and events that celebrate everything great about the modern way we look at music.

See, I love vinyl records. I can remember going through my parents collection and playing their slightly warped version of Sgt Pepper's at wrong speeds for a giggle as well as being amazed at how the grooves of Dark Side of the Moon could be transmitted in quadraphonic. I was rapt when I started picking up assorted punk rock 7" singles on my own a few years back, and though their record player and amplifier had seen better days, even not playing them had perks. The discs were coloured, the artwork and packaging was elaborate, and rather than wanting to store them on a shelf like a CD, I wanted them displayed where everyone could see them.

That's the thing with vinyl records, they're elegant in and of themself. Looking past the packaging and multitude of colours they now come in, the mechanics of their playback are a work of art. Tiny grooves that physically display the music representing the sound that comes out the other end are cut finely into one long path. The playback is organic, each time you spin a disc under a needle the groove is altered, offering a slightly different sound each time. There's decay, but it's a beautiful thing.

Then there's the semiology of vinyl. There's a great line in High Fidelity that goes "...I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like... Books, records, films -- these things matter. Call me shallow but it's the fuckin' truth". It's one thing to draw conclusions about what someone has on their iPod - and believe me I do, but when I see someone fishing through the vinyl section of a store, or better yet, seeing their own collection, I know I've come across someone who thinks of music as something beyond background noise or something to talk about with friends. It's more than that, it's become a part of their personality, demonstrating obsessive compulsive collecting entwined with a dedication to music and it's delivery as art. To some they're 12 inch black discs that technology rendered obsolete, but to a particular brand of music fan, they're a totem of taste, individuality and personality.
My 2 purchases from America, so far.

So with Record Store Day approaching, there are of course a number of titles that have taken my fancy. My new love for Superchunk has whet my appetite for their 7" Misfit covers release. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals have a double 7" that will beautifully accompany my double 12" of III/IV that I bought for xmas. There's a new release by Owen, a reissue of Nirvana's Hormoaning and Wild Flag's debut. It's all very exciting, and doesn't even include the existing vinyl releases I'd love; Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart singles, Off!'s first four eps packaged together, Kid A on double 10" and Coldplay's single collection. It's greedy, but it's also not practical for someone who is moving back to the other side of the globe in a few weeks, and as such, I'll have to pass up on most of these gems.

While those releases are all wants, and will probably remain so, there is one thing I'd love to do with vinyl records, and that is start my own label. I've seen firsthand how small, independent labels are innovating music distribution, and I want to be involved. I've seen the resurgence of vinyl, and how download drop cards have made them as practical as a CD, but satiate a collector in a way that no digital format could.

There's issues of practicality that have placed my plans in quick dry cement though. I'm beyond broke, with the Australian taxpayer putting a roof over my head and food in my stomach while I dive further into the red with student loans. Even when I do start earning money, there are other fiscal priorities that tower above releasing a few hundred vinyl discs. That doesn't matter though, I know there's no financial white-knight that's going to make banks look at me for investments instead of repayments, because when I do graft hard enough for some money (that's what this university degree and year abroad is all about right?), I understand that running a little label is not a business for profit, or sometimes breaking even, it's all about a labour of love.

When my parents were working on my genetic make up the part about creativity passed me by. I can barely write my name with a pencil, let alone sketch anything that brings a skerrick of aesthetic pleasure and though I've been playing guitar for 12 years, there's very little to show for it. That's why I want to have this label. I want to contribute. I want to help create something I'm proud of. It's grabbing the coattails of other people's talents, but I still want to play my tiny part in adding to human culture. Today it's a pipe-dream, but it's a reason to go out and work hard.

Record Store Day has turned into a remarkable thing, and I'll be doing my best to celebrate this Saturday. Provided Friday hasn't ruined me, I'll be on a bus to Northampton to see what is on offer. Beyond this weekend, in a few years I want to play a different role on that 3rd Saturday in April. Music is something that people will always feel passionate about, and even if the old monarch is struggling, the initiatives of the people who care most about it are a heartening glimpse into the future. We're told the music industry is dying, but the reality is there has never been a better time to be a fan. Record Store Day, with all of its rarities, special-editions, concerts  is proof of this. The future might not be in a brick and mortar store, but there's still a bright one out there, and I am desperate to be a part of it.

Biffy Clyro - Machines (alt version)
This was originally only found on vinyl, so it shows how important it is not to ignore the format. It's an angry man version of their pussy-rock classic, Machines, and it is infinity times drop D awesomes.

1 comment:

  1. You're 100% right.

    The only thing slightly amazing about 'Dark Side of the Moon' is the grooves on the vinyl in which its stored...