Record Store Day 2013: Totems, Artifice and Exclusivity

Is Record Store Day about record shops or mainly an opportunity for a load of empty vessels to tell us all how much they love record shops?

My thoughts on Record Store Day are pretty much entirely recorded elsewhere on ANBAD; and as RSD sweeps around again, amongst a flurry of BBC 6 Music ads and a glut of PR emails, my position hasn’t changed too much from the fairly ruthless one I occupied in the above article.

I still don’t want record shops to disappear, but I sure as hell don’t want record shops to become shorthand for “a place that a bunch of entirely tedious musical-bandwagon-hopping loudmouths use to massage their vast, fragile egos.”

New music has always attracted the Firsties! crowd, just as it’s attracted the dickheads, the drug-cretins, the wannabes and the coattail-riders. It’s the flipside to all the beauty and joy of new music, and usually, we’re all happy with that payoff. (Speaking of new music, by the way, here’s Forest – )


But now the record shop is in danger of being pigeonholed as a mere seller of anachronistic totems to the nostalgia crowd; a place where tedious people hang out on their yearly excursion from their favourite hipster dirty-street-food establishment.

To extend the bread shop parable from my earlier article: I love music as much as I love bread. It’s a staple in my life. It’s honest-to-god important. But if I ran around telling people how much I love bread, you’d tire of me pretty quickly.

I suspect the behaviour of most loud-mouthed Record Store Day acolytes is similar to their behaviour with regards to bread: they’ll tell everyone how much they love real, fresh, home-baked bread whilst it’s relevant (during the broadcast of The Great British Bake-Off), but come Monday morning, they’ll be popping a slice of pre-sliced, mass-produced Bread Product they bought from the supermarket into the toaster.

And maybe this is my problem: the artifice. It’s not to do with Record Store Day at all.

It’s to do with a culture which has been fostered by mistake; a culture that celebrates not the production of art (the songs themself), or even the beautiful filters that emerge to help us appreciate them (record shops, music blogs); but the act of telling everyone how much they love music, or record shops, or vinyl, or whatever else.

The problem is that, really, in the real world, this saucepan-banging LOOK-AT-ME!-LOOK-AT-ME! approach carries zero social currency outside of the dumb little circle you compete within to see who can shout the loudest.

Worse, the people who ought to be benefitting from all these strenuously vocal pronouncements – the artists – get very little of this noise.

Where is New Artist Day?  Something which celebrates and funds the people who do the hard work, and actually create all this gorgeous music before it’s pressed onto 190g limited edition sparkly vinyl, slipped into a screen-printed sleeve and then placed, unplayed, onto a very visible shelf in a hipster’s hovel?

Record shops are lovely… but the music is lovelier. And musicians need money and recognition, in a more fundamental, legitimate manner; rather than being the unlucky recipients of hot air from the neo-moustachioed crowd.

Record Store Day has – unfortunately – become, in part, a celebration of fetishistic, artificial exclusivity, by people who want to be seen to be part of a clique. The act of associating yourself with something legit has become the most important thing. And it really, really isn’t.

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