Record Store Day: An International Vinyl Celebration

An open letter to my friend Megan, a vinyl enthusiast and native Texan:

Dear Megan,
How’s it going? Thanks for always letting Carter and me hang out and listen to old blues records. You mentioned the last time I was over that you hadn’t heard of Record Store Day. I was surprised, mainly because of how often you extol the virtues of analogue recordings. I know you must be busy – what with school and all – so I took some time to visit a few participating record stores and see what the big deal was.

Record Store Day (RSD) is an international celebration of independent record stores and all things vinyl. It happens the third Saturday in April, which means it happens tomorrow! Started in 2008, the mission has been to rekindle awareness of a dying format. Record stores buy limited edition presses from distributors and offer them all day, and the general consensus seems to be that it has been a rousing success. The record companies that participate usually distribute 250 to 300 items and each item has anywhere from 500 to 2000 copies. Between the 700 record stores that participate in the U.S. alone, that’s not a lot of vinyl to go around. All of the record stores I talked to said the demand was way higher than the supply, so get there early.

I know, I know. You don’t know where to start. I feel bad that you have such a long commute to school, so maybe you could start with the closest store. Backspin Records up on Airport and 45th. Backspin Records has the endearingly unadorned décor of a store that gives a shit about quality over image. While there I talked to a passionate man named Brian, whose epic mutton chops lead me to believe his last name is Van Buren. Brian told me the best part of Record Store Day is the fun atmosphere and camaraderie of vinyl culture. Backspin will be having a low key party all day, complete with DJs.

But I know your true love lies in the blues. If you head a little further south on Guadalupe, you could pop into Antone’s, right on the corner of 29th. Antone’s has a rich history; started by Clifford Antone, of the famous Austin blues venue also named Antone’s, this record store has a fun vibe and a deep blues collection. While there I spoke with Eve, a smiley woman who – along with 2 other employees – bought Antone’s upon Clifford’s death in 2006. Eve has nothing but praise for RSD; saying that though they were skeptical the first year, this has proven to be their most lucrative day of the year, beating out Christmas and SXSW.

Antone’s is great, but maybe you’ve always wanted to explore the artier areas of South Austin. Look no further than End of an Ear. Located on S 1st street, End of an Ear is located inside a charming Tex-Mex style villa which itself is located among various art spaces. I talked to Dan who, either because of the warped floor boards or good old fashioned genetics, seemed to tower over me. Dan told me RSD was their most lucrative day of the year as well, saying that last year the line extended around the building. Dan told me he liked RSD because it reminded people record stores existed, even if it is a little ill timed; what with the post SXSW exhaustion and the tax season crunch. If you went there, Megan, you could enjoy the creative atmosphere and even work on your tan while waiting in line.

So maybe you’re still a little skeptical. I know, it seems like these kind of promotional events always have some kind of corporate taint to them. If you want to find out how RSD effects a smaller, niche record store, then head over to the east side store Trailer Space. Trailer Space has a uniquely independent selection, gearing more towards Punk and unsigned bands. I talked to Spot and JJ about their gripes with RSD. It’s hard for smaller stores to generate the kind of revenue that makes RSD profitable. Spot and JJ emphasized that because they don’t work through major distributors, they don’t appear on the Sound Scan data that helps record companies choose who to distribute through. Even with their apprehension towards RSD they will be offering an all day 20% discount on records, and Spot guaranteed me that if anyone could come in and shotgun 3 beers in 3 minutes – and hold it down! – he’d give them a 50% discount.

Of course if you’re looking for the most comprehensive selection, you can’t beat Waterloo Records. Currently the entire staff is gearing up for RSD mania – the owner was too busy to even come out of the back – and I was told they should be offering around 290 items. I was assured that they would not be sold out of limited pressings, even by Saturdays end. Every record store I talked to agreed that Waterloo would have the most access to limited pressings by far.

So I know hearing about all these record stores has probably wet your appetite for vinyl. Luckily there will be a “Record Store Crawl” on Saturday; if you show a receipt from any participating record store at another participating record store, you get 10% off. The full list of participating stores can be found here

Okay Megan, I think that should be enough information to navigate your way around RSD. Let me know when I can come over and here the new blues records you’ll buy.