Until five years ago, during the post-Thanksgiving retail rush known as Black Friday, indie record stores had little in their respective promotional arsenals to compete with blowout sales at major retail chains. After all, who but the most diehard devotees care to browse through dusty stacks of vinyl when room-dwarfing HD TVs can be had at rock-bottom prices?
Then came something of a boon: Record Store Day.
An annual worldwide event that’s held in late April and was founded in 2007 by several record store owners in Baltimore, Record Store Day has spawned a bounty of new releases and reissues and continues to grow in scope. Some of last year’s finds included a 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana’s “Insecticide” and a trio of EPs by Skrillex.
For the past three years, a much smaller version of Record Store Day on Black Friday has helped give indie outfits a welcome jolt on the cusp of Christmas. This time around, it happens on Friday.
“It’s always a very big day for us,” says Rick Wojcik, owner of Dusty Groove on North Ashland Avenue. “And it’s great, because traditionally record stores like us would often suffer on Black Friday because everybody would be out shopping with their wives and families and spending money on other people.”
The Black Friday happening has been so successful, he says, that November and December releases “are huge” compared to what they once were. As a result, more people are buying stuff for themselves because it’s not widely available. To show its appreciation, Dusty Groove offers coffee and bagels to patrons waiting in line and awards prizes throughout the day.
“I think the days when people bought [records] for other people are gone,” Wojcik says of vinyl shoppers. “I don’t think stores like us see as much of that.”
While Record Store Day’s Black Friday offers “a much smaller list to pick through and order [from]” than Record Store Day, says Melissa Geils, manager at Laurie’s Plant of Sound on North Lincoln Avenue, it still brings more foot traffic.
And foot traffic, Wojcik says, is crucial to an event “that is very heavily guided by physical, in-person sales.”
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds–Live from KCRW, via nickcave.com
Geils says she and some associates are especially looking forward to Nick Cave’s newest release, “Live From KCRW,” though there’s no telling how many copies they’ll receive. Stores are at the mercy of distributors, who decide how many limited edition units to press and how they’ll be parceled out.
“There’s a very heavy focus on vinyl,” says Dave Hofer at Reckless Records, which has three locations in Chicago. “I guess it’s still seeing a resurgence. To us, it never really went away.”
As in years past, he says, lots of older albums being presented in a new way, such as a box set of classic Cheap Trick LPs that goes for around $100.
There’s also a newly reissued 1988 release from a band called Carcass. When it came out a quarter-century ago, Hofer says, it “caused quite a tizzy because of the artwork. It’s basically just a bunch of medical dictionary photos assembled into a collage, but it caused quite the uproar.”
The 2013 version comes with a large poster of said offending artwork and has packaging that resembles a body bag.
But if you’re interested in scoring some gems, don’t dilly-dally.
Says Hofer, “It’s definitely an ‘early bird gets the worm’ kind of thing.”