The One-Month, Nine-Day Anniversary of Record Store Day 2012 (Or) A Stroll Through eBay
A certain intellectual acumen and technical know-how is required to process the prevailing handful of criticisms directed towards the annual celebration of Record Store Day and the baggage closely related to it (aka “eBay”): One must possess more cultural literacy than an eight-year-old raised from birth by raccoons and know how to execute a Google search. It will then be impossible to swing a bat without hitting disarmingly vapid sentiments of medium-cool dissent born of a gross misunderstanding of the chosen target, some of which can be parlayed into commentary about bigger-picture problems. Hopefully, in the first section of this piece, I was able to do just that and provoke a look at some issues that have gone somewhat overlooked. (Note: I cannot accurately walk the proprietary walk with said notions, though didn’t run into anything similar during my research.) Next up will be the somewhat different approach to looking at RSD, specifically RSD 2012 through the lens of eBay over the month and change that has passed since the day itself. Enjoy!
SOME MYTHS ABOUT RECORD STORE DAY BY ENTHUSIASTS OF POORLY CHOSEN BATTLES [NOTE: NOT DIRECT QUOTES]:
“RECORD STORE DAY STARTED IN A GOOD-HEARTED PLACE BUT IS NOW RUINED BY MAJOR-LABEL AGENDAS.”
If someone is worrying about a traditional “major-label” threat in 2012, were they shouting about contracting H.I.V. from toilet seats or the voting rights of women five years ago? The term “major label” now universally refers to not what is, but what was once a major label. Major labels achieved one distinction over the last decade of industry unraveling: Consistent pants-shitting. The “new major labels” are the “big indies” of yesterday and today. Former major-label employees are jumping out from behind every bush, unsuccessfully navigating their MC Freetime realities by embracing disturbingly vague replacement identities such as “Music Industry Expert," “Artist Development Consultants," “Promotions and Management Managers," “Distribution Magician," “Career Interloper,” or any other way to dress up a nonexistent need for handlers of the “unsavory” stuff that “keeps musicians from being able to focus on making great art."
Additionally, this proves the presence of impulsiveness, which kicked attention to detail to the curb. The entire size-spectrum of labels are involved, officially, in Record Store Day: indie, “indie," and majors. Sure, the release list has far too many releases that lack any special or unique qualities other than a “Record Store Day 2012” sticker on the cover…greatest hits that no one asked for, reissues of titles that are still in print or easily available for less than $10 in any used bin, and the booger-bear of them all: Releases that were brazenly bumped up to April 21st when previously scheduled for later in the year. And major labels are responsible for a lot of these releases, but the indies are not off the hook here, either. Greatest hits comps and reissues dominate the major label release schedules of this era, and Record Store Day is one of the only respected music-related organizations that will get in bed with a major (barring any relationships between major-owned distribution and big indies). I am not a major-label apologist, nor do I feel sorry for them. They are getting their just deserts, and have almost been annihilated by this process. My point is that “major labels = evil” is no longer a valid cause. Yelling it from the mountain is pure laziness, and a neon sign flashing “out-of-touch!” Sadly, the “problem with music” circa-2012 is a lot more complicated, hidden, and flat-out dangerous right now, but that discussion belongs elsewhere.
“I DON’T LIKE THE CIRCUS THAT RECORD STORE DAY HAS DEVOLVED INTO, BUT IT’S NONETHELESS GREAT THAT BIG-BOX OR CORPORATELY OWNED RECORD STORES ARE NOT ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN RECORD STORE DAY.”
Now, this is the one that makes me feel genuinely insane. Uh…are these stores not the ones that actually did die out between Y2K and 2005? Anyone pop into a Tower recently? No one really considers Best Buy, Target or Hastings to be “record stores," right? Does anyone believe these confused behemoths (To note: Hastings is on its way out at the moment), where the vinyl section is miniscule if part of the store at all, to be a threat to the mom-and-pop record store? See, if these places were allowed to carry RSD titles, there would only be one day of the year in which they posed a threat, and simple distribution regulation can nip that in the bud. But again, to counter any shortsighted interpretations…this is not a pro-big box store message, it is a pro-check-the-date-and-era message.
“INDEPENDENTLY OWNED RECORD STORES INVARIABLY DESERVE UNWAVERING SUPPORT SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT BURDENED WITH ANY CORPORATE AFFILIATION OR BIG-BOX TRAPPINGS.”
This is symptomatic of Record Store Day chatter and not exclusively the domain of detractors, obviously, but should be touched on very briefly. The destructively naïve blanket-belief and bullshit bumper-sticker content known on a larger scale as “Support Independent Business” and for our purposes as “Support Your Local Independent Record Store” is one that honestly makes me question the future of humanity. That is not an overly dramatic sentiment. Support a record store because it is run by good people informed by and utilizing the D.I.R. (“Do It Right”) ethos.
“EVERYDAY SHOULD BE RECORD STORE DAY…WE SHOULDN’T NEED A SPECIAL DAY TO PROMOTE PATRONAGE OF INDIE RECORD STORES.”
The literal interpretation of this, regardless of intent and not indicative of any misunderstanding on my part, is purely unavoidable and must be addressed…because it’s fucking hilarious. What happens on the store level each RSD is no hell a proprietor could endure approx 300 times a year, and each day being a $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 day is not a fair trade-off. Again, I’m going for the literal interpretation to create a funny hypothetical scenario as opposed to a proper point. Plus, the only people going to an indie record store ONLY on RSD are those who plan to flip their booty on eBay five minutes after they return home. Like Mr. Hetfield would say, “Ain’t My Bitch.”
PART II: Record Store Day 2012…one month, nine days later.
FLAMING LIPS Heady Fwends LP
This perennial RSD presence celebrated the 2012 installment with an LP of which almost 50% is made up of pre-released content, but the real eye-opener is the readily available fact that 10,000 of these things were pressed. Despite vinyl’s true resurgence, it is nonetheless a resurgence that needs to be understood in ways relative to its continued status as a niche market. What I’m trying to say here is that the artist could be Norah Fucking Jones and a 10K vinyl pressing will stick around for a little while. This band crossed over and has been munching on the coveted jam-band / Bonnaroo golden egg since before Y2K, so it should never be considered a unit-moving slouch, but again, without going into some logic a lot of readers don’t need as brain-clutter to begin with, these will not slip into the fearful disappearance-abyss anytime soon. Two days after RSD 2012, Heady Fwends demanded $124.99 from either a kid who lives in Antarctica, a wealthy doctor with agoraphobia, a wealthy lawyer who places an independently owned record store in the same mental file as a Planned Parenthood waiting room on a Monday morning, or a Japanese person. Fast-forward to May 18th, and the LP went for the still-high $43, but at least logic was steering things in the right direction. Maybe Wayne Coyne will dust off his giant hamster ball and start hand-delivering unsold copies to people’s front doors, so these won’t be sitting around in bins next RSD. Gotta create some market space for whatever low-hanging fruit he wants to pick for his next offering of conceptual tedium, you know?
PHISH Junta 3LP reissue w/ that stupid poster
Not everyone who buys vinyl has good taste. This may come off as painfully, even stupidly, obvious, but there is this default and unconscious notion that record consumption is synonymous with discerning taste. This isn’t the 90’s, people. I have a very representative anecdote from 1993:
I’m one year out of high-school and one of my pot connections is a huge Phish fan. He enters the apartment I shared with my mom and pops into my room where I have My Bloody Valentine’s “Feed Me With Your Kiss” on suitably low volume.
“What is this, fucking Metallica or some shit?”
While I am not sure what makes a Phish fan suck in 2012, I am nonetheless convinced that they do. Phish, from minute one through my earholes and into my brain, could irritate the paint from the walls and time has not changed this at all. Some street-cred revisionist history has been laid upon this crap to some extent, which is grade-A nonsense. A 3LP reissue of this long-lost, unbelievably statured as “seminal” by some camps, ultra-safe and wildly annoying album Junta, was pressed in an edition of 2,500, though some, like the copy that went for $280 on Record Store Day proper, came with a 12” by 12” print of new art by Phish’s go-to artist, Jim Pollock, who does linoleum prints with finger-on-the-pulse-of-not-shit, acutely pedestrian messages like “Be Prepared to Stop Burning Oil." This inclusion alone justified a separate “deluxe” version of unknown quantity within original 2,500 pressing, and is also the reason that the set went for $158 on May 18th, when regular versions fetched no more than $90 on and around the 5/18 to 5/21 stretch of days. If readers feel like all of this is a lot to process, maybe it will be comforting to know that it illustrates one simple situation that continues to occur in this little corner of the vinyl-and-eBay dynamic: Heads Remain Up Asses.
WILCO The Whole Love Box Set
Yes, Wilco are another sturdy Record Store Day mainstay; practically the RSD house band it would appear. But Wilco is a good band that occasionally attracts reactionary backlash, and the insanity has little to do with the band when an eBay seller unloads the BOX ONLY (that’s right…no records…or 45 adaptor or slipmat) for $46 on the day after Record Store Day, and not one but TWO people bid on it! Further soul-erasing research reveals that sellers spent the post-RSD days bundling this box set with the official Record Store Day 2012 plastic shopping bag and similarly adorned button in attempts to grow a profit margin. As the product minus ridiculous accessorizing or altering, no truly gross separation from reality occurred ($137.50 on 4/22). Only 300 of these were pressed, and 300 is officially limited, in case this calls for clarification.
DEVO Live In Seattle, 1981 2LP
Only three of the 2000 pressed made it onto eBay as of 5/21. The first pulled $76 (quietly ridiculous, I guess) and the second and last went for $36. This says little, if anything at all, about the nebulous big picture or condition of the biz, yet speaks volumes about Devo in 1981.
SIGUR ROS Hvarf-Heim LP
By continuing the use of their native Icelandic tongue, Sigur Ros can efficiently hide things like “compilation that was originally released in 2007” behind the falsely intellectualized cloak of unpronounceable gibberish. Add to this cocktail a neutering of what Mogwai does correctly, what thousands do better, and a gullible fan base and we have a proper place to lay the blame of reverse logic in action: This record sold for $46 on 4/26 and for $150 on 5/4.
DISTURBED 6LP BOX SET
This is the band responsible for the dumbest vocal style in the dumbest song within the dumbest genre of music to ever sicken the landscape. “Get Down With the Sickness”…you know, the one with the singer impersonating a chimp or baboon (literally) right before the chorus? We are all culturally literate enough to be on the same page here, right? Ok, this sold for $79.99 on May 21st. A week prior it sold for $230 and that followed two weeks of barren silence greeting far less Buy-It-Now prices. This may be the one Record Store Day release that momentarily opens the door to total chaos, and if any Disturbed fans are reading this, I know that you just misread my point and whispered “Fuck yeah it does, bitch” to yourself.
DAVID BOWIE “STARMAN” PICTURE DISC 7”
This record is a vexing proposition. The A-side is a classic rock staple that discerning listeners never need to hear again for as long as they live. The B-side is nothing special. This logical non-entity appeared more times (exponentially so) as the choice of unscrupulous participants in the pre-RSD sweepstakes, with one popping up for sale as far back as 4/16. Peaked at $80 on the day of celebration. Perfect example of object-fetish that not only has nothing to do with music, but has nothing to do with music that no one should care about in 2012. This is the Chevy Lumina of glam rock. Due to a severe shortage of reason and adventure in many water supplies, it can still demand a silly profit as of this writing.
THIRD MAN RECORDS
I have nothing but respect for a label that plays the game like Third Man plays the game: A new and improved “however the fuck they want to” method, is what I mean by “like Third Man plays the game.”
SOUTH OF DIMISHING RETURNS: WHEN THE RECORD STORE DAY HAT-TRICK DOESN’T WORK FOR A BAND/ARTIST AND AN OPEN-ENDED CONCLUSION.
An unavoidable portion of this year’s official release list emerged from the other end of my one-month, nine-day post-RSD research period in a dignity-free manner, saddled with the albatross of ultra low Buy-It-Now amounts that remained the color red, therefore will terminally be the ones they can’t give away. All on 7” format and rarely pulling over $9.99 as the gates opened over a month earlier, Dry the River, Bowerbirds, Sam Means, Owl City, The Civil Wars and other members of this fraternity of failure give the world a crystal ball snapshot of near-future 99 cent (and lower) bins.
Even other releases that make up a cross section of today’s anti-timeless, flash-in-the-pan or generally overhyped trite released in limited edition – something that happens all year – runs its normal favor-to-saturation-to-forgotten lifespan in fast motion. In one month and five days, we get to see what usually plays out over several months, maybe a year at the most.
The first section of this feature was born out of a growing fire in my stomach when it comes to bad music journalism and bad journalism in general. Bad writing is a huge problem now that there are fewer of the proper filters ridding the Internet of those who should not be writing. Each contested view was an amalgamation of popular crusades found amongst online anti-RSD features, columns and a few blogs. Record Store Day and eBay have dance of reciprocity that has been sliced-and-diced and unpacked many, many times by everyone from real cultural critics to sub-literate halfwits who rule comments section netherworlds at each turn. Record stores rely on Record Store Day, which in turn relies on the current state of eBay’s slow-burn relationship with (or role in the shaping of) the vinyl record corner of the music industry over the last ten to fifteen years. Remove one and you will have none. Thank you.
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