Who among you remembers a time when record stores were an important part of your life? It’s a dwindling number, to be sure, but we’re out there. For the rest of you, let me, a human who was born in 1970 and is somehow still alive today, tell you of a time not long ago when people got their music in one of two places: the radio, or the record store. Shops with names like Musicland, Sam Goody, Penguin Feather, and Kemp Mill Records (see amazing TV commercial below) would actually have a release schedule posted on a chalkboard in the store, and if you were really jonesing for the new record by Meat Loaf, you’d show up early to snag one of the first copies. Those were innocent times, when music meant a lot because of its relative scarcity. Things have changed so much since then. I’ve seen music formats go from record to 8-track to cassette to CD to MP3 to something called the Cloud. And while technology keeps marching ahead, experiencing music hasn’t really changed all that much for people born in, say, 1992. Growing up, you had the internet, and then, more internet. You want to hear a song, you type a few keystrokes and you’ve got it. No more "staring at your radio, staying up all night." And no more record stores. Well, a few record stores still exist, and the people who work there still care deeply about music, and although it’s inevitable that they’ll be extinct sooner or later, I’m glad that the holiday known as Record Store Day exists.
Record Store Day 2013 is tomorrow, April 20. (Of course it’s a coincidence that it happens on 4/20.) It was established in 2007 by a group of independent record store owners and employees to celebrate all that’s great about having a physical place to buy your music – and physical people to buy it from. Every year, record store-loving artists release new music available only in participating record stores, and many bands make special appearances in those stores. The idea is that you show up for that music or performance, and you realize how great records stores are. Not just for buying music, but for hearing it, and talking about it, and getting new ideas, and just plain hanging out. The record store hangout is a lost art, but where else could I have had an essential discussion on the progression of Iron Maiden album art from Killers to Piece of Mind, or the deeper meaning behind Styx’s Kilroy Was Here.
This year, a bunch of stuff is happening for the holiday. The Toadies and Sarah Jaffe will be covering PJ Harvey on a special colored 7" record, available only in record stores. Wind-Up Records is celebrating its 15-year anniversary by similarly releasing a red 10" compilation with tracks from Finger Eleven, Seether, The Darkness, and the Vinginmarys. Other releases and events abound, so check out the Record Store Day website for an event – and a record store – near you. Stop into your local record store. Dig through the bins, inhale the musty smell, let the employees pass judgement on your taste as they ring you up, and connect with an earlier era of music-buying.
You might need to buy a record player, though, which were once known to audiophiles as turntables. (The needle was a "stylus.") But it’s worth it for the warmth of the sound, and the connection to a time when people had to work hard to stay current.
[Find great record stores like New York’s Academy Records – which is going big for Record Store Day this year – in the BlackBook Guides; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter. Read Rolling Stone’s Record Store Day Must-Haves]