A Few Thoughts On #RecordStoreDay + Cyborgs?

Happy Record Store Day.

Yesterday, I got in a few discussions with friends about Record Store day. Figured I would address some of the main arguments that I have heard about the whole exercise.

Just Another Way For Big Labels to Make $'s

I think that sometimes we forget that there are several stakeholders in (mostly vinyl) record sales:

* The Record Store

* The Label (either Major or Independent)

*  The Band

* The Consumer of music 

Record Stores clearly make more money (often more than in entire months outside of Record Store Day). Major labels sell more product (or they would not participate). Bands sell more albums and get a higher premium from vinyl sales than they do from formats like downloads. And, consumers get access to more selection in addition to special deals that they might not see on a normal basis (which is why they stand in lines all over the country).

Win, Win, Win

So, the disgruntled parties are:

1) Independent Record Labels

I honestly cannot directly speak to the totality of the economics. But it does seem like a gigantic pain in the ass that Major labels eat up all the production capacity at the vinyl pressing facilities during the entire run-up to RSD. 

Seems like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place, record store day is only once a year, so pressing facilities have no incentive to build more capacity and they also give the high volume orders and labels priority over your stuff. 

I also get that the Majors can put out unique RSD merchandise because they have more money and resources. 

Certainly not optimal, but I suspect it is still net positive for the bottom line? Maybe someone who does independent record production can speak better to how this all works out?

2) Super-Hipsters (Rockists)

Much of the rest of the complaining that I hear seems to come from people who are nostalgic for the good old days where the red carpet and velvet rope treatment were reserved just for people like them.

Sometimes I am one of those people, I spent much of my young life wandering the endless aisles of my area record stores (Peaches and Starship in Tulsa Oklahoma were my first stores). I miss feeling like I had finally found my own temple, one of the few places where I really was more knowledgeable than everyone else.

These are the people who say things like "Vinyl today is not like the Vinyl we used to buy."

Not much difference between grumpy old school record store guy and grumpy old school fan guy.

You know the guy who loved the band "way before you even knew that they existed" and believes nobody will ever "get them" like he does.

I guess I don't have very much sympathy for these folks, I want people to buy more music, and listen to more bands, I don't care where they come from or how long they have been fans, I am just glad they are exploring and listening to new music.

I guess what I am saying is that while RSD might be occasionally annoying, I am pretty sure it lifts almost all boats.

We Should Enjoy It While We Can

Look, the future of music is not in Vinyl. 

Or in stores.

"Records" are no different than rotary telephones, black and white televisions, or buggy whips (only cooler). The only reason we still fetishize vinyl is that we have a more emotional connection to it. 

Yes, the sound quality is better (on a good stereo) and yes, you used to get liner notes and better cover art. Hell, I miss hiss and pop too. But, pretty soon, nostalgia isn't going to keep this thing rolling forever. 

Best case scenario is that record stores become like museums.


Because people always move to the most efficient and easiest way to receive information. The sheer convenience always wins in the end. At the end of the day, we are really cyborgs. As soon as scientists get implanted tech right (currently helping amputees and people with diseases interface with electronics) we will want to have seamless hands-free integration too.

Yes, I am saying that record stores are basically Jurassic Park and that eventually the T-Rex of Streaming is going to wreck the joint. I am putting all of my spare time into trying to understand the economics of how to support artists in an all-streaming world.

I suspect in ten or fifteen years, I will have to learn an entirely new universe of music interfaces too. 

Evolution doesn't end because we become comfortable with what we have (I used to love my Atari, my Sega, and my Nintendo 64 (I still have them), but the greater mass of people always move on and towards greater efficiency (did you keep your flip-phone?).

Sometimes, you just have to start moving on. Manufacturing jobs are being lost to robots, not to trade deals or Chinese workers anymore. (Ex-Machina isn't entirely fiction, uncanny valley be damned, but most of us are likely to be part of Skynet not opposed to it IMHO lol). 

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Obviously, I read too much cyberpunk. But I also am pretty sure this is our probable future, my thinking on technological progress was started with this great book called Biospheres by Sagan, check it out if you get a chance!

What do you think of Record Store Day? What do you think of the future of music? Let me know what you think, leave a comment!