It was the warm season in Portland, Maine, and that July day in 2007, the mercury never rose above 78 degrees.
So we can imagine that Chris Brown, manager of indie record store Bull Moose, might have dipped outside to take in the air before his lunch break. Perhaps while he was watching the foot traffic proceeding along the hippest block of Middle Street, dead center of the part of town known to locals as "Old Port," Brown pondered once more the idea that had been germinating in his brain for some time. It seemed far-fetched, but it had worked for the comic book industry. All those nerds were packing comic conventions around the country, and weren't music geeks a lot like comic nerds, anyway?
Brown, we can imagine, leaned back against the brick facade near the store's display window, beneath the now-iconic blue sign depicting moose antlers emerging from an abstract swirl suggesting a spinning slab of vinyl, and took a breath.
Then he headed back inside, bound for the store's break room to peck out an email to his friend Michael Kurtz, president of music retailer coalition The Department of Record Stores, who was watching the still-in-process collapse of mainstream music retail outlets from his perch in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Beneath the subject line "Idea," Brown began to type.
"Now, on to Indie Record Store Day," he began, for he had been kicking around the idea with Kurtz for a while, though he had never given it a title.
"It needs a different name, of course. I'm just thinking as I type, but it could be a national event that drives people to indie stores. We would need all coalitions - not just the ones we usually work with, plus all the unaffiliated indies.
It might be good to do it in our slow period - Feb or March. I don't know if we would want to give away free CDs or what. We would need some nice licensed pieces - maybe something along the lines of the upcoming Guided by Voices rarities box.
There is a huge press angle here too. Indies rule. We haven't gone anywhere. We are better than ever and we are more important than ever before…
I'm going to close because I haven't eaten lunch yet.
Ten years later, Record Store Day is a bonafide worldwide success; Kurtz has been made a Chevalier of the Ordre Des Arts et Des Letters in France, in acknowledgement of Record Store Day's contribution to the cultural and artistic life of the French people; there are participating Record Store Day stores on every continent except Antarctica; a "Black Friday" edition of RSD is an ancillary hit around the globe; and RSD can count as fans and endorsers everyone from Paul McCartney to Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Chuck D, the Flaming Lips, and this year's ambassador, indie icon St. Vincent.
In retrospect, it's fortuitous that Brown decided to ignore his hunger pangs on that July day.
When RSD was getting started, the collapse of the major music retailers was being touted in the media – with an almost cruel, gleeful, "I told you so" attitude – as the death knell for brick and mortar record stores, particularly the independents. If anyone had suggested that vinyl was going to become much more than something aging rock geeks spent their money on, they were asking for abuse.
Today, however, while digital streaming is clearly the favored mode of music dissemination, vinyl is not just a boutique item selling to dudes in Pink Floyd t-shirts – it's a sub-industry riding a serious high. According to Fortune, vinyl sales totaled $416 million in 2015, while revenues from ad-supported streaming services totaled $385 million. Those numbers took a very slight dip in 2016, but they still constitute a movement that is far more than a mere fluke or anomaly.
Even Drake and Taylor Swift release their product on vinyl these days. They would be foolish not to. As Kurtz told ArtistDirect.com just prior to last year's RSD, contrary to the popular notion of vinyl junkies being predominantly male, "it is really young girls between the age of 15 and 28; they’re really driving the main thing. They really love the culture of buying records and having that experience and they’re kind of dragging the younger guys along with them. Which is counter-intuitive - you wouldn’t think it would be that way, but it definitely is that way."
Record Store Day was conceived by its founders as a party, a means of reminding people that independent record stores still existed and, if they weren't necessarily flourishing, well, they were enduring and doing ok, unlike their mainstream and "big-box" competitors. It helped that Metallica got on board that first year, performing for, and then hanging out with, fans at Rasputin Music in San Francisco, and acting as ambassadors for the event.
Ten years into the game, that's still the m.o. – in-store performances are the norm, from London to Chicago to, yes, Buffalo, where Record Store Day has become the equivalent of a Dyngus Day for vinyl dorks.
Recent weeks have not been kind to indie record stores in the Buffalo area. Record Theatre president and brainchild Lenny Silver died in March, and the chain closed one of its two remaining stores – the University Plaza location – several days later, citing a need to consolidate. Weeks earlier, indie hot-spot Spiral Scratch Records announced its plans to close, seemingly for good.
You can interpret these events as a negative omen, but the Buffalo market still boasts three stores that will participate in RSD on Saturday – Record Theatre (1800 Main St. at Lafayette), Revolver Records (1451 Hertel Ave.) and Black Dots (223 Lafayette St. at Grant) will all take part in the festivities and will be offering some or all of this year's RSD exclusives.
Among them are special products from David Bowie, Jason Isbell, Bruce Springsteen, Big Star, The Black Angels, the Flaming Lips, the Goo Goo Dolls, Pink Floyd, Sunny Day Real Estate, Elton John, The Cure, Notorious B.I.G., Lou Reed, Neil Young, Spoon, Luna, Offspring, the War on Drugs, Stevie Nicks, Prince, Rush, U2, Drive By Truckers, Madonna, Animal Collective, Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, Dennis Wilson, and the Ramones.
I hope you've budgeted accordingly.
Local Guide to Record Store Day
Record Theatre (1800 Main St.)
Opening: 9 a.m.
Events: A full schedule throughout the day, with some pretty fancy guests and vendors, including 103.3 FM The Edge, Lloyd Taco Trucks, RnR BBQ Food Truck, and Community Beer Works. Live music starts at noon with the “We Killed McKinley” Showcase, featuring artists from the all-Buffalo compilation.
The CD will be for sale, with proceeds benefiting the WNY Housing Coalition. Artists performing include: Tigerwine, Robert Sarazin Blake, First Ward, Love Parade, Bethany Fonda, Black Canyon, Grace Lougen & Josh English, Mom Said No, So Far So Good, Stress Dolls, Frankie Fjord, Church Key Social and Dead Lounge.
Special products: The full spectrum of RSD exclusives, while they last.
Revolver Records (1451 Hertel Ave.)
Opening: 8 a.m.
Events: Live music throughout the day, including sets from Kerry Fey, Cherisse & Tim,
and Ed Croft and friends.
Special products: Revolver is fully vested in RSD, and is offering a broad cross-section of exclusive titles, while they last.
Black Dots (223 Lafayette Ave.)
Opening: 10 a.m.
Events: Catering by GG's Franks, adult beverages, live music throughout the day, with sets from Del Paxton, Yellow House, Rap & Destroy, DJ Reazon.
Special Products: A hand-picked overview of RSD titles, available on a first-come, first-served basis.