As the cash ship that was the compact disc sinks under waves of digital distribution and online streaming, brick-and-mortar record stores are treading the ice cold waters, struggling for air. This Saturday, a lifeboat will be swinging by in an attempt to pull struggling stores out of the water: Record Store Day.
It is no secret record stores, particularly independent shops, are struggling. Last year was rough for independent record stores. Despite encouraging digital numbers, year-end physical record sales dropped 7.8 percent from the year prior. Sales numbers might have been even more painful if not for a resurgence in the popularity of vinyl records. Vinyl sales exploded by 34 percent compared to the previous year.
In light of these numbers, the event is geared toward coaxing music lovers out of their cozy computer chairs and back into long aisles of meticulously organized plastic and vinyl. In addition to playing on the loyalty and guilt of music lovers, record stores are doing this by offering a number of incentives only available on Saturday.
First, record stores will carry a number of exclusive pressings produced for the event. Limited-edition material from Arcade Fire, Atmosphere and Aesop Rock, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Animal Collective, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Sigur Rós and Ryan Adams will be among the extensive selection available in participating stores. Organizers of the event stress not all stores will carry all the special pressings, making the day something of an Easter egg hunt for those looking for specific items.
Perhaps more exciting is the prospect of live music inside the record stores. In years past, local bands such as The Silent Comedy have jammed themselves inside crowded shops and performed live acoustic sets for browsing patrons. This year, M-Theory Music will feature a live performance by local rock group The Donkeys. The music starts at 5 p.m. and is free for shoppers.
While the event is certainly enjoyable for music enthusiasts, it demonstrates the industry still has some fight left in it. It is impressive what a multilateral effort from labels, artists and the shops themselves can accomplish. However, the challenge won’t be filling stores on Saturday, it will be getting people back into stores the remaining 364 days this year.
While many San Diegans will be coughing up dust at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this weekend, those who remain in town will have an opportunity for some musical retail therapy to assuage the jealousy. San Diego has a number of record shops participating in the event. Prominent among them are Mission Hills staple M-Theory Music, Pacific Beach’s Access Music and Encinitas’ Lou’s Records. For more information, including a complete list of shops participating, visit recordstoreday.com.