Exclusive: Record Store Day hits back at accusations of “betraying” small labels

Exclusive: Record Store Day hits back at accusations of “betraying” small labels





We put the accusation from small labels that “Record Store Day really isn’t fun, and it’s certainly not beneficial to small labels” to RSD. 

As we reported last week, two UK indie labels Howling Owl and Sonic Cathedral have denounced Record Store Day for harming small indie labels, branding the day a “marketing stepping stone” for major labels.

Deploring Record Store Day for betraying its original intent, the labels lodged a complaint against the rules and regulations of RSD – like minimum pressing quantities and no direct sales to customers – which they argued work against the small indies. And they blamed the event for clogging up pressing plants with gimmicky, mediocre records.

The statement from the two labels revealed plans to release a split single and, rather than limiting it to the one day, one copy would be released every day for 365 days since “every day should be Record Store Day”.

We approached Entertainment Retailers Association, the company who run Record Store Day, with these allegations. Is RSD guilty of promoting quantity over quality? Does the event end up becoming a day for eBay flippers? What’s the deal with all these rules and regulations? And has RSD been co-opted by majors with indie labels knocked out?

Record Store Day issued The Vinyl Factory with the statement below in response to the accusations:

Music arouses passions. The music business arouses passions. And when you’re dealing with something as emotive as music, that’s how it should be. But it does mean that almost any initiative you take in the music business, however benign, will find its detractors.

That’s the situation Record Store Day finds itself in this week as UK indie labels Howling Owl and Sonic Cathedral accuse us of “betraying” its purpose. Set aside for the moment the fact that the two labels conveniently raise this to coincide with the release of a single (publicity stunt anyone?), what is really objectionable is the way they have misrepresented one of  the most beneficial new music promotions of the past two decades.

Record Store Day has beyond doubt been the most important catalyst in the recent revival and growth in number of independent record shops. Along the way it has also driven the vinyl revival. And engaged a whole new generation of fans in music buying.

To make it clear, the purpose of Record Store Day is not to promote independent labels. It is to promote independent record shops (the clue is in the name).

Of course, because indie record shops disproportionately support independent labels, indie labels are among the biggest winners from RSD. While media coverage inevitably focuses on superstar acts often signed to major labels, in fact three out of four RSD releases are on indie labels. That’s hardly a “betrayal” of indies.

The number of releases from the majors has remained relatively static in recent years, so the increase in the number of titles – another criticism is that there are too many – has mainly been driven by indie labels. We don’t blame indie labels – the whole point is to sell records – but we have asked all labels to think harder about quality and this year the number of releases is in fact down by around 10% compared to 2014.

Yes, we do suggest a minimum of 500 copies– though we do make exceptions – but with over 220 stores participating and huge public demand, we don’t think a little over two copies per store is too onerous. Remember too that smaller runs can increase costs, which does not serve fans. The flipside of limited editions of course is the eBay problem. The greater the excess of demand over supply, the more likely it is that someone will really betray the spirit of the day and try and make a quick buck.

I could go on. The fact is that everyone involved in Record Store Day is passionate about it. We know it’s not perfect and we know we need more pressing plants. But it’s a hell of a lot better than a world without Record Store Day.

Give us a break.

– Kim Bayley

Comments (21)

  1. Fred Somsen 3 years ago

    Agreed, every day IS record store day for us at Drag City!

  2. Neville Godwin 3 years ago

    Great answer. Whatever you do, they’ll be profiteers. There’s nowt as queer as folk!

  3. BasculeTheFule 3 years ago

    RSD is now a massive pain in the arse, having been first hijacked by the carpet baggers and then incorporated by the big corporations, thereby pushing up prices and reducing the availability of decent music at the same time.

    Well into the middle of last year we were told the pressing plants were still catching up after big money muscled aside passion and commitment on RSD, and this year we are already getting news of the first indie pressings to be pushed out months to accommodate the big labels with their reissued dross.

    If the big companies love vinyl so much, why don’t they invest some money in new plant? It was the indie labels and indie shops that vinyl’s head above water while corporations fell in love with CDs and downloads, only returning to the old flame for a quickie while there is a buck to made out of it.

    I used to like RSD, and as such used to participate, but now it has been utterly consumed by profit, so I will stick with the indie stores and direct sales from the bands who make music worthwhile, rather than some dull chore that you get to pay for, and leave this year’s batch of reissues for those that didn’t get what they /really/ wanted on RSD (never mind, it’ll be on ebay by lunchtime!) and wanted to come away with /something/ for their 3am start.

  4. patchdkeyes 3 years ago

    In total agreement with Howling Owl / Sonic Cathedral on this one. The amount of pressing delays etc that small labels have to deal with ultimately damage the independent shops who choose to stock them – the indie labels and shops help to hold each other up so why not put more focus on the indie labels too whilst you’re at it? There are represses of major label LP’s that are incredibly easy to pick up in a decent second hand record shop so why bother repressing them? it makes the RSD list look boring and backward thinking…

  5. Nik Dyer 3 years ago

    Dear RSD
    You badly need to listen to the criticisms of RSD not just attack any critique that comes your way. As someone who embraced and loved the event for years now – it has tumbled from former glories to a situation where the mass big label re-releases and the VASTLY OVERPRICED product is now actively ripping off fans. How can £10 for a 7″ and £20 plus for a rereleased LP be justified?
    LISTEN to what is being said don’t just dismiss these voices – and as for attempting to say this is a publicity stunt for Sonic Cathedral to move 350 copies of a split single – for god’s sake grow up.
    RSD has the capacity to do good – and in fact has done some good things in the past, these are now being outweighed by overpriced poor value product dominating the shelves.

    • bob carol 3 years ago

      Prices are set by the record labels, not RSD. Your criticism would be better directed at them, seeing as they’re the folk who can change what you’re complaining about. This seems so painfully obvious that it’s ridiculous to have to point it out.

      • Nik Dyer 3 years ago

        Again you are so painfully defensive like you have no case to answer….These records are carried under your banner – if you excluded LPs and 7s over a certain amount you could do it.
        How about something revolutionary like RRPs????
        If you continue even tacit approval of overpriced product YOU are at fault and RSD is coming apart at the seams.
        Fail to listen and you will die – this is the start of something serious, you are not standing up for the general record buying public. I but loads of records a month – if you don’t listen to people like me you are alienating your core support.
        Accept there are things that are seriously wrong with RSD before it is too late (it may already be)

    • Alan Jordan 3 years ago

      Here’s an idea, let’s make the records cheaper, and in fewer quantities as suggested, I’m sure that will make them more available, not. There will always be the critics, I own a record shop to pay my own bills, not to pander to those think they can run my business better than I can!

      • Nik Dyer 3 years ago

        That’s a very disappointing attitude from a record shop owner and I suggest that you need to listen to people like me – I am not alone and spend considerable sums weekly on vinyl. Whether you like it or not I am your bread and butter pal – and if I am hacked off with RSD – it is in serious trouble. I can see that RSD has done a lot of good IN THE PAST and will remain a cash cow for some shops for maybe one or two more years – the backlash is growing and if owners don’t reject (or at the very least complain) about £25 single albums and £10 singles (how can you justify those prices?), or at least complain about prices your days are numbered. In the meantime you appear to be saying its money for me and I’m alright jack. If you think you can build a business on one day’s trade then fine – doesn’t seem like a sensible business model to me, sounds to me like you need some advice on how to run your business – try less arrogance – it may work for you.

        • Alan Jordan 3 years ago

          As I said, I don’t want advice from you on how to run my business, that’s just arrogant AND rude, I’ve been in this business for 33+ years. You have no idea where my bread and butter comes from, so you are not qualified to comment on that. It’s the British way, build something up, then smash it down. You don’t like the RSD prices, fine, don’t buy anything, all the other items you buy will still be there for you on the other 364 days a year.

  6. RIP_America 3 years ago

    Don’t worry, the whole “vinyl revival” is built on a completely unsustainable model that is going to collapse soon. It’s not like the vast majority of shoppers are taking the time to discover artists they haven’t heard before on RSD, they’re simply buying their $50 Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin re-issues the major labels are putting out. Once everyone has re-purchased them, only to realize they were ripped-off, they’ll go right back to downloading MP3’s off the pirate sites again.

    The other 5% of shoppers are there for the intentionally limited releases (ie: last year’s Cake box set). Isn’t it funny how every other release ends up in the clearance bin by the summer?

  7. paralaxe 3 years ago

    I am from a small label in Barcelona, and have been told by 8+ European pressing plants of delays, some openly acknowledge the ‘vinyl trend’ for this. Four have told me that they are no longer taking new clients because they are overwhelmed. This has meant that I will miss important events that I was hoping to launch vinyls at, and to be fair this seems to be such a spike in demand that I did not anticipate it (delays were not so long for past releases). As for a minium copies to participate, that is a bit rubbish, I release music for the love of it, and when I can afford to, which means sometimes I can only do 300.

    “Remember too that smaller runs can increase costs, which does not serve fans.” – Thanks RSD but I don’t need your business advice.

  8. mrguitarman 3 years ago

    “To make it clear, the purpose of Record Store Day is not to promote
    independent labels. It is to promote independent record shops.” Maybe this should have been in larger, bold type.

    • Nik Dyer 3 years ago

      Lets’s abrogate all responsibilty for the ethics of the event and the fairness to the record buying public should have been in similar type for the hard of thinking. Larger type only helps people like you pal.

      • mrguitarman 3 years ago

        Do you work in a retail record store?

  9. OptimusHateCrime 3 years ago

    My local record shop still has “exclusive” records from last years RSD that no one wanted. They’ll be joined by this years glut of rubbish as well for next years event.

  10. sludgephace 3 years ago

    What a crock of shit. RSD, in it’s early beginnings, was a novel concept at best. Many of us had no problem selling vinyl before they came along, and if anything, the day has become an enormous detriment to anyone who isn’t Universal Music and is trying to conduct normal business as a label. I find their claim to having driven the vinyl “revival” to be beyond hilarious, if anything, they’ve ridden the coat-tails of it.

    As far as their claim that “3 out of 4” titles is an indie, well, I guess that depends on what your definition of independent is. The vast majority of what I’m seeing offered is major label, or major label affiliated. Do you think Matador is an indie label in 2015? If you do, then you don’t know what an indie label is.

    As much as I detest this incredibly silly and contrived tribute to record stores, at the same time it has become our single biggest sales day of the year, eclipsing even boxing day by a long shot. However, it’s doomed, as people start to realize that they have a 1 in 1000 shot at any given store of actually getting a copy of that one thing they want, because the ingenious industry behind it thinks that manufacturing 500 of something that 8000 people want is good business.

    I despise RSD yet I love RSD. I feel like i’m on the losing side of a very destructive relationship.

  11. Mike M 3 years ago

    Record Store Day is pretty openly a marketing campaign for indie record stores. Its job is to bring people through the doors to the record store and to help the store move some records. That’s it. If you don’t like the records, don’t buy them. I wouldn’t buy most of them, either (I’ll occasionally buy limited release stuff from artists that I really like, but I don’t like deliberately limited releases unless the music is actually specific to the release and it’s limited because it’s fan service stuff with a limited market, but a market that will really appreciate it). But, the stuff that they’re putting out, especially the major label stuff, is making money, and record labels, record plants, record stores etc. all have to make money. RSD obviously does not solve every problem in the music industry, or even in the smaller world of vinyl, but those problems won’t be solved at all without money rolling in.

  12. TK Morgan 3 years ago

    Hear hear!

  13. Rob 3 years ago

    I posted a comment on this story at the end of last week. It has been removed. I wonder how many other comments have been removed.

  14. Paul Rigby 3 years ago

    The problem with RSD is not the limited nature of the product (that’s what makes the day so ‘exciting’). It’s not the fact that major labels take part per se (they own the copyright to many rarities and potential rarities). The problem with RSD is two-fold.
    Firstly, the so-called rarities are often anything but (this is why a lot of unsold RSD product remains in indie shops). Often RSD is seen as a box-shifting, re-labelling, re-marketing, label ‘get out’ for product that failed to move during day-to-day business. Witness much of the Sony Legacy US unsold material that has, in the past, often been shipped to the UK under the RSD guise (stand up the Aerosmith vinyl reissues flogged to us last year). Also much of the RSD product is actually produced in too high numbers and, once RSD has come and gone, are often reprinted for sale all over again as standard issues! This devalues the RSD originals and makes anyone who has queued for the original RSD item look like a fool.
    The second issue is that the RSD raison d’être was to help ailing indie record stores. If RSD product was ONLY sold through these shops then all would be well. Problem is that the world and his mother are getting hold of the stuff, before on or immediately after RSD (which is why many music fans ignore indie stores and, instead, hang about and wait for eBay deals to appear on line later on). I’ve even seen Amazon freely post RSD product on pre-order, eBay merchants find it too easy to grab RSD product for resale, etc. Stop these two major issues and RSD would be doing a great job.

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