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

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

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RSD

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

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