By Patrick Prince
There are not a lot of things enticing enough to drag the anyone less than a die-hard shopper out of bed at 0-dark-thirty on Black Friday to willingly stand in a line that makes that DMV queue look like an express lane. But the one that might get record collectors setting their alarms and battling the crowds is Back to Black Friday. Record Store Day organizers Michael Kurtz and Carrie Colliton explain it all to Goldmine.
GM: Will the free, limited-edition Back to Black Friday poster be available in all participating record stores, or only some? And how many are printed up?
CARRIE COLLITON: It’s a limited run of 5,000, and they will be available at the same stores who had the free giveaways on Record Store Day in April. Stores who are interested in getting our “party pack” sign up, and we put together a special kit that ships out to them. We try to make it a Record Store Day party in a box. For the first time, we’ll have something to send them for their Black Friday customers, as well.
GM: How did the collaboration between Record Store Day and artist/musician John Dyer Baizley begin?
CC: Record stores have always been supporters of John’s band, Baroness, and turns out he’s always been a supporter of indie record stores. We are constantly working with labels, managers and artists on creative ways for them to be involved with the stores. This is one of the most creative and plays to all of his strengths, and is a terrific thing for the stores.
GM: Perhaps this is a beginning of something long-lasting. Maybe Baizley can produce artwork for an annual poster? When buyers anticipate memorabilia, the buzz can rise each year.
CC: It’s possible! We try to work with a wide range of artists, because record stores are for everyone. We’ve had a T-shirt designed by the band Rush, a great Jimi Hendrix poster with a terrific record store back story, a shirt from Tom Waits, a poster from Neko Case. Who knows what we’ll dream up next year? I know what you mean about that anticipation thing, though. We create a special T-shirt and poster ourselves, which we sell on the website, and we know people are excited for those every year, too.
GM: Your press release remarks how Back to Black Friday should be seen as a release date every year and should not be confused with Record Store Day. Why can’t there be a second Record Store Day on Black Friday? Is it too confusing for the consumer? Is Black Friday to hectic and overwhelming for the shopper as it is?
CC: I don’t want this to sound in any way like I don’t love everything about it, but Record Store Day is exhausting. For us — there are only a tiny group of people behind the scenes — and for the stores, and possibly for the customers! Fun, but exhausting. And believe it or not, it really does take a long time to make it all come together each year. But really, the main reason is that when we first brought the idea of doing something on Black Friday up with the stores a few years ago; they were fairly unanimous that they did NOT want a second Record Store Day. They didn’t want anything to take away from what had been created. Record Store Day is the whole shebang — parties, music, events, in-stores, releases — everything geared toward the celebration of that physical brick-and-mortar store. They didn’t want to water it down in any way. So we are very clear that while there’s similarity in that, there are special exclusive releases, this is more a street date for those titles, a start to the entire shopping “season.” We see it as a way to spotlight the fact that record stores, and all local businesses, really, are great places to spend your holiday gift-buying dollars. It’s a way to get record stores into the biggest retail story of the year, which is Black Friday.
GM: Are there as many releases as there are on Record Store Day?
CC: There are not, not nearly as many. We try to make sure that the Black Friday releases still cover a wide range of genres and artists — so that everyone will have something they want to give or get — but our goal here is to have really special pieces, sometimes more expensive, things that will be treasured by those fans who get them or give them.
GM: Tell us about some of the more anticipated releases on this year’s Back to Black Friday. What are some of the coolest items for the different genres? Metal, prog, etc.?
MICHAEL KURTZ: We worked closely with the guys in The Doors’ camp to create an album with tracks picked by record store owners. The Doors’ engineer-producer Bruce Botnick went into the vaults and picked some of his favorite rare versions of these tracks, and John Densmore and Robby Krieger hand-wrote the track listings, so there are actually two different versions of the album. In addition, Rhino created this incredible album cover that is die cut, where you actually see through the sleeve into the vinyl. Talk about “The Doors of Perception!” It’s really something special to see and hold in your hands. Rush did our official RSD poster earlier this year, and they created a beautiful picture disc with an unreleased live track on it that is pretty amazing. We’re also excited about special releases from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Silversun Pickups, The Civil Wars, Duran Duran, The Grateful Dead, and we’ve got some amazing reissues that were made exclusively for RSD’s Black Friday event from The Rolling Stones, Sly & the Family Stones, Gene Clark, Harry Nilsson, Jimi Hendrix, The Replacements and tons more. In all, there are about 100 releases. All of them are special in some way. Oh, and seeing the “Zabriskie Point” soundtrack, with rare tracks from Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead, get released for Black Friday was a thrill. The Vince Guaraldi “Linus and Lucy” 7-inch single is heartbreakingly charming, too. You just melt when you hold it in your hands. It’s that cool.
GM: Tell us about your favorite releases — not necessarily the artist, but the product — innovative, most creative, etc.
MK: Well, my favorite has to be The Doors’ piece. John Densmore met with a bunch of us record store geeks a couple of years ago. He really liked the vibe of our community and said something like, “Hey, I’m finishing my next book; would you want to work on getting it out into the world?” One thing led to another, and John released “The Doors: Unhinged” on Record Store Day this year and proceeded to tour the record stores throughout the year. It was incredible, and John ended up selling over 10,000 copies, while giving Doors’ fans an opportunity to meet and talk with him in the record stores. Anyway, to follow that huge success of the book with this Doors’ album, curated by record store owners, is both super special and a blessing. Record stores love The Doors.
GM: Which releases are the most limited in release?
MK: The most limited releases tend to be regional releases that are made by smaller labels. But certain artists, both cult figures and iconic figures, like to keep the numbers for their RSD releases really limited. Dave Matthews comes to mind. The Dawes, Foals, Ernie Kovaks, Rolling Stones RSD releases are all fairly small runs, too.
GM: Have you noticed that many of the releases appear on eBay hours later, sometimes triple the price? Your thoughts on that?
CC: Yes, and we’re not happy when that happens. We spent the past few years weeding out uncool record store owners who sold RSD releases for high prices on eBay. There were only a few bad apples, but 99 percent of the stores were totally cool and put their customers first, so I’m happy to say that the vast majority of the special RSD releases end up in the hands of music fans. I estimate that there have been over 1 million various RSD pieces sold through the stores over the past seven years. Of those, at any given time, there are about a thousand or less that end up for sale on eBay. We are talking less than 1 percent, and these are generally sold by individuals, not record store owners. On a super-positive note, when we first launched RSD, there was a lot of hand-wringing about music losing its value. RSD has done its part to restore the value of music to music fans. You can see that in the high prices that are being offered for RSD releases on eBay. I mean, who would’ve ever thought that in an age when tracks can be had for free digitialy, that a song would be valued at hundreds of dollars by music fans when it comes out as a RSD special vinyl release?
GM: Any final words to Back to Black Friday shoppers?
CC: Just remember that record stores may not bombard you with ads or circulars or open at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving night — but almost everything they carry is something that somebody is going to love. And you get to shop locally at the same time, which is something that YOU can love. GM