By Patrick Prince
The 10th annual Record Store Day is upon us — Saturday, April 22. Can you believe RSD is on its 10th year? And every year seems better than the last. Record Store Day organizer Michael Kurtz once again tells us what’s in store for 2017’s special celebration.
GOLDMINE: Record Store Day was conceived in 2007, so 2017 is officially a 10-year anniversary. Do you have anything planned this year specifically for this occasion?
Michael Kurtz: I’m excited about making it to our 10th year so I’ll be pushing the stores to throw the biggest party they can for their customers. That was the original purpose 10 years ago and it still is true today. Over the years I’ve seen stores do everything from host free concerts, to bake cookies for their customers, to provide drinks and snacks, and on and on. This has led to all kinds of new relationships and some people even getting married in a record store. Record Store Day itself will be making some special things that some stores can give away free to their customers as a way to say thank you for supporting us all of this time. Not all stores will have these but the ones who signed up for it will.
GM: How did the idea of Record Store Day get started? Do you remember the first conversation and brainstorming about it?
MK: I was given a challenge by Bryan Burkert, the owner of The Sound Garden in Baltimore, to make record stores relevant in the face of the collapse of Tower and the rise of digital. So I started talking with record store owners about how it could be done. Chris Brown (with Bull Moose) suggested we do an event modeled after the indie comic book stores’ Free Comic Day. Eric Levin (with Criminal) was thinking the same thought and he was the one that suggested that we make Record Store Day all about vinyl. A bunch of record store owners then gathered in Baltimore to brainstorm on how we could do it.
GM: The first Record Store Day was then scheduled for April of 2008. What were your fondest memories of the first event? Jitters?
MK: Having the initial conversation with one of Metallica’s managers, Marc Reiter, about the idea was pretty exciting. I think I did a jig after Marc said that the band was into it, and that they would help us kick off the first one. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and travelled up to San Francisco to attend their event at Rasputin. I remember driving up to the stores and being struck by how much it was like a rock concert. Their fans were there to have a good time. I got to meet the band, shake Lars’ hand, and then watched as they personally made every single fan know that they appreciated them as much as the fans appreciated the band. It took something like six hours but each band member personally talked with each and every fan! The energy level never faltered and it was pure fun. If I had any jitters it was whether the vinyl records we made would sell. No one knew then what we know now.
GM: Were there any regrets? Things you would have done differently for this first event?
MK: Honestly, no. Everyone did what they did because they wanted to do it. Like I said, it was fun.
GM: Have you noticed more independently owned record stores on the map since the launch of RSD?
MK: Definitely. Prior to Record Store Day you couldn’t pick up a paper or turn on the news without hearing about a “record store closing.” That all changed after Record Store Day, as did the idea of what a record store is.
GM: Were you pleased with last year’s Record Store Day and the way things have evolved in 10 years?
MK: Yes, we’ve stayed true to our original goal and the results have been nine straight years of breaking the sales record of the most vinyl sold in one day. Nine years! Now that can’t happen for ever but it is very gratifying. When last year I went to visit The Record Industry, the largest vinyl manufacturing plant in Europe, I was told that owners had started discussions to possibly close up shop in 2007, they were down to 30 employees and the presses were often idle. But then they met with the guys who run Furnace Manufacturing and they told them about what was happening with Record Store Day and to hang in there. Nine years later they now have over 150 employees and the plant is humming around the clock.
GM: In 2009, Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes (Eagles of Death Metal) was the first ambassador of RSD. How have things changed with that honor? What was it like to have an entire band as an ambassador — Metallica, last year? After all Metallica were at that first RSD in San Fran.
MK: The ambassador role is pretty much what it was when Jesse first suggested it. It’s really whatever the artist wants it to be. All of them have been different in different ways but Dave Grohl definitely took it to a whole new level evangelizing for record stores in the media, playing in his hometown record store, the Record Connection, on Record Store Day, releasing special records for the stores. After that, Metallica put the metal to the pedal and ramped it up again last year with their full-on performance at Rasputin, various special releases for the stores, doing press and in-store events. It was just amazing. When their new album came out record stores were selling copies of the new Metallica album at levels they hadn’t seen since the ’90s.
GM: Talk about this year’s ambassador and what they will bring to the table.
MK: This year we are really excited to have St. Vincent as our Ambassador. I loved her latest album and I caught her performance in David Byrne’s Color Guard show. I’ve heard she’s doing a soundtrack for a horror film as well as working on her new album. She is an amazingly creative artist so we don’t know how it will all go down this year. If the hilarious “Recorstorda” video she made for Funny or Die is any indication of what will be happening, it’s going to be great.
GM: Are there other RSD releases that you are personally looking forward to?
MK: In December I went back to my home town of Wilmington, NC to attend a David Crosby concert with Duane Ingram, the guy who gave me my first job in a record store called Schoolkids Records. David’s concert was nothing short of stunning and we met afterwards. David said he was really appreciative of everything that Record Store Day was doing and that he wanted to join our team. As a life-long David Crosby fan I was stunned. The very next day David did a performance at the World Café and recorded it. The results will be released on Record Store Day. I’ve heard it and it’s fantastic.
GM: Any that stand out for their packaging/design?
MK: Yes, we had a lot of success last year with our Erik Satie piece so we wanted to do another classical piece. I met with France’s Warner Classic label and we are going to release a beautiful concert by Russian civil rights proponent/cellist Mstislav Rostropovich that was supposed to be destroyed but was saved by an archivist who purposely mislabeled the concert tapes so that the Russian government couldn’t tell what it was. We are going to release it as a X-ray disc to celebrate the “bone records” that were made out of X-ray film when the Russian government would only allow production of propaganda records at the vinyl plants. It’s really a pretty amazing record to see and hear. With the Russians once again oppressing people, and democracies around the world, the record now has special relevance.
The interview with Michael Kurtz in its entirety is printed in the new Spring 2017 Record Store Day edition of Goldmine, available at select record stores and Barnes & Noble Newsstands. Click here to find out how to get your copy.
Get the latest Record Store Day news, details on in-store events and the most up-to-date edition of this year’s list of planned releases at www.recordstoreday.com. The list is available both as a web page and as a downloadable PDF — perfect for making a custom want list.