By Patrick Prince
As Record Store Day — the third Saturday every April — gains traction as a growing phenomenon amongst collectors and vinyl enthusiasts, the buzz now travels over to Black Friday. Record Store Day continues it’s inclusion in the popular day after Thanksgiving this year — when shoppers storm the nation’s retail spaces for the supposed best bargains of the holiday season.
For this Black Friday, the organization known as Record Store Day has a lot of special releases available at participating independent record stores. From picture discs to colored vinyl, from The Beach Boys to David Bowie, there’s an impressive array of formats, artists and music waiting for collectors. (Check out the official Black Friday releases.) Goldmine asked co-founder Michael Kurtz all about this special event.
Were you at first concerned that branching out Record Store Day’s involvement into other days — like this upcoming Black Friday — would take away the focus on the official Record Store Day every April? Or perhaps, in your opinion, it will promote it more?
Michael Kurtz: We had some reservations but when U2 stepped up to help us launch the concept of creating cool, limited edition, releases to support indie record stores during the holiday season we thought it would work. Here we are three years later after the launch with U2 and the stores now experience Black Friday with people lined up outside of their stores to get in just like the big corporate stores do. The difference is that our offerings are the opposite of crass consumerism. They are true gifts that you would want to give or get during the holiday season. Our message is that music is special and should be revered.
Do you think Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24 would be a better choice for indie record stores than Black Friday? Black Friday has so much going on as far as larger retail stores.
MK: I’m a fan of American Express and use their services. That said, many indie stores don’t use American Express for various reasons, so it’s not something that Record Store Day could attach itself to without some thoughtful planning and coordination with American Express. Because [Small Business Saturday] is their event, American Express would have to reach out to RSD to discuss.
Regarding Black Friday itself, I do have to say that we have gotten immense satisfaction seeing the stores go toe-to-toe with large retail stores for Black Friday. Black Friday was a non-event for record stores before we launched our “Back To Black Friday” campaign and now because of what we’ve accomplished these stores can compete and are having great holiday sales. It’s been a big success so far.
One of the most interesting special releases this Black Friday is a holiday album “Death Might Be Your Santa Claus.” If there is one thing very special about having Record Store Day involved in Black Friday now is the opportunity to have fun Holiday albums like this one. Agreed?
MK: Agreed. From the beginning we’ve said that we wanted to encourage creativity and a celebration of music as culture. We are now in discussions with folks about all kinds of unique pieces. We’ve barely scratched the surface on jazz, blues and funk. We’d also like to encourage the creation of a Record Store Day opera. There is much to do.
There are a few really nice picture discs for Black Friday. The David Bowie “Jean Genie” advance is one. Judas Priest “Screaming For Vengeance,” the other. But there is a lot more colored vinyl. Aren’t picture discs a bit more popular? You’d think there would be more.
MK: Because of the expensive process required for the creation of a picture disc, we are very selective about the ones we get behind. It really is determined by the artist, the artwork and the history of the recording.
One complaint heard from record store owners is on the subject of RSD special release advances. If the record doesn’t sell before the product’s official release date, it becomes harder to sell later on, especially if there is nothing different about it (unusual art, colored vinyl, etc). What is your opinion on this?
MK: We listened to this criticism and asked the labels to number the initial of these releases at a minimum so that the fan knows that they got one of the original pressings. This is the case for almost all of the RSD Black Friday releases that fall into this category this year.
Universal Music’s release of “The Velvet Underground & Nico” seems like a very unique release. Were these April 1966 Scepter Studios recordings recently found, have they been locked away somewhere for years, or were they available on bootleg before?
MK: I don’t really troll the bootleg on-line sites but my gut tells me that these recordings probably were available in some way. We’d actually like to encourage artists/labels to do more of these types of things, especially if they can pour some love into the vinyl release. One of the pleasures of Record Store Day is seeing how the event elevates the value and perception of music and treats it like the treasure it is, instead of a free disposable digital file.
The Beach Boys 10-inch pairs a new hit with an old hit. It seems perfect for the more veteran collector? Do you predict that will be a big seller?
MK: I was talking to Wayne (the owner of Rockaway Records in Silver Lake, CA) about this. Wayne is a big collector and a big Beach Boys music fan and he said that the Beach Boys’ fans are equal to any other (Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, etc.) for collectible releases. So based on Wayne’s comments I’d say yes I think this will do very well.
Are there any “Side By Side” series for this Black Friday?
MK: Yes, we are releasing a Donny Hathaway/Cee Lo Green holiday 7” called “This Christmas,” and we are in discussions about some possible cool ones for RSD 2013.
Is there a release you have high expectations for, as far as sales?
MK: The Lumineers release is totally unique so I expect that will do very well. The Dylan, Janis Joplin and Rolling Stones RSD releases always do well. I think the Primus piece will be strong. David Bowie of course. The Skrillex EPs have stirred some controversy but I think they will do well. The Shins remix 7” sounds really awesome. The Velvet Underground, the Mayer Hawthorne, the White Stripes, Tenacious D, Wanda Jackson, Gaslight Anthem and Capt. Beefheart and Zappa releases will all be strong. There are so many that it’s hard to pick just a few.
Is there a record label that excels in really unique and creative Record Store Day releases? Third Man comes to mind.
MK: I couldn’t pick one over another. Every year they all come with some pretty amazing offerings.
Do you have a favorite RSD special release for this Black Friday? One that you might buy yourself?
MK: Frank Zappa’s “Big Legged Emma,” the Shins remix 7” and the Moonrise Kingdom EP. No movie has ever used music quite like this one. It’s really special.