By Patrick Prince
As expected, this year’s Record Store Day (RSD) covers all the bases with exclusives, limited editions and special releases — mostly on vinyl, but there are other formats as well.
Some highlights that stand out: a rare German reissue of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” will be released, along with a special John Coltrane 10-inch made from his Roulette recordings. And then there’s the Elvis Presley release of “I’m Leavin’” which will cover his folk/country spirit.
No musical genre or age bracket really gets left out. For instance, Metallica, the heavy metal juggernaut, is the artist ambassador for Record Store Day this year. Both Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash have committed to promote RSD with their own in-stores. And for the kids there is an exclusive RSD/Disney turntable from Crosley. Goldmine even has its own record tote bag available (see below), to carry all the RSD records you’ve scored.
These are only a few examples of the unique releases available on Record Store Day. It’s all very cool stuff for any collector, really. And once again, Goldmine reached out to Record Store Day organizer Michael Kurtz for the full scoop on this year’s event.
GOLDMINE: Tell us about the turnout of last year’s Record Store Day … all the positive and negatives.
Michael Kurtz: It started out great with the Dave Grohl announcement that he would be our ambassador. Then our press conference launching all 430 Record Store Day titles. St. Vincent, and Fred and Kate from the B-52’s, joined us and set the tone. It got only better from there with the roll out of the RSD Ramone’s turntable. Then there was the unannounced event with the Foo Fighters at Dave’s hometown record store, the Record Connection, in Ohio. RSD gave away lots of cool, free stuff at over 250 stores, and the stores really stepped it up with their artist events. Zia (Record Exchange) raised close to $10,000 for the Beer for Brains charity they did. In the end, most stores reported their biggest day ever, and we shattered the record we had set the year for having sold the most vinyl in the world in one day.
As far as negatives, there was a label in the U.K. who did a PR campaign spinning negative myths about RSD, basically saying we sucked while at the same time announcing the launch of a new record from them on Record Store Day. Of course, no one asked this label the simple question, “If Record Store Day is so vile, why are you releasing your artist’s record on Record Store Day?” It was clearly a marketing/PR stunt. While I salute their creativity, they selfishly hurt the stores. That sucked, but when you become successful, the haters come out.
GM: Any changes in the way things will be done this year to correct any problems? Anything you will do differently?
MK: Stores have asked us to not have as many RSD releases. 430 titles is just too much, so we’re dropping the total amount down to less than 350 this year. Also, we were asked to make the Record Store Day website more user friendly for smart phones, so we did that as well.
GM: How was Dave Grohl as an ambassador for Record Store Day in 2015?
MK: Dave gave so much to record stores last year. He did tons of press interviews, he made a special, limited-edition vinyl record called “Songs From The Laundry Room” with 10 unreleased tracks, and spoke about the importance of supporting local record stores throughout the year. And then he shocked everyone by having the whole band show up to perform at his hometown record store in Ohio on Record Store Day. I am in awe of the guy.
GM: Grohl was one of your more enthusiastic ambassadors, wouldn’t you say?
MK: Yeah, he set the bar pretty high for every ambassador to come.
GM: What do you expect out of an ambassador that they haven’t already done? Is there a higher goal you’d like see the artist reach?
MK: We are working with artists that have great management teams, so we basically talk about what is possible with all of the other things that the artists are doing throughout the year. RSD is such an international event now that we’re trying to incorporate the possibility of crossing over into other countries. For example, Metallica is our ambassador this year. It’s the first time that we’ve ever had an entire band speak as our ambassador. This means they’ll be able to do more press and it will be done from four different perspectives. Anyway, right now we’re working on a Disquaire Day (the French version of RSD) project that will include rock artists as diverse as Anthrax, The Doors, and Twenty One Pilots. All of them are helping Record Store Day show solidarity with the French in light of last year’s horrible tragedy. We’re still mourning but trying to pull together. Metallica lost a good friend at the Bataclan Theater and will be releasing a recording they made there on CD for RSD. It’s tough to keep going, but we have to celebrate life and not let the a**holes win.
GM: The music word has lost quite a few legends in the past few months — Bowie, Kantner, Frey, Lemmy … Will anything be done this RSD to honor their legacies?
MK: Yes, of course. Losing Bowie was a huge shock to record stores, and almost all of them threw celebrations of some type in their individual towns. He was a big supporter of RSD, too. I’m not sure how things will go in the future since he’s no longer here, but things look good this year with three really cool RSD releases. One is the 40th anniversary 7-inch picture disc of “TVC15” and another is the rare German reissue of “Man Who Sold The World” album, and another is the 50th anniversary RSD 12-inch featuring all six of his 1966 singles. There will also be two Motorhead pieces in honor of Lemmy. It was too late for us to do anything for Paul Kantner, but we hope to for later this year. We also would like to do something for Louis Johnson, of The Brothers Johnson. Maybe Outkast will record a version of “Strawberry Letter 23” for us.
GM: Are there any RSD in-stores you are excited about this year?
MK: Yes, both Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash are scheduled to celebrate RSD this year, and I’m a huge fan of both. Bonnie has a new album that sounds fantastic, so we’ll be celebrating that. Graham made a special RSD pressing of his new album on vinyl and it will include a 7-inch single with his classic songs “Our House” and “Teach Your Children.”
GM: What were your favorite in-stores/performances last year?
MK: I have newborn twins, so I couldn’t go out last year to hear any performances like I usually do. I heard that the Dresden Dolls were awesome when they reformed to perform on Record Store Day last year, and I heard that the Todd Rundgren and Built to Spill events were super cool, too. I think the stores hosted something like 300 live music events, so it was an exciting day for many people.
GM: Which RSD release are you looking forward to this year? Is there a favorite so far?
MK: The Doors always do something special for RSD, so I’m looking forward to their two releases. There is a cool John Coltrane 10-inch record made from his Roulette recordings. Tom Petty is going to release his second RSD release with “Kiss My Amps II.” The Jimi Hendrix estate always does something cool, and this year they are re-releasing the “Smash Hits” album, complete with the poster of Jimi and the Experience on horseback that came with the original album. RSD has access to the Sun Records vaults and this year we chose to delve into Sam Phillips’ psychedelic and soul artists. The resulting album is stunning. It sounds fresh and totally rocks. With approximately 330 special records that purposely span many genres, there is something for almost everyone.
GM: Anything that stands out as far as packaging and overall creativity?
MK: The RSD Joe Strummer “Gangsterville” album uses original, never-seen-before, artwork that Joe created. I’ve heard that the packaging on the Quentin Tarantino soundtrack album to “From Dusk Till Dawn” is super cool. The Feelies have reformed and are releasing a four-track 12-inch featuring cover version of Dylan’s “Seven Days,” The Doors’ “Take It As It Comes,” Neil Young’s “Barstool Blues” and Patti Smith’s “Speaking of Patti.” And Patti Smith went in Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios last year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Horses,” and performed the album live. It was recorded and will be released on Record Store Day. The packaging and recording is gorgeous. We’re working with Electric Lady to offer a special edition T-shirt that will honor our collaboration.
GM: Is there going to be a new official Record Store Day poster this year? How well-received are the posters? Do you hear about people framing them and becoming collectible items over the years?
MK: The RSD posters have all been pretty amazing. The Jimi Hendrix poster of him shopping in a Greenwich Village record store is the most sought after. Every year the poster has its own unique thing and, yes, there will be cool poster that is given out free in participating stores this year. We are also working with Kosmo Vinyl (ex-Clash and Ian Dury manager) to create a cool piece we’ll be giving out free. It includes some great artists writing about what album artwork means to them.
GM: Are there any RSD releases you were wowed about last year?
MK: The one that most stunned me was the David Bowie 10-inch. Most people, myself included, didn’t realize that he was launching new music from what would later come out on “Blackstar.” But that’s the open-ended magic of Record Store Day. Artists do what they want and they let people absorb it however they’d like. The Bowie 10-inch was packaged like an old 1930s 10-inch record and contained both the full-length and radio edit versions of “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)” as well as the track “’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.”
Which RSD release had the most buzz last year?
MK: The Foo Fighter’s 10-inch and the Metallica “No Life ‘Til Leather” demo cassette were probably the most sought after. The other really huge one was the Twenty One Pilots vinyl record cut in the shape of the state of Ohio. Most stores sold out of them by 10 that morning and a lot of young people got their first taste of Record Store Day.
GM: Which musical genre seems to do the best on Record Store Day? Is there a demographic (age, gender, etc?) or are these questions irrelevant?
MK: Probably rock, but last year’s Chris Stapleton’s “In Stereo” 10-inch really opened the doors to Record Store Day for country fans. It was a huge success. The average age for a participant in Record Store Day is around 24 years old now, evenly split male and female. The younger folks tend to be mostly girls though. Speaking of younger folks, we are once again working with Crosley on our official turntable. We once again picked the Cruiser turntable as it is inexpensive and parents can afford to get one for their little kids. This year’s model is a Disney turntable and it features Mickey and Pluto. It’s really cute.
GM: You now have a “HISTORY” section on your website, detailing all the past Record Store Day releases (even Black Friday releases). Collectors have to be happy about that. What’s been the response?
MK: I think the reception has been great but I haven’t spoken to many collectors, or enough to confirm that they are digging it. But looking back through all of the records we’ve worked, it’s pretty impressive.
GM: Since the first Record Store Day, how have things improved for the independent record store today?
MK: Stores are opening up all over, and we’re connecting with our indie counterparts around the world. We’re breaking all records for sales of vinyl, and indies now collectively sell more vinyl than anyone else. We changed the world. Most people are happy about it but, as I mentioned, there are some haters out there.
MK: It’s doing fine. We launched it to try and help stores have something cool to sell during the week after the majors changed the weekly street date for new albums from Tuesday to Friday to try and push people away from buying music to streaming music. I’m not against streaming but they didn’t have to damage physical record stores. That was unnecessary. Anyway, we just did a big campaign with Rhino called “Start Your Ear Off Right” with over 10 special releases made especially for indie record stores that launched on Vinyl Tuesday. It was hugely successful and everyone had a great time.
GM: Last year at this time you had started working with a company, Buzz Angle, that tracks vinyl sales. How is that going? You had been disappointed on the reporting of vinyl sales in the past.
MK: It’s going fine. We are hoping that they’ll eventually find a publication to run a regular Record Store Sales Chart so that the public can see what real music fans are buying.
GM: Do you have any personal stories about any musicians and their record collections, or their love for particular record stores?
MK: I worked quite a bit with Metallica’s Robert Trujillo on the film “Jaco,” about Jaco Pastorious’ life. Jaco’s son John has Jaco’s record collection and last year took it to record stores to spin them for fans.
It was an impressive collection of R&B, among other things. John had lot’s of great photos of Jaco in record stores. Like most musicians, he had a great affinity for the neighborhood record store.
GM: Is there a particular record store that you frequent?
MK: I recently shopped at Disco-O-Rama Music World on West 8th Street in New York City, a few storefronts down from Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios. It’s fairly small by West Coast standards but it’s very friendly and I found some cool gems in there, including a new Tedeschi Trucks Band CD single that is really cool.
GM: Lastly, any other goals you’d like to meet for this year’s Record Store Day?
MK: This year’s official film is called “Smart.” It’s a documentary about Butch Vig’s recording studio. It’s a great film and many of the musicians throughout the film reference record stores and the importance of them. The film will launch the week of Record Store Day and Butch and Steve (from Garbage/operators of the Smart Studio) will be meeting fans at both Reckless Records in Chicago and MadCity Music Exchange in Madison, Wis. We’ll be releasing a cassette of some of the bands that have made demos at the studio. It’ll be free. If we have a goal to meet, it’s to have fun. I think we’re going to do it.
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.