Smaller labels and organizations have been griping about the behemoth known as Record Store Day for a long while now. The latest to voice a complaint is the Chicago-based record label Numero Group, who published a statement today explaining why they were opting out of this year’s event.
“What started off as a clever way to support independent shops during a physical and sonic recession has blown up into an unwieldy grip-and-bitch fest,” they wrote. “Lines, fights, flippers, backed up pressing plants, stock shorts, stocking and pricing at 4am the morning of, and that inevitable mark down bin filled with all manner of wasted petroleum and bad ideas. If you’ve ever walked into a record store on the third Saturday in April you know the drag of which we speak.
“The only people who are really happy are the major record companies who continue to prop the whole charade up with overpriced singles and needless pic discs,” they continued. “The stores make their nut and keep the lights on for another year. Rinse and repeat.”
Record Store Day takes place this weekend on Saturday (4/21). For their part, Numero Group are still holding a pop-up store in Chicago, where they’ll launch a new magazine called Periodical Numerical.
Here’s their full statement:
Over the past decade we’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with Record Store Day. What started off as a clever way to support independent shops during a physical and sonic recession has blown up into an unwieldy grip-and-bitch fest. Lines, fights, flippers, backed up pressing plants, stock shorts, stocking and pricing at 4am the morning of, and that inevitable mark down bin filled with all manner of wasted petroleum and bad ideas. If you’ve ever walked into a record store on the third Saturday in April you know the drag of which we speak. The only people who are really happy are the major record companies who continue to prop the whole charade up with overpriced singles and needless pic discs. The stores make their nut and keep the lights on for another year. Rinse and repeat.
It would be a lie to say that Numero has not benefited from this hysteria, as stores have generously brought in our left field wares with full knowledge that they wouldn’t be the must buy of the day. We’ve always strived to manufacture records that would find their audience well after the shop closed. WTNG was panned so hard upon issue, and for years copies sat sealed in RSD leftovers bins. Store owners called it our worst release ever, some returned them, and more than a few times— while trawling the used and cut-out bins looking to fill out our own collections and future compilations, bought heavily-discounted, still-sealed copies to later resell for subzero profit. But through the lens of time, the album has become a classic in the Sausalito-cum-Yacht school of mixes. Songs by Caroline Peyton, Greenflow, Timothy, Archie James Cavanaugh have soundtracked High Maintenance, Broad City, and Magic Mike. Whatever sweat was spilled by disgruntled shop owners over those unsold albums has been forgotten.
For the sake of argument, go ahead and count the number of classic records issued on Record Store Day. (We’ll Wait.) Are there more than a dozen? Unlikely, because at its core RSD is a marketing event designed to generate traffic by pushing manufactured rarities that scrape off the chaff from deluxe edition CD bonus material and flaunt their first-time-on-wax status while remaining no less unessential, not a day to celebrate the best this backwards industry has to offer. And that’s something we just can’t hang with. Record stores need customers that understand that every day is Record Store Day, and record labels need to create crackerjack titles that—in the words of Ahmet Ertegun, “move the listener to such an extent that he or she has to get up out of bed, walk ten blocks, borrow twenty dollars from a friend and run to an all-night shop to buy the record to hear it again.”
This week we’re issuing two timeless records on the industry-standardized Friday release date. They’re not punitively or intentionally limited, nor are they expensive. They weren’t born by pouring over an Excel document that had pre-approved titles from the sales department. We encourage you to buy them from an independent retailer, and hope these folks left some room in the budget to bring a couple in. If not, you can get them from us. Folks in Chicagoland will be happy to know that our annual pop up store will happen on Saturday, April 21st, with an assortment of new and used records, the debut issue of our new magazine Periodical Numerical, our usual array of miscellaneous weirdness, and a handful of other surprises. Borrow twenty bucks if you have to.