You all know Amoeba Music–that towering Mecca of music on Sunset Blvd filled with rows of vinyl, precious vinyl. We love Amoeba so much we stay the f*ck away from it, lest it drain our wallets and impoverish us because we can't help but want every last record in the place. They were sat down with us and told us about Henry Rollins' RSD DJ set, as well as ghost of RSDs past.
We interviewed the cofounder of Record Store Day and he lamented the emergence of a new breed of record fan. He called this fan “Ebay Guy.” Ebay Guy is generally male, and purchases limited edition releases with the sole purpose of flipping them on Ebay. What do you think of Ebay Guy and this unfortunate side-effect of limited edition vinyl?
Actually, this isn't such a new phenomenon, but it has exploded over the last few years as labels and artists have tried different ways to create excitement and demand by doing limited releases or exclusive deals with “big box” stores. The “collectors” and dealers now have a bigger forum and a more instant marketplace which sort of falsely inflates (and deflates) the value of something. It does take a bit of the magic out of it all, and some of the small community aspect. But i think that's true of the world in general due in part to the side effects of having a “global community”, as well as increased internet speed and access. That's what we are trying to do with keeping indie businesses alive and well: keeping the one-on-one trading post aspect flourishing, and the human connection of music alive and well.
Another record store proprietor we interviewed actually lamented the existence of the RSD limited edition release, saying that this is nothing but an example of manufactured rarity that automatically robs the record (or tape or cd) of any authenticity. What do you think of this claim?
Hmmmm … I do think some of the labels have gone a bit overboard, and it might seemingly add a little bit of “sparkle” to something that otherwise wouldn't get that attention, but less authentic? A great record is a great record whether it is limited edition or not, and conversely, being limited doesn't make it a great record!
There is a lot of noise made about the death of the physical music format. In your experience, have sales of records declined since the advent of mp3s?
We've seen format changes over the years and certainly a drop in cd sales with the advent of downloading–but there is a marked increase in the interest in and buying of vinyl. Plus, music fans still love to own a physical piece of music, not a “disposable” format. A record is to have and to hold forever. Vinyl is a lovingly crafted and produced piece of ART. There are also many things only available on vinyl, both early issues and new issues with different tracks. The original pressings of vinyl carry that additional mystique of history. Pop culture history. And being a tiny representative of a different time and energy when that piece was produced.
Why do you think it's important that music is available on physical formats? Other than the fact that it IS a critical part of your business model?
It is that it is BEAUTIFUL on a physical format, especially on vinyl with the large artwork and the weight of the sleeve and the vinyl. The record itself is indeed a piece of art. There is also warmth to the sound of vinyl that can't be had in a compressed MP3. Artwork, liner notes, photos–all of this makes a complete package, and it is often the rest of the “concept” in an album. The album art form has been lost with the advent of MP3s and single track marketing, and that is sad. As much as it makes music accessible quickly, it also makes it more disposable–like so many other things these days. Physical formats mean it is here for longer and there is more of an investment in it as a creative piece of art and expression.
How is RSD any different from any other in-store or sale day?
I think the main thing that touched me on that first Record Store Day was just the ENERGY in the store and the absolute enthusiasm from the patrons. The loyalty they feel for “their” record store, and having a day set aside to celebrate that and honor that is really poignant. Record store culture is something that is a deep and true thing that a lot of us grew up with: hanging out at the record store, sharing music and opening doors, learning who we are through our explorations and passions, connecting and communing with other people about those passions. That culture and that experience means a lot to people, and to continue it means a lot to people. It is a respite from the stress-filled day-to-day, it is a witness to their individuality, it is fun! And having a day set aside to honor that has been really amazing. I love the energy of Record Store Day !
What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you guys at an RSD event?
They have mostly been a complete blur! But I think the palpable energy and excitement has been the craziest thing. The collective frenzy and curiosity about the releases. Letting our inner “record geek” flag fly. We have had some fun and amazing times: Wendy and Lisa's DJ set was amazing. Slash did a signing, which was great. Spinderella knocked it out of the park with her set. Charlotte Gainsbourg did a signing in SF last year … Kelley Stoltz … so much more. We have had a complete blast each year so far, and it gets better and better.
What performances are you looking forward to this year?
This year Henry Rollins, and Evidence as well as Fucked Up, are all coming by during the day.
How many applications to you get per month, do you think, to work at Amoeba?
At least a few hundred, probably more. More than twenty a day.
If someone shows evidence of retweeting this post, either via showing you his/her smartfone screen or giving you a printout, will you give them a dollar off items purchased on RSD?
Sure, we can do that. Or … we can give them a cool freebie on RSD!