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Working For the Weekend: With Vancouver’s record store clerks, chatting all things Record Store Day

Monday 06th, April 2015 / 03:01
By Team BeatRoute

VANCOUVER — Record stores are brick-and-mortar dinosaurs that, thankfully, refuse to die. Vinyl specialists are the face of the physical music scene in a digital world. For some that sounds like they’re the kids who bring knives to gun fights, but with the news of Canada Boy Vinyl record pressing plant opening in Calgary later this spring, there’s hope that record stores will continue to flourish. BeatRoute caught up with a number of Vancouver’s iconic record store clerks to ask about the state of the scene, ahead of annual Record Store Day on April 18th.

J.J.

J.J. at SCRAPE Records Photo: Sarah Whitlam

J.J. SCRAPE Records
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Record store: SCRAPE Records

Favourite record at the moment: Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase

Most unnecessary re-release you’ve seen: Anything on cassette.

In your opinion, what is it going to take to save the record industry? It has to start with the record industry executives, particularly the major labels, need to take their heads out of their asses and re-adapt / restructure to the current times. To begin with, there is no good reason anymore to release singles physical or online in advance of when the full album has yet to be released. Full albums physical and digital must be available for purchase at the same time the debut single from an album is released.

There also has to be very serious repercussions (fines/jail) to those who think they have the right to post music online that they don’t own the copyright to. Especially when the album has yet to be released.

What is your musical project? It’s endless.

What are the pros and cons of RSD in your opinion? It’s nice to bring attention to the indie records stores, but as cool as it is to have some neat / limited edition vinyl titles only available in indie stores, it has become oversaturated very quickly.

This year alone there will be approx 500 titles released for RSD. Then you throw in Black Friday RSD later in year. Way too much in my opinion. It cries of desperation from the labels.

Ben Frith

Ben. Neptoon Records. Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Ben Frith. Neptoon Records.
Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Record store: Neptoon Records

Title/Position: Manager

Favourite record at the moment: Sumac – The Deal

Most unnecessary re-release you’ve seen: For Record Store Day this year…either the James Last 7” or the Theory Of A Deadman – 5 LP Boxset.

In your opinion, what is it going to take to save the record industry? I think a stronger dialogue between the major labels and retailers would help a lot. You can tell that some of the people running the show just do not get what people want.

What is your musical project? (The band name is storc) We are loud.

What are the pros & cons of RSD in your opinion? Pros: It’s the busiest day of the year for us, and it’s always a super fun party! It really gets people that might not normally go to a record store to come in for the day, which is always a good thing. Cons: There aren’t enough hours in a day to pack more bands on the bill! Also, the amount of limited special releases really needs to be limited. It’s getting really out of hand.

Evan McDowell

Red Cat Records. Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Evan McDowell. Red Cat Records.
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Record store: Red Cat Records

Favourite record at the moment: The Cyrillic Typewriter – “Best Suit”

Most unnecessary re-release you’ve seen: Really, anything that’s already in print. This year: The Doors, or Sinatra.

In your opinion, what is it going to take to save the record industry? More pressing plants!

What is your musical project? Jay Arner (I’m in his live band). He’s working on his second album

What are the pros and cons of RSD in your opinion? Pros: A new lease on life for some smaller albums. Cons: Flippers.

Dale Wiese

Dale Weise. Noize To Go. Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Dale Wiese. Noize To Go.
Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Record Store: Noize To Go

Position: Owner

Favourite record at the moment: Art Bergmann – Songs for the Underclass + Jr. Gone Wild – less art, more pop!

Most unnecessary re-release you’ve seen: Peter Frampton Comes Alive

In your opinion, what is it going to take to save the record industry? Lower prices for new vinyl

What is your musical project? It’s not my project, but the upcoming Pointed Sticks album is quite amazing.

What are the pros and cons of RSD in your opinion? Con – too much emphasis on overpriced limited edition releases. Pro – a reminder that independent music stores kick ass.

Raul a.k.a. Su Comandante

Raul. Highlife Records. Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Raul. Highlife Records.
Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Record store: Highlife Records

Favourite record at the moment: Public Enemy – Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp.

Most unnecessary re-release you’ve seen: Ghostbusters 10″ LP glow in the dark single. Who you gonna call???

In your opinion, what is it going to take to save the record industry? Downloading is a great way to check out music worldwide for the artist and fans. Now, people who like to visit records shops and go to see live shows are music lovers where there is an understanding and support of the artist and community places like the local businesses. Relearning to appreciate music and the formats that make it enjoyable is what’s gonna help. Most important is when you interact with people in a place like a record store, we trade information and learn from each other. You can’t replace that with downloading.

Describe your personal musical project in one flashy sentence (if you have one): Working with the younger generation and reminding them to embrace art & music & their own creativity.

What are the pros and cons of RSD in your opinion? The pros of RSD is that it showcases local record stores, creates a sense of community and supports local artists because they often do performances, signings etc. The main cons is that sometimes the choices of re-releases are not that great.

Katayoon

Katyoon, Horses Records. Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Katayoon, Horses Records.
Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Record store: Horses Records

Favourite record at the moment: Pete Shelley – Homosapien. Pete Shelley is from the Buzzcocks and that’s album is his solo new wave project. I’m on a really big New Wave kick, lots of Fad Gadget and Gary Numan.

Most unnecessary re-release you’ve seen: The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great album, but by the time it hits the shelves it’s going to be nearly $70. I just don’t understand that. I think that’s the biggest issue with the releases… a lot of them are really cool and exciting, but they’re so expensive because they’re 180 gram special edition splatter vinyl made from Jack White’s toenail clippings or whatever.

In your opinion, what is it going to take to save the record industry? More pressing plants.

What is your musical project? I’ll quote my friend Flip Sandy from Lucky’s Comics: “If I was a bug, I’d be honoured to have Other Jesus step on me.”

What are the pros and cons of RSD in your opinion? This is our first Record Store Day, so we’re going to see how it goes. I am buying cautiously because I want to make sure I’m not ripping people off and I am being ripped off the least amount possible. I think the special edition/novelty release thing has gotten out of hand and now it’s not really benefiting the small stores or the consumer, but the labels who are cashing in. What I really like about it is that there’s a whole day dedicated to record stores, which allows us to have a huge show and a sale and have a bunch of people in the store celebrating records. This year we’re going to have a stacked bill with Peace, Flyin’, Whitney K (formerly Koko), Genderdog, Mosfett, SP Davis and C. Diab. I really like those aspects of it – the community and the music. We’re going to focus on those things this year.

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson. Audiopile Records. Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Mark Richardson. Audiopile Records.
Photo: Jessica Brodeur

Record store: Audiopile Records

Favourite record at the moment: Russell St. Bombings “s/t”

Most unnecessary re-release you’ve seen: The A-Ha 7″ Picture Disc is an especially useless item this year.

In your opinion, what is it going to take to save the record industry? We don’t need saving but the collapse of the major labels would be nice.

What is your musical project? I’m not in a band but if my radio show counts it’s 90 minutes of critical new music every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on CiTR.

What are the pros and cons of RSD in your opinion? Pros: The amount of attention record stores get on that day and the handful of actually decent things that come out. Cons: The increasingly distressing major label influence on RSD and their glut of over-priced, unnecessary releases.

Alex Zulu

zuluRecord store: Zulu Records

Favourite record at the moment: Local? Dada Plan… that record is fresh.

Most unnecessary re-release you’ve seen: U2: Songs of Innocence – I managed to get a free copy on my iPhone just by doing nothing!

In your opinion, what is it going to take to save the record industry? Good question. Music will not exist if artists (big and small) refuse to make records. Traditionally independent labels run by good people with good distribution networks, and series of great stores (both online and brick and mortar) have supported an industry that has allowed artists to make great records, tour and make a decent living. Sort out streaming revenues so that the artist can survive. Sort out pressing plant woes so that record labels can make record fans happy. Things are in chaos right now and within that a lot of terrible strategies will come about, but hopefully some good ones too. Just get more indie. One note: Record companies (and subsequently record wholesalers) should support record stores by allowing return policies on vinyl, like they used to when vinyl was the dominant format (pre CD’s & cassettes).  When CDs took over as the dominant format, record companies and wholesalers started easing up on vinyl returns from stores.  Now that vinyl is doing relatively well again, they don’t allow returns on unsold vinyl, like they used to. If record companies truly believe in the artists’ releases they’re putting out, and in vinyl, they should how good faith to the record stores and allow for returns of those records that just don’t quite sell as anticipated. Sooner or later the store will get stuck with non-selling records, that they sometimes have to heavily discount. Every record store has new vinyl just sitting there, which cuts into the overall store’s margins on the vinyl that does sell well. Wouldn’t be a problem if every new vinyl record that every store carried sold, or if the margins were just great, period, but that just isn’t the reality.

Describe your personal musical project in one flashy sentence (if you have one): The Countless Vibes – mythical beast band.

What are the pros and cons of RSD in your opinion? Pros – the original spirit of record store day may have faded a bit, but at least there is still a party where in the tipsy twilight hours music is transmuted from a commodity back to an artform. Cons – it has been co-opted by major labels, clogged pressing plants, price gouging, flippers, unfilled allotments, being forced to take unwanted product, defective products that went to press to quick, gimmicks, making it a music Mardi Gras that doesn’t sustain the record store the rest of the year…

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