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Inside Record Store Day

April 17, 2013
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50,000,000 music fans can't be wrong  

It's one of the biggest parties in all of music, and this year's celebration promises to be the most impressive to date. On Saturday, April 20, music lovers around the world will come together for Record Store Day, an event that has grown beyond even its creator's wildest imagination.   

In 2007, Chris Brown, head of marketing for nine Bull Moose stores in Maine and two in New Hampshire, came up with the idea of setting aside a special day to celebrate independently owned record stores and the customers who love to inhabit them. Five hundred stores around the country liked the idea enough to join for the event's inaugural in 2008, and within four years the party had blown wide open with more than 1,500 stores in 21 countries on five continents taking part. 

'We've gone further, faster than I thought we would,' Brown told me in a recent phone interview. 'It's a very nice feeling because I wanted there to be more attention paid to what's special about independently-owned businesses, and we've achieved that.'

Brown wants Record Store Day shoppers to know that the continued success of this special day is a group effort. 'It's something where everyone involved has brought their own personal awesomeness to it,' he told me. 'Whether it's people who come to the store to celebrate or bands that play at the stores, it's very much like taking what's cool about a record store all year long the music, the records and the whole experience of being in the record store - and making it all happen in one day in a way that everyone pays attention to.'

The big attraction for most customers on Record Store Day is the multitude of special releases that will be available at participating stores beginning April 20. The list is comprised of more than 450 titles - some on both CD and vinyl and some only on one or the other. Among the mix are exclusive releases created especially for Record Store Day, limited run titles (extremely limited in the numbers of copies pressed under 1,000 and often way under) or Record Store Day 'first' releases titles that will be found first at participating Record Store Day stores on April 20, weeks or months before they're available for other retailers. 

If you want first dibs at that David Bowie 45 picture disc, the Flaming Lips vinyl box set or Chet Atkins 7', Freeman Saunders, manager of Bull Moose Bangor, recommends that you arrive early this Saturday morning. 'There's a lot of excitement and anticipation leading up to Record Store Day,' he told me. 'It's like Christmas in April for music lovers. It's all based on availability, but hopefully we'll have a lot of what people are looking for.'  

Saunders said the first arrivals last year showed up at around 7 a.m. 'They were in line for a couple of hours before we opened. You can feel the anticipation people are out there waiting and talking music with each other. They'll look in and see all of the free items on the tables and all of the vinyl releases. It's the same anticipation you had when you were a kid and you were waiting for that favorite album to come out on Tuesday.'

The resurgence of vinyl releases has grown to where the medium is seeing its highest sales since 1997. Chris Brown is pleased to see how customers have returned to buying records in a big way. 'I think the best example of the fact that vinyl is back is the latest Justin Timberlake release,' Brown said. 'Every rock artist and most of the hip hop artists will release vinyl, but now we're seeing a straight up-the-middle pop superstar do it.'

Saunders believes that customers have come to appreciate not only the warmth and fidelity offered by vinyl but also the quality of the pressings, the artwork and the experience of handling the record. 'Anybody who is a real music fan wants that tangible product something you can't get from a download,' he said. 'They want to hold it in their hands they want to read the notes they want to look at the cover. They don't want it just as a digital file stored on a computer. When you see kids come in now and buy records, they stare at the covers with wonder. For example, the new Jimi Hendrix mono reissues of his first two LPs they're stunning. People will stare at 'Axis: Bold as Love' for minutes at a time. For people who really love music, the physical product that you can have and hold is the whole point.'

Lifelong music fans, both Brown and Saunders shared their Record Store Day wish lists with me with assurance that customers will have the first chance to acquire the music. 'Otherwise,' Brown says, 'there wouldn't be a Record Store Day.' For Brown, some of his personal favorite titles on this year's Record Store Day list include the first Sigur Ros album on vinyl. 'Because I love the CD and the vinyl is perfect for this,' he told me. 'I'm also looking forward to the first album by The Zombies on vinyl.' Brown also cited titles by Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  

Saunders anticipates that some of the most sought-after titles on Record Store Day will include the vinyl reissue of 'Lawn Boy' by Phish. A Record Store Day exclusive, this limited edition 180g vinyl version of the band's second album was mastered from the original 2-inch analog master reels. 'Those will go fast,' Saunders told me. 'The R.E.M. live at Greensboro CD will be in demand. You have a local girl, Patty Griffin, originally of Old Town. She has a 7-inch coming out and only 500 copies are being pressed. She's pretty much a global star now because of her association with Robert Plant, and that will have a lot of interest in this area.'

Currently one of the most popular bands on the planet, Mumford & Sons has a special treat for Record Store Day shoppers in the form of 'Live at Bull Moose' (on CD and 10-inch vinyl). The four-track EP was recorded live at the Bull Moose store in Scarborough last Aug. 3, the day before the band launched their 'Gentlemen of the Road' tour on the Eastern Promenade in Portland.      

Another incentive for music lovers to hit up their favorite indie music store this Saturday is the opportunity to catch live in-store performances from name bands or possibly even meet a rock legend.  

John Densmore, drummer of The Doors, will be guest of honor at Bull Moose in Scarborough this Saturday at 2 p.m. as he launches a book signing tour for his second book, 'The Doors: Unhinged.' In a phone interview last week, Densmore told me that he is looking forward to visiting Maine and is excited to support independent music and book stores like Bull Moose. 'It's clear to me that all of these indie stores are being run by people who are intelligent and passionate about music and books. They really are dedicated,' he told me. 'This book is about integrity, so it's sort of a perfect matchup.'

A special hardcover version of John Densmore's book has been created especially for independent music and book stores and will be available for the first time this Saturday. 'It's a limited edition that's stamped, numbered and signed,' he said. Densmore will be available to sign copies of his book and one other item of the customer's choice. A paperback version of Densmore's book will also be available. A closer look at 'The Doors: Unhinged' and my interview with John Densmore can be found elsewhere in this issue of The Maine Edge.  

Other special in-store events this Saturday will include a live performance by Dead Season at Bull Moose, Hogan Road in Bangor at 2 p.m. Americana rock trio Toughcats will perform at Bull Moose in Brunswick at 1:30 p.m. Rustic Overtones will play a Record Store Day-eve set at Bull Moose in Waterville, Friday, April 19 at 7 p.m. and Chris Ross is set to perform at the same store the following day at 4 p.m. For a full schedule of in-store performers and a complete listing of all special Record Store Day releases, visit www.BullMoose.com and www.RecordStoreDay.com

Freeman Saunders echoes Brown's earlier comment about Record Store Day being a collective effort. 'Thanks to Chris Brown's excellent networking, this idea involves many other record stores,' said Saunders. It might have come from Bull Moose, but there are many other people involved. This is a great example of what can come from brainstorming, benevolence with the customer in mind and a lot of cooperation on everybody's part. It wouldn't be where it is today without that cooperation.'  

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard each morning on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.3,104.7and 107.7.

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 12:50

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