1491863752456 - Record Store Day: the vinyl countdown

Record Store Day: the vinyl countdown

There will be bands, DJs, party hats and free cake. It will be part celebration, part competition: a bunfight of sorts, with all manner of eccentric characters elbowing each other away from the biggest bargains.

There’ll be noise, laughter, arguments about the relative merits of various bands. And with any luck, cash registers will be ringing as some much needed loot pours into each grinning shopkeeper’s coffers.

This coming Saturday is Record Store Day, and I cannot wait. It’s my favourite day of the year, apart from my birthday and Christmas, when gifts are showered upon me by my loved ones.

But on Record Store Day, I buy my own presents. After rummaging through the record bins, I haul home my booty of audio treasures, slap them on the turntable and marvel at the splendid sounds humanity has made down the ages.

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Jamaican dancehall tunes with woofer-wilting bass rub shoulders with scratchy old punk 45s; early 60s LPs by beard-farming folkies alternate with shouty 80s hip hop and sleek Detroit techno.

I listen to these things and I think: Thank God for record stores! And by “God”, I mean “vinyl”, because it’s this supposedly outmoded format that has saved the nation’s remaining record stores from closure after CD sales fell off a cliff, and even instilled enough confidence for a few new ones to open.

Record Store Day launched in America a decade ago to give a boost to independent record stores, at that time considered an endangered species.

It’s an international affair: this time last year, I spent RSD in San Francisco, trawling the record dens of Haight-Ashbury where people handed you free beers as you strolled in to peruse the LP bins.

In one store, a huge fishbowl of pot stood on the counter and record buyers were invited to help themselves – a cunning marketing ploy, I imagine, to make crap records sound wondrous so you reached for your wallet.

Some suggest RSD has been hijacked by corporate interests as major labels flood the market with collector-baiting releases of dubious merit: clear plastic Pearl Jam singles, Billy Joel box sets, Toto live albums.

But really, it’s all about whanau. As much as it gives record store owners an injection of cash, Record Store Day is a celebration of the community of music nutters who love these places, encouraging them to get out and mingle together while bands hammer away in the corner.

It’s a chance to salute the sonic flag, to remember the fallen, and to throw some cash at those brave stores that have survived against the odds, finding a way to make a buck despite rising rents and competition from streaming, downloading, cut-price chain stores and Trade Me.

The roll-call of surviving independent record stores includes Hokitika’s West Coast Vinyl and Fashion; Tauranga’s Vinyl Destination; Slow Boat, Rough Peel and Death Ray in Wellington; Relics in Dunedin; Mint Music in Lower Hutt; Penny Lane and Galaxy in Christchurch; Vinyl Countdown in New Plymouth; Flying Out, Real Groovy and a handful more in Auckland.

Beacons of alternative culture one and all, many of these places operate on a shoestring, so get along to your local on Saturday and spend up large.