Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Antique Record Show

Friday night and there’s f-all on television. It’s a bank holiday but the networks have abdicated responsibility clearly thinking that we’re all out celebrating the anniversary of Jesus’ death or we’ve all buggered off somewhere for the long-weekend. Perhaps they’ve projected their own lifestyles onto their viewing public. It’s a common enough conception; maybe it’s even backed-up by stats from previous Easter weekends. Whatever the reason it seems ironic that the best programme on television features a bunch of people watching television and making their own humourous and critical comments . Maybe this proves that TV, like pop, has finally eaten itself.

F-all on TV day is followed this year by Record Store Day. We have to forgive the Americanism as they invented the concept and it latterly became international. On the face of it the idea is great – create a reason for people to visit their local indie record store, host live music, stock exclusive product, job done. It’s a celebration of all things indie with a hefty focus on that genre that ensures that it’s largely preaching to the converted. The upside is that a lot of the converted also work in the media so it probably looks like a much bigger event. The pages dedicated to it in today’s Guardian, including this page three piece and the cover of the Guide with a feature lauding the indie labels alone would ensure that the event has served a great purpose.

As always though there are many detractors, including one on Twitter who coined my favourite phrase to encapsulate it all – product acquisition day. The queues outside indie stores this morning were there to hoover up the exclusive releases, the limited edition copies of tracks produced to commemorate the occasion. Yes, it has succeeded in getting these people in a shop but if their intent is just to sell the rare product on E-bay in order to profit then the rationale has been sacrificed to consumerism and greed once more. There may be no better analogy for the music industry as a whole.

The Guardian’s reference to ‘£50 man’ being the protector of the rock genre and life-long funding source for indie stores also seems sad and dated. The concept of £50 man and his monthly shop visit to hoard all the new albums and special-edition re-issues is at least five years old, perhaps closer to ten. If the music industry is reliant upon people like him (and I could’ve once been considered such) then it really is doomed.

Luckily that probably isn’t the case. People’s tastes are wider and more varied, they’re not so snobby and elitist about genres and they consume a lot of music – even if they’re not always buying it. I used to spend many hours of my teenage life in record stores but that option no longer exists for my children, nor would they be bothered to do so. They have online friends to recommend stuff and streaming sites where they can listen to it instantly. Things change, it’s not all about physical product.

On Record Shop Day it is about physical and in some ways that makes it feel a little archaic. People celebrate the event by buying new editions of largely old material which are then treated like antiques – put on display or sold off at a profit. It doesn’t seem like the right route to encourage growth in the industry but if it acts as a conduit to sell stuff then who am I to argue? Every little helps.


#RSD postscript. One reason I've blogged less of late is that often the point has been made before I get to sit and type. Frequently the point I want to make has been made in a more lucid and eloquent fashion. I hadn't read this piece from The Quietus before publishing the above stuff. If I had I might not have bothered! In brief the majors have taken over RSD and turned it into an xmas-like marketing opportunity. No-one should be surprised by this, c'est la vie as they probably no longer say in France.

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