Record Store Day started in the US as a day when record shop owners, together with musicians, celebrate independent record shop culture. Last month was the sixth Record Store Day in the UK.
I loved how the event brought people out to Polar Bear Records on York Road all Saturday long. With no plan more specific than “let’s wander down to Polar Bear for a look”, I met at least a dozen friends during the afternoon between the shop and nearby Hare & Hounds pub (and hub of live music in south Birmingham).
I loved how Ghosts of Dead Airplanes organised local bands to perform outside the shop – and they put on a cracking loud show in the sun.
I loved how the atmosphere around the actual shop and the Record Store Day concept got us all talking about music, bands we’d seen recently and new artists we were listening to.
Just by being there, grabbing flyers with local artists’ website details, scanning local magazines, then checking these sites out days later, I discovered music and music news on my doorstep which I never knew existed – like Counteract Magazine and their ultimate guide to Birmingham’s music scene.
But I have guilty admission: I didn’t buy a record from my local, independent record shop on Record Store Day.
I am a bad man. Stand me in the Village Square and flog me with a dog-eared copy of High Fidelity. Serrate CD frisbees and fling them at my head. Fill my turnups with speaker stand ballast. Charge £1 per humiliation and donate the funds to Polar Bear. Oh lordy, I feel terrible.
As a direct result of Record Store Day, I left the house, listened to some good live music, met up with friends – including some I hadn’t seen for ages – and spent money on my local high street. (Admittedly in three indie pubs and a balti restaurant, not the intended record shop.)
A recent chat with another group of friends got me thinking. The conversation was around the promotional vinyl and CD products released especially for Record Store Day – and criticism of how people queued early to buy these products only to sell them on eBay. The lack of promotional products in local stores was another bugbear for them.
Their experience of the day was very different to mine. They had a mission: to get in the shop and buy a unique product specially marketed (and priced accordingly) for the day. Some found records they wanted; others left empty-handed.
By accident, I think my experience of the day was a more fulfilling and lasting one. I felt a part of, and indirectly supportive of, a community of people in my neighbourhood.
I hope Polar Bear can forgive me for not supporting them financially.
Photo: Ghosts of Dead Airplanes performing outside Polar Bear Records, Kings Heath