Opinion: How Record Store Day got hijacked...
Celebrate Record Store Day, they said. It'll be fun, they said.
You'd have to have a heart of stone not to be excited about Record Store Day if you're a music fan of any salt-worthiness. A chance to find out about some local places selling vinyl, an opportunity to pick up a record or two from a musical hero, a day where bands and punters come together, support the high street, step away from the computer and venture into a shop. What's not to like about any of that?
I love a record shop as much as the next person. Growing up in Croydon, Beanos was my mecca for a chunk of my teen years, the place we went to hunt through teetering piles of dusty albums for that special rarity. Record shops were ace. Then along came the internet, we could all get whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it just by clicking a button, and those halcyon Saturdays flicking through domino-stacked 33s were relegated to the catalogue marked 'past joys'.
So a day to relive those youthful feelings – wonderful. And not only that, a day when my favourite band – Squeeze – was set to release a special yellow-vinyl version of Goodbye Girl too. I was thrilled. I couldn't wait.
I trotted down to my local shop around lunchtime on Saturday to find a gaggle of punters pawing through the releases, with hopeless looks on their faces. It was crowded – but no one seemed too chuffed to be there. I peeped into the bins, looked for the Lichtenstein-yellow of Goodbye Girl's cover. Nothing in sight.
"Excuse me," I piped to the owner, who looked at me with sympathy. "Do you have…?"
He was already shaking his head. "That was gone by 9.30 this morning," he said. "Some blokes were queueing at the door before we opened. Sorry."
In fact, everything I'd wanted to buy was gone. I made a show of bravery. I flicked through the diminished piles of remaining releases. I enjoyed the store. I drove home thinking I should have got up earlier.
…Only to find that my Squeeze record was now on eBay for prices ranging up to £30. I could have sat on my arse, sat on my laptop, and just waited for some tout to put it up for sale. Online. The very thing RSD was set up to fight back against. The very thing I didn't want to do when I set out that morning to buy a record I genuinely love and was excited to own. The irony.
My annoyance isn't with the fans who waited in the rain on a cold April Saturday morning to pick up their limited-edition goodie from a record store. More power to your stylus. It's reserved for the people who did that with the sole intention of reaping a financial reward from fans; who – like the scalpers of old – buy rare stuff up, stuff you're dying to own, knowing that someone out there will want that record, or ticket, so badly, they'll pay any price to get it.
RSD is a very good thing indeed. I love the fact we celebrate record shops, the breeding grounds for so many teenage – and older – daydreams. They're palaces built solely to celebrate a single art form and, as with bookshops, should be protected and worshipped. But – and this is the issue – why do we allow unscrupulous bagmen the chance to scoop up our precious must-haves and sell them online at inflated prices? To defeat the whole point of RSD and not enter into the spirit of the occasion? Laws should be made. Celebrities should protest. Or, and it's as simple as this, don't enter into a dark contract with these fleecers. Much as I want, want, want a copy of that Squeeze record, I won't pay them via eBay to own it. That's not what I signed up for on RSD.