It is 7am and outside Norwich’s premier (only) independent music emporium we find far from the usual morning line up. Indeed, stand outside the shop at 7am on any other Saturday of the year and it is 99.9% certain you will find no line up at all. But today is not just any other Saturday, it is the third Saturday in April, a day cherished by music lovers and vinyl junkies the world over. Today is Record Store Day.
Conceived in America in 2007, to celebrate the art of music and promote independent record stores across the country, Record Store Day is now in its fifth year, a global event and expanding with remarkable rapidity. It is described as “the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day” and it is those exclusive products, around 450 different releases this year, that have prompted the queue. A scene that is currently being replicated outside 230 stores across the UK as eager customers brace themselves excitedly against a multitude of weather conditions. Outside Square Records in Dorset, the first person in line has already been there for nearly 24 hours, starting his wait at 11am on Friday.
Here in Norwich the weather is cold but dry, the predicted rainstorms have not yet arrived, no doubt running late with a raging hangover after a late night’s revelry across the city and surrounding area. The queue is surprisingly short but will soon swell significantly as the clock counts down to the one-off early opening time of 9am. At its head is Steve Clark, a regular customer of around 20 years who arrived at 3am, ”I got here last year at 6 o’clock and there was already a bunch of students in front of me who said they’d been here since 4, so this year I thought I’d pip any competition at the post and get here at 3”, he explains. He is joined by John Cooper, another long-time regular who arrived not long after Steve following a night on his sister’s sofa-bed to shorten his journey in the morning. Both have been to Record Store Day here a couple of times before and have nice long lists of desired items (DJ Food, White Stripes, Devo, Ramones and many many more) fortunately none of which clash with our own (as we are stationed a measly 18th in line). Later they will both leave the store, arms laden with vinyl goodness, wallets a good deal more empty than when they arrived but also with significantly wider smiles.
This year’s queue appears more diverse than before with a wide range of ages and backgrounds represented and a fair smattering of women amongst the collected enthusiasts. First in line for the women, and 8th overall, is Jules who has come prepared with waterproofs, a giant umbrella and a collapsible chair which is drawing envious glances from those around her. She too has been before and her preparation extends beyond being ready for the weather as she clutches a small and focused list, determined not to be swayed by anything else, especially not the Morrissey picture disc. Her willpower will prove stronger than most as she excitedly explains to us later “I got everything I wanted, I am so happy. I got my Starman picture disc, the Aretha Franklin Gold vinyl, Velvet Underground 7”, Gorillaz and Two Many DJs album so it’s all good”, and no Morrissey.
Soon, we too are happily exiting the store clutching a not insignificant bounty of our own while the queue continues to snake up the street, indeed it will not subside for hours and when we pop back for a more general browse of the racks in the late afternoon, a handful of people are still waiting patiently for their opportunity to review what stock remains. Store owner, Paul Mills, is still holding court with customers, regaling them with tales of the ‘best day ever’ for the shop so instead we catch up with his daughter Rosie, who has been helping out as she has done on previous Record Store Days. ” It’s absolutely fantastic, lots of buzz, lots of vibe, you know, lots of huge queues outside. It’s really great fun”, she says enthusiastically. ”Lots of business and lots of great music lovers too, with music to sell to. We had quite a lot more stock this year, lots of variety, lots of different artists”
There does seem to be a lot more stock on offer this year, almost double the number of releases from 2011, and certainly many more people are getting most if not all of what they wanted. Everyone is enthusiastic and happy and this year appears to have been yet another success which Jules offers a possible explanation for, ”Record Store Day is a brilliant idea. Every year it brings the record, nerdy, vinyl community together to queue in the freezing cold and I just think it kind of raises the profile of bands and vinyl and yes, you can buy stuff on eBay afterwards but you can’t beat an old fashioned queue. I think there’s a really good atmosphere and it just gets people excited about music generally which I thinks’ a good thing”>.
Rosie goes further when asked to sum up Record Store Day, ”(It’s a) great thing” she says which will be backed up in the significant spike in sales figures experienced by all the stores that take part, and some will report sales figures increasing by over 100% on last year. After its most successful and high profile year so far, expectation will be high for what comes next, as will the excitement and anticipation. The countdown has already begun on the official Record Store Day website but you don’t need to wait until then, the doors to your local independent record store are open more than just once a year. Pop in, say hi, look in the racks and see if anything takes your fancy, they’ll love to have you.
Most independent record stores will be making any leftover Record Store Day stock available online from 28 April 2012. If you missed out on something you craved or don’t live near an independent store, take a look at some websites and you might just strike gold.