Not everyone is pleased about it.
This Saturday is the fourth annual Record Store Day. Conceived by independent record-store employee Chris Brown in 2007, the goal was to counteract the plummeting sales at stores while repositioning them as valuable cultural resources. But as thousands of people across our ravaged planet joyfully skip into local shops this weekend to empty their wallets, at least one man remains skeptical.
“RSD is a cool idea,” says Rob Sevier of The Numero Group, a Chicago-based archival label that specializes in reissuing lost and forgotten R&B, soul and gospel music. “It came about because record stores are hurting and any gimmick to get bodies into the building is welcome.”
The “gimmick” has evolved to include hundreds of official RSD exclusive releases. Mostly 7-inches and vinyl featuring outtakes, live concerts and other so-called rare recordings, these limited editions are meant to bring cash into the stores.
“Cashing-in is what the record business is,” Sevier confirms. “We’re not upset with major labels for being major labels. What I’m not crazy about are the literally hundreds of pieces of shit being shoved into the marketplace on this day, products, for the most part, that no human needs to own, ever. The economy of RSD is ‘What can we shit into the form of a record and shove into the hands of the wanton masses?’”
This year, Sevier and Numero Group decided to participate in RSD with a new release that wasn’t just shit. However, when they announced that Local Customs: Pressed at Boddie —a compilation of rare and unreleased 1970s recordings from Cleveland’s little-known Boddie Recording Studio—would hit shelves on April 16, it didn’t go over well.
“One of the employees at RSD threw a shitfit because we didn’t look with deference at the floor when speaking the holy name of RSD and we apparently had to get our release vetted and branded with the RSD high court before invoking the RSD name.”
Incorrectly concluding that Pressed at Boddie will be released by Boddie Recording Studio and not Numero Group, an RSD “official” began a misguided investigation.
“He attempted to call the lovely Boddie widow and interrogate her on why she is anti-RSD,” says Sevier. “It was baffling to the point of surreal. This same person has a bad reputation for harassing those stores that don’t want to pay for the official ‘signage’ and have ‘unauthorized’ RSD events. This dude is the RSD cop; he fights negative publicity with the fervor of (Church of Scientology head) Tommy Davis.”
After some heated conversations, Pressed at Boddie was officially sanctioned by the RSD bureaucracy. This is not a sign, though, that Sevier’s hostility toward the institution is gone. He still thinks RSD, especially the ever-growing exclusive releases, brings more harm to stores than good.
“Go into most indie stores and you’ll find some remaining RSD stock from last year,” he says. “These products are largely bought unreturnable, so it could be disastrous if they don’t sell the way the stores hope. I heard of stores taking out loans last year to make sure they were fully stocked. It’s easy to see how that might go south. Most I talk to sell very little of what’s already in stock. But what stores most badly need is an Official Go Into A Record Store And Buy Some Shit That’s Already Sitting In The Bins Day (trademark).”
Keep that in mind on Saturday as you’re scrambling for those RSD exclusive releases. ■
PW's Music Issue 2014