Op-ed: Record Store Day in a Digital Age
By Liz Shoemaker, Class of 2020
April 21st, 2018 was the eleventh annual “Record Store Day.” It is a day where music lovers flock to the record stores to celebrate vinyl, pick up special releases, and see in-store performances. It is an event that bands and fans alike look forward to every year. This year, there were well over 150 special, in-store-only releases from a wide array of bands across all genres of music. Fans were able to buy anything from a Taylor Swift record to a Led Zeppelin record, and just about everything in between. The really interesting part about Record Store Day, though, is that by all trends of current culture, this day should not be the success that it is. At this point, almost everyone has subscribed to one streaming service or the other. Face it, everyone is either sworn to Spotify or Apple Music. That really makes you wonder what the place of Record Store Day is at this moment in music consumption. Why does anyone bother buying vinyl records when we have all the music we want right at our fingertips, all the time? Sure, I could make the argument that the sound quality of vinyl is better, but I think it is more than that.
I go to Record Store Day because it brings back the tradition of what record stores represent. Ask anyone who was interested in music before the dawn of the digital age. They will almost all tell you the same thing. Record stores were a music community experience. Being in the shop with a crowd, seeing what others were buying, what was playing on the speakers in the store, getting recommendations from the staff, that is what record stores were in their heyday. I go to Record Store Day to have just a little piece of that. Listening to music through my headphones on my own streaming account is a very personal experience. It is my own music choices that I’m curating for myself. And, dare I say, getting a weekly playlist made for me by the Spotify or Apple Music algorithm isn’t the kind of personal connection for which I am searching. Record stores, on the other hand, provide the opportunity to talk to other audiophiles. Who knows, one of them could even recommend you check out a band that later grows to become your favorite. There’s also a real scene created by everyone being there together. I have been given countless flyers to go see up and coming local bands while I was browsing in a record store. It’s a great place to start immersing yourself in the local music scene. And, most importantly, it is not an exclusive event. It is not a prerequisite to be the biggest music fan or vinyl collector in the world to attend events like these. Record Store Day and record stores at large may even be the best places to help expand your musical knowledge, and it all comes from the created and shared musical experience between friends and strangers. Record Store Day is a celebration of that. It is a meaningful moment, and I am very thankful that it is here, eleven years strong.