Friday, April 13, 2012

Record Store Day 2012: Q & A with Event Organizer Carrie Colliton

For the past four years, the third Saturday in April has been designated Record Store Day. My personal favorite holiday of the year and one of only two official Dirty Roots Radio approved holidays (the other being The Day of the Dude).

Next Saturday, April 21st will mark the fifth year for the event, which has grown with each commemoration.



I recently hosted Carrie Colliton, one of the organizers of Record Store Day, on my Dirty Roots Radio Show…

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RYAN MIFFLIN: Carrie, tell us about yourself. I know Record Store Day (RSD) is totally volunteer-driven, so what do you do outside of that?


CARRIE COLLITON: Outside of this, I do quite a bit of the same thing that I do for Record Store Day. Record Store Day is volunteer, but everyone who organizes RSD has a real, full time job in the world of independent record stores. Some of our organizers own them and I have worked with independent record stores since I was in college…and I won’t say how long ago that was.

How did this whole thing get started?

For even longer than we’ve had RSD, there’s been an event called Free Comic Book Day, which celebrated the stores and customers of comic book shops. And the publishers of the comics would get together and have big parties at the stores.

Every year, we get independent record store owners across the country together for meetings to talk amongst themselves. And one of the employees of one of those stores said, “Why isn’t there a record store day? Why don’t we do the same thing?” And we kind of thought that was a good idea, mostly because, at the time all of the press you would see – and actually quite a bit of the press now – was about how record stores are gone, they’re dead, they are no more. And we kind of thought that was the journalists writing stories before they really knew the truth. Because we knew that there were independent record stores all over the country, surviving, and thriving, and growing.


So, what happens on Record Store Day? Why is it an important thing and why should folks get up out of bed early on a Saturday to be a part of it?

Well, RSD is in fact the day. It’s a day when stores across the country and, indeed, across the world, have their own parties. They celebrate themselves, their customers, and the artists and musicians who make up this world of record stores. Those are the three components; the stores and owners, the customers, and the music that is in those stores.

Every store plans their own events, does their own things. They’ve all gotten really creative. There are some fabulous things going on.

One of the elements is special releases that artists put out only for those record stores to sell on that day. Very limited, very special. You’ll never see them again, for the most part. And those do sell out early. So that’s the reason to get up early.

But we’ve also heard from stores that RSD is kind of two days in one. Yes, there’s the big rush and the frenzy and the excitement of getting the special releases. But then when that dies down a little bit, the second part of the day is really what our initial goal was; it’s a party. It’s a celebration of this special place in the community. Because they’re really is nothing like a record store. If you’re a fan of a record store, you know what that feeling is when you go in and you either discover new music that you didn’t know before, or you make a friend because they are looking at the same band or same section as you are. You just feel good when you walk in and the employees know your name and know what you’re looking for.

You know, so many of my Facebook friends are people who I met through record stores. If you would, touch on how unique record stores are and how actually important they are to their respective communities.

They really are. There’s probably a case to be made that independent book stores have a similar feel, but record stores are my home, so I feel pretty strongly that a record store has a really unique spot in the culture. That’s actually our tagline: celebrating the culture of the independent record store. Because there is a culture around it.

Let’s be honest…You could live without records. You could live without music. It might not be pleasant, but you could do it. It’s not food, it’s not water. But there’s a need for it. People feel this really strong desire for it and I think they will also always feel a desire to get it from a human, in a place where you can interact with other humans and get a physical artifact of this thing that makes you so happy or so sad, or whatever emotion you’re feeling. There’s going to be music that goes along with it and for a lot of people, the record store is the place to connect with that.

I probably shouldn’t disparage any place here, but if you go to one of those giant stores that sell everything under the sun, and you’re looking to buy a specific album, that’s one thing. But, those stores don’t have that personal touch. I remember when I first started getting into the blues. My friend Tony who works at Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis rang me out and said, “Looks like you’re going to spin some blues on your radio show. Do you have any J.B. Hutto?” And I’d never heard J.B. Hutto. But because Tony knew me and knew what I was into, and I trusted his music taste, I turned around and bought a couple of J.B. Hutto albums. You don’t get that at the mall.

Right. Or online! I’m impressed with the people who created that “Buy if you like…” algorithm or whatever it is that suggests things online. But there are humans who’ve been doing that for years in a record store. And I just feel like there are people who feel that music is a sidebar in their lives and if they’re buying things at one of those stores that sells everything…Well, maybe RSD and the attention that we’re bringing to these stores will get them to walk in and try it. I really believe that if people go into a record store on RSD – if it’s their first time ever – they’re going to come back.


Being at Record Store Day the first time was such a cool vibe. It was a beautiful spring day, there were bands playing live, DJs spinning inside, people dancing, families everywhere. I remember a friend saying that it felt like your city’s baseball team winning the World Series, the last day of school, and Christmas all rolled into one. There was just such a great feeling in the air.

Absolutely. Most of our stores have a really strong community link. Most of them have this sort of vibe and work with other community businesses down the year. We’re quiet about it, but underneath that whole RSD goal to get people to the shops and to draw attention to the shops, I think it’s equally important that you’re supporting any local business. That’s our very first criteria; it must be a locally owned, independent business in order to be a RSD store. I don’t think you can overstate how important that is to support those locally-owned businesses. And if you’re going to be buying music, why not take that extra step and buy it from someone whose kid is probably on your kid’s baseball team, or who is making your pizza down the street when he gets off work from the record store. That’s equally important.

Tell me your thoughts on the importance of having something physical when listening to music. You know, when I was very little, we still had records, then it was CDs, and now it’s downloads. No one under the age of 15 or so has ever held a physical copy of someone’s music. They just get to buy little bits of air. Don’t you think being able to look at the art, read the liner notes, is important?

Absolutely. It’s a physical artifact. There’s no denying that vinyl is making a resurgence and we’re thrilled with that. And I’m not going to be humble about it…I think we’ve played a small part in that vinyl resurgence. We’re certainly not the only reason it’s coming back. One of the big reasons is, of course, music sounds good on vinyl.

I feel pretty strongly that people really like the idea of having this physical artifact. Again, music isn’t something that’s going to keep you alive. But it’s going to help you feel more strongly an emotion you’re feeling, or have stronger memories. That sort of thing is really powerful.

I think there are going to be kids, now, who have never owned CDs or records, there’s going to come a time when they realize that it’s nice to have this physical artifact, whether it’s a CD or vinyl or some format we’ve never thought of. It’s nice to have a physical representation of the art, where I’m connecting to this other person who made this music and it’s nice to have this physical bridge to it.

Not to mention, I think it’s a really Zen experience, if you’re a vinyl lover. The idea of taking it out of the sleeve and cleaning it and putting it on the turntable and sitting and listening and concentrating and then interacting with it again to turn it over. I just think it can be a really Zen experience for people. Kind of calming.

I'm glad you mentioned that. I’ve collected music in some form my whole life. I’ve recently gotten back into vinyl and it’s been such a cool experience for me. As much as I love music, I’m too ADD to just sit and listen to it. When I play music off my computer, or even a CD, I have to also do something else to occupy my attention. But when I got my record player a while back, and got into the vinyl thing, I realized I didn’t have to have something else occupying my attention. I could just sit and listen and enjoy the experience. And my four-year old daughter loves it, too! She knows how to put the record on and move the needle now. And we sit together all the time, and just listen to full records. It’s some of my favorite time I spend with her.

Right. And that’s a universal experience. I have to say, we’ve had the greatest response from all kinds of musicians who just love RSD and want to support it in various ways. We had a video from a documentary called “Last Shop Standing” and in the video, Johnny Marr, guitarist from the Smiths and a few other bands, talks about the vinyl experience. You can listen to a record and 24 hours later you may actually remember the physical sensation of sitting, listening to 20 minutes of Roxy Music or whatever you were listening to. If you’re listening to it online or it’s just background, you’re going to remember, “Oh yeah, there was music playing,” but you’re not going to remember, “Oh that line that he sang! It’s really resonating with me now.”

So it’s not just you who feels that way. I’m glad you do and I think that your daughter will one day hopefully cherish your record collection, along with hers. And I think that’s great. And I will say that, yes, there are kids who don’t know anything about record stores. But, the average age of our Facebook fan and our Twitter followers is young enough that I’m pretty encouraged that younger people will be coming into record stores for a while.

RSD started out as such a small effort and it’s grown so much from year to year. The list of special releases is HUGE this year!

The list is big. And that’s good and bad. There are detractors to a big list. But something I really like about the list, and the musicians who’ve come to support us, is the diversity. I was doing another interview where I was kind of reading off just the first page of the list and just the first page, I think it just went down to the C’s alphabetically, it covered jazz, and blues, and classic rock, and dance and indie rock and it was just all over the place. I think that’s great, because our stores are all over the place, as well. There’s not one typical indie record store. There are stores that are all urban, there are stores that are very jazz oriented, blues oriented, country oriented, they’re all over the place.

And I just feel like there’s no record that’s released that someone who likes it shouldn’t have the choice to buy it at a record store. And our list reflects that.

To find out more about Record Store Day, including a downloadable listing of all special releases, and participating stores, visit www.RecordStoreDay.com.

Click HERE to visit Record Store Day on Facebook.


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Ryan Mifflin is the host of Dirty Roots Radio, a "Quentin Tarantino-ization of a spaghetti western style old-school record show" featuring renegade country, vintage gospel, raw blues, greasy soul, punk, and funk. Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

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