According to Record Store Day’s website (www.recordstoreday.com), this annual event was conceived in 2007 “as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1000 independently owned record stores in the US. Rock band Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008 and Record Store Day is now celebrated the third Saturday in April.
I spoke with a record store owner, one stop manager and artists for their point of view on the true benefits of National Record Store Day in the urban world.
Skippy White’s Records and One Stop in Boston opened in 1961and during the 70’s and 80’s, boasted four locations throughout the city and remains the oldest music store in the Boston and New England area. Skippy is also a radio personality nicknamed “The Professor” for his expansive knowledge of music which is reflected in his store, one of the area’s best resources for blues, jazz, soul, funk, R&B, gospel and hip-hop music. If you didn’t know the name of a song, you simply followed Skippy’s motto to “just hum it” and he’d find it.
Being in business for 50+ years, Skippy has always carried vinyl and the concept of National Record Store Days is nothing new. Having spent nearly every Saturday working my first job in Skippy White’s Mass Records(my dad and Skippy were business partners) learning the ropes, it was clear that a visit to the store was a ritual for Bostonians. The record store was the “spot” to hear the newest songs, practice your dance routines, hopefully see a famous celebrity or two and score an autograph.
White continued “the industry releases mostly rock on vinyl. It means nothing in my store. If my customers bought it, the rock LP’s retail for about thirty dollars. My clientele wants the old R& B, soul, gospel and jazz. My prices are affordable. I charge $6.00 for LP’s and I still sell 45’s for a dollar or two. It’s a completely different ball game today. This past Saturday for Record Store Day, I got mostly phone calls and they were for rock music, which I don’t stock. The day, it’s great for a specialized element, but it makes me no difference. For the music that I carry and what my clientele wants, it’s Record Store Day every day.”
On the Southside of Chicago, Rosetta and Ester Fletcher, owners of Fletcher’s One Stop Records, the oldest African-American owned one-stop in the country opened for business 65 years ago. Legend has it, Mr. Fletcher was cold-blooded way before Rick James sang it and thought nothing of having people stand in line to try and be the first to snag the hottest new music or meet the hottest new artists. Fletcher was the “go to guy” that had nearly every record store in Chicago and beyond buying from him.
Along with Fletcher’s wife and daughters, extended family member Kenny Lott serves as manager/buyer and currently celebrates 34 years working exclusively for the Fletchers. Kenny describes Record Store Day as one for special sales. He adds “we don t sell vinyl but every year we do something, get good response and the customers look forward to it. We are normally busy on Friday and Saturday anyway.” Fletcher’s still sells to other area record stores, local mall chain stores and other music re-sellers well outside the Chicago area.
From the artist perspective, I obtained insight from artists whose careers were built in part on the record store. Fatine and Aja Dantzler, better known as Kindred The Family Soul visited two Atlanta record stores, DBS Sounds and Moods Music, this past Saturday treating customers and fans to selections from their upcoming CD, “A Couple Friends,” dropping June 10th. Also joining them were Rashaan Patterson, Noel Gourdin, and Avery Sunshine. Fatine states,” I think the independent record store is truly a blessing to the careers of artists like us because it’s where the consumer actually can learn what’s fresh, new or undiscovered. It not only celebrates the store but the consumer that shops in that store by giving them the opportunity to meet and see (performances by) their favorite artists.”
Nile Rodgers has been a force in music in almost every role imaginable. He took home three Grammy® this year for his Daft Punk/Pharrell collaboration “Get Lucky,” remains an in demand producer and tours the world with Chic. He’s just completed a new Chic album, with the first release via a 12 inch and 45 RPM record. In 1998, Rodgers founded Sumthing Else Music Works record label and Sumthing Distribution, an independent music label distributor and the first African American owned distributor. Sumthing focuses on music and distributing a fast-growing new genre: video game soundtracks. Its titles include the complete Halo and Resident Evil franchises and other well-known soundtracks such as Gears of War and Borderlands. Nile very simply says, “I celebrate the occasion. It put me on the map and keeps me there!”