4.16.11 — Record Store Day #6: Competing With Geeks...

A.K.A. Music
Philadelphia, PA

In 2009, for Record Store Day, I spent my money at A.K.A. Music.

Though happy for the excuse to shop for some albums and pick up a couple unique and rare items, I remember being sort of underwhelmed by the event.  Other stores had gone so far as to feature live music, set up grills and barbecue... they took more of an opportunity to thank shoppers for their support and treat Record Store Day like a celebration.

To me, though, it seemed like more of an opportunity to sort of dangle the treats over a bunch of salivating geeks and capitalize a bit.

Yesterday, I revisited A.K.A. and was in line thirty minutes before the store opened, so I wasn't too thrilled at the prospect of fighting my way into the store.  And, that's what happened.

As interested as I was in some of the RSD exclusives this year, the only real prize for me was Bad Brains' "Pay To Cum" 7," just so I could hear that song in glorious analog.  And, I thought the pairing of Mastodon and ZZ Top for a split 7" was inspired enough to earn the expense.  But, the mire of bodies that I'd been flung into once the doors opened proved to be a frustrating hipster swamp that was difficult to navigate and it sort of prevented me from spending any real time viewing what was made available.  Bodies would part long enough for me to sort of inspect the spread, which consisted of a few tables situated around the register and the NEW RELEASES wall, which was, at the time, impossible to view thanks to the crowd.  I found the Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' I Love Rock & Roll 12" at the price of $19.99, which I thought was a bit too much.  After that, I found The Black Angels' Phosogene Nightmare 10" at a better price, but I left it just in case I found something I wanted more, (the problem with shopping on a budget).   The Television release was almost $50.

The jackals there for the exclusives, and you could tell who they were, would push their way to each table and snatch up the small filing boxes of 7"'s, their shoulders hunched up like they were taking tests and hiding their answers.  There would be reports from one salivating hipster to another regarding their progress: "Did you get the Fleet Foxes, yet?  Are there any more?  Get me one!"  The couple singles and such that I did find were a little too expensive, asking $12-$14.  I remembered paying no more than $6 for singles in 2009, (the Sonic Youth/Beck split 7," the Sonic Youth/Jay Reatard split 7," the Tom Waits Glitter & Doom 7"), so I felt like we were being gouged.  Granted, the spikes in price could very well be indicative of the hard times indie stores currently face, but it could also be indicative of exploitation.  As ravenous as many of the exclusives crowd were, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if many of them hadn't known what they were spending before they got to the register.  It was just all about getting a piece of that limited run, at whatever cost.

I was in the thick of it for maybe ten or so minutes, getting cut off and pushed around while trying to check out what everyone else wanted to check out and I was over it.  I managed to break through the crowd so I could shop.  Finding room to breathe was nice.

The rest of the store remained relatively unexplored for the first half hour to forty-five minutes or so of my visit, so the back of the store where the vinyl is located was light on customers and easy to peruse.  Prices, though, were proving to be ridiculous, which once again could correlate directly with living in a download-crazy consumer climate.  While I do my best to only patronize the indie stores for my record buying, the consumer's budget is still something to consider.

Despite being turned off to the mad rush, it was nice combing through the LPs and crossing wants off my list:

Sic Alps - Napa Asylum double LP
Grails - Deep Politics double LP
Zach Hill - Face Tat
Sonic Youth - Simon Werner A Disparu

I was at the store with friends, one of whom brought me a copy of the Skip James Today! 12," but it was $25 and I'd already decided on most of my purchases.  I wound up putting that one back with some apprehension.

A little while later, I was looking through the CDs.  As far as new releases, A.K.A. stocks aplenty.  Their catalogue selections, though, have dwindled significantly.  Optimistically, I'm hoping whatever revenue yesterday's shopping onslaught generated will replenish the store's CD selections, or, at the very least, allow them to expand their vinyl inventory.  After all, if CDs are going to inevitably fade into nonexistence, then the LP's much talked about resurgence should, in a perfect world, make up the difference.

From the CDs, I added:

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
The Birthday Party - Prayers On Fire

Realizing that my budget was tapped, my brother and I got in line and talked about for about an hour while we waited.  This observation was brought up later during our post-shopping lunch excursion, but there were a LOT of people holding onto the new Foo Fighters album.  I also picked up on conversations regarding Nirvana's reissued, Hoarmoaning, which has tracks released subsequently on other albums and compilations.  We managed to gain some access to the exclusives being in line, so we looked to see if there was anything else we may have wanted.  I did NOT see the Mastadon/ZZ Top album, which was disappointing.  Nor, did I see the OFF! 7" and The Black Angels 10" was sold out.

Can't say it was a bad day, though.  I got some good albums out of the deal, got to hang out with friends and I have some new slabs of vinyl to throw on the platter.

I understand that Record Store Day exclusives are an enticement and their rarity and uniqueness is meant to stimulate the desire to visit these record stores on this now somewhat sacred annual occasion.  But just going to a store and communing with fellow fanatics is at the heart of what may become extinct if stores continue to falter.  Exclusives, though well-intended, facilitate a philistine subset of music fan, one whose appreciation seems to go as far as the investment.  I want to think that Record Store Day is still about the stores, but its commercial viability is becoming more and more realized.  While stores capitalize and, hopefully, survive because of the draw, I hope the point of Record Store Day isn't being missed.

I did manage to find my Bad Brains 7," but it won't be up on E-Bay anytime soon.

Letters From A Tapehead


Jason said…
Totally agree...a madhouse of people grabbing shit, I swear I don't think I would bother next year. Not that there was really that bad ass anyway...but to many douche's literally fighting their way to the singles....not to mention all this stuff is going to eventually level out on ebay for what it went for in the store. I'll get it then...damn people! I love records too, but this isn't Wal Mart on Black Friday!
Unknown said…
AKA was the 6th store I visited in under 3 hrs. I found that the grateful dead lp was marked for $39.99 and was only $24.99 at most other stores. The Rumours repress was $50! All of the 7"s were $3-5 more than the other stores as well. I was initially surprised they still had so much stock left by almost 1pm but realized two things: 1) they were price gouging and 2) since they are a larger store, with more money to play with, likely ordered a ton more than the smaller stores and may also have a better relationship with the distributor(s) in terms of allotment. There were several things I did not find at any of the stores at all but at least some of the stores (Main St Music, Repo, Hideaway and Long in the tooth) were doing it right. I felt bad for some of the smaller stores that just didn't get hardly anything of what they ordered, which is a shame since I would have gladly given them my money. For anything you missed, try cimsmusic.com and check with the stores listed there. These are the leading independent stores in the US. I was able to score a few missing pieces through some vigorous searching and emailing yesterday from a store in WI and another in NC.
Sean Caldwell said…
To Jason:

RSD definitely had a Black Friday feel to it, the mad dash for goodies sort of canceling out the point of why the day has come to be in the first place. I'd like to keep honoring the day, but only with the intention of spending money at the store and getting the albums I want.

To Mike:

I had a feeling the singles were overpriced and that's very disheartening. I really like going to A.K.A. when I get the chance, but I'm not happy that the store's patrons would get gouged on price or that other stores in Philadelphia might be denied exclusive inventory because the indie giant has ordered it all up.

Anyway, thanks for commenting and thanks for the link.

Letters From A Tapehead
Unknown said…
Nice insight of the day! Thanks!

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