5 Things to Know About the History of Record Store Day

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On April 23, Record Store Day celebrates its 15th anniversary. Four days prior, vinyl enthusiasts and Metallica fans gathered at the Clive Davis Theater in Los Angeles on April 19 to hear more about the history of Record Store Day and the involvement of the GRAMMY-winning rock band.

The Celebrating Record Store Day panel featured Metallica Kirk Hammett and Robert TrujilloMichael Kurtz, co-founder of RSD, and Rand Foster, owner of fingerprint music, a beloved record store in Long Beach, California. Guests also got details on Hammett’s debut solo EP, Portalsreleased on Record Store Day of this year, and enjoyed a moving performance of two songs by Nilüfer Yanya.

Read on to discover some of the takeaways from the engaging conversation celebrating 15 years of RSD.

Metallica has been involved with RSD since its first iteration in 2008 and has continued to support the event over the years with exclusive RSD releases and more. The iconic band spent hours with fans at Rasputin Records in Mountain View, Calif., to kick off RSD 2008 with a bang.

Eight years later, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers played a special set of their 80s gems at Rasputin’s Berkeley in 2016, when they served as RSD Ambassadors. (This year’s ambassador is Taylor Swiftwho is RSD’s first global ambassador.)

Hammett said the Berkley Rasputin was one of his favorite record stores as a kid. He remembers begging his mother to take him along so he could browse the import section for the nastiest metal and hard rock in Europe. He discovered motor head and other bands he would like later – and it would inspire a lifetime in music – asking one of the employees there for advice on what he should check out.

Few believed in vinyl when RSD was considered in 2007

Kurtz and his RSD co-founder Carrie Colliton began considering RSD in 2007 – just after the iconic Tower Records closed all of its stores due to bankruptcy at the end of 2006 – to support the stores of local and independent disks. It was the era of iTunes and Napster, when digital music sales increased while physical album sales declined; 2007 saw a 9.5% drop in physical album sales (in all formats) from the previous year, with digital album sales totaling 10% all album sales.

Interestingly, vinyl sales started to rise in 2007 as CD sales plummeted, with 2008 seeing sales jump to 1.88 million records – the most vinyl sales in a year since Nielsen started tracking them in 1991. Two-thirds of vinyl purchased in 2008 came from independent record stores, so it’s clear that RSD had an immediate impact.

As Kurtz explained, the vinyl business model had been dismantled by then and the infrastructure was limited. Most of the stores they first spoke to said they needed to focus on CDs, and that centering RSD around vinyl didn’t make sense.

Foster said one of his employees suggested removing his vinyl rack to make more room for the CDs, but it was important to him to keep the record in the record store. While they had kept this vinyl for a while, after 2008 things started to change and they started selling them.

Read more: No accreditation? No problem! 10 Potential Pathways to Entering Jazz as a Beginner

RSD has supported a resurgence in jazz reissues and jazz vinyl sales

Prior to the first RSD, Kurtz contacted Trujillo about jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius – Trujillo was working on a documentary about him, and Kurtz had rare Super-8 footage of a concert he attended when he had no only 16 years old. That’s how their friendship started, and how Metallica became an important part of RSD. He also planted a seed for rare jazz releases and reissues to be part of the annual event. Jaco will be released in 2014 as The Official RSD Movie that year, with an RSD exclusive for DVD and soundtrack in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Kurtz shared that producer Zev Feldman, who runs Resonance Records, has successfully used RSD as a platform to increase interest in jazz vinyl. Since 2012, he and Resonance have released special jazz releases for RSD, starting with a Bill Evans live album, and this led to a renewed interest in jazz vinyl and the discovery of jazz records. Foster claimed that jazz records have sold better since becoming part of RSD.

A conversation with Robert Trujillo inspired Kirk Hammett’s first solo EP

In honor of their long relationship, the Metallica guitarist’s first-ever solo release, Portalsfalls on Record Store Day 2022, with a special limited edition ocean blue vinyl. An audience member asked Hammett if he would release more solo music after this EP and if he planned to tour the project. Hammett explained that since he’s filled with complex instruments, he’d either have to tour with backing tapes or a very large band, and he’s yet to figure out how he’d approach it.

“I hadn’t expected this [solo] album coming out, it just happened,” he added. “It’s definitely a beginning and not an end.”

He also explained that it was Trujillo who inspired him to do it, as he had no real intention of doing a solo project. The couple had a long call at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, which Trujillo ended by saying, “Be positive, be creative.” It really helped Hammett through the pandemic and led him to create the music for the EP. “This music is the soundtrack to life in your own heads.”

You can read more about the history of RSD in a new book

To celebrate 15 years of RSD and its positive impact on vinyl, independent record stores and musicians, music journalist Larry Jaffee wrote “RECORD STORE DAY: The most unlikely comeback of the 21st century.” Of course, there is a special RSD edition, only available at independent record stores. This version includes a vinyl compilation album of the in-store performances of Brandi Carlile, Billie EilishMetallica and many more at Grimey’s in Nashville, among other beloved record stores.

Fête de la musique: a day in the life of the record store

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