Record Store Day, commonly abbreviated as RSD, the premise of a record store version of Free Comic Book Day, is a wonderful idea. However, it falls flat on execution.
Free Comic Book Day promises a free comic, in participating stores, to anyone who walks in, while supplies last . This is meant to encourage those with budding interest in comics to get a foot in the door. It works, and works well. Yes, you may have a long line/wait ahead, but you (usually) get a free comic, and sales abound. Then you get to read comics at your leisure.
Record Store Day, if you are to believe the accounts of the “ambassadors”, is meant to recreate that magical feeling/experience many older folks had with their local record store when they were first discovering music. A person used to go in, peruse music albums at their leisure (potentially for hours) and/or chat up the employees who may have suggestions, then go home to (hopefully) enjoy the new music. It was a relatively relaxing experience even if it wasn’t magical.
Record Store Day is far from magical. Take the same experience above, and replace hours of perusing with hours of waiting in line, replace employee suggestions with employees being outnumbered at least 10 to 1 and too busy to help most people, replace any relaxation with stress of getting what you want before someone else. This was my experience, though I’m sure it’s different for everyone.
People don’t go to Record Store Day events to discover music. They mainly go to try and get the exclusive limited-edition RSD releases before other local people interested in the same thing get there first. Sorry to say, when you are one in thousands competing for copies of a product that a particular local store may only have 3-5 of, it doesn’t work.
When people discover music nowadays, I would guess Google is the crown champion. You can type in almost any song paired with any genre and find a unique take on an old favorite. I have seen/heard quite a few good bluegrass covers of popular songs this way. You can also type something like, “list of songs about ______” and maybe find a song for whatever you need at the time. The potential is endless discovery.
What can be done to “fix” Record Store Day? It’s hard to say. Free Comic Book Day offers something free, but, these “free” comics actually cost the store money. If a record store gave away “free” vinyl, which costs them maybe $10-20 each, they would not survive. If there was a free offering it would likely have to be digital, which doesn’t necessarily encourage people to go to the physical stores.
Record stores might not want to change a thing. As it is, they make lots of money from RSD sales. Those who do brave the crowds are usually hardcore collectors willing to shell out relatively high prices for these forced-rare releases.
Some day I hope they figure out how to do things better, and truly encourage customers to visit their store to discover music. Unfortunately we don’t need record stores to do so anymore. Releasing rare, expensive, and only-to-be-sold-that-day-vinyl-records is mostly just a dick move that happens to help record stores make money for a day.