Since its inauguration in 2007, Record Store Day has become an odd sort of musicker holiday, part consumer extravaganza, part community get-together. An opportunity to work out some mixed feelings about vinyl records, a physical music format many thought dead two decades ago, but which generated more than a billion dollars for the music industry in 2020. With Taylor Swift’s Evermore even setting a modern vinyl sales record of some sort a few weeks back. According to the media, LPs are back, baby!
Of course, people who never stopped participating in vinyl culture — or going to their local record stores — get salty about RSD. Not just because suddenly there’s one day a year (or two) that everybody seems to become a record collector. Or because major record labels, which helped kill off the LP for the more profitable CD in the 1980s and ‘90s, now roll out an endless array of limited edition “collectibles” and clog the schedules of vinyl pressing plants (delaying the orders of hundreds of independent label records who never left the format). It’s the familiar annoyance when microculture hits a big time, and begins being pulled down for its regulars.
Yet it feels exceedingly churlish to get angry about a day when the local mom-and-pop store has an opportunity to balance its books in order to stay open for another year. A day when neighborhood retailers don’t have to worry about Amaz*n or digital streaming services (or even a more ethical digital retailer like Bandcamp) about pulling business away from local stores. And, it is extremely important that these stores survive, for local culture to thrive.
Because many record stores remain key to the creative communities and music cultures they serve. They are spaces where people not only discover and pick up some new or old recordings but get the word on the neighborhood street. Record stores are the musicker water-cooler. And if it has a coffee bar, sells books and magazines, or hosts shows (as increasingly more record stores do nowadays), all the better.
So, to celebrate Record Store Day in a way that feels right for Bklyn Sounds, here’s a taste of five of the borough’s shops that meet those standards and almost wholly ignore RSD's consumer pageantry. Each of these record stores is a neighborhood hub, a community focal point, and a purveyor of cultural history. Some are contributing to the remaking of that history, as well. And if you got some loot, all of them will sell you some great recordings. (PS: Corporate stores, or fake indies who leave Brooklyn for Rockefeller Center, need not apply.)