My name is Terry Cole. I co-own Colemine Records, a small independent record label specializing in soul music with my younger brother Bob. I also operate Plaid Room Records, an independent record store. Our label and shop are housed within the same location and certainly benefit from each other’s existence. They sharpen each other. Our shop makes our label better and our label gives our shop a unique personality.
I don’t make a habit of writing blog posts. Or writing at all for that matter. I’m sure there will be some grammatical errors in this as I’m going to post it before I have my mom, Tracy Cole, proofread it. No one and I mean no one proofreads as well as her. I’m writing today on the topic of Record Store Day as I think I might have a unique perspective on what the day means to the different companies that I help operate.
Record Store Day is by far the busiest time of year for our shop outside of the holiday season. So you would think that any record store, record label, or record buyer would be elated about a day dedicated to an industry you have an affinity for. But not so. Every year as Record Store Day approaches I start to hear a familiar voice. Sometimes I hear it in the shop. Sometimes on the phone. Other times via the Internet. But it’s a familiar voice that I know all too well……the voice….. of the record curmudgeon. The cynic, the negative-Nancy, the Debbie-downer, the person who thinks Record Store Day is a complete farce and only there to serve the major labels. Well friends, I’m here to put another voice in your head. And I won’t assume that my perspective is one shared by all, it’s simply my perspective.
Record Store Day is a day that has given both our shop and label an opportunity to shine. It’s a day where we have gained thousands of new fans on both sides of our business. On the shop side, we have approached RSD by surveying our customers in order to gauge interest in particular titles. No one makes us order anything. If we see a title on the list that we don’t think we can sell, then we simply don’t order it. There is a common misconception among customers that the entity known as Record Store Day decides how many copies each shop receives. And well…. that’s just not true. If we want a bunch of Now-Again’s reissue of David Axelrod’s masterpiece Song Of Innocence, then we’ll order a bunch. My point is that I don’t let the seemingly frivolous releases from the major labels bother or jade me on the whole day. Sure, maybe I’m not into them, but maybe some of our local customers are and if that’s the case then you better believe I’ll be stocking them. And while I can’t speak for every shop in the country, I can say that surveying our customers certainly reduces the number of “leftover” items following the weekend. I also try to not let the frivolousity of a few releases jade my geneuine excitement for what I think are great and worthy releases.
On the label side of things, it’s this big, beautiful opportunity to make something fantastic!! It’s this massive platform to make something cool that record stores want to champion. For example, this year we chose to re-release a killer soundtrack by Los Sospechos that we released 6 years ago and that’s been out of print since then. That’s cool. It’s music that a lot people don’t even know about. And now they will. And that’s cool. That’s neat. That’s engaging and worthy of an RSD release. Perhaps as a result of that purchase they will leave their local record store and think, “Man, those idiots at Colemine really went all out with the packaging on this release. I wonder if they have anything else that’s not terrible.” And then they’ll go check us out and be like, “Man, this stuff isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” My point is that RSD is a beautiful opportunity to showcase what your label is about, whatever that may be.
But any success on RSD certainly only comes with a lot of hustle. I’m not trying to say that making money on RSD is easy. It’s a lot of work. The work starts many months before that third Saturday in April and any record storeowner or employee would tell you that. But to me, it’s worthy work. So I get particularly offended when I hear folks dismiss the day as merely a money grab for the major labels. And no one from Record Store Day paid me to say that. I’m writing all of this to merely offer a different voice to the commentary on Record Store Day. I would be disappointed if the voice of the record curmudgeon was the only voice to be heard. In addition, it's an opportunity for us to invite our community to get in on the excitement of RSD. This year we have over fifteen local businesses actively involved with RSD. It strengthens our community and makes all of our businesses stronger.
My final thought is this: Record Store Day is a good thing for independent labels and for independent record stores. Both of those are things that I like. So until I feel differently, Colemine Records will continue to use Record Store Day as a vehicle to reach a wider audience and Plaid Room Records will continue to use it as a vehicle to entice new customers. And I'm not saying it's the perfect vehicle. But it's a vehicle. So hop in, figure out where you want to go, and get yourself there.
So, in all seriousity, happy Record Store Day to everyone: the optimist, the collector, the store owner, the store employees, the hard working indie labels, distributors, the vinyl newbie, the vinyl veteran, and yes…even the curmudgeon.