Record Store Day: The day the music didn’t die

Hardcore and punk 7-inch records on display at Generation Records, on Thompson St. Photo by Scott R. Axelrod

BY SCOTT AXELROD | On Sat., April 21, music fans throughout Manhattan (and the world) will pay homage and a visit to their favorite independent music proprietors in celebration of Record Store Day.

The annual event, launched in 2007, is a salute to brick-and-mortar music shops, and includes in-store performances, special sales and the release of an extensive selection of limited-edition and exclusive vinyl — often in the form of different colors, designs, boxed sets, rarities and live tracks.

“We usually open up two hours early, and there’s definitely a lineup,” said Jeff Conklin of Academy Records, at 415 E. 12th St.

Even as big-box stores like Best Buy are about to cease sales of CD’s come July 1, and streaming-music services like Spotify continue gaining subscribers, lifelong music collectors still enjoy the thrill of hunting down a sought-after album, as well as purchasing a physical copy of a more recent release. Whether you’re in search of something new or out to replace a worn-out piece of wax, walk through any independent record shop and inhale that heady, library-like smell of old album covers — it’s intoxicating.

And while indie record shops still dot the Downtown map, a silent prayer goes out in memory of Bleecker Bob’s, Other Music, Rebel Rebel, Rocks In Your Head, Revolver Records, Kim’s Video and Music, Fat Beats and far too many more to mention.

It’s not breaking news that the cultural landscape of Downtown Manhattan has changed significantly, but for those of us who used to trek into the city in search of new artists and to see those artists perform live, it’s hard not to feel a pang of sadness.

Back behind the counter of Academy Records’ intimate East Village locale, Conklin explained that while the majority of his customers stop in to flip through and sample the shop’s vast selection of new and used jazz LP’s, classic rock remains popular. Albums by The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin continue to sell well, and he barely goes a day without someone seeking out a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors.” As a steady stream of calls comes in from those looking to offload entire record collections, Conklin acknowledged that the Internet has made many sellers into “experts” seeking top dollar for rare records, rather than practicing the fine and refined art of haggling.

Meanwhile, Generation Records, over at 210 Thompson St., caters to most non-mainstream music fans, and can be considered one of the last local peddlers of punk, hardcore and heavy metal. In addition to two floors of CD’s, DVD’s, T-shirts and overflowing racks of vinyl, the shop has played host to live appearances by The Misfits, OFF!, The Bouncing Souls, Supertouch, Laura Jane Grace, Screaming Females, Stephen Malkmus and dozens of others.

Generation co-owner Mark Yoshitomi anticipates a significant turnout for Record Store Day and expects this year’s big sellers to be the five limited-edition David Bowie records and many of the other older albums being pressed on vinyl for the very first time.

Music sales have become hard to predict.

“We sell records that you wouldn’t expect a kid to know,” Yoshitomi said, while pointing out that, even though his West Village shop sells a hearty mix of genres to all different types of customers, they’ve turned to the Internet to move merchandise, as well.

“We’ve sold a ton of rare records online that we normally wouldn’t be able to sell in the store,” Yoshitomi noted. “It’s not weird to see people buying vinyl.”

Even though Record Store Day comes but one day a year, music fans are still collecting and purchasing music — from vinyl, to CD, to cassette. Rumors of music’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

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