I’m taking this first drop of Record Store Day 2020 as a sign of some possible good changes that can happen for the worldwide event. It was postponed once, then re configured to socially distanced in three drops. And a wonderful way to get our minds off the violence here in Portland. 90 + days of strain here and COVID on top of it. It made all of us a bit giddy finally being about to go to an event.
Still The Wee Hours
Yes, it’s the much delayed RSD 2020, postponed and reformed into three drops, the last Saturday of August, September, and October. The split of the RSD only vinyl releases into three drops makes it a thrill for some to come back three times, for me, it was all or nothing on the first drop. Plus, I had other strategies.
It’s 5:00 am on Saturday 29th, 2020. I hit the corner of Burnside where Music Millennium resides (3158 E Burnside St, Portland, OR), a real brick and mortar record shop. Yes, it’s actually brick and mortar. I see a few people milling about sort of in a line, socially distanced. Not too many, is this a good sign? List in hand, I meet the owner of store, Terry, handing out wee passes to stand in line at 9:00. Got a few hours to kill.
Back Up Plans
I had called the smaller shop I go to second on the day, Jackpot Records (3574 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR), and they had a strategy of putting half the stock on line, half in store. I was told they didn’t know how many were coming to physically stand in line. You see, we’re are still on social distancing restrictions and no crowds above 20 people at this point. Many of the shops were afraid they would get shut down by the health department when they had just reopened their doors. So I had the records I wanted the most, bookmarked in the phone, ready to buy in line and pick up later.
Back at Music Millennium, my pass that I was given amounts to a boarding pass for a record shop. I am to arrive in a lot of 20 people at 9:00. Since my flight doesn’t depart for some time, I catch a few laps at the now infamous Laurelhurst Park, and find a socially distanced coffee stop, read a book, go back to car, read some more. Finally at about 8:45 a.m. I get in the line, standing on my number. People are somewhat confused, we are so used to the camp out. We start joking with each other, it’s the traditional” What are you hoping for?” The record store workers remark, “Hey, maybe we are onto something. Maybe this is how we should have been doing this.” I have to agree, it’s a lot less stress on the standing in line, not so bad in groups of 20 or so.
I managed to get in during my time slot, it was eerily quiet and standing on taped x, scanning the shelves. Luckily my list I had been encouraged to bring, the one I had obsessively put the pictures of each record and title next to, worked really well. I was only able to to find three of the records, my top pick of Tones on Tail rerelease of POP, the first time on vinyl since original release, was already gone. Yup, the speculators had been there. I came back with David Bowie’s John I’m Only Dancing Live, the Cure Seventeen Seconds Picture Disc, and Ultravox 12 inch single of Sleepwalk.
I had planned in advance if the other two records had been wiped out, the strategy of both standing in line at Jackpot and having their order page up for that 10 am release, bookmarked Amoeba Records, who had their RSD sole online sale because of moving locations, and several other UK and US online record sites I have bought from before. Sadly right at 10 am, even though I had had it on the ready, both POP and New Order John Peel Sessions had been wiped out, while I was standing in line. I was also on the lookout for the Jamaica Ska collection that seemed to not make it to Portland shops? Sigh. And Amoeba and Rough Trade were crashing.
On To The Speculation Battle
After begging in the store that they check their back up area, and looking around a second time, I sat in my car and started the now yearly task of trying to find the UK shops that put up their spare copies at GMT time 7 pm, which with the 8 hour difference it was about that time. Was getting hit with $28.00 to $30.00 shipping fees and gave up. I Twittered with my friends in the UK who were already hunting their EBay copies. The ones I could find were all from the UK and speculation hunters had them on auction already. Never lose hope. I kept looking and finally found a domestic shop in Seattle, WA, Zionsgate, that had POP at price plus shipping. I wondered if it could be true, because Amoeba’s site was crashed, as was Rough Trade and other online shops. I took a chance and ordered it, and sent a message to them via eBay. I got a reply, yes, it had been set aside for me. Well, this was eBay, and well, you know how that can go. So I looked for the website and Googled info on them. Yes indeed, they were a real live shop. So I called, because I had a hunch, a feeling in my gut. I talked to a very nice lad and confirmed that he had set it aside and it was my order, I then asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have gotten any copies of the New Order John Peel Sessions 1982 in?”, “Yeah we had that come in, I’ll check….” He claimed to have a copy, banded it together with POP. The next morning I had a bill through eBay. It’s due to hit our mail facility today at 8pm. Here’s hoping that the disasters at the USPost machines made hand sorting keep it pretty clean.
The Take Away
Overall, I want to thank all of the independent record stores in the US, Canada, and world wide for not giving up on RSD this year. The tradition was started as a way to help support small, independent stores, keep vinyl alive, and in this time of COVID forcing many brick and mortar shops to close for good. Many had to sell RSD strictly online due to local ordinances. Many of the shops have learned that doing the distanced and limited access by ticket, may actually be an overall good thing to do in the future.
Suggestion for next drop in September and next year: Create a website ticket boarding pass the night before online at an allotted time to reserve a space in line. Keeping to groups of 20-30 per hour. It was a lot less stressful for shoppers and employees. Just a thought.
Encourage people to bring lists. There are a lot of covers to look at.
Stop the speculative buying. Yes, then there is the never ending evil speculator shopping deal. While it looks like this social spacing and some record stores forced to do online sales only kept some of the speculation at bay, it still was a problem. It’s time that RSD worked with eBay to not allow RSD titles to be sold online until a specific date, giving legit record stores time to get their copies up and make it a bit more fair. In some countries they have rules on this, apparently not in the US.
One last thing. Take a stroll to the shops a day or two after RSD. Sometimes records get misplaced in the shuffle or someone decides against a purchase. It may be under the artist in the regular slot the next day. I was strolling through a shop looking for Dead Kennedys and came across a Bob Marley RSD that my friend in the UK had not been able to find. I bought it and asked him if he still wanted it. He was thrilled. And all he had to do was pay shipping, I owed him a record or two favor myself. Pay it forward.