For me, the anticipation for Record Store Day (RSD) 2023 tomorrow feels similar to what I felt in the weeks leading up to the last FIFA World Cup.
The reason for this is pretty simple - it has been four years since I properly enjoyed the best part of Record Store Day and got the rush that only comes from on-the-day crate digging.
The two ‘Covid years’ that impacted RSD (2020 and 2021) caused havoc with its scheduling. It was split into various dates and predominantly celebrated online, amidst some delays in vinyl production – and then last year I missed its return to a one-day celebration in April due to a move overseas. Doh.
For those like me who missed out on RSD 2022 for pandemic-related, or other, reasons, this year's Record Store Day may be – or may feel like – the first properly normal version of the event in a long, long while.
But it isn’t just how long I’ve been away from it, or even that I’m currently in a new country (Australia) and city (Melbourne) and curious to see how it is handled here on the other side of the world. I’ll certainly be heading to a few Melbourne independents on Saturday 22nd April looking for some of that London Rough Trade East vibe and I really hope there's a queue!
There are other reasons why I can’t wait to celebrate RSD 2023: the quality of the releases, the health of vinyl and the quality of today's record players' performance.
Firstly, there are some cracking releases. The What Hi-Fi? team got together to discuss and curate our most anticipated RSD releases for 2023, including a live Stevie Nicks performance for the first time on vinyl, live material from Taylor Swift (our technical editor couldn’t help himself) and a reissue of solo Keith Richards music that has long been out of print.
Personally, I’ll be making a beeline for Beach House’s Become EP, five “spacious and scuzzy” songs from the studio sessions of the Baltimore dream-pop band’s 2022 album Once Twice Melody (my favourite from that year) - as solid an indie release as any other in the RSD list, in my opinion.
The full list of exclusive RSD releases is here for your convenience if you wish to put some time aside for a proper perusal before the doors open tomorrow, though it isn’t like Record Store Day is only about those special records. It’s a celebration of vinyl, whichever album(s) you want to add to your collection.
Maybe it's all about that one you have racked up 82 listens to on Spotify that you now think, “yeah, I’d like to own that”, or maybe your local independent will be running a sale on second-hand shellac that you’d like to get elbows deep into.
Even if it’s just an excuse to head to your local independent to listen to something you’ve been curious about, see what others are buying or talking about, or simply be there for any live music, signings, raffles and social drinking, RSD will have fulfilled its duty. Make sure to check out events near you to stay apprised of what's going on locally.
Secondly, vinyl remains in a healthy place, so the celebration is fully merited this year. US vinyl sales for 2022 may have ‘only’ been 42 million units a year compared to more than seven times that in the late 1970s when vinyl was the dominant music format, according to an RIAA report (Recording Industry Association of America), but – and it’s a big ‘but’ – last year was the first since 1987 that vinyl record sales outperformed CDs.
On top of that, last year marked the 16th consecutive year of growth for record sales in the States - thank you, overwhelmingly dominant best-sellers Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. Streaming may be the dominant form of music consumption in every which way you look at it, but vinyl is still very much on a prosperous path.
The fact big artists like Metallica and Jack White are backing pressing plants, and artists and labels are increasingly finding creative ways to package vinyl albums as compelling things to own is a promising sign for its longevity and relevance amongst streaming, too. Key examples include the RSD 2023 release of The Godfather Suite soundtrack on pearl-white vinyl with a gatefold sleeve and the playful features seen on White’s Lazaretto ‘Ultra LP’ which includes ‘hidden’ tracks and inside-out playback.
On that note, wasn’t a recent stat circling that only half of vinyl buyers in the US actually own a turntable?
Even if that's right for me it's still a good sign. Whether people are buying vinyl to hang them on the wall as art, to support artists the best way they can, or with the foresight of getting a record player later down the line, it all points to the fact that records are pretty popular things to buy and own. Essentially, casual vinyl listeners shouldn’t feel hesitant when buying records or turntables that their hobby is going to go out of fashion anytime soon – it almost certainly won’t.
Thirdly, speaking of turntables, now has never been a better time to buy one – for no other reason than the quality you can get across multiple price points is higher than it ever has been. In the past year or so, the Pro-Ject Debut Pro has lifted the benchmark at the £699/$999/AU$1200 level while the Vertere DG-1 S has also recently done just that at a higher price. At the more modest mark, the Pro-Ject Primary E continues to be a great entry-level deck at a great price. That arguably the biggest consumer audio launch of the year so far, the Sonos Era 300, is compatible with a turntable tells you all you need to know about how the format is being accommodated, too.
It’s been 15 years since Record Store Day kicked off in 2008, and who knows whether the event dedicated to one of the 21st century’s most unlikely comebacks will get to 30 years or not. But in 2023, Record Store Day is as appealing a way for music and vinyl fans to spend a Saturday in April as it has ever been. Whether it's to grab a special (or otherwise) release or simply soak up the atmosphere, get involved – you won't regret it.
If you want to be a part of RSD 2023, details on the exclusive releases, participating record stores and local events are available at the official Record Store Day websites in the UK, the US and Australia.
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