After his last column on why he dislikes guests lists so much proved to be so popular, we asked former Bastions drummer, Daniel Garrod, if there was anything else he fancied getting off his chest/putting in the firing line. We didn’t expect him to turn his attention to Record Store Day, but hey, here’s his column…
Two years ago, almost to the day, I got a call from my then-guitarist who sounded like he was going to stab me in the throat…
I remember picking up the phone and barely had the word ‘hello’ come out of my mouth when he told me in a very agitated tone: “I think you’ve just cost us our label deal.”
Well damn it all, that shut me up. Normally I have a penchant for really rubbing people up the wrong way and I am usually very conscious about what I’ve done or said in order to piss people off; but I simply couldn’t fathom what I had done this time to warrant such a great middle-finger at the band. I hadn’t mouthed off about music, I hadn’t leaked the record, I hadn’t had a slagging match with the label owner … I genuinely had no idea until I was duly informed: “Dude, what the fuck were you thinking when you posted that blog slating Record Store Day?”
Some of you may remember a blog posted by the NME, from a gentleman who stated he had no time for the elitism of record stores. The backlash against him was enormous and the whole underground scene went absolutely fucking batshit on him. The most common argument against him was that “He didn’t get it.” That didn’t hold much salt with me, as he went on to say he would rather buy merchandise direct from a band or pay for a gig ticket than endorse a cash cow designed to give record stores and labels money. I agreed with him 110%, and said so out loud. Whoops. Apparently I had been deeply disrespectful to all the “hard work” that labels and record stores put into supporting underground and independent scenes. Now, looking back on that little blog post I wrote … as far as controversial things go, that’s pretty low down on the list. I had just seen through the farce and said so out loud. Again, whoops.
Growing up, and to be honest – to this day, I hated going into record stores. Every time I did, I had to fight through a filing system only the owners understood, and when you found the band you liked you would usually get a little condescending smirk because it was a band you heard on the radio. My parents told me that I should be encouraged to ask the store owners about new bands you should listen to, like they did in their day. I tried that once, and when asked about bands I was listening to now as a starting point … well let’s just say that a condescending smirk is at least quieter than a chuckle in a shop full of people, and back then I wasn’t six foot tall and brimming with the arrogance that only being in a hardcore band can give you.
We would’ve used the scene where Jack Black berates a customer right out the store, but YouTube have removed all the clips of that we could find:
Record stores can be elitist places, and they can certainly not be welcoming places. If they were, then shops such as HMV would never have existed (don’t be a smartarse, my local HMV is still opening and business is running as usual). Record stores do not cater for the common man, woman or child. They cater to those “in the know.” But that’s not the only reason why I fucking hate Record Store Day.
Supposedly, RSD is about supporting independent stores and artists, but I have seen little evidence to support that latter part of that statement. I do not begrudge a label or store making money from their sales (hey, we all have mouths to feed and houses to heat) but where I get muddled up is where the support of the artist comes into play. I have never heard tell of an artist getting some money back from a record, or being part of a record, that is being sold at marked-up value because it has a Record Store Day sticker on it.
Let’s take an extreme example: for Record Store Day 2013, At The Drive-In are re-releasing Relationship in Command on double gatefold vinyl. Awesome. Now, I know how much that will cost to make in small volume (and I’m pretty sure this is not that limited-an-edition), so when it goes up for sale for (let’s make an educated guess) £20, I can tell you now that that record is going to make about 300 to 400% profit. Okay, this might be a slightly poor example – as we’ve all seen the YouTube videos of ATD-I performances where they were seriously lacking in the “doing it for the music” department. But just take a moment to look at those figures.
Okay, okay…let’s take ‘Underground Label X’s RSD13 compilation vinyl instead. Basic vinyl, might be a pretty colour, probably in a see-through plastic sleeve, with an RSD13 sticker in the top left hand corner. Will it be given out for free? Nope. Will the contributing artists be getting a percentage of the hard sale after production costs? Nope.
Watch At The Drive-In collecting a paycheque at Reading Festival 2012:
What’s wrong with that? Well isn’t it just a little bit backwards? The dirty secret about the new trend in vinyl is that it isn’t for you and the artists you hear on the radio (Just ask the people that had a good ol’ laugh at me for proudly brandishing my five-part My Chemical Romance Conventional Weapons vinyl collection to the world), it’s for “them” and the artists “you don’t get”. They don’t want you here, unless you’re going to pay through the nose for a vinyl that is being re-released in a new colour for the fourth time because it’s “Record Store Day”. It is a deliberate exploitation of trends and fashion for the benefit of the underground. And that’s fine! If that money is being ploughed (and not just the artists – let’s make this very clear; this is about equal distribution) back into the artists that created said music to put on said sexy-beast-blood red-vinyl. But it’s not, it’s going back into the pockets of the stores and the labels…what? Didn’t mummy and daddy teach you the value of sharing?
So there lays my real crux of the issue and I will admit, two years down the line where I am older and wiser, I realise that with both eyes wide open. Bands are forced (in order to survive on the road and in the studio) to make a constant stream of t-shirts, hoodies, jumpers, patches, beanies and shorts in increasingly small, limited-edition, amounts in order to put some money in their fuel tank. They, for want of better words, are forced to “sell-out” by marketing their name and their image as a brand. Meanwhile, record stores and labels are celebrated for “supporting” new music by putting it in their stores and no-one bats an eyelid while the records go into fund “future releases”. Wait, what about the bands and artists you have on roster now? Can we look after those guys first before you start hunting for the next big ‘swell’? RSD has the potential to help artists survive in a cutthroat world of passing fancies and quick-glance genres, instead it is a bloated cash cow designed to help everyone but.
Writer’s note: Just before this was published I saw that a few indie labels were getting stung by “stipulations” made by those running RSD and could no longer participate due to financial reasons. When an event begins to dictate how, what and where people can participate and distribute their music and releases then they start becoming the very thing they claim to be against.
While the point of the article remains the same, it seems that the term “corporate cash cow” is become more and more appropriate with it being geared more to larger labels and stores. I (and I’m sure I speak for everyone at Thrash Hits, too) urge you to support both artists and labels by buying direct from them wherever possible. I may not agree with how most things are run in the underground world; but the music industry would be dull without them and honestly I would hate to see them gone. (Just buck up your ideas a bit, yeah?)