With the dawn of the digital age, fans of traditional music formats are right to fear the death of physical copies of music and real-life record stores.
iTunes, Spotify and similar services make it so convenient to buy music. Browse their libraries, hit a few buttons and the entertainment you want begins downloading on your laptop. Music fans no longer have to undergo the cumbersome process of driving all the way to their local record shop, picking through CDs until they find the one they want and heading back home.
But isn’t that experience one of the best parts of finding new music? Isn’t having a copy of the music in your hands and the ritual of going out to the store a benefit, not an annoyance?
That’s what Bull Moose employee Chris Brown thought when he had the idea for Record Store Day.
“[Brown] was working with the National Association of Retail Merchants,” said Freeman Saunders, manager of Bull Moose in Bangor. “They get together once a year and have a conference and that’s when he came up with it.”
The celebration of independent record stores, the people who own them and their customers has developed into a worldwide event since it was founded in 2007. Held annually on the third Saturday in April, prevalent music acts from around the globe make special appearances in record stores and release limited edition material.
“Basically, it’s a celebration of the record buyer, the music buyer,” Saunders said. “Even though we charge for the stuff, it’s like giving back to the customer with all these special editions, [45 rpm records], LPs, CDs, stuff like that.”
It’s only appropriate that the international phenomenon conceived in the area is observed in Maine, and Saunders says the turnout at Bull Moose is “always strong.”
Across the state, 15 local bands will perform at the 10 Bull Moose locations across the state, including Tricky Britches in Brunswick, Steiner Street in Scarborough and Chris Ross in Bangor.
“He just put the finishing touches on his LP, he’s been down in Nashville [and] he’s been nice enough to come back and do a show for us,” Saunders said of Ross.
Many of the bands putting out releases for Record Store Day have shoppers excited. Indie favorite Animal Collective will have a 12” vinyl of an off-the-wall appearance they performed at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in March 2012. Sludgy metalheads Mastodon and delicate songstress Feist are covering each other’s songs on a split 7” vinyl EP. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros are releasing a disc containing the songs “One Love To Another” and “A Note To The American Democrat,” tracks that aren’t available anywhere else.
Also slated are releases by musicians and groups like Childish Gambino, Florence + the Machine, Fun, the late Janis Joplin and Gorillaz.
“One thing I can tell you is that [there are] 4,000 releases on Record Store Day, but not every store gets them all,” Saunders said. “[You have] got to remember this stuff is ordered in five continents and hundreds of countries. It’s really big, it’s a big deal.”
Although the odds may seem slim that the Bangor Bull Moose will have a specific release, Saunders said he was able to secure copies of records with releases whose production runs as limited as 300 copies.
It’s still unclear what releases the Bangor Bull Moose will have for sale. It seems as though curious parties will have to wait until Record Store Day 2012 on April 21 to find out what they’ll have access to.
“I will have a lot of those new national releases this week,” Saunders said. “I can’t really give you specifics, but I’m going to have a lot of them.”
Many of the one-time-only Record Store Day releases won’t find their way to iTunes, but that’s the beauty of the whole thing. Going out to a record shop and thumbing through music both familiar and unheard of can be a thrilling experience, one that was on the verge of death until one Bull Moose employee had an idea and changed the landscape of music for at least one day of the year.
In 2010, Record Store Day saw a 41 percent boost in sales from 2009’s celebration and last year, over 600 artists participated in in-store festivities. This year, Saunders expects similar success for the day both nationally and in Bangor.
“It’s always good and I expect [this year’s celebration] to be the biggest one yet,” he said.