Digital Is Not the Enemy: How Record Store Day Mastered Social Media

Record Store Day was launched in 2007 to remind those of us galloping headlong down a path toward all things digital, that stores and communities and tangible things still mattered. The mission remains the same nearly 8 years later. However, contrary to a common assumption, the idea of Record Store Day is not inherently anti-technology. In fact, Record Store Day has harnessed the power of social media and the digital space in such effective ways, other organizations with similar goals should take heed.

“I’m glad you’ve noticed our social media,” Record Store Day co-founder and manager Carrie Colliton told ZEFR Insights. “We work very hard at it, and take pride in its organic growth. We definitely feel that supporting, and indeed running, a physical store does not preclude anyone from using technology in many ways.”

The Record Store Is Social

Digital, as it turns out, is not the enemy of analog. In fact, both can work together—as the runaway success of Record Store Day can attest—to achieve what might otherwise have been perceived as opposing forces. For the past 8 years, music lovers and vinyl collectors have lined up around street corners to get their hands on that one limited edition piece of music they crave. And many of them not only found out about where to find that desired record via social media, but hurried home to boast of their finds on YouTube to the tune of nearly 7 million views across the platform, resulting in the “haul” and “pickup” trends that have become staples of YouTube culture.

record store day vinyl haul on youtube

Record Store Day also has hundreds of thousands of followers across their international Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. High-volume hashtagging is a staple of the day, tipping off fellow record hounds on the hunt to what shops have the most coveted releases in stock and announcing special live events.

record store day social media

The Ambassador Spreads the Word

This year, everyone’s favorite former drummer of Nirvana, Dave Grohl, was named Record Store Day Ambassador. The honor is a favorite of musicians who get to do things such as making this video where they reminisce about their own relationship to the format while convincing a new generation about the importance of their local record shop.

“We definitely feel that supporting, and indeed running, a physical store does not preclude anyone from using technology in many ways.”

Former Record Store Day Ambassador Jack White (who is no stranger to using social media in interesting ways to generate interest in his music) went a step further, orchestrating and filming the recording of the World’s Fastest Record and posting the result to his label Third Man Records’ official YouTube channel during last year’s RSD.

The Conversation with RSD

Record Store Day is now an international event, occurring annually (along with a special Black Friday edition to entice holiday shoppers to their locally owned record shops, instead of the usual big box retailers) on the third Saturday of April. On the occasion of this year’s RSD, ZEFR Insights spoke with the UK’s Entertainment Retailers Association CEO and Record Store Day administrator Kim Bayley about the near-miraculous (and still growing) vinyl revival occurring in the midst of what is supposed to be the digital revolution.

ZEFR Insights: Was the original idea of Record Store Day simply to help a quickly disappearing cultural meeting place (the local record shop) to survive the sudden and disruptive rise of digital music delivery? Was there a moment you can recall that triggered the notion that an intervention was necessary?

Kim Bailey: In the years leading to the establishment of Record Store Day we had witnessed a gradual decline in the number of independent record shops. RSD was created to celebrate the culture of those left and to introduce a new generation of buyers to the joys of vinyl which they may not have been aware of before. More than 10 years after the introduction of mp3s and digital files, 50 percent of music is still consumed on physical formats.

“We have never considered that music buyers need to be pigeonholed into physical or digital customers.”

ZEFR: A lot of what makes Record Store Day so successful is the use of social media tools. There is a lot of activity on YouTube as well, with vinyl fans boasting about their hauls, or music aficionados offering previews and suggested picks. How do you reconcile this seeming contradiction, or is it a contradiction at all?

KB: We have never considered that music buyers need to be pigeonholed into physical or digital customers. Customers who buy both types of product and enjoy shopping in shops or buying online make use of both mediums. Digital has always served the market well in terms of immediacy and public relations whilst Record Store Day products capitalize on the joys of visiting indie retail, as well the tangibility and physicality of collecting vinyl.

ZEFR: Some in the music industry have responded to the rise in vinyl sales by calling it a “fad.” Is the vinyl revival a fad, or do you think it is saying something more about our culture and its response to the digitalization of all media?

KB: It is definitely saying something about culture. Lots of consumer research demonstrates that customers like the tangibility, physicality, and large format artwork which digital services simply cannot offer. Record Store Day only accounts for around 10 percent of the year’s vinyl sales so one would conclude that this is a bigger trend than just Record Store Day. We also know that young people are coming into the market and that will drive future sales. In 2014, UK sales of vinyl passed the 1 million mark for the first time since the Britpop era [the early to mid-‘90s], so it really doesn’t show any signs of abating.

Record Store Day 2015 is Saturday, April 18th. For more information about participating stores and a list of the day’s limited edition releases, visit: RecordStoreDay.com



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