Black Friday: Vinyl Records

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Black Friday: Vinyl Records

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On Black Friday, against all good judgment, I set my alarm for 5:30 in the morning. I wasn’t heading for Macy’s to get shoes for half off, or to Target for a TV that was marked down to pennies of what it once was. Instead I was heading to Kiss the Sky, my local record store in the Chicago area. By the time I arrived, 6:30 for an 8:00 a.m. opening, I was eleventh in line. They did not have any remarkable deals, and in fact they did not have any sales at all. So why was I heading to a record store at an absurdly early hour to a store that had no deals when I could have been sleeping? For one reason: Record Store Day.

Record Store Day is a once a year event that takes place the third Saturday of every April, beginning in 2007. It was pegged as a day to celebrate music and vinyl with exclusive releases, live music and an appeal that would boost sales at hundreds of independent record stores across the country. While that first year had only a few releases, it quickly expanded at an exponential rate. Vinyl lovers needed more than just one day a year to have a celebration worthy of the title of Record Store Day. To fix this problem, in 2010, Record Store Day expanded to not only hold an April event, but also a Black Friday version of the holiday. While the Black Friday version is not as huge and extravagant as the main event in April, it now boasts over 100 exclusive releases every year. It also entices people to skip the madness of normal Black Friday shopping in favor of supporting a local record store. This holiday has made its way to the masses, though, and is an integral part to the music industry. Every year, there is a musician who is appointed as the official ambassador, which has, in the past, boasted the likes of Josh Homme, Iggy Pop, Dave Grohl and the king of vinyl, Jack White. This year on the Black Friday edition of Record Store Day, White opened up a second location of his Third Man Records store in Detroit. He also announced that they will soon be opening a new vinyl pressing plant, Detroit’s first new vinyl plant since the 1960s. There was no better time to announce this than this holiday, which has become a focal point of the resurgence of vinyl in recent years.

You may be wondering: Is all this hoopla actually worth it? It most definitely is. Every incarnation of the holiday entails the release of many albums and singles that have either never been released on vinyl or are pressed on an exclusive type of vinyl. It is the only time that you are able to buy a glow in the dark record of MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” EP and a super exclusive 7-inch pressing of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” in the same trip.

All of the releases that are available to Record Store Day shoppers are incredibly limited, often maxing out at 3000 copies made, which makes them not only an incredible piece of vinyl, but also a collector’s item. The holiday not only is a time to buy records that you will never get the chance to purchase again, but also serves as a gathering place for music lovers. Standing in line with people who have similar interests creates a launch pad for conversations about any and all things music. Talk of record player setups, favorite bands and record collections are all common occurrences between folks waiting to buy the records they are seeking.

After spending both the Black Friday and April versions of the holiday at the same store the past couple of years, I have started to recognize many of the people who wait outside with me year in and year out. It creates a community, though one that meets only twice a year, amongst those who lineup early outside the store.

And the environment that is created by these vinyl lovers is a much more welcoming one than spending your Black Friday clawing other people to get a blender for five dollars at Kohl’s. It’s also much more civil. So next Thanksgiving, instead of braving the usual stores that you go to, and risk getting caught up in a sea of people, head to your local record store instead and embrace a community of music lovers that will welcome you with open arms.