Hey Record Store Day, Face the Facts. You’re Hurting Indie Labels.


Last month Record Store Day sent a scathing open letter to their critics. The letter specifically addressed indie labels Sonic Cathedral and Howling Owl, who are running a separate promotion instead of participating in RSD.

Sonic Cathedral and Howling Owl originally sent their own open letter to RSD, detailing how the holiday has come to hurt their business.

How did RSD respond? By saying they’re here to help indie record stores, NOT indie labels. They confusingly followed this up by saying that complaining labels are wrong, as “indie labels are among the biggest winners from RSD.”

In summation, RSD says that labels don’t even know about their own business. RSD knows what’s best for you, so stop complaining.

This reminded me of McDonald’s snarky reply to complaints about asking artists to perform for free. Remember how that ended? McDonald’s gave in and paid up.

Earlier this week Pitchfork and FACT both published articles that detail problems associated with RSD. They spoke to Blue Arrow, Secretly Canadian, Alter, Because Music, and YAM Records. They all agreed that RSD is making things difficult. YAM said:

“It’s independent labels we want to be celebrating – the ones that have consistently contributed to the growth of the vinyl industry and have kept the format alive, not those pressing special releases destined to be bought for their novelty factor. Not long ago everyone thought the format had died a death, but the small guys were predominantly the ones keeping it afloat. If the majors want to start pressing lots of records again they’re more than welcome to, but perhaps it would be better received if they invested some of their capital into building new pressing plants to lessen the strain.”

Now another label has chimed in.

+Native Instruments Shouldn’t Be the Only Company Creating the Stems Format

FoF Music will not be participating in Record Store Day, instead they’ll be offering 50 percent off all their vinyl. In a statement posted to Facebook they said:

“Hi all, Record Store Day is coming up and while the original intent of the event is admirable, it’s actually become detrimental to small, DIY operations like FoF. It’s unfortunate, but it seems like every year our vinyl schedule gets delayed by months for some *limited* Dave Grohl or Jack White single.

So are indie labels REALLY the “biggest winners”? Your move, RSD.


Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more: @nine_u


Photo by Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr used with the Creative Commons License

23 Responses

    • Indie RSD!

      Time for a separate INDIE RECORD STORE DAY… seems like an obvious solution that is mutually beneficial to all parties.

      • FarePlay

        Great idea. Not only would it give these retailers a second shot at more sales, it solves the problem. Bravo.

  1. jw

    The problem here isn’t Record Store Day. It’s too few pressing plants. It’s demand outpacing supply. It’s very retarded to make RSD the bad guy here.

    >> If the majors want to start pressing lots of records
    >> again they’re more than welcome to, but perhaps
    >> it would be better received if they invested some
    >> of their capital into building new pressing plants
    >> to lessen the strain.

    This made my jaw drop. Some guy at a record shop is lord over whether the majors can press vinyl or not? And if major labels want to press vinyl, they ought to build their own plants? Jesus christ.

    RSD is the scapegoat here. And the more this gets publicized, the worse the indie labels look, imo.

    • Arvid Audio

      The vinyl resurgence was well underway when the indies decided that selling CDs wasn’t cutting it soundwise. There’s still a number indie bands that don’t release on vinyl, they’re MP3 and CD only, so don’t try putting it all on RSD.

      As for pressing plants, these machines are rare and expensive. Those that are up and running are already running 24/7 now, so if you want to get a record pressed, you need to give a six-months-or-so lead time. You need to grow up and do some real planning, like you’re a REAL business, not a part-timer.

      • FarePlay

        At least one new pressing plant went online last year in this country. A bigger challenge, if you’re serious about it, are recording studios with analogue recording capabilities.

        • jw

          Are you serious? There’s analog recording studios all over the place.

          Putting together a record pressing plant is a MUCH bigger undertaking.


          • FarePlay

            I’m not talking about someone’s basement or garage with a lap top and pro-tools.

          • danwriter

            A laptop and Pro Tools is, by definition, a digital recording set up. There are hundreds of professional analog-capable recording facilites in the US, counting the ones that at least have quarter-inch or half-inch two-track decks to mix to. If you think vinyl manufacturing capacity is stretched, you oughta get a load of where tape production is at. Much of what’s being recorded and/or mixed to analog is being done on tape re-used over and over again, which in the long run degrades the sonic qualirty of the medium. If you’ve ever experienced DSD, you’d never want to go back to tape again. You wouldn’t have to.

        • Arvid Audio

          And six more presses went into service at an existing U.S. plant (Chad Kassem’s) within the last six months AND IT’S STILL NOT ENOUGH TO KEEP UP!

          As for Analog recording studios, watch Dave Grohl’s Sound City film (on Blu-ray); check out the Steve Hoffman Music Forums; check out Mikey Fremer’s Analog Planet site for info on the pedigree of new and newly re-released vinyl.

          The information is out there, but we need the indie bands AND THEIR LABELS to pay some attention, too. I think they dug their own hole by being late to the vinyl party, now they want to blame RSD for not getting a good spot in the line for the vinyl presses.

  2. GGG

    Nobody is really wrong in this scenario, it just highlights that no matter how much people want to pretend they care about artists or independent anything, at the end of the day everyone is just in it for themselves.

    RSD can wipe their hands clean of wrongdoing because they are right; its mission was simply to help the stores, not indie artists.

    And despite a seemingly obvious relationship and fact that some of these stores were probably too cool to carry so much major label material before, why wouldn’t they fill up their racks with $50 vinyls that will sell out in 25 minutes?

    The indie labels have every right to be upset, and some of them are doing what they should, just don’t take part or take part in their own way.

    • FarePlay

      No. You are not right. It is about intention, not causality and eventuality. Definition. You begin with good intentions and once you put it out there other entities get involved and things change. It is about control, which we have very little of.

      • GGG

        What the fuck are you talking about?

        Based on my comment, the only thing you could possibly take issue with there is that I’m trying not to blame the record shops too much. But based on your first comment you clearly take issue with the article to begin with. So again, what the fuck are you talking about?

      • GGG

        Unless you take issue with my comment about people being in it for themselves. In which case, isn’t that the first thing folks your age usually say to folks my age?

        I’ve met enough people in my ten years in this industry to know that very few, if any, people do things out the goodness of their art. And when they do, it’s because they want it to be paid back in some way at some point.

        • FarePlay

          First. I do take issue with the article. I don’t believe everyone has bad ‘intentions’ nor do I believe everyone does things purely for themselves, everyone being the perjorative word. Clearly, you had second thoughts about your comments. Yes, your second comment is closer to what I’m referring to.

          Apologies, if I was commenting in a philosophical context and it sounded like a criticism of your generation. I’ve said this before in this blog. I’ll say it again. My generation has shaped the world we live in as yours will shape the next chapter. I hope you do better, because we’ve done a terrible job.

          • GGG

            I didn’t have second thoughts, I stand by my comment. Your idea about intentions isn’t mutually exclusive to my statement. I didn’t say everyone has ‘bad’ intentions, just that at the end of the day they worry about themselves. Case in point, this argument about indie record stores on RSD. Yes, they’ve always carried major label new releases, but, at least most of the good ones here in NYC, the intrinsic focus is on indie bands. But they’re still going to carry, say, a $50 RSD Justin Bieber limited pressing (if it existed) since it will sell. I never expected them to stand up to majors and say we’re only distributing indie artists, even though it’s slightly more tied into the idea of the store.

          • FarePlay

            Don’t pretend you want a real answer to a question and then that act as if you never got one. If you stopped being defensive for a minute, perhaps you’d develop an ability to listen.

          • GGG

            The whole point of my initial comment was that it’s a bit fruitless to blame anyone in this scenario because of course they will go for the most personally beneficial endgame when we’re talking about struggling entities in the first place. I don’t know what else I could say to make you happy. You want me to rescind any marginally negative comment toward record stores because you worked at one once?

            Look, I get it, you’ve redeveloped the unfettered idealism we all have at some point towards art and music and the business (I still have it as much as I can ha), but I’ve now been in this shit long enough to know there’s (almost) always a play going on. And no, it’s not always about dropping convictions, but it’s about self-preservation. Anyway, you don’t have to respond to this, you won’t change my mind and I won’t change yours, that’s just the reasoning behind my current mindset.

  3. Musicservices4less

    All right you two, GGG and Fareplay. Now hear from me, someone who has (and still) for more than a few years run BOTH an independent record label and brick and mortar record retail stores. If you want to decide which ones have died more I think I would side with brick and mortar. But that should not be the issue. All businesses in the record industry and not, have challenges with the three levels of its operations 1) manufacture 2) wholesale distribution and 3) retail. Unless we just make everything free and available (like some in the digital distribution side want) these issues will exist. The real culprit was pointed out at the top of the comments….lack of pressing plants. But that problem always existed even in the heyday of vinyl.

    It’s all about anticipation. If you are a label and you know when RSD is, why do you plan your releases around it? Why fight your wholesale customer? Why not talk with your pressing plant? Now if you are not really an independent record label i.e. only have one or two albums for sale, then you are just a self released artist. Sorry, dems the facts.

    Stop fighting and start working on making sure you stay in business.

    • FarePlay

      Well said, but you talk as if the record business is run like other businesses. Planning? Are you kidding? A record takes off unexpectedly, that still does happen, and the labels in scramble mode. An important artist is at a party and someone asks what they’re doing about RSD next month. The following morning the manager gets a call from the artist. The manager then calls the label….

      To M4Less’s point. The indie’s are the ones who really need to plan out their needs well in advance. Your biggest customer will always be at the front of the line…………..

  4. FarePlay

    Record Store Day. Why this post and headline pisses me off.

    Counter to what some believe, we are dealing with an industry on life support mode. Record Store Day is one of a handful of positive programs that was started to save the handful of record stores that remain.

    Personally, I promote Record Store Day. I worked for nearly 3 years for Discount Records in California and loved to talk to people about music. The following is on the RSD Facebook page and is another example of what RSD deals with. My point. Don’t take RSD down because of what other companies and people do, they can’t control it.

    “We spend weeks investigating links and when there’s a store behind it there are serious consequences for those stores. The person you’re talking about is not a store, they are pretty clear when you ask that they are going out on Saturday to shop and fill their orders. Yes, people take advantage of what we’re doing. Because we live in a world where anything that is limited edition ends up on eBay. Anything. Does that mean we should stop doing what we’re doing? Stop celebrating and bringing attention to independently owned shops? No. Do the math. Over 750,000 individual pieces will be released on Saturday. Even with all the ebay listings, the VAST majority of them will end up exactly where intended. If you say that someone being a jerk and selling on eBay is a reason not to bother with the stores then you’re not in it for the stores in the first place. Which is fine, not everyone is. But we are. And nothing about this is a scam.”

  5. Indie Music Fan

    RSD never said “they’re here to help indie record stores, NOT indie labels” – that appears to have been said by the UK retailers association, ERA. Looking at the RSD releases (which seem heavily indie) and how many independent artists are happily promoting their RSD releases on social media, I think it’s pretty clear this is not a real issue.


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