They say there is nothing new under the sun, and the popularity of vinyl records proves it.
In 2022, vinyl outsold CDs for the first time in 35 years, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. That interest is part of the reason there’s such excitement around Record Store Day, which takes place Saturday.
Record Store Day was created in 2007 during a meeting of independent record store owners in Baltimore and has since been recognized as an official holiday throughout the United States. It’s a celebration of the culture of record stores and the impact they have on music, while also financially supporting them. Customers are often treated to special activities, such as meet and greets with artists, performances and parades, but one of the main reasons people participate is to purchase special vinyl, CDs and other products made solely for the day.
Grammy Award-winning couple Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires will be serving as 2023’s Record Store Day ambassadors. It’s a title that has been taken on by the likes of Metallica, Run The Jewels, Ozzy Osbourne and Taylor Swift, who served in the role last year and will release a limited vinyl edition of her live album, “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions,” exclusively for this year’s holiday.
Six stores in Baltimore participate in the festivities: Baby’s on Fire, El Suprimo Records, Normals Books & Records, Protean Books & Records, Celebrated Summer Records and The Sound Garden. Owner Bryan Burkert opened the award-winning Sound Garden in 1993 “out of necessity,” he said. He had moved from Buffalo, New York and, as an avid music listener, was surprised at the lack of options in Charm City record stores.
Waterparks, a rock band from Houston, performed Wednesday night at The Sound Garden as part of a week-long acoustic record store tour leading up to Record Store Day.
“Record Store Day is sick,” said vocalist Awsten Knight. “I think it’s a great thing because vinyl, albums, physical media is everything. Those sections aren’t growing in the big stores like Target and Best Buy, so having places for those to still be a thing and thriving is very, very important.”
Knight, along with bandmates Geoff Wigington and Otto Wood, recently released “Intellectual Property,” an album with several vinyl editions in various colors. The stop at Sound Garden was one of their last before heading back home from a tour that included other record shops such as Fingerprints in Long Beach, California; Easy Street in Seattle; Music Millennium in Portland, Oregon; and Reckless Records in Chicago.
“It’s special when you go to a store to find it [an album] and you actually get to see it there and you’re able to pick it up,” said Wigington, Waterparks’ lead guitarist. “You just don’t get that anymore.”
Record Store Day is “a big party for us, but it’s also a lot of sales and work for us,” Burkert said. It’s the highest-selling music day of the year, and in 2022, it contributed to the highest-selling week for physical albums as well.
Physical media has seen a large resurgence in recent years despite a plethora of streaming options and digital downloads. And clearly people enjoy having something to look at and hold when it comes to music: 43 million vinyl albums were sold last year alone, according to Billboard. Sound Garden anticipates selling at least 5,000 records on Saturday as they have over 300 unique exclusive releases for the holiday.
“I always liked having a CD so I could have a physical piece of art to look at. Thumbing through the booklet heightens the experience,” Knight said. “With our new album we made a 20-page booklet for the CD. Our vinyl has several versions but my favorite is the gatefold version because the whole thing is holographic; the whole spread is so sick. We are so lucky that the people who listen to us care about physical media.”