Monday, May 5, 2008

Record Store Day postmortem

So was Record Store Day a success?

Anecdotal reports on the event, which was April 19, suggest that participating stores had good days. Newbury Comics, the Boston indie empire, said: “Our overall store sales were up 85 percent and our margin was up 49 percent. Sales were over 30,000 higher than on Black Friday of last year.” And StreetPulse, which tracks sales for independent retailers, told me:

StreetPulse numbers reveals [sic] Saturday (4/19) as the largest day of music sales for 2008 out selling the second largest day (3/22) by 29 percent. Music sales increased 39 percent on Record Store Day compared to the same time the previous week. The response to Record Store Day increased music sales over 22 percent from same day last year.

Billboard surveys some stores, with mostly good news, and relays SoundScan data saying that while chain-store sales were down 20.8 percent from the same week last year, indies were up 1.6 percent. In most businesses 1.6 percent is flat; in the sad new music biz, it’s cause for a pat on the back.

But will it have any lasting effect? Probably not, of course. New York’s showing in particular was poor. I am aware of only three of New York’s quickly disappearing record stores that had any special activities: Other Music in Manhattan, and Sound Fix and Halcyon in Brooklyn. (Update: Apparently J&R also had something; Ed Christman mentioned it in his column but I can’t link to it.) Other Music was pretty busy, and gave 10 percent off everything in the store. That was nice, but Cortney Harding at Billboard noted a telling detail:

Perhaps the image that best sums up Record Store Day is this: Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach DJ’ing an afternoon set at Manhattan’s Other Music, with two iPods set atop silent turntables.

While the shop was crowded and the register lines were long, Auerbach’s small visual statement seemed monumental. Even on Record Store Day, the record had been supplanted.

Perhaps a good measurement of the success or failure of Record Store Day would be sales for the week that followed.

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