Some thoughts on Record Store Day

Published April 16, 2011

When I was younger, I dreamed of finding a record store that was like the one where Goldie Hawn works in Cactus Flower (scroll to about 0:24 for a short glimpse), or like Hayley Mills’ place of employment in The Family Way, or perhaps as manned by Elvis Presley on the sleeve of the Elvis For Everyone album (bizarrely, the first Elvis record I owned). Polite and friendly young women and men behind a counter, dressed in Sixties fashion, doing their best to keep their customers happy.

The reality turned out to be somewhat different. Whereas I could always lose myself happily browsing the actual singles and albums, I’ve often found record store counters to be very tense environments. Rather than a Goldie, Hayley or Elvis, I feel that I’ve more often been confronted with stuck-up and snobbish men doing their best to make you feel uncomfortable, eyeing your purchases suspiciously before passing silent judgment on whether your tastes in music are cool or not. Worst of all was the singles department at the Mega Store here in Stockholm, where the staff literally chose to ignore you because they were too busy chatting with their super-cool DJ friends. Being the naïve soul that I am, it took a long while before I finally realised that the record store I dreamed of didn’t actually exist.

Today is Record Store Day, celebrating independently owned record stores the world over with various events and special releases. The aim, according to the Record Store Day website, is to celebrate “the unique culture surrounding … independently owned record stores”. The picture painted is one where knowledgeable staff guide interested customers in their search of exciting new music. The dialogue between record shop attendant and music fan leads to a happy ending, where the customer leaves the shop with something he or she didn’t even know existed. Although I myself have seldom had similarly rewarding experiences in record stores – except, for some reason, in certain second-hand stores: the more eclectic the stock, the more relaxed the owner, seems to be the rule – the record store as such does still have a special place in my heart. I can still recall where I bought several of my records, and with age I've learned how to ignore rude staff. After all, for me it was mainly about the actual records and less about who sold them to me. For all the convenience of online shopping, a world with no physical record stores would indeed be a sad one.