Never has the phrase “smashing success” been uttered more cautiously...
We are still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Decisions made months ago for this time period were made fairly blind but we split ‘The List’ of 415 Record Store Day 2020 titles into three RSD Drops dates (176 on the first August Drop, August 29, with a little over 100 each coming on September 26 and October 24) and worked continuously with anxious record store owners looking for ways to be the center of their community while minimizing the chances of someone getting sick. That was a priority for everyone in this industry. In fact, vinyl manufacturing at American plants are down to one shift because they also want to take care of people. It was all not an easy task.
Thankfully, it appears, after this first of three Drops dates, that everyone is doing okay. As usual, the majority of the planned Record Store Day releases ended up where they were intended to go: in the hands of happy music fans. As far as statistics go, because we have nothing really to compare this “event” to, it’s difficult to gauge the numbers (the split List of RSD releases, and the safety precautions put in place by many stores, which sometimes limited sales of non-RSD titles, usually so important to overall Record Store Day sales totals, means there is no level playing field for comparison).
So, this year of the 13th Record Store Day, the weirdest of all years, we are going to have to accept the data and words from the record stores themselves. The number of special titles for this first RSD Drop is about the same as on the 2019 RSD Black Friday List, and sales reports directly from the stores show RSD Drops exceeding last year’s Black Friday sales by about 10% on average. (And if we must compare the two: even with approximately 1/3 the releases, a direct comparison to last year’s Record Store Day--which broke all previous eleven years’ sales records—shows this first of three RSD Drops dates did about 50% the sales.)
In other words, it was a smashing success. And here are the words coming from actual record stores:
AUDIOPHIL’S: This was our first official Record Store Day and while not exactly what we had in mind, we made the most of it. We had a nice little line, socially distanced with their masks, everyone was patient, understanding, and really made our day awesome. Even the folks that didn't get what they were looking for still stuck around to check out what we had, came back to dig our preloved stuff, or shared their info with us in case we saw someone that had what they were looking for. Within an hour of opening we were through the line and seeing Instagram stories come in from folks that were home and spinning. It went swimmingly!
DOWN IN THE VALLEY: Our Record Store Day was unbelievably awesome. Our sales were greater than expected and if we have two more RSDs like this and compared to our RSD number last year we will be ahead by quite a bit. I think that's really positive. We had a 72% sell through which compared to Black Friday was about 52%, so again positive. We used an app to put people into a virtual line queue as they showed up to stand in line. We got glowing reviews on how that worked and as much anxiety as I had going in about using it, it worked better than I even thought it would. So our customers felt comfortable and safe yet got all the RSD titles they've come to expect from us. We might have got a few more sales as one of the stores in town closed a day before because of Covid but I don't think it made that much of a difference as we continue to see mostly regulars and RSD regulars.
EASY STREET RECORDS: Successful for us as well here at Easy Street in Seattle. Felt more like a Black Friday turnout. We did about ¼ the biz as we’d normally do on RSD. We tried our best not to complicate things, while keeping folks feeling safe and healthy. For the most part, it was a similar setup as years past. We tried to move the line without being bossy, so we deterred folks from browsing and that helped. We merch’d good sellers as grab n go’s or we’d get ‘em while they in line or checking out. Without in-stores, DJ’s, and with the line moving slower, it was a stress-free event.
EXCLUSIVE COMPANY: Our first RSD Drop day was 3.78% greater than Black Friday 2019. It was also well over a third of what we did for RSD 2019 so hopefully, the three drops combined will be greater than last year’s RSD. Fingers crossed. The top 5 sellers were Billie Eilish, Tyler the Creator Cherry Bomb, David Bowie “I’m Only Dancing,” “Motorhead 7”, and the Pretenders. Overall, I was very pleased. Each store determined how many people they wanted in the store at a given time (especially when they opened) and people were completely compliant with the rules. Everyone wore a mask and a few had gloves on. At this point I think everyone is becoming pretty used to the world we live in and are willing to go along with the various rules established by retail stores. As far as I know, there were no issues at any of the stores. I think most people were just excited to have some form of RSD they could be a part of.
GALLERY OF SOUND: We did appointment shopping for the first three hours of RSD Drop #1 and most people were more than pleased with how that went. We did a weighted lottery with sign ups in store and online. We put out our stock alphabetically for the first time ever in boxes (socially distanced) and limited the number of people inside all day long. While the vibe was much calmer and we didn’t have bands or beer it was actually better for sales. I think the pent-up demand for entertainment had a lot to do with the success. We were asked to compare sales vs. RSDBF 2019: Wilkes-Barre up 40%, Dickson City up 62% Compared to RSD 2019: Wilkes-Barre did 47% of the days sales, Dickson City did 51% of the days sales
JOSEY RECORDS: Everything went well for us overall. Including all locations, RSD Drop 1 vs. BFRSD 2019 - +20%; RSD Drop 1 vs. RSD 2019 - about 50% of normal.
All locations had a line when opening. In Dallas, we had our first person line up around 8 PM the night before. When we opened we had about 150 people in line, all spaced out 6 feet. Because our store is now 25,000 sq ft we were able to space out six feet along the inner periphery of the building and fit about 70 spots inside and had some overflow outside for about an hour. It was raining in Kansas City so they allowed people to line up inside before opening. We weren't sure what to think about how turn out would be and thus probably under-ordered what we really could have sold based on the number of people here. And still were able to do the numbers we did. We probably could have spent about 25% more and still sold out of most of what we had. Overall across all locations, we sold about 85% of our stock.
LOONEY TUNES: We had over 250 people online when we got to the store and over 500 customers before noon. We gave everyone on the line FREE bagels, coffee, (food given out in individual wrappers and safe) buttons, bumperstickers and Looney Tunes hand sanitizer bottles. Went over the rules with everyone, which were: Everyone will come into the store in the order you have arrived. Twenty at a time. All the titles are lined up alphabetically by artist and you will go through a little “S” line through the store. This way every single person will pass by every title. SLOW, DISTANCED and SAFE. EVERYONE was SUPER SUPER happy at the way we ran everything. Super safe and smooth. TONS OF LOVE! Such a wonderful day.
Remember we are comparing a full RSD 2019 to DROP #1 with about 1/3 titles: RSD DROP #1 compared to 2019 RSD: we did 58% of the sales of last year, we saw 53% of the customer count.
MOLDY TOES: The customers were great, I had about fifteen lined up when I showed up at 4:15 for the 6 AM opening. I issued cards so they didn't have to remain in line. We only allowed five shoppers in at a time, so lines would form every once in a while, but most people were very understanding. The store set-up, due to COVID, was different from past RSDs. Instead of one section, I set up four sections that had crates back to back, so people didn't have to stand side by side. So the RSD stuff was in three areas, six crates total, plus another section with two more crates for some great used product. The walls were 100% full of RSD titles. At the end of the day, we were down to three crates of RSD stuff and almost all of the wall had been replaced with used product. The used stuff was refilled throughout the day and sold briskly. When it was over, one crate was about 3/4 full plus the stuff on the wall. We sold about two crates worth of used and four crates of RSD titles (about 60 records per crate).
The Dollars: I would say that DROP 1 sold slightly more than half of April 2019 RSD, and since we have two more to go, that is very impressive. I have to admit, I was a little nervous and skeptical of the Drop system, I didn't know what to expect, was uncertain that we might not be
able to be open due to COVID and would the excitement still be there. As it turned out, Orange County was doing alright with COVID this month, the fans were out in full force, and most were talking up Drop 2 and 3. I guess I just worry too much.
MONSTER MUSIC: We did about 2/3 of what we did on Black Friday. I had muted expectations and that probably held us back. 1/3 the line of the normal RSD, owing probably to our extra carefulness, limited marketing, and only being open for RSD titles. Line ran out in about 45 minutes and then we reopened the rest of the store. Pretty busy all day. Could’ve sold a lot more, but it felt like being extra careful with purchasing was the imperative at the time.
MUSIC MILLENNIUM: Drops 1 went very well. We did not tell customers in advance but we did warn them that if too many people showed up we might need to give out time slots. I arrived at 5:30 to a crowd of 70 and gave out time slots, numbered 1 to 30 for each half hour of the day. People were very happy with it. Once people dissipated, a few showed up thinking they were the first in line and surprised about it but gladly took their time slot and came back. The store was closed to regular shopping but we did have key Friday new releases out and visible and especially our local boy Elliott Smith’s release sold extremely well. As with regular shopping, all had to wear masks and use hand sanitizer on the way in. We have always done RSD with a single file line winding through the store, walking by every single RSD title before they hit the register. That worked especially well for us this year. Each 30-minute cycle went well, usually with 5 to 7 minutes to spare. We quit giving out time slots past the 2pm period and people who showed just lined up outside on the 30 numbers that were on the sidewalk and we took them in as we could. By 4pm most of the time we only had 10 to 15 people in the store. Staff were really happy with the system and customers encouraged us to use this system all the time, post COVID-19.
We did more that I projected for the day and about 40% of our 2nd highest record store day totals last year. Thanks once again to all in the industry that made this day happen. It was a wise decision to break RSD into 3 days, as we would have had a difficult time trying to make it work with the normal amount of titles. The title selection was very good for yesterday and diverse enough to take care of a variety of genre seekers. Looking forward to RSD Drops 2.
RECKLESS RECORDS: We were more or less equal with the last Black Friday. down about 4.5% from that. Considering that we're open three less hours and one of our locations is operating at a very reduced capacity because it's very small, I'd say we did pretty good.
THE SOUND GARDEN: We had a successful first RSD Drop. Our sales were about even with a typical Black Friday. The Baltimore store placed all our RSD product under a 10’ x 20’ carport tent in the parking lot; Syracuse cleared a specific area of the store. We feel it is important that RSD shoppers have ample time to browse our vinyl sections, that is why the RSD releases are secluded. This has dramatically increased our catalog sales during RSD events. We supplemented a line with plastic, numbered coat check tickets. Then called out numbers in groups. This way people could just hang out in the parking lot, shop in the store, chill at the cafe or wander about. That system seemed to work and people appreciated it.
STREETLIGHT RECORDS: We are extremely pleased to report that both Streetlight locations enjoyed a successful RSD Drop on Saturday! Even with the strict Covid-19 protocols in place, the fans turned out in droves and we couldn't be happier. Both stores did about half in sales of RSD 2019, with San Jose moving through 88% of the titles on the first day. Santa Cruz's sell-through rate was 75%. The biggest sellers of the day were David Bowie, Tyler the Creator, Gorillaz, Billie Eilish, Bone Thugz, Pink Floyd, Lennon/Ono and The Cure.
SWEAT RECORDS: It was pretty good. People were patient and pretty awesome all around. We did about the numbers we would typically do on an RSDBF, which isn’t bad considering we were limiting shopping to 15 minutes, 5 people at a time.
TWIST AND SHOUT: In a year of one thing going wrong after another, something going right seems like a miracle. RSD Drop # 1 indeed went right. We went to crazy lengths to create a safe and organized event for our customers and they rewarded us by following the rules, showing up and bringing their best behavior with them. It is literally impossible to compare this to past RSDs. So much is different. I will say we sold through more than 50% of the titles on the 29th and continued to sell on Sunday and now online sales are roaring. The majority will be gone this week. Jazz and HipHop titles were strong (Charlie Parker, Bone Thugs N Harmony), as were good catalog pieces (Bowie ’74, Pretenders, The Who, John Prine). Billie Eilish ruled the day with Tyler, the Creator and Gorillaz right behind her. Nice to see contemporary stuff at the top. It gives hope for the future of the whole enterprise. Overall, I’m very happy with the way it went. I am cautiously optimistic about the next two RSD drops in September and October, and Black Friday in November. This was a good day in a not very good year.
VINTAGE VINYL (New Jersey): The line started at 8PM night before. When I arrived at 6AM line had about 80 people, when we opened at 8 AM, about 120, all spaced 6 feet apart! We had posted our Covid rules on all our media and thankfully they were adhered to. We exceeded last Black Friday by 15%, and exceeded my goal number by 20%. Sell through was over 90% Thanks to all who made this day possible!
YOUNG ONES: We are lucky that Pennsylvania is pretty good, so we tried to do things as normally as possible and it worked out pretty well. Besides social distancing, etc., the only other changes that we implemented were a limit of 10 people in the store to shop at a time and no one was allowed behind the counter to browse the RSD titles. We also kept the line of customers purchasing exclusively RSD titles outside until it was their turn to pay. Sales were good. I hoped that 1/3 of RSD would equal 1/3 of the sales and we pretty much hit that right on.
About Record Store Day:
Record Store Day, the organization, is managed by the Department of Record Stores and is organized in partnership with the Alliance of Independent Media Stores (AIMS), the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) and promotes independent record stores year-round with events, special releases and other fun things.
Record Store Day, the global celebration of the culture of the record store, has taken place annually in April. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 13th annual Record Store Day will be replaced by RSD Drops, three separate title drop dates set to take place on three Saturdays in the 4th Quarter of 2020: August 29th, September 26th and October 24th.
Record Store Day Sponsors:
ADA, Audioengine, Broadtime, Caroline, Crosley Turntables, D’Addario, Dogfish Head Brewery, Furnace Record Pressing, Glowtronics, Ingram Entrtainment, InGrooves, Music Business Association, MVD Entertainment, The Orchard, PlayARt, Redeye Distribution, Sony Music, ThinkIndie, Traffic Distribution, URP Distribution, WEA
For more information about Record Store Day, please visit www.recordstoreday.com