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Can o’ Worms

This Record Store Day thing really grates eh? Who’s at fault? The record companies, who see the event as a way to fleece the record buyers out of every last penny they have and set sky-high dealer prices, thus forcing retailers to charge daft prices for (mainly) old records? Or the record buyers themselves, who see the event as a way to fleece less-fortunate record buyers who have neither the means required nor the availability of a local record shop to go to in order to buy what they want and are forced to take to the internet in a desperate attempt to secure the objects of their desire from people who neither know about or care about the records they are punting?


Five minutes after the shops opened and eBay’s suddenly full of the things everyone wants, available from twenty five different private sellers at twenty five times the original prices, and the internet is bulging at the virtual seams with sob stories from seething, seasoned record buyers unable to get their sticky fingers on the records they so desired.  They’ve scanned the lists in March and written and re-written their wishlist into 3 columns; ‘Ideally…’, ‘Hopefully…’ and ‘I cannot leave without this…’ but still ended up only with the last sticker from the acoustic act playing in the corner and a crumbly cup cake from the beardy guy behind the counter who’s job it is to say, “Sorry mate, that’s sold out too,” over and over and over and over until the end of the day. They’ve even emptied the kids’ piggy banks and forced them to eat beans on toast for a month, but that counts for nothing. Come April and the Day itself, they got up half an hour after going to bed in an effort to get as close to the front of the snaking line outside Shady Dave’s Second-Hand Sounds as they possibly could, to no avail. It’s a long line, but the ‘good-time vibe’ in the queue (“Aye, I’m after the Elliott Smith 7″ and the Pulp 12″ and the Big Star outtakes LP too, pal…”) is such that standing hunched up in the rain and the cold with Angry Birds and a quickly-decreasing battery charge on the phone for company are just about tolerable, as hopeful prayers of over-priced, limited edition bits of plastic are messaged to the great vinyl god above.

By the time the doors are unlocked by Shady Dave himself (who knows that only today, this one day of the year, is the make-or-break that might allow him to trade until next year’s big day), wads of money are jumping out the pockets of middle aged men and being flung towards the counter in exchange for a one-off Flaming Lips LP or a White Stripes coloured vinyl or an old Paul McCartney track re-pressed in glorious retro fashion. It’s ridiculous. Especially as that guy in the expensive puffa jacket and beige chinos (not yer average Wedding Present fan, you muse), who happened to be at the front of the queue was royally loaded and bought every copy of the German language 10″ And whatever else he thought he could off-load for a profit. “How many Bowie did you get? I’ll take them all.” It’s the new model for the spineless, the shallow and the touts who already rake it in from selling high-demand concert tickets. Have you checked those eBay sellers addresses? Sorry for the sweeping generalisation, but are they all in Merseyside? Call the cops…

can malkmus

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’d have quite liked the live Stephen Malkmus does Can thingy. And the Elliott Smith 7″ and the Pulp 12″ and the Big Star outtakes LP too, pal, but I was nowhere near a decent record shop and was being Dad for the day while the missus went off for a belated birthday afternoon with her pal. Plus I don’t have the spare £40 or so that would’ve been necessary to procure them, had I been game enough to try and buy them. A quick scroll through eBay tonight and the Elliott Smith 7″ is selling for £15, as is the Pulp 12″ . The Big Star LP? That’s currently around the  £40 mark, but given that almost 20 folk are after it, it’ll probably take a bid of around £100 to secure the bloody thing. That Malkmus/Can album has attracted a dozen or so bids and is already pushing £40 itself. The vinyl would be nice, but I’m just as happy for the moment with the illicit mp3s I found whilst poking around the darker corners of the internet. It’s not ‘real’. It’s not holdable. It’s not warm and friendly analogue. But it was cheaper than cheap. I’ve always preferred Can at their grooviest and Malkmus does a good job. Contrast and compare…

Can  – I’m So Green

Stephen MalkmusI’m So Green

CanVitamin C


Stephen MalkmusVitamin C

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4 thoughts on “Can o’ Worms”

  1. I totally agree & feel that everyday should be record store day (at least that’s how I ran my store until all but 2 of my 43 distributiors closed their collective doors making it impossible for me to keep my doors open). see most stores will order on monday & have the same receiving day everyweek (usually sometime between wed & fri.) & that’s when everyone would be in the shop spending that ol’ cash-ola. I recognized this a long time ago & saw a way to improve the overall weekly sales by 1st having more than 1 or 2 distro companies you (& anyone else in town tryin to compete against you probably ordered from as too). then askin your reps at the disrtos if they have any special deals (& almost everyone of them did, you just had to ask & some of the deals were if we bought $400 in stock it was 1/2 off overnite shipping or if we bought $200-$250 it would be 1/2 off next day air & others had a deal if you doubled the minimum order [usually $100] you’d get free ground shipping. So with 43 distro companies & crazy good deals on getting the product to me was instrumental in having customers comin back day after day to see what we got in that day. the other tricks of the trade i employed was to open an hour earlier than every other store in town & stay open an hour later. We also went on pricing recon missions every couple to few months to see what all the other stores in town were charging & I made sure we were constantly & across the board at least $2-$3 dollars cheaper that the other guys (this helped us move a lot more wax than everyone else & that meant we were also profitable without gouging the customer so they’d be able to come back day after day & keep droppin cash on every visit – I got so good at knowing my customers that i could ask them how much $ they had to spend that day & tell them how much they’d be leaving with & was within $5 of my guesstimated total a lil over 82% of the time). Something else I did as the resident “In-store DJ” was all the ordering (at any given time I knew what we had in the store, on order & what we needed to re-order) & I also listened to every record that came into my store so that I could better lead my customers to new things that were similar to the stuff they were into at the time which not only expanded their knowledge base , it improved our over-all sales as well. A final stroke of genius I had to ensure we’d have customers on the weekends (when we didnt get mail so no new records) was to have “in-stores” where we’d call up the booking agent of whomever was comming to town to dj a party that weekend & ask if they’d like to come by the store for a meet-n-greet, play a few records & have a chance for some of their fans to meet them outside of a noisy,dark club atmosphere. Now it was important to contact the booking agent & not the promoter because they would always exclusive contact with the talent they were paying for, but once we asked the booking agent & got an ok they’d tell us what flight so we could pick them up at the airport, take’em by the store for a couple of hours then get them to the hotel with plenty of time for them to get in a lil nap if they wanted, something to eat with the promoter & still make it to the party with time to spare. eventually the promoters were able to see that by givin the kids a preview of what they were gonna be paying him for later was wxceptionally benefitial; for them so they started working with us to make those happenmn & everyone we asked to come bay the store did come by with the exception of Moby, DJ Space Girl (Russia) & 1 or 2 others. All of this made our record store a mecca of activity & we had far exceeded our 1st years projection @ 3 months in business. sadly thought like I mentioned earlier when all the distro companies whithered & died so did our lil store System 7 in Austin Tx. after 3 wonderful years in business that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I miss that store because our approach to retail was so different to anything i’d seen prior or since from the over-all asthetics, color palete, layout of th floor plan to the placement of the tag-along seating section & sound system placement i mean even our turntable/dj set up was unique in that we hung them for the ceiling so that when the store was full of people dancing @ the in-stores the needles wouldnt bounce out of the grooves.

  2. I can see where you are coming from and I agree about the vampires on ebay but i am for anything that keeps record shops open.

    I love it and so does Max, no stranger to the inside of lots of record shops, I think that he actually enjoys it more than me, anything that gets him to say “i’m going to my bed, a big day tomorrow” at eight thirty on a Friday night has to be good.

    My shop of choice is Monorail which is 27 miles away, which means we get up at around 05:45 and we got to the shop about 06:45 and were 23rd in the queue the same as last year and we were there about forty minutes later the previous year. I don’t really mind queueing and it’s strange that the same people were infront and just behind we as the previous two years and the chat is always good natured and all about what each person is after and then digresses to other music discussions.

    I got all my choices but then again I was only after 3 albums, two twelves, 5 singles and the Cotillion box set, which were all reasonably priced apart from Psychocandy which at twenty five quid was a bit excessive, especially when i have a vg+ original copy anyway.

    Monorail do pull out all the stops, with dj’s, bands, stuff for the kids and great homebaking the atmosphere is great, my only regret is that I couldn’t get back along later just to soak up the atmosphere and here Vic Goddard as L had forgotten the day and arranged a night out for us in Edinburgh.

    i am cynical about most things but this is one of those things that I gladly support and for those who say “record shop day should be every day” all I can say is it can’t be I can’t afford to go to a record shop every day but I do go as much as possible ie at least 4 times a month and if it gets some people to start on this path and also keeps the doors of the shop open making me less reliant on multinational, tax avoiding organisations well so much the better.

  3. Thanks for the comments folks.

    Bob the Chiropodist hello again! It’s been a while.

    Joe Walker, that must be the longest comment left on any blog ever.

    Drew, re-reading my piece I realise I come across like an old sourpuss (perhaps because I couldn’t make it this year) but I think Record Shop/Store Day has possibly reached saturation point and maybe it’s time for the shops and record companies to do something new. But I agree with all of what what you’ve said.

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