Black Friday is an American shopping event, yet it's somehow spread to our side of the border as well, despite most of us being stuck at work. The folks behind Record Store Day have been treating the occasion as a secondary event to the larger official one in the spring, which means tons of special limited edition releases will be turning up on the shelves of your favourite local independent record stores.
The official list of Black Friday Record Store Day releases is pretty impressive, but don't expect to find them all in Toronto. Since it is an American holiday, and also secondary to the official Record Store day, local stores are ordering less, and also not expecting to get as many of their requests delivered in any significant quantities. Nevertheless, there will be many goodies to be found, just don't get your heart set on anything in particular.
"We've basically just been telling customers that we've ordered as much as we can and we're certain that we'll have a decent amount of stock by Friday morning," explains Sonic Boom's Jon Maki.
"We'd rather it be more fun and treat it a little more like Christmas: you never know what you're going to end up with," Maki goes on. "But at least with records you'll get something far greater than an ugly sweater. We've had experience in the past with a list building up too much expectation and frustration for customers, especially since we only get one or two copies of certain titles, if at all."
In an unexpected twist, when we reached out to indie label Polyvinyl Records to find out if any of their releases were making it to Toronto, they told us that most of them were only being sold through their online store, which seems like it's defeating the purpose of the event. After all, wasn't Record Store Day created to try to help boost local brick-and-mortar stores?
Nevertheless, each year the organization manages to add more stores, and the lists of special releases keeps getting longer. And while the big box music retailers continue to suffer, many of the indie stores that Record Store Day was trying to help seem to be doing far better than anyone would have imagined.
This isn't what I was predicting back in 2009, and I probably owe both retailers and the people behind RSD an apology. While I stand behind my overall sentiments, it's since become clear that record stores do provide something that the internet can't, and that there are still a sizable number of people that get off on flipping through stacks of vinyl.
The stores that have survived have done so by concentrating on more than just selling records. Places like Sonic Boom have kept bodies coming in the door through great in-store concerts. Whenever I've hit them, I inevitably end up spending more money than I planned on, which is probably the point. Soundscapes also host in-store events, and seem to stock almost as many music-related books as they do actual music. Iconic DJ-focussed shop Play De Record has added a music production school (seen here in the background of my interview with Scratch) and increased their focus on equipment and technology.
So while I still maintain that music will be just fine in a future without record stores, it's hard to ignore that life is just better with them.