One of the first things I can remember about Record Store Days of the past is how many vinyl enthusiasts would line up and crowd around the increasingly rare stock, albums and singles that would disappear before their eyes as the Saturday hours wore on. If you were at South Street’s Repo Records or Old City’s AKA Records, there were bands playing outdoors for the waiting mobs. Or indoors, so that you could barely hear yourself think.
Thinking though wasn’t – and isn’t – the point of RSD, now in its 13th annual iteration since 2008. The celebration of all-things-vinyl (and those independent record store operators that sell them) has made effective changes going into 2020 due to the ravaging pandemic we’re still stuck within, and maybe through early winter. Originally held en masse at 1,200 indie record stores throughout the US (as well as the entire planet save for Antarctica) every third Saturday in April, this year had to move and broken into three dates: August 29, September 26 and October 24 (to say nothing of November 27’s Black Friday annual RSD) so to thin the herd and cool the crowd rush that always accompanies the hunt-down of limited-edition releases, now additionally in cassette and CD form.
What makes RSD unique – along with every shop getting its own items that another may not – is the manner in which each store approached the event.
“Basking in the glory of 2020,” said Nick from Long in the Tooth on Sansom Street in Rittenhouse when asked how he is dealing with RSD 2020’s first date. He usually likes to give out beer to adults in line, and hang out with the buyers, old and new. “This time, I reached out to my regular clients and people leading up to March when we saw what was going on with RSD, and allowed them to place orders as to what they might want – so I ordered to scale. Some things – like I’m Only Dancing (Bowie Soul Tour Live 74) I didn’t get my full allotment, so I’ll deal accordingly. For tomorrow, I’ll try to limit the line, but, I don’t want to bug people all day, and police them. That’s sad.”
Long in the Tooth will allow 10 people in the store, at a time just as will Repo on South Street.
“We usually hand out beers to the adults and donuts to the kids during the Record Store Day events, but this year we can’t do that,” said Nina, an employee at Repo Records. “We’re just limiting the amount of people in the store, to ten at a time – we want to give priority to those who are here first. Maybe after that, we’ll put whatever is left online.”