Record Store Day for vinyl Local shops hail 'Black Friday' of record sales

Customers browse through the stacks of records at Monster Music & Movies in West Ashley.

When Record Store Day emerged in record shops across the country in 2008, popular opinion had all but wrung the death knell for traditional music retailers.

The Internet had changed the landscape of the music industry with streaming radio services and downloadable MP3's. And with the recession approaching, it would take more than just resilience for already struggling retailers to survive the odds ahead.

But Galen Hudson, the owner of Monster Music & Movies, said one of the biggest challenges facing many record shops was their public image as a dying breed.

"The common refrain you would find in the media . was that the music industry was dying, record stores were dead. It was like we didn't exist," he said.

In 2007, independent record shop owners from across the country, including Hudson, met at an annual national summit, and many of them had the same concern on their minds, Hudson said.

It was from that meeting that Record Store Day was born.

"This was our attempt to change the conversation, to say, certainly the music industry has changed, but we're still here and we still mean something in the community to music fans, to radio stations and to local bands," Hudson said.

Record Store Day is held each April at independent record stores around the world. While each stores' celebration varies - some host live music performances, others have sales or giveaways - all the participating stores are able to offer exclusive albums that are only released for Record Store Day.

Now in its sixth year, the worldwide event is more like the music retailer's Black Friday, thanks to the exclusive album releases and the reemergence of vinyl records.

"Record Store Day is our biggest sales day of the year by far," Hudson said. "We're blown away by the business we do on that day, but the excitement is half the fun."

One reason Record Store Day has been so successful is because its creators understood the proven business principle that when supply is down, demand goes up.

Musicians and record labels support Record Store Day by releasing limited edition albums on the day of the event, which are exclusively sold at participating record stores.

"You can't get them on Amazon or at Target. They are releases of music that have been out of print for a long time, or a piece of music that hasn't been released digitally," Hudson said. "They're art pieces, and they're limited."

For example, Nirvana is releasing a limited amount of 7-inch vinyls with the single recording of "I Hate Myself and Want to Die" on Record Store Day this year. The single wasn't released after it was recorded in the mid-1990's due to lead singer Kurt Cobain's suicide.

"That album is limited to 6,000 units in the United States. That may sound like a lot, but it's not that much. We have no idea how many copies we're going to get," Hudson said.

Andy Whitfield of Mount Pleasant said he recently started collecting vinyl records in the last few years because he wanted a physical music collection that he could pass down to his children. He said he usually tries to get to Monster Music & Movies early in the morning on Record Store Day to see which exclusive albums he can find.

"It's hard for the record stores to get certain albums (for the event) so you never know what you'll be able to find, which can be somewhat of a letdown if the guy in front of you gets the only copy of what you wanted," Whitfield said. "You have to go on sort of a scavenger hunt, so it has a fun value behind it. I enjoy that part."

Whitfield is one of many music fans that have been turned on to vinyl records in recent years.

Vinyl record sales increased 33 percent from 4.5 million records in 2012 to 6 million records in 2013, according to Nielsen, a media research firm.

While many music stores have been bolstered by Record Store Day and the comeback of turntables, neither event was the savior of all local record shops. Purple Music on James Island, Fifty-two Five Records in downtown Charleston and Earshot Records in West Ashley have all closed up shop since 2008.

But for the handful of local music stores that survived the decline of the CD and the recession, the resurgence of vinyls has provided critical support.

Loco Records has been in business in West Ashley for nearly 40 years. Owner Benny Godfrey said he's survived the changes in the music industry by offering different products, such as DJ equipment and club lighting. But it's his collection of vinyl records that has recently drawn new customers, particularly those in the younger crowd.

"Record sales have been growing and growing. The college kids are going back to something they can pick up and look at ... they started pulling out their parents' old vinyl and thought they were pretty cool, so they started the trend all over again," he said. "It's really come back in the last two or three years. It's amazing."

Hudson said he kept Monster Music above water by carrying used and vintage collectors' items such as posters, action figures, board games and comic books. He doesn't expect vinyl records will be a gold mine any time soon, but their current popularity is reaffirming his belief that physical music will never go out of style.

"The music industry itself wasn't all that strong in 2008. It'll never go back to its peak. Radio, newspaper, television ­- everything is changing. Nobody in media is going to see what they did at their peak," Hudson said. "But music is always going to be in demand. Tons of people want to experience it in a physical way, whether it's CDs or records, and that's not really going away."

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail