Record Store Day traffic, sales up

Limited editions help fuel long lines

Thanks to 82 exclusive releases and limited availability, customers lined up at record stores all around the country on Saturday morning and helped kick off Record Store Day 2009 with a bang. Reports suggest traffic pick-ups and sales volume this year will exceed figures for last year's inaugural event.

"It was my best day by far," says Eric Levin, owner of Criminal Records in Atlanta and the head of the Assn. of Independent Media Stores coalition. "We had 600 people in the store; it was well-controlled chaos. My vinyl sales alone yesterday was larger than last year's total Record Store Day take."

Michael Kurtz, executive director of the Music Monitor Network, tells Billboard that from the stores that he heard from, "the majority of the stores had matched last year's volume by mid-afternoon."

He added that stores, who have been already selling increasing amounts of vinyl to both the old and younger demos, were particularly shocked by "the massive amount of young people coming into stores looking for vinyl." The exclusives and other commercial releases timed for Record Store Day, really add the extra sizzle, store executives tell Billboard. "All these little gems that the labels created for us - what an incredible effort from the small labels to the big guys, it was really stunning," Criminal Records Levin says.

But maybe allotments could have been more, Music Monitor Network's Kurtz adds. "Tom Waits, the Flaming Lips/Black Keys single, Beck, Sonic Youth, [Bruce] Springsteen and [Bob] Dylan singles went way too quick."

J&R store manager Charlie Bagarozza reports that when the store opened, it had 50 people waiting in line, and many of them have the record sacks that you often see at record swaps, leading him to conclude that these shoppers are going to race around the city trying to get the exclusives. In fact, later that afternoon, New York radio station WRXP (101.9), which touted record store day all afternoon on Saturday, had a report from someone it stationed at the Tunes store in Hoboken, N.J., and that staffer interviewed a customer who has spent the day driving to multiple New Jersey stores - going from Jack's Music Shoppe in Red Bank to Scotti's in Northern Jersey to Vintage Vinyl in Fords and finally to Tunes - looking for exclusives, bargains, and performances.

J&R had brisk traffic at noon, with about 75 people shopping. In a change from last year, there is a big label presence at J&R, and conversations reveal, across the country. About 15 label and distribution executives are in attendance at J&R including Atlantic Records chairman and chief operating officer Julie Greenwald. In addition, National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers president Jim Donio and four other NARM staffers are there for the event.

Sony Music Entertainment's Global Digital Business and US sales VP of marketing Anthony Ellis said company had 100 people, including college reps hitting stores around the nation. The reps were monitoring 30 Sony-artists in-stores appearances that day, including Ashford & Simpson at Basement Mix in the East New York neighborhood in Brooklyn.

WEA executive Jack Klotz said the company's labels made 19 exclusive releases for Record Store Day and reported the Disturbed in-store at the Portland, Maine, store of Bull Moose drew 400 people, with the line forming the night before at 11 p.m. He also showed a picture from Grimey's in Nashville with the store jam-packed with hundreds of customers.

EMI Music Marketing executive David Miller told Billboard that his staff reports the Decemberists exclusive is sold out at Newbury Comics store in Newton, Mass.; Vintage Vinyl in Fords, N.J. had 300 people in line when the store opens and Dearborm Music in Michigan opened with 50 people waiting.

Sony's Ellis kicked off the in-store performance section of the day at J&R by reading Mayor Bloomberg's proclamation making April 18 Record Store Day in New York City. NARM was the sponsor of Record Store Day; Donio followed Ellis and reported that 600 live performances were taking place across the country in conjunction with the event. Shinedown, the first act on at J&R, played a great acoustic set that was well received by the 150 shoppers in the store.

MMN's Kurtz summed up the day: "Record store day proves that if the industry sends out a positive image that focuses on the art and the music, the results are spectacular."
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