This year’s Record Store Day takes place on April 13. As the ERA rules stand, however, HMV is ruled out of the annual celebration that has a particular focus on vinyl – a format championed by Putman at Sunrise Records in Canada and now at HMV, following the takeover.
In the UK, ERA’s guidelines state: “A store may only participate in Record Store Day if it is primarily regarded and marketed as a record shop and is an independent retail store engaged in the sale of music products. An Independent Retail Store is defined as any independent shop (less than 20 shops if a chain)."
But should those rules be changed to allow HMV to take part?
HMV has already been running its own vinyl week promotion later in the year. But Putman told Music Week he would like to be able to emulate the involvement in RSD of Sunrise Records. The chain launched the retail promotion in Canada in 2013, prior to its takeover by Putman.
“In Canada we’re part of it – we actually brought Record Store Day to Canada,” he said. “The rules of Record Store Day aren’t centred around how many stores you have, it’s really about being owned individually. I am the owner, we only have one owner, so of course I’d like to think that we could be a part of that [in the UK]. I think it’s actually good for the industry.”
Since its rapid expansion from fewer than 10 stores to more than 80, there has been some scrutiny in Canada about Sunrise’s continued involvement in Record Store Day.
“The truth is, in Canada we did a lot more vinyl but the industry overall grew, including the speciality indie retailers,” said Putman. “Often we get asked, ‘Are you killing the indies?’ Of course not. You’re not going to be able to kill an indie that knows their customer, that gives that great service. We’re actually a benefit because we’re able to commit to some of the quantities on these albums that maybe would never get pressed without an HMV. That’s the critical piece to think about.”
In Canada we did a lot more vinyl but the industry overall grew, including the speciality indie retailers
HMV is already part of National Album Day alongside the indie retailers.
Michael Mulligan, former Tesco head of music, has suggested HMV should also be allowed to take part in Record Store Day.
“When HMV experienced their well publicised problems in early 2019, I saw a lot of support for the chain on social media from independent stores, who appreciated the role that HMV plays in keeping awareness of physical music retail alive,” he told Music Week. “Some had staff who made their first steps in music retail in one of HMV’s stores.
“However, when I floated the idea that HMV and Fopp should be allowed to participate in Record Store Day, it was met with some disquiet. I think this overlooks the fact that HMV, in particular, attracts a more mainstream non-specialist customer, and that Megan [Page] and her colleagues at RSD work throughout the whole year to celebrate independent record stores by spotlighting exclusive releases, events and special news.”
Record Store Day has 250 shops participating in 2019. But neither HMV or Fopp will be eligible for this year’s RSD.
“For an event that celebrates music retail culture, I think there is enough consumer enthusiasm and plenty of new and exciting releases to go round,” said Mulligan. “Yes, I think there should be RSD titles that are only available to independent stores but I think there is a strong case for HMV to be given a look in too.”
In a statement, ERA said: "Contrary to popular belief, ERA do not make the rules for RSD. We simply administer them on behalf of our independent members. RSD has and always will be owned by independent retailers who review the sign-up procedures and code of conduct annually.”
It remains to be seen if HMV will be allowed join the party for 2020, or maybe its centenary year in 2021. Over to ERA…