Tomorrow (November 29) sees the return of Black Friday. While the annual day of super-sales may summon images of shoppers clawing at each other to get the last discount TV in the store, there is an altogether more dignified side to it these days.
And that's where Record Store Day comes in. As well as the annual extravaganza in earlier in the year, the event has also branched out into making limited edition vinyl releases exclusively for Black Friday.
This year a host of huge artists, from U2, Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen to Lizzo, Nas, Pearl Jam and Lewis Capaldi will all be issuing runs of one-off pressings that are only available from independent record stores.
Here Record Store Day’s official co-ordinator Megan Page takes us inside their Black Friday masterplan…
Why was it important that RSD participate in Black Friday? What was the opportunity?
“Black Friday is undoubtedly the biggest retail phenomenon of recent years. Whether you like it or not, it’s happening and it’s hard to ignore it! Like Black Friday itself, RSD Black Friday was originally started by our counterparts in the US who could see this huge shopping day gaining momentum but rejected the idea of succumbing to the chaotic nature of mass reduced products and Black Friday sales in record shops. The idea of selling tonnes of music for cheap doesn’t really resonate with the ethos and spirit of independent record shops, so they chose to turn the event on its head. With RSD Black Friday we have created something special for music lovers; an opportunity to buy something unique and meaningful for your record collection.”
So how has Black Friday helped the RSD brand?
“It actually comes at a great point in the year to help kick off the Christmas gifting season for record shops. Amidst the surge of Black Friday adverts from major bands, it serves as a reminder of the joys of shopping locally. RSD Black Friday will never be as big as the main event in April, but it is a nice way to shine the light on what independent retailers have to offer.”
What can other sectors learn from the way you approach Black Friday?
“I think the main thing is that there are many different customers to cater to and it doesn’t have to be a one-size fits all model on Black Friday. Whilst the low-as-you-can-go event works for some, it won’t work for all, and there’s a real risk of cannibalizing sales at a time when most of the country are out shopping anyway! Record shops know what they’re good at, and they stick to it.”
What are the big titles this year? And which is your personal pick of the bunch?
“There are over 80 titles being released for RSD BF in the UK and that’s the most we’ve ever seen, so it’s definitely getting more recognition from labels. I am always most excited about the releases from new artists so the Lizzo release of Coconut Oil (with a coconut scented insert – oh yes!) will definitely be on my list. There are other brilliant releases inc U2 who are bringing out a 40th anniversary edition of their 1979 ‘Three’ EP, a deluxe reissue of Nas – Stillmatic which has been unavailable on vinyl since 2001 and even Lewis Capaldi getting in on the action with a 7” single covering Billie Eilish’s When The Party’s Over.”
Are these releases even more limited than the standard RSD releases?
“Most RSD products are released in runs of 500-1000 units and the Black Friday titles average about the same – so they are limited – but not impossible to get hold of!”
There are over 80 titles being released for RSD BF in the UK and that’s the most we’ve ever seen, so it’s definitely getting more recognition from labels
Do artists approach you for Black Friday releases or do you approach them?
“A mix really! As it started in the US it generally worked that we would get a lot of imported product from US labels. But as it has grown in the UK in recent years we are seeing a lot more domestic acts approach us about supporting the event which is great. It still has a long way to go before it’s anywhere near the size of RSD in April and – because it takes place on Friday means it doesn’t necessarily work for all shops – but it is definitely growing.”
How will Black Friday be celebrated in the UK specifically as it relates to RSD?
“Because it falls on Friday in the UK which isn’t a public holiday it does mean it’s less likely we’ll see performances & in-stores like we do on RSD as lots of people will be at work! I see Black Friday as being more product driven than RSD but who knows – if it grows and if labels and artists keep supporting us – it could mirror the atmosphere on RSD in April.”
What do you anticipate are going to be the most in-demand releases?
“There’s a lot of interest in U2. I think the Jeff Buckley Live On KCRW: Morning Becomes Eclectic LP will be popular as it’s a completely unreleased live performance and you just know it will be brilliant. The Paul McCartney 7” of Home Tonight/ In a Hurry will probably get lots of Beatles fans excited too!”
Finally, with a bit of distance, how do you reflect on RSD 2019’s success this year?
“RSD 2019 once again exceeded all expectations – more shops participating than ever and more sales through the tills than ever! But as RSD grows we need to keep looking at ways of introducing new audiences to the joys of independent record shops so that that can continue throughout the year too. Working with two comedians as our ambassadors and reuniting The Mighty Boosh was a perfect way to put record shops on the map. It introduced RSD to more mainstream media – we were even trending on Twitter off the back of Noel Fielding’s announcement! We are always looking at ways to bring music fans together and The Mighty Boosh did a brilliant job of doing just that.”
In April, Megan Page spoke to Music Week about a host of key issues surrounding physical music – including the growth of both the event and vinyl format itself. Subscribers can read it here.