As Record Store Day 2011 approaches, fans limber up to ensure that they bag their holy grail record.

On the record

Record Store Day 2011, a celebration which causes collectors to swoon at the cornucopia of exclusives and rarities on offer, is almost upon us.
 
The annual event brings artists, fans and independent record stores together on a global scale and this year there really is even more to celebrate as indie stores stick it to the corporate chains. The economic downturn means that retailers of every kind are having a rough ride but the music retail industry is blatantly struggling to cope with the seismic shifts in how we consume music.
 
Retailers who deal in physical releases are taking the biggest hit. According to the latest figures released by the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), physical album sales have taken a 12.4% nose dive while digital album sales have increased by 30.6%.
 
Taking stock of the frontages on your local high street today is evidence enough. Woolworths is gone, Zavvi is kaput and now HMV Group have announced the closure of 40 of their 285 branches in the next 12 months. Even die-hard vinyl enthusiasts are going online to avail of endless choice and value (thanks to offshore VAT loopholes) from online retailers like Play and Amazon. If the corporate behemoths can’t make it work, what chance does the independent record store have?
 
A fighting chance, it would seem. Though the number of independent record stores in the UK has dwindled, plummeting from 578 in 2006 to 269 in 2009, the good news is that 12 new stores opened their doors last year. It could well be time for the bigwigs to sit up and take notice of the little guy.
 
Adam Sait of Kingston’s own Banquet Records agrees: “Even if you look at the large retail chains such as HMV, it’s not working. If the decline of these chains continue, the way we buy music will change. There will be a shift from the individual to a music community and that’s vital as to what we’re about. From the gigs we put on, to the releases we’ve put out, it’s all to strengthen that sense of community.”
 
For successful indie stores like Banquet, being a retail outlet is only a fraction of what they do. They are promoters, nurturers, publishers, distributers and reliable imparters of specialist knowledge. Most importantly, the Banquet brand has amassed a fiercely loyal following around Kingston who shop in their store, but also frequent their club nights, gigs and instores.  
 
Adam maintains that one-trick pony record stores will find it hard to stay afloat: “I think as a modern indie record shop you have to do more. Relying on physical releases alone isn’t enough with the growing prominence of downloads.” Banquet sell a physical product but they are also the center of a community. This essentially, is what Record Store Day is about: a celebration of organic homegrown industry and those who live and breath music.   
 
This Saturday, Banquet Records will join forces with hundreds of independent record stores worldwide in the name of Record Store Day 2011. There will be gigs, instores and special events galore but the main feature is the chance for fans to bag themselves an exclusive title, some with very limited runs. The records on offer are the kind of gems that cause collectors to shiver on the pavement in the wee hours to ensure that they nab that elusive release.
 
Prospective buyers are advised that purchases are limited to one item per customer in an attempt to deter Ebay touts form the sales. Different stores will stock different releases but Banquet will have rarities from The Clash, ACDC, Sonic Youth, Jimi Hendrix, Fleet Foxes, Grinderman, Panda Bear and Jamie Woon amongst many others.
 
Though Record Store Day has been around since 2008, Adam told us that it wasn’t until 2010 that Banquet first decided to participate, “Until last year we didn’t really do much for Record Store Day. It wasn’t what we were about. We are a record store days 365 days a year, not just one, so it was almost offensive.”
 
It’s a famine or a feast at Banquet. They went from opting out to going all out with instores & celebratory gigs at the Hippodrome and the Fighting Cocks. “In 2010 it was completely different. Bands we love were putting out releases for RSD and it was a real exciting day. We had performances from Tinie Tempah and Professor Green at our night at the Hippodrome and an in-store and Fighting Cocks show from the Cancer Bats,” Adam explained. This year, a special event curated by Banquet at The Fighting Cocks will round off the day nicely.
 
The reception that their efforts received from Kingston audiophiles ensured that Banquet are well and truly on board with the Record Store Day initiative for the future: “Last year it gave us our busiest day since the shop’s existed. We saw queues round the block, with people camping outside the store from six in the morning, it was crazy.”
 
Anything that promotes business and boosts sales is obviously a bonus, but Adam told us that participating in RSD means more to them than profits: “It’s a day where we can celebrate being an independent record store against the pressures and downloads of HMV. The day is all about physical releases, and it’s so good to see bands get involved with record store day and fans get excited about their favourite artist releasing that limited vinyl or cd. There’s a real sense of the music community coming together.”
 
There’s only a few hours to go until Banquet fling open their doors at 10am. “It’s going to be another long day, but we’re all very excited, especially if last year is anything to go by.” Check out the video below to see what Adam means with your own eyes.
 
See you in the queue.
 

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