From the size of the crowds swarming each Amoeba Music store today you would think that Record Store Day had been around forever, but the reality is that this time four years ago there was no such thing. It wasn't until 3 years ago, on the designated third Saturday in April, that the very first Record Store Day (RSD 2008) took place, with 300 independent record stores taking part in the new music day holiday. Having since snowballed to five times that size, with RSD 2011's boasting 1500 stores participating worldwide, that seems like a comparatively humble beginning for RSD.
Even more impressive is the corresponding increase in numbers of the exclusive RSD releases. This year there are over 300 RSD releases. For RSD 2008 there were less than a dozen. So how did Record Store Day grow so rapidly and how did it even come about in the first place? To find out, I tracked down the man responsible for the creation of Record Store Day in the first place: Chris Brown from Bull Moose in Portland, Maine.
Bull Moose, which began about around the same time as Amoeba Music, started out as a humble retail record store in Brunswick, Maine. In the two decades since it has expanded into ten stores and grown to become the largest retailer of new and pre-owned music, movies and video games in Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire. Two of their stores include impressive book sections.
As head of marketing at Bull Moose, long time employee Chris Brown conceived Record Store Day four years ago. Brown released several punk and avant rock singles and cassettes in the early 1990's of his own. He is one of those guys who has a genuine love for music and is extremely knowledgeable. Hence, he was tapped by Portland's NBC affiliate, WCSH-6, to review music and movies in a reoccuring segment as one of the Boys From Bull Moose. Yesterday afternoon, between three hours of back to back interviews with various media outlets on the topic of RSD, I caught up with Chris Brown to ask him a few general questions about RSD and also what some of his personal favorite RSD 2011 releases are.
Amoeblog: How exactly did you first get the idea for RSD and what were the circumstances under which the idea came to mind?
Chris Brown: It was back in 2007. People kept asking me if Bull Moose was doing OK. They said that the store was always packed but they were worried that the tough times in the music biz would eventually affect us. We were having our best year ever. I knew that the same thing was true all over the country. The real music stores in Colorado Springs, Phoenix, Seattle, Sacramento, Toronto, Atlanta, Boston and all over were selling more and more music.
I felt that we all should stand together to say 'Hey, there's a big party going on. Music will last forever...by the way, here's your invitation to the biggest party of the year.' I'm sure that you guys at Ameoba had the same experiences. That's why, from day one, I wanted to include you guys and every other real store in the country.
Amoeblog: What did you first envision for RSD exactly and did you ever imagine it would expand into the large scale event it has become?
Chris Brown: I wanted it to be an annual event and involve as many stores as possible. I thought we might start with around 200 stores but we had 300 stores the first year. I never dreamed that we would end up with 1500 stores in 21 countries like we have this year. I also thought it would be a while before people like Paul McCartney, who played at Amoeba, would embrace what we were doing. I mean, I know that he was discovered by a record store manager, but still, he's Paul friggin McCartney. If you think about it, rock and roll history was made by a record dude who tracked down an obscure German 7" for a customer.
Amoeblog: And how did the idea of the special exclusive RSD releases come about?
Chris Brown: It all started with the Weezer Lion & The Witch EP. We learned that some of the bigger indie-leaning bands would occasionally make stuff for us. I thought that we might be able to get some people like Guided By Voices to license rarities or demos to us. I never dreamed that we would have the wealth of amazing stuff we have this year. Full albums by the Foo Fighters and The Deftones? It's incredible. Even Buck Owens!
Amoeblog: What are some of your personal fave RSD 2011 special releases?
Chris Brown: These are the things I'm going to buy if we still have some left next week. Our customers have to have the first chance -- otherwise there wouldn't be a Record Store Day.
1. The Decemberists Live at Bull Moose CD - The Crane Wife is one of my favorite albums ever and this was such an amazing show.
2. The Yardbirds "Goodnight Sweet Josephine" 7" - I have this song on at least two CDs. This won't be the first time I buy something for the cover.
3. Jimi Hendrix Fire CD - It is on 7" too, but I will get the CD for convenience.
4. Various Artists Follow Me Down - Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era (1966-1970) double LP. I love psychedelic singles compilations but I need this for the track by The Hi-Five. They signed a management deal with the Beatles manager Brian Epstein just before he died. I'm a Beatle collector.
5. Fistful of Mercy "Pale Blue Eyes" 7" - I hope it's the Velvet Underground song. See #4. George Harrison's son, Dhani, is in the band.
6. Freddy King "Wash Out" 7" - I love Freddy King and it's so great to see some blues this year.
7. Foo Fighters Medium Rare - I love many of the songs they cover here and I can't wait to hear what the Foos do with them.
8. Skip James Today! LP - This is one of the first blues albums I ever loved but I never bought it. My roommate had it.
9. The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations"/"Heroes and Villains" double 78 - I love this period of their career and my turntable has a 78 setting.
10. Syd Barrett An Introduction To... LP
11. The Cars "Sad Song" - The first time I ever wore headphones was listening their first album on a Walkman I.
For a complete listing of the RSD 2011 exclusive releases get the PDF file from the Amoeba website.