"I think it’s great that vinyl is making a comeback," said the B-52s' Fred Schneider. "They really do sound better, because if something's not digitally re-mastered, it sounds like crap." On Tuesday, the singer joined bandmate Kate Pierson, St. Vincent's Annie Clark, comedian Todd Barry, producer Kozmo Vinyl and Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, for a Record Store Day press conference at Brooklyn's Rough Trade record store. The panel discussed retail issues in the music industry, including the resurgence of brick-and-mortar stores, the new global release date and their shared penchant for crate digging.
According to Michael Kurtz, President and co-founder of Record Store Day, 200 new record stores opened domestically over the past year. "Can we get a round of applause for that?" he asked an audience of press and music industry. Bolstered by this growth, the panel underscored record stores as a means for both music discovery and building community. Schneider, whose career has spanned the height, fall and revival of vinyl, remembered having to historically purchase bands the radio wouldn't play, like the Ramones and Talking Heads in the 1970s. "Local radio stations wouldn't even play us," Schneider said. "Not that we cared."
Schneider served as both moderator and comedian. He intermittently held up vinyl records from his side projects like the Superions (Originally the Del Morons, though he said they had to change their name to be taken seriously) and said, "I find that vinyl really does ground you, because you don’t want to carry it and move."
On the topic of non-traditional stores like Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters peddling music, Schneider said he abstains from the fashion retailer (out of protest for the owner’s social and political views), but urged fans to make purchases at Whole Foods because he owns company stock. Kosmo, known for his work with the Clash, was genuinely confused. "Where in Whole Foods do they sell the records?" he asked. Barry, who joked that he wasn’t sure why he was on the panel, chimed in with the punchline: "My album's in the bulk foods department at Whole Foods. They’re in barrels."
Amid shoptalk, the simpatico back-and-forth between Schneider and Pierson, reminiscing about their band days, proved heartwarming. Pierson, who has a new solo album for Record Store Day, brought original copies of B-52s vinyl and also boasted a tote bag made from the band's debut album cover. She said one of her most prized record possessions is a collection of 1,000 vintage 78s left by her late father. "I've been playing a lot of Jack Teagarden and Duke Ellington," she said, explaining that she purchased a hand-cranked Victrola at auction to do so.
Annie Clark's playlist is a bit more current. Plastic Ono Band's self-titled album is on her record player and of the hundreds of Record Store Day releases, she's eyeing "Fuck the Police" by legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla. Out of circulation for over a decade, the single comes re-mastered and in a badge-shaped picture disc.
Kozmo Vinyl's pick for Record Store Day is perhaps the most coveted release: Elvis Presley’s first recording, owned by Jack White. Kozmo may be out of luck. According to Kurtz, only a handful — he believes two copies — will be available; incidentally at White’s own Third Man Records in Nashville. "For the rest of us, I think he’s going to make a regular seven-inch and it’s going to come out wide [at some point]," Kurtz tells Rolling Stone. "I think really what he’s doing is drawing everyone’s attention, not only to an iconic artist that changed the world, but to the process. There’s something cool about that."
Kurtz is battling the process on another front with Vinyl Tuesday. The tentative concept aims to counter the music industry’s decision to make Friday a global release day, which he says causes stocking and supply issues for indie retailers. Vinyl Tuesday aims to celebrate new releases as well as set up marketing efforts for forthcoming albums. Despite the name, Vinyl Tuesday won't be relegated to only vinyl. Kurtz does not have a launch date yet and is currently onboarding partners at major and indie labels. "It's about community," he says. "You need to celebrate music during the week, because on the weekend, people are there [in record stores] anyway."