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Record Store Day 2017: Top Sellers Revealed, eBay Be Damned

Variety logo Variety 4/30/2017 Chris Willman
© Provided by Variety

A week after the 2017 edition of Record Store Day, the music-geek holiday designed to boost awareness of independent retailers, the results point to a record 10th year. With increased turnout and sales reported across the country, stores reported an unprecedented instant sell-through of the vast majority of their stock of the day’s 350 limited-edition new releases just last Saturday alone. And sales of vinyl albums in general, the day’s bread and butter, were up 14% compared to the same occasion a year ago, according to a report issued by BuzzAngle Music.

Ma-and-pa retailers attributed the longer lines outside their stores to increased publicity over the 10-year mark and, also, a more star-studded lineup than usual among the lineup of instantly out-of-print collectibles. A Record Store Day reprint of the Beatles’ original “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” 45 got considerable press attention when it was touted alongside a yet-to-be-released “Sgt. Pepper” boxed set, and that may have had the effect of getting out the Beatlemaniac vote in a major way, with all 7,000 copies said to have disappeared from shelves within minutes of stores opening. BuzzAngle’s chart maintained that a Grateful Dead live boxed set was the day’s biggest LP seller, but store owners report that the biggest hysteria was reserved for a pair of previously unreleased David Bowie rarities.

“It surpassed everybody’s expectations, really, because going into it we didn’t know whether all those elements would come together,” Record Store Day co-founder Michael Kurtz tells Variety. “But so many artists got behind it and managers and labels, it was the perfect storm.” He says that “650,000 pieces were shipped to the stores, and I’m hearing it was upward of 85-90% just on Saturday, which is phenomenal.”

In past years, some retailers have quietly grumbled about the no-return policy for Record Store Day collectible releases. This year, the complaints were about not getting enough. “There’s always going to be certain titles you wish you had more of,” says Matt Vaughan, owner of Seattle’s Easy Street Records, whose staffers handed out coffee and bacon to the longest line of early a.m. patrons the store has seen in the event’s 10-year history. “Sometimes you don’t know till the night before what you’ve got. In the case of a David Bowie, whose live album (“Cracked Actor: Live Los Angeles 1974”) was one of the more sought-after pieces, I think we ordered 150, and you get 30 — and you’re happy with the 30 you’ve got. There’s other times where with Jack White (who put out a very limited colored-vinyl 45), you’ll order 60 and you get two, so be appreciative for the two you’ve got.

“The two Cure pieces (both picture discs) were also strong; we got a good amount, but we could have sold five times what we got,” adds Vaughan. “We’re ground zero for Pearl Jam here in Seattle; we ordered 500 of that 7-inch and got 100. But we can’t beat ourselves up too much about it. There are only so many printed and in some cases numbered editions, and more stores participating now, and [the hunt] is part of what makes Record Store Day fun.”

Rarities from classic rock acts tend to dominate the RSD conversation, with a previously unreleased 12-inch single from the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd being snapped up instantly, and a reissue of Elton John’s 1971 live album with an entire bonus disc of outtakes also being among the first to go. Jazz also does well, perhaps not surprisingly, among vinyl hounds, with a Thelonius Monk double album that proved virtually impossible to find, followed by instant grabbers from Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, and Jaco Pastorius. But at least one genre has tended to be left out of the RSD equation, something organizers tried to rectify this year.

“There was an amazing selection of urban records this year,” says Kurtz, “and this was the year that it really broke through and we had a whole new wave of customers we’ve never seen before.”

Kurtz notes that, among majors, Universal and Warner Bros. have made it a priority to keep some of their fresher acts in the RSD release mix, while Sony mostly focuses on catalog-type product through their Legacy division, although a limited vinyl issue of Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz” was an exception. He says certain bands take a personal interest in making sure they’re represented on the day, like, historically, U2, which this year had a “Red Hill Mining Town” remix picture disc as well as shipping free “Joshua Tree” posters to hundreds of stores as an unexpected giveaway (and, not incidentally, promotion for an upcoming boxed set). Among independent label releases, an album of cover songs by Americana favorite Jason Isbell was the day’s biggest winner, especially in buyer satisfaction, if the message boards are any indication.

For anyone who lost out, Easy Street’s Vaughan feels your pain. “I don’t poach for the store or for myself,” says the merchant. “We’re playing by the rules. I didn’t get a Bowie myself. I’m still, like, every hour, going ‘Hey, does someone want to sell theirs?’ So I totally get it. I’m out there searching around trying to find one, and I’m the owner of the store, for God’s sake.”

Naturally, anyone who can afford a markup on prices that were already far from CD-bargain-basement can find almost anything on the secondary market. But RSD organizers have worked hard to erase the day’s image as a flipper’s paradise. To that end, when they put up images of the 350 covers this year, each one had an anti-flipping message as an overlay.

“We’re always irritated by the eBay culture,” says Kurtz. “With Record Store Day we have to sit there and watch people post things on eBay that they don’t even have. It’s not even shipped yet, and they’re already taking orders, and we complain to eBay and they don’t care. That creates some negativity that we can’t do anything about.” But watermarking the cover photos with giant anti-resale text “was a complete success,” he adds. “Not one of those flippers used that artwork, so they all had to go out and steal images from record store websites of boxes and say ‘Here it is! A fake picture of a box!’ We definitely ruined their little scam that they had going on, and now they have to wait till after Record Store Day to get the real photos up. There are about 600,000 pieces that were sold on RSD, out of 650,000 that were shipped to stores, and of those, I think about 7,000 ended up on eBay. So that’s about 1 percent. That’s good to know, that almost 99 percent of everything goes home to a music fan.”

There’s a secondary Record Store Day on Black Friday, which is far more low-key, as indie retailers compete with department store doorbusters. “It’s a completely different animal,” says Kurtz, “but we’re looking at this Black Friday as being the second half of the 10th anniversary and going at it seriously to try to make it special.” Where the release list for the April event is capped at 350, RSD approves 85-100 for the Black Friday addendum.  Kurtz says they do turn down a lot of titles, only to “then we see people go around it” to release non-RSD-affiliated LPs the same day. “But you know what, it’s all for the good. It’s creating energy and positive vibes, and what we set out to do 10 years ago was change the perception of record stores, and we’ve done it.”

Top 50 Albums Sold at Independent Record Stores, Saturday April 22, 2017

(Source: BuzzAngle)

1. Grateful Dead

P.N.E. Garden Auditorium, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 7/29/66

Glorious Dead Recordings

2. David Bowie

“Cracked Actor”


3. The Doors

“Live At The Matrix ’67”


4. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

“Live From Welcome To 1979”

Southeastern Records

5. The Cure

Greatest Hits Acoustic


6. The Cure

Greatest Hits


7. Sublime



8. Stevie Nicks


Atlantic Records

9. The Claypool Lennon Delirium

“Lime and Limpid”

ATO Records

10. The Notorious B.I.G.

“Born Again”

RCA Records

11. Neil Young


Reprise Records

12. David Bowie



13. Various Artists

“Space Jam: Music From and Inspired By The Motion Picture”

Atlantic Records

14. Coheed and Cambria

“Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness”

Columbia Records

15. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

“Live At Carnegie Hall”

Epic Records

16. The Black Angels

“Death Song”

Partisan Records

17. The Head And The Heart

“Stinson Beach Sessions”

Warner Bros.

18. Drive-By Truckers

“Electric Lady Sessions”

ATO Records

19. Santana

“Live at The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, August 16, 1969”

Columbia Records

20. Dave Matthews Band

“Live at Red Rocks 8.15.9”

RCA Records

21. Vangelis

“Blade Runner”

Atlantic Records

22. Fleetwood Mac

“Mirage Alternative”

Rhino Records

23. The Cars

“Live At The Agora, 1978”


24. Elton John



25. Harry Nilsson

“Nilsson Schmilsson”

RCA Records

26. Various Artists

Really Rock ‘Em Right: Sun Records Curated By Record Store Day Volume 4


27. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

“Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75”

Columbia Records

28. Townes Van Zandt

“Live at Austin City Limits”

Fat Possum

29. Spoon

“Hot Thoughts”


30. Tegan And Sara

“Under Feet Like Ours”

Warner Bros.

31. Sia

“Spotify Sessions”

RCA Records

32. Madonna

“Dance Mix”

Rhino Records

33. Jane’s Addiction

“Been Caught Stealing”

Rhino Records

34. Sunny Day Real Estate

“The Rising Tide”

Bicycle Music

35. The Lumineers

“Seeds I: Angela And Long Way From Home”

Dualtone Music Group

36. The Offspring

“The Offspring”


37. Jimi Hendrix

“Live at George’s Club 20”

Legacy Recordings

38. Deee-Lite

Groove Is In The Heart / What Is Love?


39. Eric Church

“Caught In The Act Live”

EMI Nashville

40. The Distillers

“Coral Fang”

Sire Records Group

41. Johnny Cash

“The Johnny Cash Children’s Album”

Columbia Nashville

42. Ben Folds with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra

“Live In Perth”

Epic Records

43. Various Artists

“Dogfish Head – Music To Drink Beer To: Volume 3”

Columbia Records

44. Robert Johnson

“The Centennial Collection”

Columbia Records

45. Marcy Playground

“Marcy Playground”

Slow Down Sounds

46. Lou Reed

“Perfect Night Live In London”

Reprise Records

47. Grouplove

“Little Mess EP”

Atlantic Records

48. Czarface

“First Weapon Drawn: A Narrated Adventure”

Silver Age

49. The Kinks

“All Day & All Of The Night”


50. Ken Kesey

“The Acid Test”

Jackpot Records

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