A Portland dream spins worldwide
Record Store Day celebrates retail independence
PORTLAND — In July 2007, Chris Brown was sitting in his Monument Square office when he got an idea to plan a one-day celebration of local, independent music stores.
Brown, vice president of marketing and operations for Bull Moose, was serving at the time as chairman of the Music Monitor Network, one of three national groups representing local music stores. He floated the idea to the network's members, who liked it.
By September, Brown was contacting major record labels, who were willing to reroute artists from their tour schedules to make in-store visits.
The result became Record Store Day, which takes place in hundreds of record shops across the country on the third Saturday of April. This year's event will take place April 18 at Bull Moose locations throughout the state, where there will be in-store appearances and performances from national and local artists.
Brown said about 600 stores participated the first Record Store Day last year. There are more than 1,000 stores participating in 17 countries this year.
Ani DiFranco, who is performing Friday at Merrill Auditorium, will kick off Record Store Day early with a performance at Bull Moose in Scarborough on Friday, April 17, at 1 p.m. Killswitch Engage will sign autographs at 4 p.m.
In Portland, national act Disturbed will be signing autographs at noon on April 18 and the local rock band, This Way, will perform at 4 p.m. In Brunswick, Bearkat and Loblolly Boy will make an in-store appearance and local bluegrass brigade Jerks of Grass will perform at 4 p.m.
Portland-based groups Sidecar Radio and Dominic & the Lucid will perform at Bull Moose store on April 18 at 5 p.m. in Lewiston and and at 4 p.m. in Waterville.
In addition to performances and signing events, Brown said there will be discounts offered on music catalogs of participating national artists.
Major labels are also offering special limited-edition pressings of previously unreleased material and merchandise. These items, which include hand-numbered Beatles lithographs and Bruce Springsteen on vinyl, are only available on April 18.
Other national artists offering special releases include Bob Dylan, Ben Harper, The Decemberists, Queen, Modest Mouse, Leonard Cohen, Jane's Addiction, Elvis Costello and the Smiths, among others.
Brown said Record Store Day is not a push-back against online music services like iTunes and Amazon.com, which allow customers to buy individual songs or albums without leaving their homes. In fact, Brown said sales at Bull Moose stores reached an all-time high last year and 2009 appears to be on track to outpace last year's sales.
Instead, the event is more of a customer-appreciation event.
"It's more of a 'Thank you,'" Brown said. "And a party."
Brown said he believes in-store sales are increasing because of locally owned stores have the ability to tailor their inventories to the specific needs of their customers. Bull Moose, which has been open for nearly 20 years, has been able to expand its inventory to include DVDs and video games without sacrificing its music collection, he said, and it also has a variety of used items.
"Independent stores are really in touch with their customers," Brown said. "A lot of it is paying attention to what people want and giving it to them. It's a simple idea, but in practice it's pretty hard."
The local, independent string runs through Record Store Day by showcasing local musicians alongside the national recording acts, exposing local acts to a new and wider audience. "That's an important part of it," Brown said.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781 3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.