Record Store Day 2017

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I had a lot of issues with the Record Store Day 2017 offerings, and it did create a little internal conflict — do I continue to support this event when they don’t fairly or equally promote female artists? — but in the end, I decided that it was good for me to get out there and promote the visibility of female record collectors. Yes, I was the first in line, long before the guys started trickling in. But thankfully I wasn’t the only woman in this year’s line. And I had a great experience while supporting three female-fronted bands/female artists. Check it out below.

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#RSDsomale

no S-K

When I first saw the list of Record Store Day 2017 releases, I had two immediate thoughts:

1. Thank God there are only two items I want, because I’m in the middle of a move and can’t afford to splurge.

2. Where the hell are all the women?

I had hoped to see some gender diversity in this year’s Record Store Day offerings … and I was disappointed.  Now, I never expected a 50/50 split — women struggle for recognition and representation in every aspect of music, from producing to reviewing to collecting — but the absence of female artists or female-fronted bands in RSD this year is staggering.  I took the list and calculated the percentage of women present, removing items like soundtracks and compilations.  What I discovered is that only 12% of the RSD items are by female artists or female-fronted bands.  TWELVE PERCENT.

Why aren’t more people talking about this?

I have so many issues with this list.  Not only is it lacking in women (did I mention that whole TWELVE PERCENT thing?), but most of the selections are white dude bands.  Overwhelmingly white dude bands.  The lack of racial diversity also needs to be addressed, but for the purpose of this post, I’m simply looking at the absence of women.  Where the hell are they?

I honestly don’t know how the selections are chosen, whether it’s something decided by the event coordinators themselves, or by labels, or by artists.  I’ve tried researching this topic, but it’s hard to find details.  Still, whatever the process, it’s obviously broken.  I shouldn’t be surprised, though, given that only 10% of the RSD ambassadors have been women.  I think it’s fantastic that they’ve chosen a woman for their 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, but what took them so long to have female representation?

This makes me wonder if it goes right back to the target audience for vinyl: men.  Did they worry that having a woman as ambassador would turn guys off?  Are they heavily pushing the dude bands because men don’t want music by female artists?  I’m in the YouTube vinyl community, and a lot of the guys there seem to like ALL kinds of artists and music, but are they the exception to the rule?  Is it too much to expect that men who collect vinyl will be okay with an even gender split? Where the hell are all the women?

It’s a question I ask a lot as a member of the vinyl community.  Women are underrepresented here, though a recent article has sought to highlight women-owned record shops.  Yes, we are out there.  Yes, there are a lot of us.  But we’re outnumbered by our male counterparts, and even when we do seek to carve out a space for ourselves, we’re often ignored, neglected, relegated to dabbler status, as if we’re unable to hold vast knowledge of music and records in our fragile female brains.  Many men on the vinyl community forums believe that women only show up to record stores to stand around and nag at their boyfriends as they browse vinyl.  They believe we aren’t serious collectors, serious students of sounds, as if this entire format exists solely for consumption by men.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Female music critics are skewered for their informed opinions and judgments far more than male critics.  And why are there so many white men writing about and talking about music?  I find it difficult to see photos from SXSW panels where the stage is filled with white dudes and believe that truly radical discussions took place around any artist’s work.  Or that any conversation about music could have possibly included experiences outside the single demographic represented on stage.

I seethed recently listening to a well-respected vinyl site’s podcast wherein two dudes dissected the debut record of an African-American woman.  They loved the record, by the way, but their assumptions about her past, about her background, about her identity within this world really rubbed me the wrong way.  The way they said the music is rudimentary at best, but her voice is really what makes it a good record.  How she needs to be careful not to repeat this in the next album, or it won’t be held in as high regard (in their minds).  Do what the men say you should do, or else.  Be a better musician, even though your record is getting wide acclaim (and rightly so).

Why is it okay for men to do this?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we continue to allow it.  We elevate mediocre music made by men while refusing to recognize the work of so many female artists/producers/label execs/etc.  I’m not suggesting that we reward or congratulate women who aren’t making great music, but we do seem to allow for that when it comes to men.  If I see one more article passing off the creepy/odd things Father John Misty does/says as “quirky,” I might scream.  And yes, I lump him in with the mediocre lot, with apologies to the FJM fans out there.  Don’t even get me started on Ed Sheeran.

There have been numerous discussions around the lack of female representation when award nominations are announced, particularly during the 2016 Juno Awards.  Amy Millan (of Stars) sparked the #JunosSoMale movement on Twitter, and the conversation was continued again this season.  Even if the reason behind the lack of representation comes down to women not submitting their work, we need to look at why they don’t feel that they’re able to throw their names in the hat.  Many say that they’re held back, or not taken seriously, or have been told from the beginning that they won’t be taken seriously so why bother?  And this doesn’t just happen with awards submissions — it happens to women at all stages of music-making, from booking gigs to buying instruments.  Why is that okay?

I have so many questions.  And I’m looking for answers.  What do you think about the Record Store Day list this year?  Why are there so few women?  If you’re a woman who collects vinyl, what have your RSD experiences been like in the past?  I know for me, I’m usually one of the only women there buying vinyl for herself.  Reach out to me and we’ll talk.  Let’s figure out why #RSDsomale.

#RSD16

This morning, my alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. so I could be ready to leave the house at 4:30.  We got off to a tiny bit of a late start, but arrived at Joe’s Albums in Worcester, MA around 6:30 and secured our spot in line.  The doors opened at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and by 8:05, I’d already made my purchases and was headed out the door.  I got everything I wanted, plus some.  Couldn’t be happier with how RSD16 went down.  Check out my trip and my recap below.

 

Record Store Day 2016

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Record Store Day can be a touchy subject for vinyl enthusiasts.  Some love it, some hate it.  Many feel that the processing of all these special releases bogs down the already-limited pressing factories, and that is true.  Many hate the rules and regulations, the chaos of having to elbow your way through crowds just for the chance to find one of those limited releases.  Some feel it’s just a gimmick, and they hate spending large amounts of cash on a reissue that can be purchased in its original form and release for less.  Some record stores love it, and some report huge losses on RSD from purchasing an overabundance of expensive records that their clientele don’t seem to like or want.

I get that it’s become more about the releases and less about celebrating and patronizing the record stores, and it is a little sad that the day has taken that kind of turn.  But I still participate.  And the reason I do is because I’m a total sucker for something that’s cool-looking or limited.  That being said, I don’t buy records that I don’t care about.  There are tons that have been the talk of vinyl sites for months now, but I’m not really into the big sellers.  I’m out for some of the smaller releases, the ones flying completely under the radar.  Also, I really do like to support my favorite record stores, and RSD just gives me an excuse to go and spend more money at said shops.

I do have to say, though — Record Store Day is freaking stressful.  It requires a lot of research on my part.  I live in an area with only one record shop in a 30-mile radius, and they don’t participate.  All of my favorite record shops are at minimum 90 minutes away from me.  So first I go through the list of releases and decide what I want.  Then I start looking at the 30 or so shops within a three-hour drive and stalk their social media and websites until they start releasing details about their RSD plans.  Usually by the time Thursday rolls around, I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of stores, and then Friday I make my final decision.  But that’s only the beginning of the stress, because then I have to try and guess when people will start to line up at the shop, and plan my travels so I get there before or around that time.  I’ve been going to the same record shop for RSD for the last three years.  Yup, they came through again and that’s where I’m heading tomorrow.  But I still don’t know what time I should line up.  My first year, we ended up getting there about an hour AFTER opening, and I was still able to grab the release I wanted most (and found the other at another shop down the street).  Last year, we arrived about 45 minutes early, and there were 20-30 people in line already.  AND I only found two of the releases I wanted, and had to go to two other stores to get the remainder.  That has me worried for this year.  I’m almost planning on lining up two hours in advance so I can avoid the chase, though my record guy mixes all his RSD releases together so that it’s not in any kind of order, and that means the person ten people behind me could find the records I want before I do.

See what I mean about stress?

I’m mostly kidding.  If I don’t get the releases I want, it won’t be the end of the world.  But I have to say, I’m just dying to get my hands on that Weepies release.  “Say I Am You” is one of my favorite albums from them, and it’s being released on vinyl for the first time.  Plus it comes with a signed poster.  That’s on the top of my list.  The rest is just icing on the cake.

What about you guys?  What do you think of Record Store Day, and will you be participating?  Any releases you’re particularly excited to get?