For all you record buffs who want to be in the thick of it on Record Store Day, there’s only one place to be in Cambridge. From 6 am to 6 pm Relevant Records will be fulfilling vinyl wish lists, hosting performances, and providing much-needed coffee for the early risers. It’s the store’s fourth Record Store Day and with the celebrations that are lined-up, it looks to be their most exciting yet. Ahead of the big day, we caught up with Relevant’s music specialist, Tom, to talk about wish lists, chaos strategies, and what it’s like from the other side of the counter.
What are the preparations you have to make in the run-up to RSD?
We’ve been asking customers to send us their “wish lists”, so we have as good an idea as possible of what to order (and in what quantities). It certainly helps us gauge which records are going to be the most in demand each year!
What’s your strategy for dealing with chaos on the day?
Lots of preparation! We don’t see the need for chaos on the day, and spend months planning ahead. All the exclusive RSD titles are kept behind the counter, so there’s no pushing and shoving! Everyone who comes through the door at the start of the day gets a numbered ticket, and we serve them in that order (“Deli counter style”).
Top tip for the uninitiated?
Get down early! People start queuing up the night before the day itself to reserve their space in line, so there’s a heavy risk of disappointment if you just stroll in at midday expecting to get everything you’re after.
Based on the “wish lists” which releases are likely to go quickest?
The most requested titles this year have been The National, Sufjan Stevens, Neil Young, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Jeff Buckley, Arcade Fire and Daughter. Typically, some of those are also available in the smallest quantities too…
What’s the aftermath of RSD like?
We normally all sleep for a long time – we’re in the shop from 4am and close at 6pm (and kick the day off with a glass of Prosecco and knock a few beers back throughout the afternoon), so it’s a long day! Aside from a brief and delirious session in the pub round the corner after we’ve closed, it’s straight to bed!
What’s your best memory of Record Store Day?
A well known post-punk band’s guitarist directly phoned us up the day before Record Store Day last year… he’d just used the a smartphone / the internet for the first time ever, Googled his band’s name, and seen that we were selling an RSD release of his that he’d never heard of or sanctioned. He thought Relevant Records was a label rather than a shop, and was as furious as he was confused… it was a nightmare at the time and he just wouldn’t listen to anything we were saying – he was threatening to “drive down there and trash the place” unless we pulled it from sale immediately. Looking back at is now, it’s pretty hilarious – I suppose if I’d used the internet for the first time in 2017, I’d be a bit overwhelmed by it all too…
How well do you think Record Store Day represents vinyl culture?
It’s more a day for welcoming new customers into record shops; fanatics and music geeks already spend all their time hanging out here anyway – the day is about raising the profile of independent record shops and attracting a bigger crowd with lots of live music and special releases.
The product list is increasingly dominated by re-issues and gimmicky releases. What’s your take on RSD’s curation?
I think alot of people would like to see a higher quality product list – but then again, everyone has there own idea of what “good music” is, so it’s totally subjective! There’s so much amazing music that’s been out of print and unavailable for decades, stuff that’s crying out to be reissued… but instead there are always a few screamers on the product list! The staff who work here even put together their “dream lists” – a kind of Utopian idea of RSD could / should be (see our website here). Having said that, the novelty / stupid stuff always sells really well (so there must be a demand for it), and a big aim of RSD is to get people who wouldn’t normally frequent independent record shops to pay us a visit, so having an exclusively niche and specialist product list probably wouldn’t achieve that.
Aside from selling records, what’s the biggest mission of Record Store Day?
Vinyl Emporium – 8 am