That cool uncle of yours totally broke the bank this year. Record Store Day, the weekend sales bonanza that celebrates independent record stores with shows and baked goods and obscure one-off releases, saw all-time highs in sales across a number of categories this year, including albums, singles and vinyl releases, according to data released yesterday by Buzzangle Music. Overall, sales rose 39 percent from the previous year’s high.
Since its founding in 2007, Record Store Day has turned into the biggest day of the year for independent music retailers, aging hipsters and kids in leather jackets. According to data compiled by Billboard and Nielsen, more than 19 percent of all the physical albums sold during the week ending April 20 were sold at independent record stores, likely the highest ratio recorded since SoundScan began monitoring record sales in 1991. That same report found that all 25 of the country’s top-selling singles during the same period were exclusive Record Store Day releases.
The top seller, a 7-inch version of Nirvana’s “Pennyroyal Tea,” was originally supposed to be released in 1994, but was held back after the band's leader, Kurt Cobain, committed suicide. It's a sign of how reliant record stores are on the last generation to buy physical music in great numbers -- Generation Xers, now solidly in their 40s, would have found such a thing irresistible -- but plenty of the purchases came from younger buyers too; after all, the second-biggest vinyl retailer in the U.S. is none other than Urban Outfitters.
Though most Record Store Day coverage focuses on the curiosities and one-offs that artists and labels produce for Record Store Day (as well as the crazy markups they see on eBay), familiar releases from established artists tend to dominate at the cash registers. The White Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan," an album released in 2005, was the weekend's top-selling Record Store Day album. Last year, the top-selling release was the Beatles' "Long Tall Sally."
But if there is a lasting impression Record Store Day has made, it has been the way it has piqued consumer interest in vinyl again. Last week, the Official Charts Company, Britain’s authority on physical music sales, announced it would launch a vinyl sales chart after vinyl sales hit a 20-year high in Britain in 2014, with more than 1.3 million units sold. All of the best-selling albums from Record Store Day were vinyl, except a Metallica cassette tape, “No Life 'Til Leather.”