Monday, April 19, 2010

Record Store Day Wrap up - by Paul Epstein

So how does one really know when it is the best day ever!? Well obviously things like the marriage of your kids, birth of grandkids, paying off your mortgage - these sorts of things are really important milestones. However, I’m talking about in a professional sense. In the 22 years we’ve been in business (yes this weekend also marks our 22nd anniversary) I can not recall a day that felt quite like this one. All I can say is it was unbelievable. The only way I can get my arms completely around it is to break it into pieces.

1. The Stuff- This year there was some serious stuff - both quantity and quality. Close to 200 hundred unique LPs, 45’s, 12”, Books and DVDs guaranteed diversity. After seeing the growth from year one to year two, we decided to really try and step up the numbers we brought in this year. In spite of the economic climate of the last year I swallowed hard and threw away the budget. Our buyers did an incredible job of predicting what would be hot and we had sufficient quantity to get almost everybody what they wanted. As always there are a couple of items that are runaway hits and blow out in the first few hours. This year those were The Beastie Boys, The Hold Steady and Sharon Jones covering the Beatles. Those were the couple of items we ran out of. For the most part though we didn’t run out, and as a result sold huge quantities of The Flaming Lips, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, The Raconteurs, MGMT, Them Crooked Vultures and on and on and on. The product mix was heavily leaning toward vinyl, which is pretty much the story of the music business in the last year. Not that vinyl sales have taken over CD sales, but the rebirth of the collector’s format is both surprising and rewarding.

2. The Folks- By 9:00 a.m. there were probably close to a hundred people in line. When we opened the doors, the store immediately filled up with approximately 250 people. It didn’t stop. They kept pouring in. By 11:00 a.m. the line from the register went all the way to the back of the store. It stayed that way until mid-afternoon. We had had four cashiers ringing them up as fast as they could, but it was just overwhelming. I stayed on the floor the entire day and I did not hear one cross word. I didn’t hear one complaint or one demand. As the customers clustered around the products I would hear people call out “Here’s the Black Keys 12” who needs it?” They were actually helping each other. I saw at least 20 ex-employees. Nothing makes me happier than that. I was also gratified by the number of customers just wishing the store well in a general sense; long time customers, first timers, a surprising number of out-of-staters who traveled for the event-people of all types just happy to be there and happy to see a real record store still in existence. One interesting demographical observation: the majority of the crowd was males 25-35 - the exact crowd that populated our store when we started 22 years ago. In spite of everything that has changed, some things remain the same.

3. The DJs- We had 4 DJs play throughout the day, as we did last year, and this formula proved to be absolutely the perfect thing again. Arturo from KUVO kicked things off with a rousing, danceable set of R&B, Jazz and World music that was just perfect, Next Sam from 1190 played a wild, high energy set of Hip Hop and Electronica, then our own A-What, who is one half of Pirate Signal (and a Twist employee) demonstrated his amazing turntable skills and burned it down playing rare grooves and old school rap. Then around 3:00 p.m. another crowd of about a hundred people started filtering in for DJ Bonobo’s amazing downtempo set. An incredibly unassuming guy, Bonobo slid in and quietly blew minds. His set was so natural and well-chosen people kept asking me when he was going to play. “He’s playing right now!” He was a natural fit and the perfect cap to our Record Store Day DJ sets.

4. The Staff- I’ve said it before, but it was so obvious again on this day - we have the best staff of any record store ever! Our people were so great, and so patient, and helpful. Lots of people showed up and helped, and everyone was in a great mood. It is tremendously rewarding to me, that the store doing well makes the staff happy. They were saying to me all day “I wish it could be like this every day.” From the bottom of my heart I thank them for what they do every day.

5. The Business- what can I say - it was the biggest day we have ever had. Last year in the depths of despair I remember saying to Jill, “we will never say those words- ‘best day ever’ ever again.” I believed the business was on the big downhill slide that would never be reversed. I’m not sure it will be reversed, but we can still do some honkin’ big numbers when the conditions are right. As I mentioned before, it was that same old demographic that always bought records still showing up. This is the generation that was supposed to be lost for good. And yet, there they were buying with gusto. Not just the RSD stuff - they were staying and shopping for everything. We sold so much new and used vinyl it was shocking. I don’t know what the future holds, but I for one, am going to wait for the fat lady to sing before I say “never” ever again.

So I guess it was a perfect day. The only negative I can think of was the fact that Jill had to go to California to visit her parents and wasn’t there. We talked on the phone Saturday night and I thanked her for helping me make my dream come true. I said; “Can you believe this is what has become of our little store?” Thanks folks.

-Paul Epstein

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Truly a GREAT day for Twist and Shout. I arrived too late (11:30am) and was shocked at the size of the crowd and the line for checkout. I didn't find the Japandroids white vinyl LP anywhere anyhow (did get Pavement and Lennon RSD releases, though).

Can't wait for next year!!!!