Local Shops Celebrate Music for Record Store Day

The line stretched down the block on S. Division Avenue in Grand Rapids, with hundreds of devoted fans of rock's My Chemical Romance waiting in the rain to meet the band at an in-store appearance on Record Store Day.

Inside Vertigo Music, the line was just as long as eager vinyl aficionados clutched special releases and audio gear, pored through record bins while sipping free beverages and listened to live local bands such as The Total Blam Blams, who turned a corner of the shop into a makeshift stage.

If 2011's Record Store Day was a runaway success and a ringing endorsement of independent record retailers, then the sixth annual national celebration on April 21 could make an even bigger splash for West Michigan's stalwart indie record shops who've survived competition from price-slashing chain stores and general music industry tumult.

"It's just one big party," said Vertigo Music Manager Herm Baker, whose store at 129 S. Division Ave. once again will bring in extra staff while boasting live bands and DJs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., food and beverages, and naturally, oodles of bargains and specials on music - most of it on vinyl, which has enjoyed a tremendous resurgence in popularity.

"We've saved up some awesome records and CDs, and we'll bring in exclusives that day: colored vinyl, limited runs on vinyl."

Nationally, labels and bands release exclusive LPs, CDs and promotional products on Record Store Day, along with performers making special appearances. And despite grousing that some hustlers come only to snag special releases so they can be resold for a profit on eBay, the overall mood is positive, giving indie stores a shot in the arm.

Kalamazoo's Green Light Music and Video (4717 W. KL Ave.) unleashes "tons of giveaways" on Record Store Day with a local DJ spinning records and special releases drawing huge crowds and long lines.

"We do it huge here," says Manager Chris Haner, noting more exclusives are available this year than ever before.

The store, which is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., even has produced its own Record Store Day poster.
"It's our biggest day of the year. It's so cram-packed with people."

The Corner Record Shop (3562 Chicago Drive SW, Grandville), stocks as many exclusive releases as it can, even though supplies nationally are limited. In addition, the store - open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. - will offer discounts on the rest of its inventory that day.

Kalamazoo's The Corner Record Shop (1710 W. Main St.) is "really choosy" about special records it brings in for the event, but still turns the day - from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - into a party with Western Michigan University radio station DJs spinning tunes.

"We look at it as a celebration for music," says Manager Joe Senn.

Other area stores participating in Record Store Day include Schuler Books & Music (Grand Rapids, Walker, Lansing, Okemos) and The Full Circle (212 College Ave., Holland).

Full Circle owner Steve Van Dommelen says his tiny "old-school" shop, open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., boasts numerous sales with as many special releases as it can get.

"The basis for this whole thing is to get people into your store and hopefully sponge up the stock," said Van Dommelen, noting vinyl sales come mostly from baby boomers and "high school kids who've never seen records" before.

Just how big can Record Store Day be?

"Overall, it can roughly translate to one month's sales in one day," Baker said. "It was pretty awesome last year. It was our best day ever in 12 years."

Over in our state's capital, participating record stores include Flat, Black & Circular (541 East Grand River Ave., East Lansing), The Record Lounge (111 Division St., East Lansing) and Schuler Books & Music in the Eastwood Towne Center.

April 21

Longtime FBC Manager Jon Howard says the store hosts live in-stores by local bands, but are mainly focused on the chaos happening.

"It is our biggest sales day of the year each time," Howard said. "There is usually a line of 30 or so ... We have a good system for keeping it organized, but it still gets sweaty and frantic and we sell out of the hot releases."

Up the street from FBC is The Record Lounge. The store hosts live and local music all day. Owner Heather Frarey said the event always makes for great sales, but ordering the right RSD product can be a gamble.

"Placing the orders is very difficult because you have no idea what is going to be that big seller," Frarey said. "But the best part is getting all of the items in for the first time, selling it and then feeling good that most of the customers got that one item that they were waiting for. The last few years for me have been the best day we have ever had."

Photo Credits: Casey Cavanaugh (top), Rachele Angelo