Atlanta-based DJ, MC, and Criminal Records' hip-hop buyer and comic book department manager Zano Bathroom has had a front-row seat to Record Store Day since it first rolled out in April 2008. Over the years, he has witnessed every leap and misstep along the way.
How many Record Store Days have you had to work?
All of them, from the very beginning.
Has it helped or hindered its cause: local record shops?
There is nothing bad about Record Store Day. There are some bad things about the execution. Every year there's the same obligatory lame-ass blog post about all the ills of Record Store Day. You know, the blogosphere: Where motherfuckers just want to hear their opinions blasted out onto the Internet and then watch a bunch of people comment and react. With any big movement like this there's going to be actual negative things, and then a bunch of shit made up by assholes. Record Store Day's existence is not one of the problems.
What are the problems?
There isn't enough focus on new music. There are some issues with manufactured "rarity." There's not enough risk-taking both from artists and labels. I don't run a record label. I don't know how much effort goes into any given release. Labels know if they put out a couple of repurposed Springsteen songs on a 7-inch for $12, they'll sell it. But it seems like they could expend just as much energy by having Springsteen Live: Performing His Favorites from the Spector Catalog with the London Symphony Orchestra, or whatever. You put that out and it only exists as that and it will drive fans and collectors and make a ton of money.
Has Record Store Day facilitated a vinyl resurgence?
Vinyl is a culture. It's a lifestyle for a lot of people. It's not just old people or people my age, it's teenagers and people in there mid-20s that like the sound and feel of vinyl. Thankfully we've gotten away from that stupid polar bullshit of that 1999-2005 era: "Oh, either you like records or you like MP3s or CDs." Now people are like, "I like music, and when I'm at home I like putting on vinyl or unfolding a double gatefold record and looking at the artwork. But when I'm jogging or driving in my car I want my music on an MP3 file." These things can coexist. There's the philosophical debate about downloading, but that's old hat at this point. We should be beyond those simple conversations.
Hip-hop product hasn't played a large roll with Record Store Day.
That's ironic because record stores play a huge part in hip-hop. All the stories about DJs digging at specific stores in specific bins to find specific records to play and turn into breaks, that's part of hip-hop's DNA. For whatever reason Record Store Day and the vinyl resurgence happened at a time when mainstream hip-hop kind of turned its back on vinyl. There's always Fat Beats, and specific artists will always put stuff out on vinyl. But with newer dudes, like Drake and even someone that's been around longer like Kanye, vinyl generally comes out a month or more after the CD and download. It's not a priority. On the flip side, whenever those artists' fans come into the store and see that vinyl they're like, "Wow! Look at this! It's new music on vinyl!" It blows their minds. Sometimes they buy it and they don't even have a record player. They just want it because it's big and tangible and has artwork and stuff.