A group of record store owners and employees gathered to form a vinyl lover's favorite holiday in 2007. Now, six years later, hundreds of independently owned record stores across the country have signed the official Record Store Day Pledge.
Each year these businesses receive exclusive products including rare albums and exclusive releases that can only be sold by these independent stores. This Saturday will be the sixth annual National Records Store Day, and Knoxville is participating, with stores like Disc Exchange, Lost and Found Records, and Wild Honey Records, which are all Knoxville based stores, participating in the event.
Disc Exchange will be participating for the sixth year in a row. Zach Waldrop, Disc Exchange inventory buyer and music fanatic, said everyone can expect to have a great time.
"It's kind of like an all day party, essentially," Waldrop said. "We'll have the exclusives. We'll have food and drinks. We'll have food trucks. We'll have giveaways. All kinds of stuff."
Disc Exchange is pulling out all the stops with six local/regional bands including the award-winning The SteelDrivers. There will also be an array of local food trucks, a cupcake truck and even a local coffee shop bringing aid to the people waiting in line before the store opens.
"It's definitely our biggest day, without a doubt. It's like Christmas times five," Waldrop said. "It's fantastic. People line up. Last year someone got there at 5:30 in the morning. We generally have anywhere from 60 to 100 people waiting in line at least two hours early."
National Record Store Day is really important to Disc Exchange, Waldrop said.
"Being one of the few record stores in Knoxville that cater to that type of business," Waldrop said. "There are quite a few record stores that have popped up in the last couple of years, but we are one of the only record stores standing that sells new and used CDs and vinyl."
He explained that a wide variety of genres has really helped aid Disc Exchange's continued success, including a Best in Knoxville award for the past 20 years.
Zach Dejoe, senior in sociology, said he has a very eclectic taste in music that record stores like Disc Exchange feed.
"I'm a funk and soul aficionado. I probably have about 60 to 75 records in total and I'd say that three quarters of them are funk, soul or R&B type of stuff from 1967 to 1975," Dejoe said.
During the time of the tape deck, 8-tracks and the beginning of the CD era, the vinyl industry lost a lot of business. However, in the last two decades, the vinyl industry has made a huge comeback. Waldrop grew up around vinyl and is elated that it's growing popular again.
"I've been around it since birth, it's always been there for me," Waldrop said. "Then there was a bit of a resurgence in the early '90s with a lot of independent labels and acts. Since then, it's exponentially grown. It's really hit a huge boom in the last four or five years. It's a big thing you get to be a part of and involved with while you're listening."
Dejoe said he loves the cultural aspect of vinyls and the record store industry and became enamored with record collecting about 10 months ago, before he had a record player of his own.
"It's a whole culture unto itself," Dejoe said. "If you go into a record store you're going to be talking to people. If you have an interest in music, it's a sanctuary. I was attracted to the environment and the culture of it even before I had a record player. Wild Honey and Lost and Found have awesome owners. All of that really got me into it."
Grayson Goble, music business major at Western Kentucky University and prospective UT student, said he was lured into vinyls by the elaborate cover designs.
"I loved the artwork on them for sure. I went to a record store and the pictures were so big and it seemed like they really went all out for them. That's the reason why I bought my first one. Then after that, it became an addiction. It's really just a fun hobby."
Goble said he believes the sound quality of vinyl records is far superior to that of MP3s and CDs, having a more "natural" sound.
Waldrop said he also believes vinyl records sound much better.
"Obviously it's not as compressed. Some people don't care about that. Some people do. Some audiophiles are really hecklers about it. To me, it just sounds much warmer," Waldrop said. "It's sonically better. You pick up on things and your ears will hear things a little better because of the warmth."
Dejoe agrees that vinyl records have a much warmer feel to them than MP3s and CDs and said these mediums are too "perfect."
"They're too mechanized and manufactured with a lot of technology," said Dejoe. "There's not much character like there is with vinyl. You get to hear imperfections and what it really sounded like when it was produced in the studio. CDs and MP3s are flawless to the point where you don't get a grasp of the original production process."
Waldrop also said the production process is what really accounts for the big difference.
“Ultimately music was, and sometimes still is, recorded onto tape," Waldrop said. "And then that tape was transferred to the vinyl tape that goes into the record. So you’re not really transferring too much. You’re taking tape and putting it onto another tape and then you press the record. There’s less steps. It seems like the old days with dubbing tapes. The more times you dub a tape, the more the quality gets worse and worse.”
Dejoe sees the industry as something that needs to be aided in its growth by the American people and said he believes the record store industry is a pleasant reminder of the old ways of a country run on small, independent businesses.
“Record stores represent democracy because they are accessible to everyone and they are run by your small local business," Dejoe said. "I think they are a good representation of the ideal American democracy and what it used to be and what it should be."
Since its inception, National Record Store Day has been picking up steam, and Waldrop said he hopes that this continued growth doesn’t slow down any time soon.
“As long as it continues to grow the labels and companies that put this together are going to continue to surprise us with what we get,” Waldrop said. “The exclusives are going to get bigger and better as long as there’s a demand for it. As long as people are shopping and supporting independent retail, it’s always a good thing.”
Wild Honey Records, Lost and Found Records and Disc Exchange are all having events this Saturday, April 20, to celebrate National Records Store Day in Knoxville.