April 22, 2017 isn’t just Earth Day. It’s also the ninth annual Record Store Day. The holiday’s organizers encourage music fans of all ages to head out to their local record store to buy vinyl records and exclusive releases that are only available on that day.
When the founders of the holiday began organizing it in 2007, vinyl records were an afterthought, a medium that only catered to die-hard fans. In 2016, 13 million vinyl records were sold.
For the complete list of all Record Store Day 2017 exclusives, click here.
Here’s what you need to know about the holiday.
1. The 2017 RSD Ambassador Is St. Vincent
Each year, a popular musician who supports vinyl is chosen to be the Record Store Day (RSD) ambassador. For 2017, Annie Clark, who is better known as Sr. Vincent, was chosen as the first female RSD Ambassador. The announcement was made in a Funny Or Die skit.
In the video, her manager (Jonathan Marballi) tells her that she’s been picked to be the new ambassador to Recorstorda, a small island off the coast of Russia. When she shows up at a record store, she gets a text from her manager, who blames auto-correct for the mix-up. At the end of the video, she accepts the ambassadorship.
As Billboard notes, previous RSD Ambassadors include Jack White, Chuck D, Dave Grohl and Metallica.
2. Almost 1,400 Record Stores Participated in RSD 2017
If you are lucky enough to have an indie record store nearby, there’s a good chance they are participating in this year’s RSD. According to organizers, nearly 1,400 independently-owned record stores in the U.S. are participating this year. Thousands of stores outside the U.S. are as well. There are stores participating on every continent except Antarctica. (The penguins can dance to their own music.) On the first RSD in 2008, there were only about 100 stores participating.
“Every year we receive an email, typically from a young couple starting their own record store [asking to get involved], and they’re the new versions of record stores; they’re hybrids, a record store and a cupcake shop, or a barber shop, or a bookstore… any combination of different things,” Michael Kurtz, who co-founded the holiday with Carrie Colliton and coordinating founders Eric Levin and Michael Bunnell, told Billboard. “To be a part of Record Store Day, we just say, ‘Your core business needs to be music.'”
According to their website, a store must be at least 50 percent music retail and a company that is not publicly located. The store’s ownership should also be at least 70 percent located in the state it is operated in.
3. Co-Founder Eric Levin Was Inspired by the Success of Free Comic Book Day
Eric Levin co-created the holiday after being inspired by the success of another very specific holiday that boosts small businesses – Free Comic Book Day. That holiday was born in 2002 and happens on the first Saturday in May, when there is usually a big-budget superhero movie in theaters.
“It was a great launching point for Record Store Day,” Levin, who also owns Criminal Records in Atlanta, told Billboard. In 2013, Michael Kurtz told Fortune that Chris Brown of Bull Moose, a small chain in New Hampshire and Maine, also suggested they model their day after Free Comic Book Day.
“There was all of this negative media saying record stores were irrelevant,” Kurtz told Fortune.
While Free Comic Book Day is in May, the RSD founders scheduled their holiday for a Saturday in April.
In 2015, RSD won the Marketplace Ally Award at the American Association of Independent Music’s Libera Awards.
4. 13 Million Vinyl Records Were Sold in the U.S. in 2016
When RSD was founded in 2007, there were less than 1 million vinyl albums sold in the U.S. In January 2017, Nielsen reported that there were 13 million vinyl albums sold in 2016 alone.
It was the best year ever for vinyl since Nielsen Music began tracking album sales in 1991. The best-selling vinyl albums in the U.S. were Twenty One Pilot’s Blurryface, David Bowie’s Blackstar and Adele’s 25.
Clement Perry, the publisher of The Stereo Times, told CNBC that the vinyl explosion is partly to blame on the increased availability. Today, we’re seeing vinyl sold everywhere from Barnes & Noble to Best Buy stores.
“Now with the internet and instant gratification, the younger record fans still love the feel and sound of a physical artifact. It’s highly personal,” Perry told CNBC, adding that, “It hasn’t happened overnight at all. It’s small mom-n-pop labels that kept the pressing plants open and worked hard to keep the faith of the fans and artists.”
5. Some Artists Are Releasing Exclusive Cassettes on Record Store Day
This year, there are over 300 exclusive titles, from releases by internationally known stars to music from local independent artists. Some of the releases are just re-issues of classic albums like Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson or Neil Young’s Decade, but others are more unique.
As Rolling Stone pointed out, one of the more unique releases is Studio One House of Joy, a collection of 15 7″ records that are packaged in a wooden box that replicates speakers found in Jamaican dancehalls of the 1950s. It’s a tribute to Studio One, a pioneering record label in Jamaica. The records highlight the best music recorded there. Only 700 sets were made.
Oddly enough, a few artists are releasing cassette tapes on Record Store Day. The Black Lips are releasing a box set of four albums on cassette that’s limited to just 450 copies.
Paul McCartney’s RSD release is a cassette tape of demos recorded with Elvis Costello in the late 1980s for the album Flowers in the Dirt. There’s only three songs on the tape and it’s limited to 2,500 copies.