Record Store Day began in 2007 as a grassroots idea from a few record store owners to highlight the realization that they and a lot of their friends still bought vinyl albums. Like, a lot. By last year, vinyl outsold CDs for the first time since 1986. Record Store Day — with its limited-edition rarity reissues and expanded versions — skipped along parallel to the “Vinyl is Back!” trend of the last 10 years, as Urban Outfitters and even Walmart started stocking new $25 Taylor Swift albums and $35 Led Zeppelin reissues.
Record Store Day – a day in April and on Black Friday – has helped keep interest in records going, and many indie stores will exclaim that it’s their biggest shopping day of the year. The argument of whether it has translated into those RSD newbies coming back to shop on other days is debatable. But around the country, many small, Mom-and-Pop record shops have opened in the last few years. Even Jack White’s Third Man Records label opened a record pressing plant in Detroit a few years ago with three machines in use. And like the few other record plants left in the world, they are a year behind on orders.
Will this last? The many great record shops of our area sure hope so. We checked in with Mark Gunter, manager of one of the longest-running and most respected regional shops, Buckhead’s Fantasyland Records, to get his thoughts on Record Store Day, and to see how it’s doing in the face of the anti-Mom-and-Pop shop reality of COVID.
Give us a quick history of Fantasyland Records.
Fantasyland Records was opened in 1976 by Andy Folio, who still owns the shop. The original location was [on Peachtree Road] in the old strip that contained Garden Hills Cinema, and where Fellini’s Pizza is still located. We moved to our current location at 360 Pharr Road in Buckhead in 2010. I began working part-time at the store in 1979, became manager in 1983. We sell new and used vinyl, plus used CDs and cassettes in every genre that exists. Also, cool posters and other music-related memorabilia. These days, vinyl is around 90% of our sales. Teenagers and 20-somethings have rediscovered cassettes, like they have vinyl records.
So you would say that the ’Vinyl is Back!’ trend may not be a trend?
Yeah, vinyl is definitely back. Sales are increasing each year. Although for indie record stores, it never really went away, there are just a lot more new young people who’ve entered the vinyl world in the last 10 years or so. Plus, the pressing of new vinyl has exploded.
How long have you been involved with Record Store Day?
We’ve been taking part in Record Store Day since 2010. It’s a lot of work, but people love it. It’s a cool, fun event, and a great promotion for indie record stores. They come up with some great limited edition releases each year. … Most people enjoy it and have a great time — even the standing in line! People enjoy meeting and making new friends with fellow vinyl lovers. As for our store, the April RSD is always our biggest sales day of the year, and the Black Friday event is always a good day.
This year, the usual two-day RSD schedule was thrown into chaos, right?
Yeah, this year’s April RSD was postponed due to COVID. They decided to stagger the releases on three separate Saturdays, at the end of August, September and October, to keep the crowds down a bit. We weren’t sure how it was going to work out, or even if anyone was going to show up for it. But we were blown away by the turnout for part one in August. Part two was equally successful, as was last Saturday’s [Oct. 24]! It’s worked out well. Everyone masked up and social-distanced. We do it all in-store. No online sales. First come, first served. No holds. One per person, per title. The usual RSD rules.
Are there any regional releases coming for Black Friday RSD that you’re really excited about?
Ed Roland of Collective Soul put together a new band during the early days of COVID shutdown called The Living Room. They wrote and recorded songs in their living room that have a ’70s New Wave kind of sound inspired by bands like Roxy Music, the Cars and ELO. So that should be really cool!
Speaking of the pandemic, how is Fantasyland holding up?
Our store was closed from mid-March to mid-May. We did a little curbside business while we were closed. Since we reopened, business has been better than ever, actually. We’ve been open for in-store shopping, the same as usual. And we thank each and every one of our wonderful customers/friends for that! I think the future continues to look very bright for indie record stores!