An independent record store’s view on covid-19, and the forthcoming Record Store Day ‘drops’

The pandemic wiped out RSD 2020 – they've returned with a new plan to keep indie stores alive in these tough times

Back in April this year’s Record Store Day was cancelled because of covid-19. This week, RSD announced the first in a new series of ‘drops’ – socially distanced versions of the annual day that celebrates independent shops. More than 200 places across the UK plan to get involved in the first one on Saturday 29 August. Two more will follow during the autumn. Ashlie Green from David’s Music in Letchworth, Hertfordshire explains what’s happening:

The first ever Record Store Day ‘Drop’ happens on 29 August – tell us about the idea, and how is it going to work?

The ‘drops’ were devised by the global coordinators of RSD who took into account the different position each participating territory is in due to coronavirus. The idea is that not only does it spread out the releases to try and avoid mass gathering at one time, but it also allows indie stores (many of whom in other countries have been closed for months without any government support) to buy in stock little and often rather than in one big hit. It also aims to give shops a few financial boost in the run up to Christmas rather than just one.

Coronavirus has made everything very tricky for everyone and these ‘drops’ are by no means going to look or feel like normal RSDs sadly. In the UK, shops have options as to how they’ll manage their own events based on their individual circumstances. They’ll either operate as normally as possible while observing social distancing guidelines and limiting the number of people in-store; offer customers bookable time slots one week in advance or choose not to open at all and instead sell product online from 6pm. The relaxation in online sales rules is a big change from the ‘norm’ where we’d usually hold off for seven days to encourage more in-store trade. But this will help those customers who are uncomfortable visiting their local store as they’ll still have a really good chance of picking up what they’re after on the day. Here at David’s we’re going to try and operate with a socially distanced queue, as we are on a big, wide high street that can accommodate it.

How has the reaction been to the announcement?

We’ve heard mixed feedback from customers and other shops because it’s so different to normal but on the whole everyone seems to understand the necessity to change things up this year and adapt to the situation. There’s a bit of trepidation, but indie record shops are resourceful and creative so I’ve no doubt that we’ll all be able to adjust accordingly.

What kind of one-offs are you expecting to offer?

Aside from the exclusive releases on the separate drop days, this year we’re offering Record Store Day UK branded face masks – something that will (hopefully!) set it apart from any other event we’ve had or will have in the future!

Independent Record Stores, like almost all types of business, spent a long period closed because of covid – is the hope that this will help claw back some lost revenues?

That would be nice! Record Store Day is an incredible celebration every year, one we all really look forward to, but it’s also a massive cash injection for indie record shops, one which lots of shops have come to rely on. So I hope, even though RSD can’t be everything we want it to be this year, that they will all be good days for shops financially.

If it goes well, does it offer a model for doing RSD differently in future or do you hope to return to how it was at the earliest safe opportunity?

I think most people, me included, would be keen to get back to the traditional Record Store Day format and focus our efforts into one great day celebrating independent record shops, with live music, DJs, crowds etc. Having said that, I know a lot of customers like the fact that the first ‘drop’ date is in August and will (fingers crossed) mean good weather for potentially queuing outside.

Finally, how has it been at the shop since you reopened? Have you been encouraged by the support of music buyers or are there still a lot of stark challenges?

It’s a real mixed bag, honestly, there are a lot of challenges that we’re coming across all the time, and everything is a bit weird isn’t it? Having said that, the customers have been so fantastic, understanding and supportive. It’s been really encouraging. When we opened up again we had so many customers coming in with lists of releases that they’d been building up over lockdown so that they could order them from us – how amazing is that?! We’re so grateful for the loyalty and support from the customers, but also the help we’ve received from labels, reps and distribution who all want to see us succeed.