COMMENTARY: What's good and bad about Record Store Day Pilipinas

Rick Olivares

Posted at Apr 21 2019 06:26 PM

COMMENTARY: What's good and bad about Record Store Day Pilipinas 1
Record Store Day Pilipinas 2019 was held at Resorts World Manila. Photo provided by author

MANILA -- Record Store Day on April 13 has come and gone.

And I’ll say that it is both good and bad. I want to share my thoughts about the international version and the local one.

Let’s start with the international and the “bad” which to begin with isn’t really that bad. I guess, it depends on how you look at the event.

There was a time when an artist’s discography was carefully curated but because of licensing agreements across continents, albums and releases looked different in many parts of the world.

Case in point, the Beatles. To the real Beatles collector, it is the UK catalogue that is the official. It comprises 13 studio albums – "Please Please Me," "With the Beatles," "A Hard Day’s Night," "Beatles For Sale,"Help!," "Rubber Soul," "Revolver, "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Magical Mystery Tour," "The Beatles (The White Album)," "Yellow Submarine," "Abbey Road," and "Let It Be."

However, record labels in the United States and elsewhere chopped up the British releases for their own territories as well as to take advantage of the demand for product from the Fab Four.

I feel that Record Store Day is the same. It’s a great day to celebrate music and the return of vinyl to prominence. On the other hand, it also becomes a collector’s nightmare.

For starters, I am not sure how important it is to release all these recordings of demos, mixes, and live versions. How many more live Pearl Jam albums must there be? On the other hand, the Santana performance at the original Woodstock is a such a welcome addition to the legendary band’s canon.

It is also a race to get those limited edition pressings and in this case, it reminds me of the hunt for records back in the '70s and '80s. I have long given up about being a completist – one who must have absolutely everything that my fave band or writer or artist puts out there. So, I am totally fine about not buying a lot of what is put out. Even in the open market, some of the costs of these flipped titles is mind-boggling. Thankfully, it is not something I fret and lose sleep about. But there are some that I must have as a fan even if it means forking out large sums of cash (within reason, all right?).

Now, let’s venture forth into the Philippine staging of this event. This past April 13 was the third straight year that Record Store Day was celebrated in the country. There was the celebration at Newport Mall of Resorts World Manila with vinyl sellers, DJs, and live music. There were pocket sales in other parts of the metropolis.

That was it.

First, the facts. Record Store Day is an annual event to celebrate the independently owned record store that brings together music fans, artists, and record stores all over the world. A large number of titles are pressed to be sold specifically on this day for participating stores. While most of these records are from popular artists, there are also unknown and indie artists as well but they usually produce their own and sell them on the same day. Local sellers import copies to sell them to fans.

The basic premise, which is to celebrate the independently owned record store, is satisfied in the Philippine version. Even with the selling of those releases from the US and the UK. However, it has since become a vehicle for the big record labels to put out product that brought back consumer greed and speculation which always brings down any market.

As for using the occasion to promote local music, well, outside the band performances, there is hardly anything. In contrast, during Japan’s celebration of RSD in 2012, only one local artist took part wherein there was an exclusive release. By 2016, it climbed to a high of 43 exclusive Japanese releases for that day.

COMMENTARY: What's good and bad about Record Store Day Pilipinas 2
Classic OPM albums continue to fetch high prices. Photo provided by author

The Philippine music scene is alive and kicking without the help of record labels which aren’t major as they once were. There are bands a plenty and more rock clubs, bars, and performing centers than there were back in the 1990s. Bands oft put out their own products on vinyl, compact disc, cassette, flash drive, download, and or streaming. This they sell at gigs or online.
As busy as the music scene is, it isn’t what it once was where you didn’t need to go to a club to know it was alive. Bands were on commercials, television, the newspapers, in the malls… they were everywhere.

The times have changed and in my honest and informed opinion, the scene needs a band to break down all the walls again.

The other is the record scene or the physical format scene. The fact that there are at least three dozen independent sellers with shops, or stalls in Metro Manila alone (at least 13 have physical shops that are situated in Makati) not counting those online sellers. That shows that it is a thriving industry.

Satchmi, The Grey Market, and a few underground distribution/record labels are the only independent sellers to produce records by local artists but thus far, none have been released on RSD. Offshore Music has released two items on RSD in the first two stagings with their first offering delayed by reasons beyond their control.

Aside from that, there have been no other exclusive offerings. Foreign releases remain the top purchases.

Why do local artists do not sell as much?

Are you promoting music on the vinyl format -- that in terms of demand and sales are overwhelmingly foreign records -- or are you promoting local music? They are apples and oranges. They are two questions that may not necessarily intersect. If the two do not meet, then there is no point. Because what do local bands and artists have to do with RSD other than buy records – for the few that do on this day?

In my informed opinion, it is because of a preference to buy foreign and not local, price concerns, a lack of awareness or an appalling lack of interest, and the fact, that not everyone has a turntable. It is one or the other or a combination of many things.

The funny thing is the OPM releases of the 1970s to 1980s fetch large sums of money while for the local releases of recent years, perhaps the one that will sell for quite an amount if Up Dharma Down’s "Capacities." Perhaps, years from now, the records released from 2005 up to the present will be in demand as well.

It is expensive for bands to put out music on vinyl or even pressed compact discs (they go for burned copies which is a lot cheaper).

When artists put out albums now that sell from PhP 1,500 to P1,800, is that good or bad? Some are of the notion not to undersell and to be proud of the product that is as good as foreign. Some are of the school to sell it cheaper so others will not have to think twice in buying.

Answering that is not easy, I tell you.

Nevertheless, I think that RSD should be a concerted effort by independent sellers all over the country. Have a RSD event in the north and the south and if possible even in north Luzon aside from the Visayas and Mindanao. Only through a concerted movement will the “scene” be really noticed and not said to be a fad or passing fancy.