Tuesday, 2 September, 2014

Published April 18, 2014
Record Store Day returns this year bigger than ever as Singaporeans are set to be one of the first in the world to lay their hands on a record-breaking number of collectible limited-edition vinyls, reports Dylan Tan
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Renowned local rock photographer Eddie Sung puts on a photo exhibition of his works on artists such as American heavy metal band Slipknot (above) at Retrophonic's pop-up store at Commonwealth. - PHOTO: EDDY SUNG

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'24 hours after it sold out, it was going for double the list price of US$25 on eBay; by the time I finally bought it about a month later, I had to pay about $150 for it.'
Founder of Vinylicious Records, Eugene Ow Yong. He missed buying a transparent copy of The Jesus and Mary Chain's 1985 debut Psychocandy and ended up paying a high price later


IT pays to be early if you want to make a sound investment on Record Store Day (RSD) tomorrow.

The annual event, which started in the US and UK in 2008, celebrates the spirit of indie record shops by making available rare vinyls - pressed in limited quantities - that will only be sold at these establishments and not on online retailers.

Stores also do their best to lure diehard on-line shoppers to get out of their houses by holding special performances and autograph sessions by bands, on top of selling these special releases.

Needless to say, the popular titles tend to sell out in a flash and opportunistic buyers resell them at much higher prices on auction sites almost immediately, leading the more cynical collectors to label the day after RSD as eBay Flipping Day.

It happened to Eugene Ow Yong, founder of Vinylicious Records, when he missed the opportunity to obtain a transparent copy of shoegazers The Jesus and Mary Chain's 1985 debut, Psychocandy, and ended up paying through the nose for it a month later. "24 hours after it sold out, it was going for double the list price of US$25 (S$31) on eBay; by the time I finally bought it about a month later, I had to pay about $150 for it," he says.

Jumping on the RSD bandwagon

Incidentally, his store at Parklane Shopping Mall was the first in Singapore to celebrate RSD last year and a queue formed from as early as 9am, a full three hours before it opened. By closing time, over three-quarters of the stock was sold.

Mr Ow Yong will be bracing himself for a bigger turnout this year - "I've overheard some customers saying they are preparing to queue overnight this time!" - since expanding Vinylicious to a second, bigger unit across its original store. About 40 cartons containing more than 1,500 records arrived earlier this week; and the selection has increased from 101 titles last year to a whopping 300.

In total, the number of releases worldwide this year will also hit a record of 608 - a sharp increase from the average of around 200, which has been the norm in past years - because of the number of labels that have jumped on the RSD bandwagon this year.

Loo Hong Keong, owner of Retrophonic Records, reckons that can be a bit too much to handle for indie retailers like himself if they were to order everything. "Even if you take two copies each per title, that's still a lot!" he says.

Like Vinylicious, his store will also be celebrating RSD this weekend and Mr Loo will be importing about 200 titles from the list. However, he will be rebranding his event as Phonographic Day because it is set to be an arts and music event featuring collaborations between himself and other artists from outside the music industry.

Everything from his Chinatown Plaza shop has been moved out and Mr Loo will be operating a pop-up store over the long weekend instead at an art space in Commonwealth owned by design and creative collective, FLABSLAB. "We spent three days packing and hope to sell most of the things there so we don't have to carry all three tonnes of equipment and records back!" he laughs.

A photo exhibition by renowned local rock photographer Eddie Sung and other art displays including live illustrations will run alongside the sales of about 4,000 records and hi-fi equipment at the temporary location, which is about four times the size of Retrophonic's shop space on Craig Road.

Retrophonic's RSD sales will also begin the moment the clock strikes 12 midnight on April 19, making Singaporeans one of the first in the world to lay their hands on these exclusive titles.

Like Mr Ow Yong, Mr Loo is expecting a big turnout at his pop-up store and has introduced an electronic queue system on Retrophonic's Facebook page. In less than five hours since he started it on Monday, more than 30 people registered their interest.

Some record collectors however might be disappointed to learn not all of the titles might make it to Singapore. "The US and UK markets get priority before Asia and because the quantity of some titles pressed are so small, supplies run out even before any can be allocated to us," reveals Mr Ow Yong, when asked why he isn't carrying Washington rock band, Death Cab For Cutie's live album, one of RSD's most hotly watched titles.

Mr Loo adds retailers like himself are also blind ordering when they submit their forms. "When we send in our orders, we don't really know what will be allocated to us; our order list is more like a wish list where we just tick what we want," he explains, before admitting even he has yet to see what has been sent to him so far.

But a full list of the confirmed titles will be posted on Retrophonic's Facebook page by Friday night while Vinylicious has been updating theirs since early this month - so collectors will know in advance what's available.

Mr Ow Yong reckons two live albums by Australian psychedelic rockers Tame Impala and English indie band Foals are set to be hot sellers, judging by how quickly their RSD releases flew off the shelves at his shop last year. He also reckons titles by big acts that have broken up, such as REM And Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes, to move fast because of nostalgia; as will a glow-in-the-dark 12-inch version of the Ghostbusters theme by Ray Parker Jr.

Mr Loo adds that the belated 7-inch single of Pennyroyal Tea by defunct Seattle grunge pioneer and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Nirvana, will do equally well.

The 1993 track from the band's final album In Utero was planned to be released as a single back then but got scrapped after frontman Kurt Cobain's suicide, making this a collectible that has been 20 years in-the-making. He also says a Collision Course record, a one-off collaboration by rap giant Jay Z and nu-metal heavyweight Linkin Park, pressed on blue vinyl and available on that format for the first time, is set to be highly sought-after.

On the local front, two acts have timed their releases for RSD. Math-rockers The Observatory will be putting out Behind These Eyes, a double coloured vinyl set featuring remixes of tracks from their critically acclaimed 2012 album Catacombs; as will indie band MONSTER CAT's full-length debut The Violet Hour. Another is Pop Yeh Yeh, a collection of long-forgotten recordings by psychedelic Singapore and Malaysian bands of the 1960s.

Surprisingly affordable

Contrary to popular belief that these limited releases tend to be expensive, prices are surprisingly affordable and almost on a par with normal vinyl releases. Mr Loo says the average price for an album will be in the $35-$40 range while Mr Ow Yong adds 7-inch singles will start from as low as $15, though box sets can go up to $250.

Still, not everything is likely to arrive in time for this Saturday. Mr Ow Yong says because of the sheer number of releases this year, the pressing plants are working overtime but are unable to fulfil every order. Hence, it's never too late to pop by to see if your favourite release is still on sale or a newer one has just arrived. "Until two weeks ago, more titles were still being added and announced - those might come later - so RSD will definitely go beyond this weekend and into the coming weeks as these titles will be available later," he adds.

That is also partially why Hear Records at Burlington Square has no plans to jump on the RSD bandwagon and participate in it because owner Nick Tan feels there is no reason to just restrict record buying to one particular day or weekend.

"Hear has always been participating in the context that every day is a record store day and we have been bringing people who love music together since we started," Mr Tan writes on a note posted on his store's Facebook page, before adding that he will only be carrying a handful of RSD releases.

He cites the example of a friend who religiously went to queue for RSD releases last year but yet returned to online shopping again after it was over.

"Getting people back to independent record stores is a long process and not by effort of a day," he continues. "RSD is much more than just getting limited releases; it's about getting people together and to express ourselves as a community."


  • For more info, check www.recordstoreday.com and Facebook pages of Vinylicious Records, Retrophonic Records and Hear Records for updates.