Event breathes new life into classic format and the stores that love it

COAST CITIES — In an age of digital music and iPods, people often forget about their local independent record stores when looking for new music, citing them as old school or even nonexistent.
However, these stores have long served as an important part of the community, providing local access to a variety of music and a knowledgeable staff. As these stores try to overcome the perception that they are no longer relevant, they banded together for the third annual international event to mark their place in the world: Record Store Day.
“When we started, we didn’t really know how the store and fan community would react,” said Eric Levin, co-founder of Record Store Day. “It’s been amazing. All these stars have come out to say ‘record stores are cool and you should go to them.’”
Two North County record stores — Lou’s Records in Encinitas and Spin Records in Carlsbad — joined in on this year’s event, which was held on April 17. To celebrate the important day, they hosted live music and sold limited releases printed exclusively for stores participating in Record Store Day.
“Some people think that if they need a CD, they should go to Target or Best Buy,” said Lou Russell, owner of Lou’s Records. “Record Store Day is a good announcement that that’s not true. Record stores are still alive and well in the community.”
More than 800 stores across the country joined in on the festivities, with an unknown amount participating internationally, including stores in Estonia and the United Kingdom. Although stores were left to their own devices to decide exactly how to celebrate, most all of them included a live performance by a local or famous band, Levin said.
This year’s Record Store Day was an event attended by North County residents of all ages, from those who grew up on vinyl to others who were just starting to amass a collection. Simply checking out the live music, which included the Yogaman Burning Band from Washington and Kevin Preston of Los Angeles spinning records, was reason enough to stop by.
A self-admitted “vinyl junkie,” Robert Oquendo of Vista took the day off to visit several locations in the San Diego area on Record Store Day. He has been buying records since he was a kid and has a collection nearing 4,000, to which he added several limited releases he got on April 17.
“I’ve been up since 7, it was fun,” he said. “Vinyl is just a little more real.”
Eighteen-year-old Bree Melechinsky of Mira Mesa stopped by and sifted through the selection at Lou’s Records, the first stop of her Record Store Day tour. As a longtime musician relatively new to the vinyl scene, she plans to attend a recording school to learn how records are made and to hopefully make one of her own.
“I got a record player last year,” Melechinsky said. “I’m not an MP3 person, and it’s said that records aren’t as popular as they should be.”
After searching through the racks, Matt Carter of Encinitas had found a pile of albums at Spin Records to take home. He continues to support both Lou’s Records and Spin because they are the last local places where he can still purchase vinyl albums.
“My parents gave me a record player when I was younger and I just like the sound better,” Carter said.
As the music industry continues to cope with the effects of digital music purchases, local stores like Lou’s Records are finding ways to consolidate and still remain open to the community. Russell is in the process of merging both the new and used selection into one building which will help the store save money during these uncertain times.
Artists are also finding ways to keep new stock available to local record stores. More recently, bands have been selling vinyl records with a CD or a code for a digital download included, so customers can enjoy the perks of both, Russell said.
“Just because you have an iPod, doesn’t mean you can’t have a turntable too,” Levin said. “It’s cool to have your music with you, but it’s even cooler to be able to support a band.”
Record Store Day is held on the third Saturday of every April. Log on to www.record storeday.com to learn more. about the annual event and the people who started it all.

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