Record Store Day : Muscle Shoals
Given the digital age we find ourselves mired in, there are more than a few dissenters out there who argue events like Record Store Day are pretty much pointless.
Why own vinyl records given how bulky and expensive they are, when you could access the discography of your favourite artist by clicking a button on Spotify, or better still, bumming around on YouTube? And, just as pertinently, why shell up to $200 for Record Store Day exclusives when they’re mostly reissues of albums already available online?
For Marsden Williams, the owner of Muscle Shoals record store in Brunswick East, such questions are beside the point. Williams doesn’t just see collecting vinyl as a hobby, or some kind of extravagance: it’s a way of life. As he tells it, vinyl has a number of advantages over cheaper digital alternatives, and though records might sometimes come with a heftier price tag, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Perhaps most importantly, Williams loves that record stores provide punters with the freedom to research and rummage. After all, stores like Muscle Shoals aren’t just good for snapping up the latest new releases – they are all about giving people the chance to stray into musical territory they might not ordinarily encounter.
“I don’t listen to the recommended albums from whatever software people listen to, so I have to do the research,” Williams says. “I’ll get a record and I’ll say, ‘Who is this musician?’ and I have to keep looking and find other things that they played on. You can do that online, I guess, but that’s not as much fun as actually doing the research yourself. And of course, you also get to talk to the record store clerks. They are famous for their knowledge.”
Of course, that knowledge will be on full display come Record Store Day. As Williams notes, it’s one of the busiest days of the year for his store, so you can be sure he’ll be manning the front counter, dispensing advice for all those who need it.
“The day itself is pretty busy, and behind the scenes leading up to the day is pretty busy too. It’s about the one day a year when people remember that there are actually record stores,” Williams laughs. “There’s people who come in yearly and they go, ‘Oh, thanks so much for doing this.’ ”
Although Muscle Shoals won’t be stocked with the exclusives that some stores order in for Record Store Day – Williams has never got involved in that side of the celebration – that’s not to say he won’t have his own special incentives for punters to come on down. “I made up some t-shirts,” he says. “They’re specials for Record Store Day – so I have manufactured my own rarities, you see.”
And even without the t-shirts, Williams is sure that he will have a lot of smiling faces milling around Muscle Shoals this Saturday. “People love to look around. It does bring people out who maybe have had it in the back of their minds that they’re looking for something.”
That, then, is the value of Record Store Day. It’s not just an excuse for hipsters to blow the money they should be squirreling away for a mortgage, or some frivolity. It is a chance for music lovers to share what makes them happy; to connect with friends and maybe, even, to make new ones. “You get a lot of satisfied customers on a day like that,” Williams says, pleased. “It’s the one day that most people will actually leave the house and look in the shop.”
By Joseph Earp