The local record store scene has been rocked with bad news recently. B-Side and Sugar Shack are being forced to move and the Exclusive Company chain is gradually closing down operations (the Janesville store announced its closing on Feb. 21, and is hosting a farewell party April 16).
On the upside: It looks like B-Side and Sugar Shack will continue at other locations and none of this disruption is getting in the way of Record Store Day, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.
Record Store Day started in 2008 as a novel promotion idea geared to aid brick-and-mortar music stores competing with an onslaught of online sellers. On one day, labels and artists would pool new releases, often limited, for sale only at independent retailers. Stores were also encouraged to host live performances or other music-related special activities.
Fifteen years later, getting folks out to local stores on Record Store Day has been a roaring success — as anyone who has spent time standing in line over the years can attest. The idea of chasing down hard-to-find records has taken hold with a new generation of collectors and helped fuel the overall resurgence in LP sales, new and used, during those 15 years.
Of course, big crowds converging on small spaces has not been a wise idea for the last couple years. Record Store Day adapted to the pandemic with a series of “RSD Drops,” spreading out the planned releases over several days in 2020 and 2021 as a way to keep the momentum going, but in a lower-key fashion. This year the concept returns to a one-day celebration on Saturday, April 23 (albeit with a backup “Drops” day of June 18 for releases delayed due to plant backups). Find the list of items scheduled for release on April 23 here.
Madison’s stores adapted their operations in various ways to manage the flow of people for the Drops days, and some of these innovations will continue going forward.
Here’s a roundup of what Madison stores will be doing on April 23, as well as some related events.
B-Side, 436 State St.: The last remaining record store on State Street will celebrate its 40th anniversary in October, but it is somewhat unlikely that milestone will take place at its current home, due to a development proposal making its way through the city approval process.
“Many in my age range are retiring but I enjoy the record biz too much to retire just yet (plus, ahem, can’t afford to),” writes B-Side owner Steve Manley in an email. “So it looks like B-Side will continue in a new iteration nearby, at least until such time as it’s no longer feasible. Will we make it to our 40th anniversary in October? Almost certainly, but in a new location.”
Manley says this year’s RSD will be much like past years, sans the traditional live concert next door in Peace Park. The store will be open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., with goodie bags as supplies last and a 10 percent off sale on all non-RSD items.
The Door, 4509 Monona Drive: Madison lost metal/punk specialists Ear Wax in 2018, but a new store has emerged — opening in the midst of the pandemic — to help fill the void. The Door specializes in metal and other harder-edged sounds with much of its new stock, but the used selection ranges wider, depending on what catches the eye of owner John Sands while hunting for records. The store is currently not usually open on Saturdays but has been planning ahead for RSD, and will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on April 23. (Note, however, they are unable to stock Record Store Day releases.)
“I have been purposely holding back many choice used items to finally put out on RSD,” writes Sands in an email. In addition to the new additions, some items will be sale priced just for Saturday, and ticket giveaways will take place throughout the day. “Only our store is celebrating Record Door Day,” says Sands. “Sorry about the awful pun.”
MadCity Music, 2023 Atwood Ave.: During the various RSD Drops days, MadCity experimented with methods for safe shopping, initially handing out lists of available RSD items with staff filling the orders as available based on where you were in the line. The store eventually switched to allowing those in line inside in limited numbers to shop on opening up at 9 a.m., and that will likely be standard going forward.
“Like a lot of people, the pandemic made us reevaluate the why and how we do things,” says owner Dave Zero.” We’ve been applying those new ideas for some time now. We’ll be doing the same for RSD to make sure everyone has a good and safe time.”
Once the morning line is through (it usually goes fast, since many who line up early are shop-hopping trying to corral specific want list items), shopping continues as on any normal day in the store — but with giveaway bags, a sign-up to win tickets and albums, and a selection of extra special used items curated for the day. MadCity will be open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on April 23.
Strictly Discs, 1900 Monroe St.: The early birds will likely be lined up around the block in preparation for the doors opening at 8 a.m. at Strictly Discs, and if past years are any indication the line may remain steady through the morning. While RSD items are available at open (along with Great Dane beer and Barriques spicy chocolate bacon), a trove of used LPs rolls out at 10 a.m. “We’ll unveil 600+ extraordinary, rare and collectible used LPs that we’ve been squirreling away,” writes co-owner Angie Roloff. “All the genre bases are covered: jazz, metal, hip-hop, psych, disco, folk, rock, punk, country, reggae and more.” The store is open until 6 p.m.
Sugar Shack, 2301 Atwood Ave.: Record Store Day 2022 will be the last day of operation for Sugar Shack after nearly two decades at its current location (which will become the new home of Table Wine). Owner Gary John Feest is retiring, but the store will live on in a new incarnation and location; more details will be announced soon by new owner Maggie Denman. Note, as Sugar Shack primarily sells used items, you won’t find RSD albums here; however, the store is offering sale pricing throughout April and on RSD, when open hours will be 9 a.m.-6 p.m. It’s become a tradition for Sugar Shack to host WORT-FM DJs, and that will happen one more time on April 23. The lineup includes DJ Phil, 9 a.m.; Bad Sister Heidi, 10:30 a.m.; DJ El Serpentine, noon; Helena White, 1:30 p.m.; Kayla Kush, 3 pm; and Paul Novak, 4:30 p.m.
But wait, there’s more. The Dane County Humane Society Thrift Store, 6904 Watts Road, has a special sale timed to RSD. “The idea came from a long time wildlife volunteer who wanted to donate her late husband’s large collection,” says store supervisor Shelbi Bernard. “She informed us of [Record Store Day] and was hoping we could use it to make the most of the donation for the animals at DCHS.” The record sale will run from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on April 23, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m., April 24-25; the sale will include both LPs and 45s.
The College Radio Foundation is hosting its annual Vinylthon event on April 23 to coincide with Record Store Day. The concept is simple: stations sign up and pledge to include shows spinning all vinyl records. The sign-up fee for stations goes to scholarships for students planning a career in radio. UW-Madison’s student radio station, WSUM-FM (91.7) is on the participant list, along with community radio stations WORT-FM (89.9) and WVMO-FM (98.7). WVMO, in fact, has pledged to stay true to vinyl for 24 hours straight on April 23. The station also will host an event in the parking lot at Monona City Hall, 5211 Schluter Road. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. you can hear the live broadcast, meet station hosts, and peruse WVMO merch.
Also, starting April 15, St. Vincent de Paul, 1309 Williamson St., kicks off its annual spring record sale. If past sales can be taken as a guide, this year’s will likely still be going on April 23, as the store typically adds new records as they come in. Along with LPs, 45s and 78s, there is typically a selection of turntables, receivers and other music gear, as well as a large selection of vintage band T-shirts, a frenzied focus of many attendees in recent years. Current hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.