Happy Record Store Day! Interview: Eric Levin

It's about that time of year: flowers are blooming, trees are waking, and record  stores are still in business!  Here's an interview with the co-founder of National Record Store Day, Eric Levin. - Keba  

Keba: Personally, do you think that the actual, physical record/CD/tape plays a big role in the process of listening to music?
Eric Levin: Absolutely, for a certain listener, they are essential elements. Collecting music is a healthy and passionate hobby with listening as the greatest reward of all. We're defined by our collections and justly proud of them. They please us and identify us. I'd much rather peruse a stranger's record collection, how she organizes her collection, the condition, the selection--it speaks volumes. I personally prefer this to an Amazon wish list.

K: What do you think about downloading music?
EL: It's a great means of discovery and nostalgia, It serves a purpose, but that's about it.  I strongly feel that music, and most other things, need to be bought within a local community. Going to a mom and pop record store, like any good independent business, nurtures so much more than an individual's need for music. Otherwise, sure, go steal on line, don't participate, don't help.
Shopping locally puts money in your community, plain and simple. An iTunes purchase doesn't help your neighborhood, neither does a McDonald's burger, or a Best Buy purchase. As a small business owner, if I can't sell music or comics or something to my customers, I can't insure musicians, and put out records, and put on shows and do all the other things that make me happy...like, being a co-founder of Record Store Day.

K: Do you think that physical music formats will ever become obsolete/ How would you feel if you could no longer go to record shops?
EL: Sure, there is built in obsolescence for everything, including MP3's. Shortly, we'll just be able to dial in to whatever we might want whenever we might want it. We're so close. It will be rad when my doo-hickey can play every song ever recorded by Burning Spear, but I'm not going to throw out my collection of vinyl records. Why would I? Why would anybody?
Certainly, record stores will become antique dealers, we already are. There will always be a market for the true music fan to worship and celebrate. One day, compact discs will be sought after and collected.

K: What do you think about downloading individual songs vs. hearing the whole record in the order that the artist chose?
EL:  I liken it to only seeing the Death Star explode in Star Wars. You miss a whole lot if you only watch that scene. So many of my life-long favorite albums I didn't get the first listen through, sometimes, I didn't understand a record until ten plays. I'm still trying to wrap my head around Bob Marley's Exodus and I've heard that record 1,000 times.
How can you even scratch the surface with one song?

K: Do you think that downloading music benefits or harms the artist [pros and cons]?
EL: Having access to your audience is amazing. What a liberating and special connection that is for the right kind of artist. I also think artists need the help of patrons, from the bottom to the top, that includes and starts with a record label and ends with the listener. If any of those patrons are not acting honorably, it spells disaster for an artist, from the internet thief to the greedy label president. Stealing is wrong, right?
I do think the individual is poorly served by purchasing downloads. It doesn't make $$ sense to me, a customer buys a CD and they have a permanent archival storage device for a master level recording, that they can make their digital files of choice from, forever. Plus, they can re-sell it, forever. Buying a digital file on-line just seems kind of dumb to me, it's like renting. I don't know, I never put my quarters in jukeboxes, I saved up to buy 45's.

K: How/Why did you start Record Store Day?
EL: It seemed that record stores had become the butt of jokes, or something to be pitied. Like former captains of industry brought low by the might internet. Schadenfreude , but strangely misplaced. Of all things to celebrate, the demise of the record store? It seemed curious for those of us with kick ass record stores, my own included. We'd read articles, "woe is the record store," yet here we were, serving our communities having a good time, rocking and rolling, putting out records, throwing concerts, sponsoring little league teams and holding pet adoption parties. I'm talking about community centers like Grimey's in Nashville, Luna in Indianapolis, Sonic Boom in Seattle, Shake It in Cincinnatti, real movers and shakers. We felt it was time to shine a little light. I'd had a lot of personal experience with Free Comic Book Day, 'cause Criminal Records is also a comic book store. A bunch of indie record stores got together and decided to do it. The groundswell of support has been beyond our wildest expectations, we had no idea we'd create an international celebration, we must have just tapped into the zeitgeist, 'cause it just blew so up.

go HERE for more information on Record Store Day/see if your local record stores are participating (i.e. free releases, in-store preformances, special sales)