Independent record stores adjust to Global Release Day
Like many music obsessives, Doyle Davis has a soft spot for Tuesdays. Long before he became a co-owner and “vinylist” at Grimey’s New & Preloved Music, Davis would ride his bike a mile-and-a-half every Tuesday to Sounds of Music in Jackson, Tenn., to check out the latest records to hit shelves that week.
“There was no Internet; there was no list you could look at,” Davis tells the Scene. “The way you found out what came out every week was because you went to the record store and looked at the new release display or talked to the guy behind the counter.”
On July 7, that Tuesday tradition for record buyers ended, rescheduled as part of the music industry’s new policy of releasing all new music — streaming, digital downloads, CDs and vinyl — on Fridays.
The first Global Release Day, on July 10, ended the longstanding practice of the Tuesday street date in the American record industry. For the first time in decades, U.S. record stores opened on a Tuesday without a new stock of new releases.
“This was the weirdest Tuesday in my life,” Davis said.
The universal release date is billed as a defense against piracy. Before this year, worldwide release dates varied from Friday through Wednesday, a practice that doesn’t make sense when someone in Australia or Germany can upload new tunes to BitTorrent on Friday, making them available days before they go to market stateside the following Tuesday.
For independent record stores, the switch swipes away a key day for sales. The Tuesday street date gave record stores a critical mid-week sales bump. The most passionate record buyers would pick up the latest release on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, and record stores would ride that wave into the weekend.
Even if organizing all new releases onto a single day worldwide makes sense for some retailers, making release day a Friday is another sign that the independent physical business is an afterthought for the modern music industry.
“Tuesdays can be as good as a weekend,” says John Moore, co-owner of The Groove in East Nashville. “I don’t see that happening anymore.”
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry — an English organization that advocates for the recording industry — claims consumer research indicates customers are most interested in buying new music on weekends.
The IFPI also stated Global Release Day would help artists “harness social media to promote their new music.” Major retailers and streaming services like Spotify endorsed the move, but organizations representing independent record stores like Grimey’s and The Groove were vocal in their opposition.
“I don’t think this was a decision to help businesses like ours,” Moore says. “I don’t think we were a factor. I think it’s going to have a negative effect on us. I really hope not. I would be pleasantly surprised if it helped us.”
Monday is usually the worst day of the week for record stores, and thus becomes the ideal day for discounts and specials. Eliminating Tuesday as a weekly event could sabotage weekday sales.
“Monday is bad, and there’s nothing on Tuesday bringing people back in,” Davis explains. “Most retailers are worried about a whole week of Mondays going into your weekend.”
The switch has forced Davis to shuffle staffing shifts — the store’s assistant manager used to receive shipments on Monday evenings, now he’s doing that on Thursdays.
And as vinyl becomes the lifeblood format for stores like Grimey’s and The Groove, having new releases on time — whether it’s a Friday or a Tuesday — is always a question mark; vinyl can often lag behind releases on CD or digital formats due to limited resources in pressing.
If an order is incomplete or goes to the wrong store for a Tuesday release, retailers at least have time to rectify the situation before the weekend rush. Now they could do that on Saturday — for an extra fee.
“I’m not going to try to solve all that,” Davis says. “We’ll get what we get on Fridays. If they’re on point and get us the stuff they’re supposed to, we’ll have it. If not, we’re going to message to all our people that everything that’s supposed to be here will be here by Tuesday the following week.”
The music industry, though, is throwing record stores a bone with “vinyl Tuesday.” Major labels plan to release vinyl reissues and special editions — like the forthcoming Replacements reissues — on Tuesdays.
“If they can put out some quality titles that people are excited about, that might compensate for switching things around,” Louis Charette, co-owner at The Groove, tells the Scene.
For now, tourist traffic, in-store performances and doing business in a robust touring market for artists will insulate Nashville record stores from losing a key sales day, Davis says. But record shops in other cities might not be as lucky.
“Record stores are resilient,” Davis explains. “They’ve gone through all of this competition from the big boxes undercutting them, to the Napster era and iTunes era, and all of that was supposed to be the death of the record store, and vinyl came back and independent record stores have come back. I think we’ll survive no matter what.”
– Nashville Scene