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Milwaukee Record Store Owners Weigh In On The Value of Record Store Day

April 22 marks the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day. This day celebrates the unique culture surrounding independently owned record stores.

The Record Store Day organization works with both independent and major labels throughout the year to create the official Record Store Day List. On that list are special vinyl and CD releases made exclusively for the day.

With an increase in major labels contributing titles to the list, vinyl pressing plants are overbooked and independent labels are unable to get their releases out in time. So when customers come in on Record Store Day looking for a certain exclusive title, it may not be in stock - leaving many independent stores frustrated.

Christopher Kruse, who is the owner of Off the Beaten Path in Milwaukee’s East Side, admits the day started as a way to get more business at record stores, he believes that in recent years it's fallen short of that goal.

"We have had issues [getting titles in on time] in the past," Kruse says. "We'll get a few of what we asked for, but we get here and people are waiting in line, and [the titles] are gone within ten minutes. Then people are disappointed the rest of the day."

Credit Sarah Matthews
Rushmor Records co-owners Dan Duchaine and Bill Rouleau.

Dan Duchaine and Bill Rouleau are the co-owners of Rushmor Records in Bay View and they work with local bands who hope to profit from putting out exclusive Record Store Day releases.

"We get plenty of local bands who come in, and we always tell them if they're planning on having their stuff pressed on vinyl, they need to plan way ahead because there aren't so many pressing plants anymore," Duchaine says. "The ones that are, are dominated by Record Store Day pressings from major labels."

However, Duchaine and Rouleau think the real value of Record Store Day comes from the opportunity to release otherwise digital-only music in a physical form. 

"Often titles on the major labels aren't even available in certain formats," Duchaine says. "It's so aggravating because you'll hear great music that's only available as an MP3."

"Every day someone comes to us with a great request, which we're excited ourselves to discover something we don't know," Rouleau says. "We go through the resources, whether it's Amazon or Discogs, but we find out there's no physical entity of it. It's always important to me to study the [physical] music because it's another way to get an insight into who's creating it."