Record Store Day Co-Founder Michael Kurtz, “It’s The Biggest Music Event In The World Now”
Record Store Day is an annual event which is celebrating its fifth anniversary on April 21, 2012. The day is commemorated around the world and, according to co-founder Michael Kurtz, it may be the “biggest musical event in the world now.”
Record Store Day just doesn’t internationally recognize the artistry of musicianship, but it brings together independently owned record stores, artists, and audiophiles with in-store performances, extremely exclusive vinyl and CD releases, and a reclamation of that sense of community once cherished by music lovers who spent hours in their favorite store listening to albums.
It was an original idea by Chris Brown and founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave, Brian Pohener, and Michael Kurtz, a music business veteran with whom we had the chance to interview about the groundbreaking day.
Kurtz talked about how record stores and artists have taken on the day as their own, the organic way Record Store Day events unfold after five years of growing success, how surprised they were by that aforementioned success, Iggy Pop as Record Store Day ambassador, and the “musical ecosystem,” including record stores, that had a huge influence on Kurtz himself.
On the incarnation of Record Store Day:
“At the beginning we weren’t sure that artists would adopt it. We knew that if they didn’t we wouldn’t have anything because they’re what makes it sexy and awesome.”
“When we first sort of reached out to the artist community, we got an e-mail back from Paul McCartney saying he supported it. Then when we went to Metallica’s manager with the idea and they presented it to the band and they said, ‘Hey we’re in! We love record stores.’ Then we knew we had something.”
“Over the course of five years we’re just stunned about the announcements that the artists make. Now the artists have kind of taken it over and done their own thing with it.”
On the artists’ responses to Record Store Day:
“It’s been fantastic. The Flaming Lips are making a two-album set with psychedelic artists as diverse as Ke$ha…Nick Cave, Yoko Ono. A bunch of people. Chris Martin from Coldplay. Chris Martin and Flaming Lips: who would have thought that ever would have happened? And here it’s happening because of Record Store Day.
“Morrissey went in and did something special; Morrissey put out some kind of remix thing, but that’s just for the UK. [It's great] having a lot of stuff like that happen internationally where artists are doing things in their different countries based on their culture and what’s really important to them.”
“That’s what’s incredible about it. We have no input in it. They’re in love with it and coming back to us and going, ‘This is what we’re going to do! We’re so excited!’ It’s an open source thing. It’s a very strange phenomena. When we started it, we didn’t know what it would be, but when we started it….The reason it’s so magical is because people love it and so they bring to it whatever they want to bring to it.”
On the surprise of success:
“We didn’t anticipate it. We hoped for it. In the beginning, it was motivated by two things. One was record stores, at least the ones that I work with. I work with hundreds; we’re having a great time. Business is great, but every time we picked up a newspaper or read a blog it was about how we sucked and we’re going out of business. The horse and buggy crowd; we’re just so stupid, we don’t know it.”
“We didn’t know this world that people described, so what if we could describe our world, just how great it is? What would happen if we did that? And it turned into this big excuse for throwing a party.”
“It’s been hugely successful. I think it’s the biggest music event in the world now. Over 600-700 artists participate every year on events in the stores and then there’s around 200 releases that are made just for the day.”
On Michael Kurtz’s beginnings in music:
“I was one of these nerd mutants that started working in record stores when I was about 19-years-old and have been doing it off and on ever since—I’m 54 now. I played in bands while I worked in record stores.”
“I employed bands that worked in record stores while I was running the record store. There’s this whole ecosystem and you see it a lot with Record Store Day. Like with Iggy being our ambassador.”
“He talks a lot about how he started out in a record store and it was record store owners saying, ‘God, you’re really talented. You need to get out there and form a band.’ You hear these stories over and over again.”
On having Iggy Pop as the Record Store Day ambassador:
“He stepped up. He’ll do interviews if anybody wants to speak to him…That’s really important. When Ozzy was our ambassador last year that enabled us to get on CNN and USA Today and stuff because people want to talk to somebody of that stature.”
“Now I can’t say this with 100% certainty because he [Iggy Pop] is an artist and an individual, but his birthday is on Record Store Day this year and he lives in Miami and my understanding is that he plans to celebrate his birthday by going to…Sweat Records in Miami.”
–Nadia Noir, CBS Radio Los Angeles