Princeton Record Exchange gears up for National Record Store Day

The crowd at the Princeton Record Exchange for a past Record Store Day. File photo.

Back when Record Store Day began, Jon Lambert never imagined the event would be such a hit with collectors.

Lambert, the owner of the Princeton Record Exchange, was surprised to see about a dozen people lined up at the door before the doors even opened. Fast forward to the 11th annual Record Store Day, which will be held this Saturday, April 21. A few hundred people will be lined up down the block and around the corner before the store in downtown Princeton opens.

Record Store Day celebrates the culture of independently owned record stores, and the event has grown in popularity every year. Hundreds of limited-edition titles will be sold at independent record stores like the Princeton Record Exchange, and special music events will be held across the country in honor of the event.

More than 450 titles are being released this year. Most of the records have a limited production run that is typically between 100 and 5,000 pieces. The records are allocated by distributors to stores around the country.  In the last few years, the Princeton Record Exchange has had more than 1,500 limited edition pieces for sale on Record Store Day. Lambert and his staff begin preparing for the big day months ahead of time, reviewing titles and placing orders, and will see more than 2,000 people visit the store on Saturday.

The day is a celebration of the brick and mortar store, and the atmosphere is festive. It brings people together from all walks of life,” Lambert said.

In the digital age, Lambert said people are seeking out experiences that make them feel more connected.  Visiting a record store is a fun experience where people can hold something in their hands. “People can physically touch something. It’s a very tactile experience,” he said.

Vinyl records have made a come back as a new generation embraces the warmer sound and eye-catching packaging, he said. More than 14.3 million records were sold in 2017, a 9 percent increase from 2016, and the largest number ever in the Nielsen music-era, according to Billboard Magazine.

For Record Store Day, this year’s slate of releases features a wide spread of genres, Lambert said. Classic rock and indie-rock comprise the majority of the releases, but the offerings also include rap, soul, jazz, techno, country, folk, metal and more. The limited edition items are often colored vinyl, are numbered, and have special packaging. Some of this year’s highlights include:

Bruce Springsteen “Greatest Hits”, a two-LP set long out-of-print, reissued on red vinyl.

Phish “Billy Breathes”, the classic from 1996 on vinyl for the first time.  Two-LP set (3 sides), numbered.

Pink Floyd’s debut album “Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” reissued in mono.

Led Zeppelin’s first Record Store Day issue, “Friends”/ “Rock and Roll,’ a yellow vinyl, 7” single, featuring alternate mixes of the two classic songs.

Three David Bowie releases: “Bowie Now,” first commercial release of the 1977 promo compilation on white vinyl;  “Welcome to the Blackout,” a three-LP set of a previously unreleased live show in London from 1978; and “Let’s Dance,” a 12” single featuring a previously unreleased full-length demo of the song with a live version from 1983.

Other featured musicians include Dylan & the Dead, Neil Young, Courtney Barnett, Prince, The Cure, The National, The Sundays, and Eno. A complete list of special edition releases can be found on the Record Store Day web site.

At the Princeton Record Exchange, the day will start with free coffee for the first 50 people in line courtesy of D’Angelo Italian Market. The first 50 people in line will also receive a commemorative Record Store Day tote bag and a Dogfish Head Beer poster.

The store opens at 10 a.m. Around noon, a table will be set up outside the store featuring free items, including CD samplers, buttons, reusable logo bags, posters, and more. To cap off the day, Dharmasoul will perform a family friendly in-store show at 6 p.m. The Princeton-based duo of Jonah Tolchin and Kevin Clifford performs rock, R&B and funk.

The Princeton Record Exchange is located at 20 S Tulane Street in downtown Princeton. The store, ranked one of the top independent record stores in the country, has been buying and selling music and movies since 1980.