Life In Berlin: Record Store Day

Apr 28, 2015

View from inside the record store Hardwax
Credit Lauren Napier

Record Store Day, an annual music collectors’ treasure hunt, challenges adventurous fans in Berlin with a specter of possible long lines and high prices. Some of the hot commodities this year included a new 7” release from The Dwarves and a 7” bootleg-style, hand numbered record from Mumford & Sons.

With all the specialized attention that Record Store Day receives, there is a debate about whether it hinders or cultivates a love for vinyl and the independent record store.

Mark Ernestus, owner of the iconic record shop Hardwax, feels that Record Store Day is not beneficial to the vinyl community.

"For us, it is just some marketing bulls****. We usually say, like any serious record shop would say, everyday is record store day. Vinyl was pronounced dead when we first opened the shop more than twenty-five years ago and we don’t accept the premise that vinyl needs to be saved because, as far as we are concerned, vinyl has been going strong and is very much alive and healthy." 

Hardwax is an institution for vinyl lovers.  The space is filled with customers flipping through records and bass pumping through the speakers. Michael Hain, store manager at Hard Wax, says he sees very little difference between business on Record Store Day and any other day:

"Of course, on the Record Store Day, there are slightly more visitors, but they are asking usually explicitly for these limited, special editions. Since we are not really participating, we usually don’t have that. We do have our own special releases. For our daily business it has more a negative effect."

Ernestus agrees with Hain's take about the appeal of limited edition releases:

"I think there is too much hype on this special limited edition stuff that goes straight to the collector’s shelf or straight to eBay, sealed, unopened if possible. And that’s not a future for vinyl."

Handle With Care, a manufacturer of vinyl and other data formats, has a different perspective. Raik Hölzel, head of web and social media for the company, enjoys Record Store Day.

"These days, it’s pretty good scheduled. It’s just like everyday business. These days we have slight problems with pressing capacities so real short term pressings are almost impossible."

Despite the difference in opinion about whether or not Record Store Day is a tactic to increase demand and lower supply of a certain record, the culture and intimacy of the musical medium stands the test of time.

Hölzel orchestrates his artistic activities to the timing of a record.

"A standard album is like about twenty minutes per side. Besides my work here at Handle With Care, I am an artist. I have a record player in my studio. I am working and then I know, 'Oh, I have to switch the record.' So this is kind of helping structuring my day, or otherwise I realize it’s already midnight."

Hain feels that the strong presence of vinyl records helps keep Berlin energetic and unique.

"Everywhere record shops are dying and our customers tell us all the time, 'Ah there is no record shop in our city.' It established Berlin as a city for record shopping."

Regardless of the specifications – first-pressing, 180 gram, or short-run colored vinyl – this previously-vintage music format is revered and respected by audiophiles and casual music listeners alike.