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Record Store Day to be socially distanced for first time ever because of coronavirus pandemic

North Park resident Alan Rosenbaum thumbs through records while wearing a mask and gloves at Vinyl Junkies Record Shack.
North Park resident Alan Rosenbaum thumbs through records while wearing a mask and gloves at Vinyl Junkies Record Shack on Friday. The South Park store is one of a dozen in San Diego County participating Saturday in Record Store Day, along with nearly 1,200 other independent record stores across the country that will sell exclusive limited-edition records.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A dozen San Diego area stores will participate. New vinyl releases include records by David Bowie, The Cure, Robyn, John Prine, Tyler, The Creator and many more

Record Store Day will sing a dramatically different tune Saturday at a dozen San Diego County locations and nearly 1,200 other independently owned record stores across the nation.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the twice-postponed event — originally scheduled for April and then June — will implement social distancing guidelines for the first time in its 13-year history.

Since those guidelines dramatically reduce the number of shoppers permitted in any retail location at any time, the 2020 iteration of Record Store Day is being expanded into three segments over three months.

The second and third will be held Sept. 26 and Oct. 24, respectively, and all three are being billed as “Record Store Drops.” The large, festive, previous editions of Record Store Day will, by necessity, give way Saturday to much smaller events with a strong emphasis on the safety of customers and employees alike.

“The important thing for people to know — whether it’s Record Store Day or any other day — is that we take the coronavirus very seriously,” said Eric Howarth, the co-owner of the three-year-old Vinyl Junkies Record Shack in South Park.

“I know that’s a polarizing issue for some people, but it doesn’t seem to be for anybody who shops at our store. Our customers are grateful we are so safety-conscious. They appreciate that we have a five-customers-at-a-time limit and the need for them to wear masks and gloves in the store. We provide gloves if they don’t have any.”

Masks and strict limits on the number of customers are also in effect at the other San Diego County locations participating in Record Store Day, some of which will be opening earlier than usual. The stores, most of which sell new and used vinyl albums, CDs and tapes, range from Folk Arts Rare Records in North Park and Cow in Ocean Beach to Lou’s Records in Encinitas, Spin Records in Carlsbad and M-Theory in Mission Hills, which Vinyl Junkies’ co-founder Hovarth helped launched in 2001 and sold eight years later.

“We’ve been limiting our capacity to 10 people at a time and that seems to be working really well,” said Lou’s Records’ founder Lou Russell, whose store opened in 1980 in Cardiff-by-the-Sea and relocated to Encinitas two years later.

“Until the state and county announces that the masks can come off, we’ll stick with masks. And we’ll continue to go with 10 at a time, which on Saturday will be five at a time for Record Store Day and five at a time for regular shoppers. “

Even without the throngs of shoppers, who usually gather shoulder-to-shoulder for Record Store Day and sometimes line up hours in advance, the event’s focus will remain the same.

That should come as good news for music-lovers eager to buy the limited-edition vinyl records that are exclusively released each year for Record Store Day — and often sell out the same day.

A total of 450 new vinyl record releases will be made available in increments for each of this year’s three Record Store Day segments, with 180 coming out Saturday.
Because of the pandemic, some stores — most notably the giant Amoeba Records, which has stores on Hollywood and the San Francisco Bay area — will be closed Saturday, but will start selling their Record Store Day allotment online at 1 a.m. Saturday.

This year’s offerings include David Bowie’s in-concert “I’m Only Dancing: The Soul Tour 1974,” a 40th-anniversary edition of U2’s “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” (with two previously unreleased live recordings) and a special half-speed master recording of Paul McCartney’s 1970 solo debut, “McCartney.”

The hundreds of other options range from a John Prine box set, Tyler, The Creator’s “Cherry Bomb” and a picture-disc release by The Cure to the debut vinyl edition of Robyn’s self-titled 2005 album and re-mixed 7 inch and 12 inch single versions of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and John Lennon’s “Instant Karma.”

An air of intrigue is provided by the fact that none of the stores participating in Record Store Day are allowed to announce ahead of time exactly which limited-edition new vinyl releases they will be offering.

But nearly every store, here and across the nation, will carefully limit how many of these releases each customer can purchase. And, in the case of Vinyl Junkies in South Park, the Record Store Day releases will be set up on a table under a canopy in the driveway, where only one or two customers at a time will be permitted to peruse the much-coveted items.

Of course, it may seem counter-intuitive that — in an era that finds a majority of music consumers streaming their music and listening on their phones — vinyl record sales have grown consistently stronger in recent years. Ditto the growth in demand for new and vintage vinyl albums, turntables and even cassette tapes.

“We used to sell a couple of turntables a week, but it’s gone up to a couple a day since the pandemic started,” said Vinyl Junkies’ manager Heather Johnson, whose store on Friday store launched its new website, vinyljunkies.net, which offers more than 1 million music-related items.

“A lot of people are at home and want to do something that feels warm and intimate. Also, people are tired of their familiar music after being stuck at home for months. So some of them are trading in their old records for new ones. There is a definitely a heightened desire and demand for music. And we have kids buying turntables who are so young that their parents didn’t grow up with turntables and barely know what they are!”

San Diego County stores participating in Record Store Day

Specific store hours, sales limits and other information is available at recordstoreday.com/Stores

Vinyl Junkies Record Shack, South Park

Folk Arts Rare Records, North Park

Five Space Shop, North Park

Nickelodeon Records, Normal Heights

Record City, Hillcrest

Normal Records, downtown

FeeLit Records, East Village

M-Theory, Mission Hills

Re-Animated Records, La Mesa

Cow, Ocean Beach

Lou’s Records, Encinitas

Spin Records, Carlsbad


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