Record Store Day has become a big event in the calendar for those in love with the black wax. Founded in 2007, it’s held on the third Saturday of April to celebrate the culture of independently-owned record shops. This year it took place on 18April.

Vinyl has undergone a slight resurgence in recent times, with sales passing the million mark in the UK for the first time in 18 years, and the number of independent record shops reaching a five-year high. Record Store Day has been attributed with a lot of the praise for bringing records back into the mainstream, with the start of the annual event coinciding with a time when vinyl sales were at an all-time low.

But while sales may be on the rise, vinyl is still a niche product. Only 2% of the UK’s recorded music market accounts for vinyl. Yes, there is a larger interest than there has been for quite some time, but it’s nowhere near what it once was.

This year Record Store Day came under criticism for straying away from its original intentions of celebrating the culture of independent record outlets. Big labels have been accused of muscling in, taking a stranglehold on events, reissuing expensive collectors’ items, and not creating a level playing field for independent artists and imprints.

So much so that independent labels Howling Owl and Sonic Cathedral set up a website, recordstoredayisdying.com, in protest, with an open letter saying that big labels “have identified Record Store Day as a cash cow ripe for udder thudding”.

Only three record shops in Sheffield took part in Record Store Day, with many not meeting the criteria to join.  According to Record Store Day’s code of conduct, stores must be open to the public for at least 48 weeks of the year for at least 25 hours per week.

Tonearm Vinyl and Spinning Discs, for example, whose owners have other commitments and so are only open on evenings or weekends, are eliminated by these conditions, preventing two independent record shops from joining an event created to encourage their business.

Record Collector, LP Record Store and Record Junkee were officially involved in the festivities. Barry, the owner of Record Collector, told me about the hysteria on the day.

“We came down at 7 o’clock in the morning to be greeted by a queue of about 100 yards, with about 400 people in it by the time we opened. That’s the same sort of queue we’re accustomed to get every year.”

But what about the criticisms?

“I think the event needs to be fine-tuned. The idea about Record Store Day is it should be positive. It should be feel-good. Whenever you raise a problem or criticism, we should look to a solution.”

Adrian, owner of Below on Abbeydale Road, was one of the shop owners who didn’t take part in Record Store Day. Unlike others who protested the event, it was down to the tight deadline for applications, having opened in January, shortly before it passed.

“It certainly did have a completely different feel to it in the first few years,” Adrian said. “Those first three years, there was a lot of very interesting stuff released as part of Record Store Day, and everyone was buoyant about what was going on. The industry has decided to put more effort into vinyl as a result and overall I think it will have a positive effect.”

Chris, owner of local electronic label Central Processing Unit, disagrees with the big labels’ approach to the day. “From a logistics and manufacturing point of view, it’s a nightmare. My normally reliable vinyl manufacturer was sent the mastered files in January and I’m still to receive the main batch of that vinyl. You just can’t plan.”

Chris tells me it has taken nearly four months for the record to be delivered, twice the usual waiting time. “Around Record Store Day, the run-up from Christmas to April, you’re at the back of the queue if you’re an independent label.”

Talking to local shops, the general feeling is that the long-term effects are a bigger priority. One day isn’t going to save a business or an industry. As Barry of Record Collector puts it: “If Rare and Racy and a lot of interesting stores can’t stay, then obviously the multi-nationals companies are going to fill it. Wouldn’t it be humiliating if Sheffield wasn’t interesting enough to maintain its more interesting shops?”

The debate about Record Store Day will continue regardless, but the most important thing is to visit record shops throughout the year, not just once a year.

Spinning Discs | Below | Record Collector | LP Record Store | Tonearm Vinyl | Record Junkee

Brady Frost