D.C. record stores gear up for biggest day of the year

With plans set to unpack boxes of newly pressed vinyls and stock shelves for an influx of customers, D.C.’s six record stores are readying themselves for Record Store Day.

Saturday’s event, now in its seventh year, celebrates independently owned record stores around the world. Hundreds of limited edition vinyls are released specially for the day, when store owners offer selections that range from reissues of oldies to the most recent hits.

This year, the most sought-after releases include a new 7-inch Nirvana record and a vinyl of unreleased Johnny Cash songs. (Check out the full list here).

The newest record shop in D.C. belongs to Rob Norton, the owner of Hill & Dale Records in Georgetown, which opened in February. Saturday will mark the shop’s first Record Store Day, and Norton said his shop’s most requested item is the R.E.M. box set, which includes four vinyls of the band’s MTV Unplugged performances from 1999 and 2001.

Most of the releases have a limited number of copies, and with more than 1,000 stores nationwide participating in Record Store Day, individual shops rarely get all the products they order.

Small, independent stores have to balance requesting records that are in high demand with the possibility that bestsellers will not arrive – though in that case, the shop owners get their money back. If the records that do arrive fail to sell, stores still need to pay for the exclusive products, which tend to be the most expensive.

Jon Meyers, the creator of “The Vinyl District,” a website devoted to vinyl music, said while the day “seems well-organized, it’s kind of like you’re winging it, in a way.”

Norton said he ordered almost all of the exclusive releases, but won’t find out which records will be delivered until this weekend.

“There’s no way of predicting what we’re going to receive,” Norton said. “You gotta get what the customers like and what they’ll be looking for, and then we just keep our fingers crossed that we’re actually going to get that stuff.”

To account for the unpredictability, some stores order as many of the new releases as possible, with the hopes that they will get a few of the more popular ones.

All six stores in D.C. are verified Record Store Day participators, meaning they are independent shops, whose retail products are at least half records and are not part of a corporate record store chain.

Som Records, owner Neal Becton, said his store will also give away gift certificates, CDs and records to customers throughout the day, which he called “the busiest day of the year” for record stores.

Crooked Beat Records on 18th Street will extend its hours, host live music performances featuring local bands and give out grab bags. Hill & Dale’s will open early, at 10 a.m., to give customers more time to browse and check out other stores as well.

“If you’re looking for those Record Store Day exclusives, you will increase your chances of finding them if you visit more than one store and look around,” Norton said.

Participating stores in D.C.

Hill & Dale Records
Address: 1054 31st St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Extra perks: Coffee and snacks

Som Records
Address: 1843 14th St.
Hours: noon to 9 p.m.
Extra perks: Giveaways including gift cards, CDs and records

Crooked Beat Records
Address: 2116 18th St.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Extra perks: Live music from D.C. bands Möbius Strip and Brnda, plus grab bags with buttons, stickers, vintage seven inch vinyls, magnets and posters

Joint Custody
Address: 1530 U St.
Hours: noon to 8 p.m.

Red Onion Records
Address: 1901 18th St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Smash! Records
Address: 2314 18th St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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