How to Have the Best Record Store Day

Record Store Day only comes twice a year. Here’s how to make the most of it when it arrives.
Crates of records
Photograph: DutchScenery/Getty Images

Vinyl records are everywhere now. What was once considered a niche hobby just a few years ago, when records started to make a comeback, are now widely available again, even at major retail stores like Target and Walmart. Record sales are up thanks in part to artists like Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift introducing records to a new generation through limited-edition pressings. With record collecting hitting the mainstream, events like Record Store Day remind us of the importance independent record stores have in the vinyl collecting world.

As a collector of 13 years, I’ve been to many RSD events, and every year, it’s gotten bigger and bigger. If you’re getting into collecting, or if this upcoming RSD will be your first event, here are things I wish I had known before my first Record Store Day.

What Is Record Store Day?

Record Store Day is an event that happens twice a year, with the main event happening every April. The first RSD was on April 19, 2008, and started as a way to promote indie record stores at a time when vinyl was thought to be a dying format. Brick and motor record stores get access to hundreds of limited-edition releases that are available at only these locations and nowhere else. Record Store Day Black Friday takes place, as you may have guessed, every Black Friday, and is in the same spirit as the April RSD. It’s meant to promote small businesses on a day when major retailers want you to go to their stores. The RSD Black Friday list is smaller, but these releases are still exclusive to that day and just as limited.

How to Find Your Local Record Store

The Record Store Day website has a catalog of shops that participate in the event. If your local record store is on that list, chances are they will have the RSD-exclusive albums on that day. While not every record store participates, they sometimes have their own sales or special events to draw business to their stores, so just because you don’t see yours on the list doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. Check your local store’s website or social media to be sure.

How to Get What You Want

The RSD list (like this one, for RSD Black Friday 2023) usually comes out a month or two in advance of the day itself. However, it’s important to keep track of the titles on the list. Records can be added or removed from this list due to supply chain issues with getting releases pressed on time.

“When you get the Record Store Day list, write down the top albums you want and let your local record store know,” says Jessica Campa, sales associate and social media coordinator of Del Bravo Record Shop in San Antonio, Texas. “For us, when we do our inventory, we rely on what the customers say.” Some of the most popular items in recent RSDs have been Tyler, the Creator’s Cherry Bomb, a red vinyl limited to 7,250 copies, and this past RSD’s release of Taylor Swift’s live album Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, which was limited to 115,000 copies worldwide but sold out immediately on that day. The physical release saw the album debut at number three on the Billboard 200 charts based on vinyl sales.

Wait in Line, Bring Your Phone

Most record stores will allow you to camp out overnight, though at your own risk. Like anything with limited availability, showing up earlier is better if you’re looking for a high-demand release.

Record stores sometimes only get a few copies of certain albums. “You could’ve been here since midnight, but if there’s 10 people in front of you, there’s a chance you might not get it,” Campa says. “Have a list of who is participating in your area and have their numbers ready so you can call and see if they still have an album in stock.” Record stores usually have a strict one-copy-per-customer rule specifically to prevent people from buying up all the copies of a release.

What if I Don’t Have a Record Store Near Me?

According to the RSD website, there are 1,400 independent record stores in the United States. This means there’s a chance a store might not be accessible to everyone. Sites like Rough Trade and Newbury Comics tend to put their RSD leftover stock online a few days after the event, and indie stores on Discogs and eBay also post their leftovers. Keep an eye on these places because prices tend to go up as soon as the items become even rarer online. The RSD’s record store locator also has links to participating indie store websites, if they have a website available. These are also good sources to check in case your local store also posts leftover stock online after the event.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

One of the best things about Record Store Day is that you’re with a group of people who have the same interest in vinyl that you do. If you have friendly people around you and looking for different albums, team up on your hunt in case you’re able to get your hands on a release they are looking for and vice versa. If you have friends in other places who are also participating in RSD, share what you’re looking for in case their store or your store has different releases that you both want. This type of teamwork helps you get these releases at retail prices so you can avoid potentially paying high reseller prices.

Finally, while these limited-edition pressings are the main draw every year, Record Store Day is still meant to bring you into the store. So once you’ve found what you’re looking for, take a breather and look around to see what other albums you can find. “This is a really big day for record stores,” Campa says. “I wish everybody good luck. Keep calm and shop around and just have fun and make sure you have your list.”