Saturday is Record Store Day around the world and in Milwaukee, local shops like Atomic Records, Lotus Land, RushMor, Bull's Eye and Exclusive Company celebrate the joys of recorded music stamped into vinyl or encoded onto CDs.
According to the event's official Web site, "On this day, all of these stores will simultaneously link and act as one with the purpose of celebrating the culture and unique place that they occupy both in their local communities and nationally." Hundreds of independent shops around the world will participate.
For some people that may sound like the equivalent of Home Milk Delivery Day or Edison Wax Cylinder Day, but our local record stores are the places that not only feed the musical passions of Milwaukee music fans, but they also often work hard to help support local music.
"It's not easy being a record store owner anywhere these days, let alone Milwaukee, but we do our best to run a tight ship with a good crew, often working extra hours for little pay," says Atomic Records owner Rich Menning. "Any indie store still standing, be it Atomic -- or our brethren at RushMor, Bull's Eye or the newly re-opened Lotus Land -- are clearly in it for the love and not the money."
However, as Menning points out, love doesn't pay the bills, at least not in the record vending biz, so an event like Record Store Day, that allows us to remind ourselves about some great independent retailers in the city, can offer a nice boost.
"I'd like to add that every day is Record Store Day," says Menning. "So please come and enjoy the music on Saturday, but don't be shy in visiting us any other day of the year."
Atomic hosts a day of live music on Saturday, starting with Juniper Tar at 1 p.m. and closing at the end of a 7 p.m. performance by Collections of Colonies of Bees. In between, you can check out Mark Waldoch, Brief Candles, Testa Rosa, Scarring Party and Signaldrift.
The shop also holds a bargain sidewalk sale if Mother Nature plays along. There will be giveaways and you can buy special new releases created especially for Record Store Day by the likes of REM, Built to Spill, The Black Keys, Death Cab For Cutie, Panic At The Disco, Vampire Weekend and The Breeders.
Bull's Eye toasts the event with 20 percent off all used LPs in the shop on Saturday and Exclusive Company on Farwell and in the Greenfield Fashion Plaza host live music, raffles and giveaways.
Lotus Land offers $1 off all records (except the $1 records!) on Saturday, says co-owner Andy Noble.
While RushMor doesn't have any grand plans to celebrate, co-owner Bill Rouleau promises, "special surprises for customers," noting that, "every day is Record Store Day at Rush Mor."
So, why do people run record shops at all in 2008?
"I think you realize pretty quick that you are never going to get rich off of something like this," Lotus Land's Noble told me a few years back. "There are tons of non-monetary perks that come along with it."
"Some call me crazy -- particularly my accountant -- for doing this for the past 23 years, especially in light of the decade-long collapse of the industry due to online piracy and basic major label cluelessness," admits Menning. "But to turn the ‘are you crazy' question around, I like to quote one our favorite customers. After purchasing a wide array of music, from the latest indie-rock release to a compilation of vintage 78 RPM ‘disaster songs,' I sincerely thanked him for supporting his local indie record store. He looked at me quizzically and replied, ‘No, thank you. To not support you would be crazy.'
"After all, if there aren't any local record stores, where are struggling musicians going to find jobs?," Menninger jokes.
But Bull's Eye owner Lavin perhaps says it best when he retorts, "why not own a record store? It's really the same to me as it was 10 years ago. It was never a way to get rich. I just love music and I think people will always want to have some around ... even the old-fashioned kind -- CDs and records. That, and I don't know how to do anything else."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.