Celebrating Another Day of Hungarian Record Stores
Budapest vinyl collectors like me have already enjoyed a Record Store Day (RSD) this year, in April. We have another one to look forward to on June 18.
RSD started in 2007 in the United States to “celebrate the culture of the independent record store” and quickly spread. Today, there are RSDs on every continent except Antarctica.
The format of the day is the same around the world: stores celebrate their place in their community by offering vinyl, CDs and even special cassettes that have been issued to mark the day. National and international stars meet and greet their fans. Stores hold fundraisers for nonprofits that serve the community.
This year, the hugely popular and almost hip American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is RSD’s global ambassador, which gives you an idea of her cachet.
In the early years, RSD was pretty much under the radar. But, after the 2016 event saw independent retailers record the highest percentage of vinyl album sales since Soundscan, the sales tracking platform, was introduced in 1991, major labels have woken up.
Since then, they have been criticized for hijacking the event by airing frankly indifferent material from legendary stars and hogging the capacity of record pressing factories. Other complaints include that stores are often forced to buy with no returns, which makes them nervous about stocking certain releases. Many limited versions are immediately resold online by collectors at ridiculously inflated prices.
But, while these are valid complaints, for collectors RSD is still a great opportunity to dig into those vinyl-filled plastic crates in search of their own personal holy grail or just irresistible albums even if you absolutely don’t know. nothing on it. .
It’s also worth pointing out that reviews of RSD began over 10 years ago and the event continues to go from strength to strength, suggesting that more and more of us appreciate the place of independent record stores in our communities. This is certainly the case in Hungary.
István Gyulai, volunteer representative of RSD in Hungary, told me that “there has been a visible increase in vinyl sales since 2015. In that year, vinyl accounted for only 8% of sales. In 2021, it was 52%. Although vinyl sales in Hungary remain relatively low (I’ve seen figures from the Association of Hungarian Record Companies which give a total of 228,000), labels and artists are using the existence of RSD to direct fans to stores where they can buy limited releases from Hungarian bands like satirical hip-hop group Bëlga. Their limited RSD release and first-ever vinyl sold 300 copies in two hours.
Other Hungarian releases included tapes by prog-metal band At Night I Fly and composer Adam Andras Horvath (who uses no accents on his name). If I understand the return of vinyl, I confess to being disconcerted by the resurgence of the cassette format.
“Cassettes came back about 10 years ago, initially as part of the lo-fi scene. Indie labels love them because they’re easy to make, cheap, and beautiful. Also, the 1980s, including its music and fashion, has become cool again, as evidenced by the iconic TV series ‘Stranger Things’,” Gyulai explained.
“Cassettes are related to this, but they are mostly decorative. In Hungary, the cassette culture was born back then because it was the only way to listen to pirated music. Also, we had radio shows in Hungary where they played computer game sound for ZX Sinclair Spectrum. You can save it at home and send it to your ZX computer. Sounds pretty crazy these days, I guess.
Besides local bands’ RSD releases, “international RSD releases are also going pretty fast,” Gyulai told me, “and we only have 10 copies of each release per store.”
Broadcast of attendance
In Hungary, 10 record stores officially participated this year, four more than in 2021. These were mainly Budapest, among them Wave and Musicland, which helped launch RSD in Hungary, but they also included 777 Zenebolt in Dunaújváros (75 km south of the capital) and Néma Papagáj in Szeged (176 km south-east).
“There was a very good level of interest for the first Hungarian RSD of 2022 on April 23. People lined up outside some stores before they opened to make sure they got their hands on limited RSD releases. We also had DJs, acoustic performances, even a cocktail,” says Gyulai.
Although Hungary’s RSD also got a boost when it was picked up by state news agency MTI and mentioned on national TV this year, for Gyulai it’s mostly a labor of love.
“Before RSD, stores did things independently. I get involved because I want to bring RSD to life locally. I’m part owner of a small record company called Klinik, which specializes in independent Hungarian releases,” he explains.
“I love record stores and I love records, so I just made a little effort to support the day. This means connecting labels and artists to stores, gathering the information needed to maintain a website and a social media presence, helping organize RSD in-store appearances, doing a bit of press like this and whatever else needs to be done.
He adds that the plan is to elevate the event by reaching a wider audience. “Many people in Hungary have no idea that RSD exists and many of them are potential buyers and participants.”
You can read more about the second Hungarian RSD on the Hungarian language website www.recordstoreday.hu. You could pick up a Keith Richards tape, live albums from Miles Davis and Pearl Jam, a triple LP from Peter Gabriel or a double from Prince. Stores will likely also hold special events. Even if you’re not a particularly rabid crate digger, visiting one of the participating stores on June 18 is a great excuse to experience an area of Budapest you may never have visited before.
This article first appeared in the May 20, 2022 print issue of the Budapest Business Journal.