Record Store Day 2024 in Ann Arbor

If you’re looking for something to do during the weekend of April 20 — and the Michigan Football Spring Game isn’t your thing — look no further than Ann Arbor’s own record stores. 

On Saturday, April 20, independent record stores around the world will observe the 16th annual event, where record stores around the world will have exclusive vinyl records and other goodies for sale. 

The event was started in 2008 by Bull Moose Music’s Chris Brown and Criminal Records’ Eric Levin. With music retail outlets closing left and right in the early aughts, independent record stores like Ann Arbor’s Encore Records, 208 N 4th Ave.,  and Underground Sounds, 120 E Washington St., were faced with questionable futures. And so Record Store Day was born. 

Now in its 16th year, the event has become a cornerstone for independent record stores around the world.

“I think record stores in general benefit by the increased interest level and awareness,” Encore Records Co-Owner Jim Dwyer said. 

When Dwyer and Bill McClelland purchased Encore Records in 2011, the store primarily sold used records. However, Dwyer and McClelland had aspirations of selling new records as well. Of course, that means participation in Record Store Day. 

“At first we weren’t really that enthusiastic of a participant in Record Store Day,” Jim confesses.  “Every day is Record Store Day at a record store.” 

Fair point. The atmosphere of a proper record store like Encore is unlike anything that Target or Wal-Mart can offer. But what about those that are new to the hobby?

“It really did reinvigorate interest in going out and shopping at a record store,” Jim observes, of course referring in part to those that came of age in an era when owning a physical copy of an album was the only way to own it. “For people who never had that experience, it sort of awakened them to the possibilities,” he continues. 

These possibilities, of course, are hearing from real people about new music and holding the object in your hands, not staring at the art on a screen. For many, the advent of the mp3 has made the discovery of music a passive experience. Record Store Day, however, is a time to leave the algorithm at home and connect with other humans about music. 

“[At Encore Records], we began to see that Record Store Day gave an incentive to people who just lacked the experience of shopping at a record store,” Dwyer continues. “You know, you go in looking for one thing, but you discover something you didn’t even know about.”

“I have a lot of regulars who sometimes get in line twice,” Underground Sounds Owner Matt Bradish said. “You’re stuck [in line] for five or ten minutes and you’re able to strike up a conversation with somebody and learn something different or impart something different.”

Releases for Record Store Day cover a wide variety of genres and eras of music. This year, there are over 400 titles that will be released, boasting artists ranging from 100 Gecs, Jim Croce, The Beatles, The Replacements and Olivia Rodrigo. 

At the end of the day, the owners of Encore Records and Underground Sounds are collectors just like the rest of us, and they’re excited about some releases too. 

“Personally, I am happy that there’s a reissue of “Osmium” by Parliament, an early George Clinton thing,” Dwyer said. “And Tom Verlaine recently passed away — the guitarist from Television. A box set of his solo records — which are excellent — have been long overdue for a reissue.” 

For Bradish, some of the most exciting releases are official releases of bootlegs that he’s had for years. 

“The Doors release, [Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968], I’ve had on bootleg since the 90s. I know how strong it is. I know it’s a great recording. It’s gonna sell,” he said. “The Talking Heads stuff [Live at WCOZ 77] I’ve heard before and I know how strong it is.”

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If you want to grab something specific, plan on arriving early.

“Every year we have people lining up sometimes as early as 1 am,” says Bradish. “On the day of, I’ll get here and there will be thirty people in line and the first ten have been here for hours.”

Most importantly, understand that these releases will not be available anywhere besides an independent record store. “This stuff won’t be on Amazon at all,” laughs Bradish. 

“It’s fun. People are genuinely excited,” adds Dwyer. “It’s kind of a Christmas-y vibe. People are like ‘Ohhhh, will it be there? Will I find what I’m looking for?’”

Stop by Underground Sounds or Encore Records on April 20 to see if you can get everything on your list. Or, just stop by for some good company and conversation. Who knows? You might just discover your new favorite band.


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