Independents preparing for next week's Record Store Day

Independent music retailers across North America say they've enlisted the help of big-name acts such as Metallica and Steve Earle to mark Record Store Day.

Independent music retailers across North America say they've enlisted the help of big-name acts such as Metallica and Steve Earle to mark Record Store Day.

The retailers, who have been struggling in recent years due to internet downloading, hatched a plan to mark the day next Saturday.

On that day, participating record stores will be handing out free promotional CDs, vinyl albums, videos and other treats, as well as hosting live in-store performances.

Eric Levin, the Atlanta owner of the 32-store Alliance of Independent Media Stores, said the campaign was conceived to battle "a perception that record stores are something of a joke, like we are all dinosaurs stuck in the tar."

It's an uphill battle for music stores everywhere, as chains such as Tower Records have disappeared while others, such as Virgin, have cut back their operations.

The legendary Sam the Record Man store in downtown Toronto closed its doors last summer after being in business for 36 years. The owners blamed a combination of declining CD sales and the increased popularity of internet downloads.

Michael Kurtz, head of the 124-unit Music Monitor Network, which has 23 stores in Canada, said retailers want to use Record Store Day to attract the "lost generation" of music listeners who "don't know what a good record store is anymore."

In Canada, other stores participating in the day are Blackbyrd Myoozik of Edmonton, Bluestreak Records of Peterborough, Ont., and Atomix Records of St. Catharines, Ont.

Musicians to work as cashiers

Musicians of all stripes say they support the campaign, from the likes of Paul McCartney — "There's nothing as glamorous to me as a record store" — to hard rocker Henry Rollins: "I have watched independent record stores evaporate all over America and Europe. That's why I go into as many as I can and buy records whenever possible. If we lose the independent record store, we lose big."

Metallica will meet with fans at the record store Rasputin's in Mountain View, Calif., as will Panic at the Disco at Waterloo in Austin, Texas, and Steve Earle and Allison Moorer at Manifest in Charlotte, N.C. 

In Canada, Sunrise Records is planning concerts at both its downtown Toronto and Kingston, Ont. locations, with indie acts such as Ill Scarlett, Neverending White Lights, Sunparlour Players and The John Henrys on the bill.

Q Prime Management, which oversees several acts, including Metallica, said it is trying to get as many musicians involved as possible — whether performing or even working as clerks in stores.

Specials for Record Store Day will include Metallica's CD catalogue for $9.99, and reissues of the band's first two albums on 180-gram vinyl.

Seven-inch singles from such acts as the Black Keys, Panic at the Disco and Death Cab for Cutie will also be on sale. Participating stores will feature DVDs for $3.99 to $9.99 and a selection of CDs for $10 or less.