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'Something special': For Joe Smith of Hard Copies, every day is Record Store Day
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'Something special': For Joe Smith of Hard Copies, every day is Record Store Day

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Hard Copies

Joe Smith owns Hard Copies, a Marion record store. Smith and his team are preparing for the Aug. 29 observation of Record Store Day, a national celebration of independent record stores.

Officially, Record Store Day — a national celebration of independent music stores and the products they sell — is Saturday, Aug. 29, but for Joe Smith, every day is Record Store Day.

In fact, the owner of Hard Copies in Marion, Smith has been celebrating music, especially vinyl long-playing albums every day since 1987 when he first got a part-time job in an Evansville record store. For the past 14 years, Hard Copies has catered to audiophiles and music lovers looking for new and pre-owned compact discs, video games, music-related items including T-shirts and posters, and, of course, albums.

Smith estimates that the store has more than 20,000 CDs and nearly 25,000 vinyl records in stock. He says record sales continue to be strong despite years of “expert” prediction that vinyl would die.

“I’ve always joke that if you had told me 15 years ago that vinyl would make a huge comeback and save our industry and that much of that comeback would be youth-driven, I would have said you were crazy,” he said. “But that is exactly what has happened and it’s been really interesting.”

He says vinyl records are popular for a variety of reasons and there is no “typical” Hard Copies customer. Some, he explains, are true audiophiles who appreciate the warmer sound of pressed records. Others, are drawn to the larger format which brings album artwork and things such as liner notes more attention. The nostalgia of records is also a draw for some people.

“Listening to a record is not something you can do in passing; you have to sit down and listen to it. I mean, you even have to flip it over halfway through," he says, adding that some shoppers find records to be a novelty — a sort of connection to their earlier years — while others are diehard vinyl fans.

“I get it. I have records. There’s something special about records."

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Even during times when many were saying the days of both vinyl and retail music stores were numbered because of the availability of music downloads and digital formats, Smith remained optimistic.

“I’ve never been one of those who whined about downloading or streaming. People who embrace that sort of technology have never been our customers,” he said.

In fact, Smith adds that annual vinyl sales have eclipsed CD sales regularly over the past decade, leading record companies to press more and more records each year. He says that labels have even got behind Record Store Day.

“Record Store Day came about when a group of independent music store owners were trying to figure out a way to get more people in their stores. They pitched the experiment to the labels and it worked,” he said.

Record Store Day now features special edition pressings and re-releases of albums which have long been out of print.

“Independent record stores are the only places you can get these releases,” he said. “You can’t get them at big box stores.”

He says Record Store Day has grown to become a huge celebration and many record dealers register a month’s worth of sales in the single day. Hard Copies, which will participate in the Aug. 29 event, will offer special and limited editions as well as discounts on other products.

“It’s a great day,” Smith said.

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