Arts & Entertainment Co-Editor
By the time Warbler Records & Goods opened their doors at 11 a.m. on Apr. 22, there was already a line stretching around the block. As early as 7:30 a.m., fans were waiting outside the Santa Barbara record store, eager to get their hands on the special records released for the 2023 National Record Store Day. The most popular release this year? Taylor Swift’s “folklore: the long pond studio sessions,” which distributed 75,000 albums across the country.
Kurt Legler, the owner of Warbler Records & Goods is no stranger to Record Store Day. After moving down from Portland, he brought his experience and love for records and record stores into downtown Santa Barbara. Legler explained that he had been working on and off in record stores out of college and had watched the list and subsequent crowds change over the years. This Record Store Day, however, drew in a larger crowd.
“I think it was one of our better Record Store Days. And I think part of it is that people were excited about the kind of newer artists,” Legler said.
With the buzz over artists like Taylor Swift and The 1975, fans were excited to check out what titles would be in store.
Warbler Records & Goods was the only record store in the greater Santa Barbara area that participated in the event. Since its opening in 2010, the store continues to order and sell Record Store Day albums along with its growing selection of vinyl, CDs, and record equipment. As music echoes through the store from the large speakers, groups were let in one at a time to check out the available selection.
Walking out of the store, one man in a Taylor Swift Eras Tour sweatshirt clutched a paper bag, sighing in relief that “[he] could die happy.” Seconds later, the store announced that it had sold out of all its Taylor Swift records within the first 30 minutes of opening. The store only received a small number of records this year, five of which happened to be the Taylor Swift title.
The ordering process itself takes place months before the actual day; Legler joked that sometimes they have a hard time remembering the releases until they actually show up. Although they ask regulars for feedback to try to determine what titles to order, it still becomes a gamble to look at the list and judge what the market is going to be months down the line.
“We would order 10 of something and we’d maybe get one or two,” Legler noted. However, for the past five or six years, the fill rate has gotten much better as the pre-orders seem to reflect the number of quantities that are printed for each title.
The list of titles, which was released on the Record Store Day website months before the actual day, included a wide range of titles from artists under midsize and smaller labels. Over the years, the list has begun to reflect the shift toward a younger audience. Legler explained that it “seems like an endless well of live recordings and obscure titles that get reissued.”
Besides the most popular albums that sold out within minutes, there was a wide selection of albums that spanned across all sorts of genres, making it more interesting for true music heads who are looking for something new. He flipped through some of the remaining collections that went unsold on Record Store Day, discussing the titles that he found to be interesting. From Mike D’s Brazilian 45 Boxset to the Bill Evans box sets and the Happy Dragon Band, there was something for everyone.
While Santa Barbara had only one store participating, Legler pointed out that Record Store Day tends to be much more popular in Los Angeles and Ventura, where stores will get a much larger stock and even have in-store sections dedicated to past Record Store Day releases. Even after the celebratory day itself, many shops put the unsold records online, including popular titles that were put aside for the online store, making it easier for some fans to pursue the collections from afar.
Awareness and interest in Record Store Day in Santa Barbara seem to be on the rise, bringing together the record community into Warbler Records & Goods. As lines continue to grow longer with each coming year, Legler continues to share his love for records with the community. Whether an old or new fan, the list will always have something to look forward to, and Warbler’s doors are always open.