April 21, 2012 marks the fifth annual Record Store Day, a nation-wide project to promote struggling brick-and-mortar music shops. Across the country, independent stores offer exclusive, one-of-a-kind recordings as a way to bring customers through the door.
“It is the busiest day of the year,” says Mike Moffat, co-owner of Washington, D.C.’s Smash Records, a shop that sells new and used CDs and vinyl LPs, along with clothing, posters, t-shirts, vintage clothing, and more.
But now the powers that be in the nation’s capital have decided that record stores must get second-hand dealer business licenses, which cost a lot of money and have onerous reporting requirements. Store owners such as Moffat would have to report every new piece they put up for sale to the police, allow the cops to verify it’s not stolen, and get information about all customers who buy used goods. Failure to comply would mean incurring massive fines of thousands of dollars a days.
“Basically,” says Moffat, “they want us to get a pawn shop license.”
Local business groups such as the Adams Morgan Partnership are pushing back but the future of stores such as Smash Records is far from clear. “It just seems so heavy-handed, it could easily destroy businesses like mine,” says Moffat.