Warner Music Group’s revived Record Store Crawl returned to New York City last weekend after a five-year absence, complete with a bus full of music and vinyl fans — including Billboard’s Retail Track — that kicked things off at Tower Records’ Tower Labs space in Brooklyn with a rocking performance from 300 Entertainment recording artists Quarters of Change.

The crawl’s bus, transporting about 40 music fans, went on to visit Academy Records in Brooklyn, Audio-Technica showroom in lower Manhattan, Generation Records in the West Village; and finally, Rough Trade Records up in Rockefeller Center, all on Saturday (May 18).

Upcoming crawls are scheduled in Seattle on June 14; Austin on July 20; Nashville on Aug. 10; Chicago on Sept. 28; and Los Angeles on Oct. 19. Tickets for each crawl costs $77.45. Just like the New York Crawl, those cities will likely feature an artist performance and so far, Joe P has been lined up for the ones in Seattle and Austin; Knox for the one in Nashville; Deux Visages for Chicago; and Alicia Creti for Los Angeles.

What’s more, vinyl and music lovers can visit the Record Store Crawl website to vote for which U.S. city will be the winner of a crawl slated for Sept. 7. All the crawls are sponsored in partnership with Audio-Technica and HeadCount. When fans vote on the WMG Record Store Crawl website for which city should receive the September crawl, the site asks if the voter is registered to vote in U.S. elections. If they aren’t, or are simply unsure, a link takes them to the headcount.org website where they can either check their status or register to vote.

The last time WMG had a Record Store Crawl was a year prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Before the pandemic, the then-named WEA (now named WMX) held 40 Crawls in cities across the United States from 2016 through 2019, according to WMX senior director of retail & platform marketing (RPM) Gina Williams. In NYC, they were mainly held on Record Store Day. However, nowadays record stores have plenty going on that day, Williams said, so WMG’s team chose other days to bring a traffic boost to stores.

While the Record Store Day Crawl was happening in New York, WMX’s RPM team was hosting some 165 early listening events for Twenty One Pilots‘ new album, Clancy, out now on Fueled By Ramen. According to a statement issued by the company, “thousands of fans nationwide packed into their local record stores to hear the album early, connect with fellow fans and experience what independent record stores are all about: community and love of music. Moreover, in the prior year, 2023, the RPM Team hosted 972 listening party indie store activations in 2023 for 12 releases. The RPM Team and Atlantic Records were nominated for a 2024 Music Biz Bizzy for our Barbie, The Album listening events.”

In New York, Record Store Crawl fans lined up at noon outside Tower’s performance space in Williamsburg to get a bag of swag from the Warner family of labels. Retail Track’s bag contained the Keith Sweat Make It Last Forever limited-edition black ice vinyl album and a “Brother” 45 from Needtobreathe, plus stickers and other tchotchkes; as well as a raffle ticket, which would come in very handy on the bus ride between stops on the crawl.

Inside Tower, the crawlers were treated to a high-energy seven-song set from Quarters of Change, who performed tracks from its debut album, Into the Rift, and its just released follow-up, Portraits.

Quarters of Change perform at Tower Records’ Tower Labs space in Brooklyn on May 18.

Quarters of Change perform at Tower Records’ Tower Labs space in Brooklyn on May 18.

Rita Vega

After the band’s set, the tour loaded onto the bus and headed to the next stop: Academy Records Annex in Greenpoint, where Retail Track scored a few singles: O.V. Wright’s “Precious Precious” on Hi Records; Arthur Prysock’s “I Wantcha Baby,” on Hy Weiss’ Old Town Records; and Shirley Brown’s “Woman To Woman” on Truth Records.

After that, the bus headed to Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge and the mother of all traffic jams, moving literally an inch at a time. That led to plenty of opportunities for WMX’s RPM senior manager Ross Srodo to show off his emcee prowess, while WMX RPM creative manager Eden Mili supplied pithy embellishments in her role as ace ticket number reader as the duo raffled off plenty of Record Store Day exclusives and other limited edition and/or deluxe vinyl records — all from the Warner Music family of labels, naturally. During that ride, Han Mu, one of the crawlers, said he heard about the Record Store Crawl through an Instagram post. He also hailed the crawl’s pricing, saying, “it is totally worth it.”

In Manhattan, the first stop was at Audio-Technica House, the audio equipment brand’s collaboration space in SoHo, where crawlers were treated to Banshee Winery wines and a music trivia game with the winner taking home a turntable. The rest of the crawlers got an Audio-Technica record cleaning kit.

Up next, a quick ride to Generation Records, where crawlers had the pleasure of flipping through the stacks while dining on Williamsburg Pizza. Retail Track hit the downstairs used records bargain bin and scored 10 vinyl albums, including ones by The Association, Dakota Staton, Gene Pitney, Jimmy Ruffin, Joan Armatrading and Renaissance — the latter on Warner Bros. Records.

The Record Store Crawl itself wasn’t the only attraction, as Hannah Tebo bought a ticket especially to see the performance by Quarters of Change, as did Ellen Cainsford, who flew in from Austin because she said she wanted to “see the band in a special venue for an intimate performance.” Besides her, two others traveled in from North Carolina for the Record Store Crawl, while two more music fans came from Philadelphia, WMX RPM manager Mel Hoch reported to Retail Track.

Finally, the day culminated at Rough Trade where Retail Track scored Quarters of Change’s Portrait LP. “It was great to have a busload of eager record fans of all ages pop in and take over our store briefly,” store manager George Flanagan tells Billboard. “It was a very good day already and then the music fans from the bus provided a nice spike. We sold a lot of music.” 

Much like last month’s Record Store Day, Retail Track once again heard the siren call of (this time) a cold Budweiser, which was easily scored around the corner from Rough Trade at the Pig & Whistle pub. After all, Retail Track needed something to wash down the wine taste from back at Audio-Technica House.

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