The annual Record Store Day took place last Saturday around the globe, with independent record stores worldwide honouring music in its physical form by inviting bands to perform as well as giving music lovers the opportunity to purchase exclusive releases from hundreds of artists, including Australian sons Tame Impala’s 12″ expansion of their 2008 self-titled EP, and a special re-release of The White Stripes’s Elephant to annoint its 10th Anniversary.
Jack White himself, who was named the Record Store Day Ambassador earlier this year, joining a list of treasured musicians to hold the important title such as last year’s Iggy Pop and 2009/2011’s Ozzy Osbourne, stepped up Record Store Day a notch by giving customers a chance to record their own vinyl records in his Third Man Records outlet in Nashville.
“In one of my final acts as Record Store Day ambassador, I encourage everyone who comes to the Third Man Record Store in Nashville to be able to hear themselves on a vinyl record, and maybe even mail it to someone they love,” said Jack White in an official statement on his Third Man Records website.
“Certain beautiful experiences can only happen in the environment of a record store and I just thought that nothing could drive that point home more than a one-of-a-kind machine that lets you not only record your own vinyl record, but send it to anyone, anywhere in the world to share a song, poem, or private message with,” he added. “I know those warm, scratchy tones send tingles up (and sometimes down) MY spine.”
“Even if you aren’t instrumentally inclined, you could hold up an iphone playing a song and sing along with the music and combine the best of all worlds tangible, digital, and romantic. And for those still skeptical or not sure if they’re brave enough to do it, think of it this way; it’s almost the same thing as illegally downloading an mp3 and emailing it to someone. Well… Almost,” the White Stripe wrote in his statement. “They were used as a way to record an audio postcard and send it to someone you love or to go in and sing a little song…” – Ben Blackwell, Third Man Records
The device to do it? The vintage Voice-O-Graph machine, a record booth from 1947 that mirrored a telephone booth, allowing customers to step inside and record their own voices onto a vinyl record.
As reported by Yahoo, in addition to the Voice-O-Graph, Third Man Records held performances for some of the music label’s artists on Saturday, including Mark Watrous, Karen Elson, and Fats Kaplin to name a few.
Third Man Records Exceutive Ben Blackwell explained that “It’s a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph record booth… As far as we can tell, it will be the only functioning record booth open to the public in the world,” he said of the Record Store Day event.
Blackwell spoke of the history behind the Voice-O-Graphs, saying that they were popular in the 1940s and 1950s, and could be found in public places such as train stations.
“They were used as a way to record an audio postcard and send it to someone you love or to go in and sing a little song so you can hear what your voice sounds like,” Blackwell said. “Just think of it as a blank vinyl record and when you are singing, it is making the grooves into the record.”
“Like the records of old, users of the Third Man Recording Booth are encouraged to mail their recording to a loved one. Third Man even offers custom-printed envelopes and postage stamps to make that happen,” read the statement on the official website. “The Third Man Recording Booth will be the only machine of its kind in the world that is both operational and open to the public. The booth will run on custom Third Man tokens already in use in the Third Man Novelties Lounge.”
Third Man Record’s Novelties Lounge was created late last year, adjoining to the official store on premises. The Lounge showcases a number of merchansized attractions and gizmos located inside, all operated by Third Mans novelty tokens, including the world’s only working Scopitone, the Mold-A-Rama, the Dip’n’Dunk photo booth, and now – the Voice-O-Graph booth. “Jack has been looking for a long time for one of these machines… It was a no-brainer to get it up and running for our Novelties Lounge.” – Ben Blackwell
The recording booth will remain in Third Man Records as part of the Novelties Lounge, in an attempt to encourage people to visit independent record stores following Record Store Day.
The idea of the recording booth aims to appeal to music lovers who, as Blackwell suggests, have “never been faced with the technology to put their voice and their thoughts on a record,” and take it home.
“Jack has been looking for a long time for one of these machines,” Blackwell said. “After years and years and years he finally crossed paths with one. It was a no-brainer to get it up and running for our Novelties Lounge.”
Third Man Records and White himself are well known for their embracing of the vinyl format. In previous months Third Man Records added the ability to record live acts performing in the Blue Room (the company’s concert venue) directly to wax on site.
White’s own statement upon being knighted as official Record Store Day ambassador also supported his love of physical music. “As Record Store Day Ambassador of 2013 I’m proud to help in any way I can to invigorate whoever will listen with the idea that there is beauty and romance in the act of visiting a record shop and getting turned on to something new that could change the way they look at the world, other people, art, and ultimately, themselves.”
“To the record stores, artists, labels, DJs, and journalists; we’re all in this together,” White added. “Show respect for the tangible music that you’ve dedicated your careers and lives to, and help it from becoming nothing more than disposable digital data.”