I’ve been buying vinyl since I was 13. My parents dumped their old records on me. I was 13 when my mom took me to buy my first album (Beck remixes. No idea why – the idea of grabbing something strange on the shelf is still appealing to me). Earlier this month a report from Nielsen Soundscan said that record sales have gone up 30% (see a lovely graph here at Digital Music News). In a world where music purchases are going down and more people are turning to music streaming, it seems quite unusual.
More and more people are buying vinyl, and maybe you’re thinking about taking a dive. But there really is a strange art to shopping for records. Seasoned buyers have their own art, but there is
1. Don’t be intimidated. It sounds stupid, but it’s true. I’ve had issues before with this. Some big guy things because it’s 43, single and overweight he has better taste in must than you (because there’s such thing as “good” and “bad” taste). He can tell you’re eying the Jazz Fusion records he’s standing in front of, but he won’t fucking move. Intimidation means grabbing things you probably don’t want.
This might be because I’m a young, American girl in a big British city, but I find it easy to be intimidated. If you LOVE Prince, then don’t be afraid to purchase that copy of “Controversy.” Sure that fat man might be judging you, but you get to go home and you dance to “Sexuality.”
2. Buy used. Use you like Mumford & Sons, but your bank account won’t enjoy the £25 price tag. New records are unbelievably pricey. Take a chance on a used record shop instead. There are long-lost treasures hiding in basement shops. There is a shop in the States called Half-Price Books. Even though I came from a small town, there were always surprises tucked away. Big, shiny shops are easy to be lured into but they won’t offer good prices.
3. Do your research. Different shops will carry different types of record. There are your metal shops, indie shops, 60’s girl groups, dub. Make sure you find shops in your area that suit your taste. Chances are if a shop specialises in reggae and you like folk, maybe don’t take the time to visit. The shop owners will be more useful to you if they carry what you want. My best example is when I went to Exotica records in Notting Hill (it’s no longer there, but it was so nice). I had found a Beat Happening record that made me burst out of my skin with excitement. I told the man behind the counter how difficult it was to find records by them back in the States. He seemed genuinely pleased and went behind the counter to show me another Beat Happening album. I was in heaven.
4. Music is a shared experience. When you get home, be sure to spin records with your friends. Buying a record is only one step in the journey of music. There are some people buy records for the mere ability to brag or to own something “rare” or “expensive.” Oh you have an original pressing of “Blonde on Blonde” still in it’s plastic? Great. Take the record and fucking spin it. Don’t let your albums collect dust. We buy vinyl to have a connection with our music. What’s the point if we hide it from the world?