Diggin' Deep: Tips For Your First Record Store Visit
Vinyl has made a huge comeback over the last few years, with vinyl sales even surpassing CD sales in 2021. It's super easy to get your hands on the newest vinyl records through online shops like Deejay, hhv or Redeye Records. However, if you're looking for older releases or just want to explore and discover some treasures, it's often better to go to a record store (or use Discogs, but more on that later).
When I first went to a record store, I felt slightly overwhelmed and didn't know exactly what I was supposed to do. I've also noticed this kind of uncertainty in friends I brought to record stores. So in this article, I'm going to share some tips for your first visit to a record store. I hope these are helpful.
Handle the records and the equipment with care
This is probably the most important piece of advice: No matter what you do, be careful with the vinyl, the provided record player and the headphones. Don't touch the grooves or the needle with your fingers and don't scratch the vinyl with the needle. And if you need help with the equipment: Don't be afraid to ask a staff member.
Here's a quick video on how to properly handle vinyl:
Reserve enough time to browse the store
It's not a good idea to go to a record store if you're in a rush. It takes time to dig through the crates. If you're looking for something specific or you're overwhelmed by the product range, it's best to talk to a member of staff, they'll be able to point you in the right direction. If you become a regular at your local record store, they might even be able to put new arrivals aside for you, because they know what music you like (that's not the case everywhere though).
Listen to the vinyl before buying and check pricing
If you discover some records that you find interesting, always listen to them before buying. Every store provides record players and headphones for a quick listening session. If all are occupied, just wait a moment until one of them becomes available. I always give every song on the record at least a quick listen before I buy, so I'm certain that I actually like most of the featured music. I don't recommend buying solely based on artwork (unless you collect cool sleeves, then go ahead). Also, it's always a good idea to check the quality of the vinyl. If there are a lot of scratches and it just doesn't sound good, you probably don't want to spend a lot of money on it.
Speaking of spending money: If you feel like a record is a little bit expensive, you might want to check its current reselling value on Discogs before buying. I talk about Discogs further down in this article.
Check out the sale crates
Some record stores have crates with really cheap records - in my experience they're usually a bit hidden. Keep an eye out for those. You'll probably need some time to look through them though, as they're not sorted by genre most of the time. On the bright side: You might be rewarded for your effort with an inexpensive treasure.
Be open minded
Going to a record store is always exciting, because you don't know what they have in stock. You might find that LP you've been after for years or stumble upon a new favourite artist. That's why I always tell people to be open minded when visiting record stores. I discovered some of my favourite songs by listening to a record I didn't know at the time.
Alternatives to record stores / reselling records (online shops and Discogs)
If you want to get a brand new release or you're looking for one specific record, you might be better off getting your vinyl in an online shop or on Discogs.
Online shops I use frequently are Deejay (Germany), have-a-break (Germany), Decks (Germany) or Redeye Records (UK). They offer a big selection of Drum and Bass and other electronic music. For a wider range of genres, you can check out hhv (Germany) or CeDe (Switzerland) for example. Many artists also sell their records on Bandcamp.
If you're after an older release, your best bet is Discogs. It's a music database, where users can also resell their records, CDs and even cassettes. Sellers have to state the condition of the vinyl and the sleeve. Here's an overview of the different gradings.
This video sums up Discogs perfectly:
I hope these tips are helpful for you. If you're an experienced crate digger: What pieces of advice would you give first-time record store visitors? Feel free to share them in the comments.