For all the music junkies out there who still enjoys buying LPs and flipping through album artwork, you’re not alone. No matter how wonderful and easy digital music streaming services create musical discovery, there’s no comparison for being in a room full of vinyl in their best design. Music lovers are passionate about taking a journey in hitting up local record shops. There’s so much music to explore and it’s best to continue searching for new music along with other music nerds doing the same thing. Record shops do their part in offering an open house for everyone to enjoy. Here’s a list of awesome record stores every music lover should visit at least once. Let’s start off with one of the oldest record shops to date.
Cardiff, Wales (Opened 1894)
Believe it or not, the world’s oldest record shop, Spillers, has been running nonstop since 1894. Besides selling vinyl, Spillers originally specialised in phonographs, wax phonograph cylinders and shellac phonograph discs when it first opened. It was founded by Henry Spiller in the Queen’s Arcade, Cardiff, Wales. In 1920s, band leader Joe Gregory helped run the shop and began to sell musical instruments along with pre-recorded music at the storefront. During the late 1940s Spillers moved to a new location down the street to allow more space for the growing business. There was a point where Spillers future was in doubt due to a heavy rise doubling the rent. The ‘Save Spillers Records’ campaign was launched in 2006 in an effort to save the record shop. The campaign was successful as it received support from thousands of people including members of the Welsh Assembly, the Manic Street Preachers, Columbia Records (the oldest record label in the world) as well as Beyoncé, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Finally in 2015, the record shop moved to a permanent location at 27 Morgan Arcade, Cardiff. In 2017, Spillers opened a second floor to serve as a curated space for live music, in store DJs and exhibitions.
Spillers is unique in various ways as it’s gone through many changes over time. It’s amazing to be able to visit the world's oldest record shop while it survived the birth and decline of vinyl. It’s come a long way and proves to be one of the best record shops around, remaining successful during the digital age. The store offers an impressive selection of CD and vinyl at affordable prices. It’s a great place to hang out, browse records and talk about music with the staff’s personal recommendations. The record store also teamed up with hi-fi manufacturer Rega to release a limited run of its own branded turntable. You know the turntables are nothing but extraordinary, just like the good old days when Spillers sold phonographs and gramophones. What more can you ask for in a historic record shop?
Piccadilly remains the champion of all things indie since 1978. “Indie” in the sense that the shop is unique in providing music lovers of old independent charts focusing on small labels instead of showcasing major labels or highlighting new music. The shop originally opened with the new wave/post punk boom leading into the 80's so it’s no surprise for its eccentric music selection. Known for its outstanding collection of hidden nooks such as Folk, Drone, Balearica, Psych, New Age, Americana, Kraut, Shoegaze, Punk, Doom, House, Disco, Electro, Reggae, Experimental, the shop is very proud of stocking a wide range of music. You can find that a lot of record shops focuses on few or limited genres, but at Piccadilly you’ll come accross all kinds of different music. You won’t be surprised the staff at Piccadilly also has great musical knowledge along with an open mind for different types of music. Everyone specializes in a particular genre but you can count on their staff to help you gain a new appreciation for a genre you may have not yet discovered.
What I’m trying to say is if you want specialist music, Piccadilly is the place to visit.
Piccadilly sits in the Northern quarter of the centre in Manchester. It’s the youngest part of the city, but a mixture of old and new, surrounded by food joints and nightlife. The shop also sells a range of music magazines/fanzines, t-shirts, record bags and a counter full of flyers and events advertised by Manchester locals. The staff are friendly and approachable, very enthusiastic for music, and share a true love for the shop. It gives a special aura to the Manchester scene itself. Piccadilly went online in 2000 and has been progressing ever since. It was actually one of the first shops to go online in terms of independent record shops. There was a time where dance music was selling really well where hundreds of copies were being sold online as people couldn't get it anywhere else. These days it’s all about pre-ordering the big indie records which works best online. New releases and special limited vinyl editions are the shops speciality. The Website is updated weekly, but make sure to check the ‘Just in’ and ‘Released next week’ pages over the weekend to stay on top of the upcoming limited runs. Piccadilly’s website is informative and engaging as they upload sound clips and post reviews of almost every release.
Spacehall is the best place to buy new and used records in Berlin. Its design is filled with sci-fi-esque rooms with space like interior that consists of comfy, odd shaped couches and simple yet quirky designs. With plenty of listening stations, you can be sure you're buying quality music. You get a real sense of weirdness and awesome creativity that’s for sure. The shop is split into three sections. At the front, you have a room inspired by things like jazz, hip-hop and blues. The long middle room of the shop is where you’ll find all the rock, pop, electronica, etc. The back room opens its doors to music such as house, techno and minimal. Most people enjoy Spacehall as it’s known to find overlooked gems, dig for rare favorites, and rediscovering forgotten music. The store's impressive catalog can be intimidating, but the aesthetics of the shop helps a customer from being overwhelmed. There’s a zen like corridor with forested wallpaper, opening up to the huge but dimly lit house and techno section. The shop is purposely dark so it allows customers to getting lost in the music, it’s also helpful as it creates a calming state of mind. You might be spending a lot of time as you’re digging through crates, but that’s the whole idea behind Spacehall or record hunting in general. Spending hours listening to music and trying to find albums that resonate with your current mood as you’re digging for a great piece. You will find more than often that people come into the shop who prefer not to talk to staff as they go straight to the counter and listen to records they’re interested in buying rather than asking for recommendations.
The shop’s owner, Peter, and his wife has been running Spacehall since 2008. There are a handful of rumors about the owner which remain unanswered as Peter declines all interview requests. Spacehall continues to prove how badass the shop truly is as it’s self promoted. The shopping experience is the ultimate focus for true music lovers. One of the biggest record shops in Berlin and located in a very nice area in Kreuzberg, Spacehall has almost any category you can think of both new and used. (Don’t forget to check out the back room to find good deals on secondhand records!)
12 Tónar is more than just a record shop that has the best classical recordings &emdash; it’s an independent record label, local legend, and popular tourist destination where you can hang out and listen to music or read a book with a complimentary espresso. The name '12 Tónar'’' (twelve tones) refers to the twelve-tone composition system, a method of musical composition by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951), important in classical and contemporary music. Founded in 1998, the colorful store mainly sells new Icelandic music that specializes in indie rock and classical. The first floor is dedicated to jazz and classical music, while the second floor offers a wide selection of alternative, indie and electronic music. The records are more on the expensive side, but very high quality. You can find used records at a cheap price.
The best part about 12 Tónar is that the shop focuses on the human element. It’s a shared space where people come in expecting to talk with other music lovers and sharing music is what it’s all about. Even if you’re not familiar with the genres in the shop you can have fun browsing through LP covers and get a taste of sounds you’re not used to.
The shop hosts in-store performances and many showcases at Harpa during the annual Iceland Airwaves festival. It’s been a hub for music makers, such as Bedroom Community, Sigur Rós, and Björk for many years. 12 Tónar is staffed by people who are passionate about the local music and arts scene. It’s become a local legend as it attracts a diverse crowd where a lot of musicians, record collectors, curious people, and more travelers come to look for Icelandic music.
Hollywood, CA, USA
Every music junkie sure knows about Amoeba. It’s an amazing independent chain of record stores that are all located in California - Berkeley, San Francisco, and of course the world-famous Hollywood location. Amoeba is an LA institution and is conveniently located in the heart of the city. The Hollywood location has only been around since 2001 as it was the last of the chain to open it’s doors, but since then it has gathered one of the largest music collections, DVDs, records and merchandise in the entire world, and has had world-famous musicians like Paul McCartney to stop by for intimate shows. It stocks everything from film scores to country albums to hip hop to international, you name it. The great selection seems endless, and that's just the vinyl aspect. The store also sells VHS, cassettes, books, CDs, action figures, posters, pins, accessories and patches. You can even buy actual physical tickets to almost any local show - one of the best ways to avoid extra ticketing fees.
It’s quite incredible how much happiness record shops can bring to someone’s life, and for me Amoeba will always be one of the best landmarks of my hometown.
Amoeba is truly the ideal record store for anyone who loves art. You don’t even have to be a huge music nerd to love it. It offers a wide variety of things to see, learn, and discover. Every time I visit Amoeba I tend to spend hours as I get lost looking for used vinyl and CDs. It’s like a treasure hunt, or better yet like an enormous dessert shop where I just want everything. The nice thing about it is you can sell or trade your collection of music/movies. They even offer to come to your house to buy your huge record collection if you ever decide you feel like you need to start a new collection all over again, or get rich. It represents the true love, dedication and appreciation music junkies will always have for the music industry and stands strong, even as the digital age of streaming music services slowly takes over the good old days. There’s nothing better than taking home a physical copy of an album and adding it to your collection.