Shopping for music is a sacred ritual for most vinyl junkies. We plan our time and cash around spending it in our favorite record stores. Whether it’s a quick lunch time drop in or a few well chosen hours to indulge our passion, record nerds love digging crates.
The dig is as much fun as finding the actual treasure, so we’re all looking to dig the best spots. What separates a good record store from the ones we don’t return to? What factors help decide which record stores see your return business? We polled the Vinyl Junkies community for their thoughts on the subject. After 650+ votes and much discussion, we boiled our list down to reflect the criteria that you said mattered most. Direct quotes were taken from the poll, to reflect the opinions of those who took the time to share their thoughts.
No brainer. Record nerds love a deal, and they hate being gouged. Where it concerns used records, a large number of collectors are Discogs savvy, so they know the deal.
“Pricing: keep it fair – if you are going to use Discogs as a source, then use the “Median” price point”
An increasing number of record stores use the Discogs sales history to determine how they price their second hand stock. If this is the case, then the median price would be considered fair market value. Good record stores interested in moving their stock will charge at or below the median price. Fair pricing keeps the stacks fresh and loyal customers happy.
“Good prices are important but rude employees or owners will have you running back to Discogs or eBay”
A visit to the record store is a social thing; hanging out is part of the ritual. Music junkies love talking music, so the value of friendly, knowledgeable staff is a huge plus. In the world of record stores, Jack Black’s character in Hi Fidelity is a real person. Most of us have met been served by him before. Don’t be that guy. Having a record shop isn’t a million dollar venture. The owners need your business, so friendly staff is pretty non-negotiable. Besides, music snobs are annoying and no one really cares what they think passes for “good music”. Especially not the customers. Pet peeve? Maybe. Not so sure, though.
“…a big selection. I’m not there to peruse through 100 records. Need thousands.”
A well stocked, well curated record store will always get our money. While many folks enjoy sifting through a shop’s entire inventory, you can generally gauge the character of a record store by flipping through their new arrivals. Fully stocked bins are necessary, but the new arrivals will reveal a lot about the kind of store you’re dealing with. A good store will turn over their inventory with consistency and regularity. That $6 copy of Asia’s debut album been sitting there for a year? Put it in the bargain bin and make a customer walk away with it, for a few bucks less. A shop with a dead inventory of 50,000 records may seem impressive, but If you’re consistently flipping past the same beat up lps and Reader’s Digest box sets, you’re digging through dead inventory. While treasure can be found everywhere, you may need to dig longer and harder in these types of stores. A good record store uses its space wisely, by filling it with inventory that will keep selling. If the stock is fairly priced and accurately reflects the tastes of their clientele, the inventory will always stay fresh. Frequent sales and bargain bins are a great way to liquidate dead stock and keep everything moving.
“With used vinyl: stores that are selective, and keep VERY CLEAN used LP’s …. do not take LP’s that are less than VG condition, unless it is something very rare”
“common-as-dirt records in careless condition with high prices? I’m out.”
Does the shop grade their records fairly? Do they take the time to wash them and sleeve them, or do you get them with the same yellowed paper sleeves they were bought in? Are you often flipping past unsleeved records with deep scratches? If so, there’s a good chance that your shop doesn’t even bother checking for condition. Quality control of the inventory says a lot about the shop, and how it’s run.
“…wide aisles, good light, and cleanliness are all also important”
“I hate walking around crates of records on the floor, tripping over them.”
“…good organization…A massive factor!”
-A clean, well organized shop will go a long way towards making its customers feel at home. A comfortable customer hangs around longer. Nothing sucks more than having to dig through disorganized stacks. Alphabetized and genre specific filing categories are essential, as they help point the client in the right direction. Does the shop have piles of records stacked up on top of each other? Is there space to browse, without having to move stuff around? Seek out the shops that takes care of those details. We all like digging, but no one likes wasting time needlessly.
How fair is your local record store, when it comes to selling them your used records? Shops that buy records for a buck each, or by the pound? I generally stay away. Used wax is the lifeblood of any record store; they simply can’t stay open without it. Good stores recognize this and do their best to encourage their clients to think of them, when it comes time to sell or trade in their vinyl. Offering incentives like an additional discount on trades, versus paying out cash,certainly goes a long way towards maintaining customer loyalty.
Does your shop sell accessories like inner and outer sleeves? How about cartridges, brushes, and cleaning liquids? Record stores that have these items available for sale will help cement their reputation as a one-stop shop. If your clients aren’t buying these at your store, they’re buying them elsewhere. Loyal customers appreciate the convenience of a record store which addresses all their vinyl needs.
Does your local shop have a return policy? Does their policy include poorly pressed new releases or just second hand records? Unfortunately, pressing quality on new wax has decreased dramatically as record plants are pushed to the brink of their capacities. If the client is paying for a brand new lp, they shouldn’t have to get stuck with an expensive frisbee. Record stores that post up their return policies avoid having to deal with disgruntled clients. If the customer runs the risk of getting stuck with faulty records, they should at least be warned about it. A store that cannot properly accommodate reasonable return requests doesn’t deserve your business. Vinyl records aren’t cheap.
Does your record store have listening stations available, where a client can test spin a record before buying it? The condition of a used record often cannot be verified simply by visual inspection. Groove damage isn’t visible so you gotta drop the needle on it, to check for pops, clicks and skips. The only way to know for sure is to give it a test spin on a decent turntable. Would you buy a used car without test driving it first? The same logic applies when shopping for vinyl.
Does your favorite store recognize customer loyalty? Offering perks to return customers will go a long way towards keeping them. From discount cards to free records or simple courtesies like putting records aside for you, it all makes a difference. Will the shop owner go through the trouble of helping you track down a record for you? It’s these little extras that show us vinyl geeks that our business is appreciated.
Do They Play Vinyl In-Store?
Does the record store actually spin wax? It may seem like a moot point, but a business that wants to sell you a product, should use that product themselves. If they in-store music is being streamed from Spotify, they can’t be that sold on vinyl themselves. If a shop champions the product they’re selling you, they’ll use it as well.
Supports Local Music/Art
“I love that my shop is involved in expanding people’s exposure to music as they host live performances in the shop”
Finally, any good record shop will support local artists, labels, and concert venues. A record store is a cultural center and as such, should actively involve itself in the local arts scene. From in-store shows to offering consignment deals to musicians with vinyl to sell and concert tickets, supporting local talent is a necessity.
Have we missed anything? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!