Getting Your Fix : A Newbie’s Guide to the Art of Crate Digging

Vinyl Junkie Marilou takes us through her crate digging tips

Digging crates is an art. It demands practice, knowledge and commitment. You need patience and the eye of a hawk to spot the good stuff. Fear not, grasshopper, I’m here to guide you on your crate digging adventures so you can find all the treasures you desire for your record collection.

670px-Buy-Used-LP-Records-Step-3Bullet1About Used Records

Unless you intend to frame it for hanging up somewhere, the condition of a piece of wax is key. Is it clean and shiny? Does it have any surface marks? When in doubt, ask for a test spin and judge for yourself. Most good record shops will have a listening area of some kind.  If the record was kept in a yellowing paper sleeve, you may want to change it for a plastic one. Degraded particles of paper can get into the grooves and affect the sound.

What is it With The Wild Prices?

The Discogs smartphone app can’t come soon enough. Watch for inflated prices. Used record prices can vary a fair bit, from one shop to another. Besides, the amount you paid for your record doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like it more.  I’ve paid ridiculously cheap sums for albums that I love and spin often, and I’ve shelled out for albums that I enjoy but won’t play that often. Price doesn’t represent how good the music is, or how much you’ll enjoy listening to it. Personally, I get my kicks digging for cheap vintage copies of classics; that’s usually where you’ll find me. I’m not big on fancy new pressings, although some reissue labels offer great options for a fair price, I’m thinking Light In The Attic, Sundazed, Back to Black, and Stones Throw.

25 cents

Flip through the cheap stacks! You never know!

The $1-$2 Crate : Worth It?

Yes. And no. Don’t expect too much out of it, but don’t snob it either. You’ll find some gems every now and then, but you should be prepared to trawl through a lot of terrible stuff too. It’s a random treasure hunt which requires patience but offers the hope of very big reward. No one forgets their big scores, they’re like our fishing tales.  It can also be good way to replace a trashed cover of something you already have, or get a friend an extra copy of something you love.  Crate digging for others is fun!

Original pressing, Color vinyl, 180 Gram, Re-mastered,  Which Features Matter?

Original pressings can be awesome. Technically, it represents the closest and most accurate reproduction of what the artist originally intended. Not always though. Sometimes, mispressed or poorly made originals will sound horrible.  The issues are fixed only on later pressings. Again, research will help you.  Some mis-presses are collector’s items due to their rarity, even if they sound bad. You can read more about Original vs. Reissues, and all of these topics can be discussed at your local record shop or with your fellow Vinyl Junkies.

The color of the vinyl won’t affect the sound.  It’s just meant to look pretty as it spins, a cosmetic thing. Often, record labels will put out different color variants of the same record. They all sound the same, but it’s generally a ploy to get collectors to buy the same record, multiple times.

180g simply indicates a heavier, theoretically more durable vinyl platter that’s less prone to warping. It’s nice to have but the weight or thickness does not make the record sound any better. A poorly mastered record will sound bad, no matter how heavy the vinyl is. I’ve also seen 180g vinyl that came warped, right out of the shrinkwrap.

Indie Record Shop or mega Music Store?

I can’t possibly be objective on this one.  My local independent record stores will always get my vote over any HMV or Urban Outfitters. It’s great that vinyl is getting more attention in the news and shelf space with big retailers.  It gives the wider public an opportunity to discover the forgotten wonders of the vinyl format. Unfortunately, HMV or a clothing boutique won’t offer the same experience of a smaller indie place. You want the air to smell like records, not disinfectant. In the case of HMV their selection is often pricey and not very diverse, top sellers only.

Beatnick Records

Beatnick Records

When I visit my favourite record store, I feel at home. The staff at Beatnick have gotten to know me and always make it so I get the greatest service and have a pleasant time, while I’m there. Small perks like getting first dibs on the new arrivals, or throwing in a free record with my purchase, feels nice and keeps me coming back. I could never get that at HMV, no matter how often I’d go.


Random Tips

-Start with the New Arrivals crates when you go to the record store; the hunt for the freshest treasure begins there.

-Chat with the staff, ask for suggestions based on your tastes, or ask them what they discovered lately. The more they know you, the better the experience will be.

digging-Picture discs are good looking but rarely sound good. Unless it’s just for show, don’t expect much.

-Take your time, dig deep, and don’t be afraid to reach for those hard to reach crates. Those are the ones that get dug out the least.

-Keep an open mind. We all have our want lists but don’t let it stop you from checking out a record with a cool looking cover.  Don’t hesitate to try new stuff, it’s the new (to you) discoveries that make crate digging so much fun.

That’s all folks, but the journey of a vinyl junkie never ends. May the vinyl spirits guide your fingers!