See our 5 London Record Store stops on the following page.
DJ ‘culture’ is more popular now than it’s ever been. Whatever you think of the Skrillex’ or Diplos of this world, their typical image – headphones perched on head, one hand on a turntable, the other hand pointing to a sweaty crowd of gurning dancers – sells product. Big booze brands love a DJ and the 2 discs of vinyl spinning in front of them. It’s cool right? It’s Authentic.
The sad irony? These colossuses of the music world are more likely knee deep in MacBook software like Ableton, than actually spinning a 12″ record. The MP3 vs Vinyl debate is one for dinner party musos to ponder. However, most sensible people agree a nice thick slab of 180 gram vinyl, encased in a lovingly painted cover is a thing of beauty. By the way, CDs are cool too.
So, it’s important we cherish the hard-working, long suffering music vendors of London who earn a crust by selling music that can be stored on a shelf, not just in a computer. These people create and ride scenes, shape tastes and are happy to listen to you tunelessly hum a song you’ve been seeking for years. London does record shops brilliantly. Visit them and learn something.
If you’re thinking of opening a record shop and want a shred of credibility, you’d be advised to learn from SOTU. Champions of genres like Dubstep from their inception. Curators of some of the deepest, most relevant compilations around. Organisers of some of the best, longest running parties in London (and beyond). The shop itself – situated on a busy corner in Soho – comes across a bit Nick Hornby ‘High Fidelity’, with its wooden racks and cramped aisles. That’s not an insult – records shops should have that hemmed-in feel so you can smell other customer’s excitement. Ace bargain basement and a great place to buy promos before your friends do. So much to love here.
7 Broadwick Street, Soho, W1F 0DA
There’s something about this shop that shouts a nice, loud “f**k you” at the culture of online record-digging that’s developed over the last decade. Once you’ve swerved the armies of Goths on the pavements outside, you’re greeted with a musty smell only used records can emit. Over two levels – upstairs rock/pop, downstairs soul, jazz, house – this is a temple to pre-loved vinyl and CDs that begs you to dig deep. The staff are slightly dismissive, but in fairness, if you had to listen to drunk record-obsessives drone on about obscure Estonian folk, you’d also develop a crusty shell of indifference. It’s a London institution born in the 60’s, where you learn what you like without spending a fortune.
208, Camden High Street, NW1 8QR
A newcomer to London’s record shop scene, and frankly, a winner from the day it opened in London’s faux-hipster epicentre, Dalston. A vinyl-only venture, it doesn’t constrain itself to one particular music style – deep house sits comfortably alongside Krautrock, Reggae, Jazz and Crabstep*. Sensibly their stock buying policy extends to used gems, a legacy of the owner’s time working at Record & Tape Exchange. A growing reputation among DJs and regular in-store performances take Kristina records beyond a passion-project and into something properly fresh when buying music in town. (*made up)
44 Stoke Newington Road, N16, 7XJ
Soho has a long history of significant record emporiums, unfortunately many of them have moved online or gone completely offline. However, over the last 9 years, Phonica on Poland Street has bucked this trend to become a beacon for any self-respecting music buyer. If you can get past the slightly off-hand counter service, you’ll appreciate the quality of music on offer – mostly cutting edge House – selected by staff who are respected DJs, producers and promoters in their own right. Arguably one of Europe’s hottest spots to buy dance music their parties sell out in days.
51 Poland Street London W1F 7LZ
The original Rough Trade began in 1976 and floated around various sites in west London, selling Jamaican & US imports, new wave demos and obscure fanzines. Then it decided it was time to settle down, eat more complex carbs, start a family and take on a mortgage. After much pushing, the fruit of it’s loins landed in ‘East End hotspot’ Brick Lane. What makes Rough Trade East worth a visit? It’s intelligent buying policy, a hassle-free browsing experience and a proper commitment to live music with a specific live space in the building. They’ve worked hard to retain mummy Rough Trade’s boho feel, without smelling like mothballs and gin.
Dray Walk, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL