Video killed the radio star and it would seem that most trends from the 1960s, 70s and 80s stayed in the 20th century. The same isn’t true for vinyl records. After going through a long period of descent in 1990s and 2000s as a result of the rise of the CD and digital music, vinyls have made a great comeback.
As of January, the vinyl industry crept to over $1 billion in value — a huge milestone largely thanks to inexpensive record players and vintage vinyls, and exposure in large chain stores like Urban Outfitters and HMV (RIP).
The vinyl industry is valued higher than most free streaming services, so the demand is obviously there. The supply is too, but shopping for records can still be a little tricky. The first thing to avoid is getting records at major stores (even Hudson's Bay sells vinyl now) and to instead support a local record store.
There are countless shops nestled into the nooks and crannies of Vancouver, so here’s a little guide outlining some of the best this city has to offer.
Dandelion Records — 2442 Main St.
Dandelion Records may not have the biggest location, but they take advantage of it. Columns and columns of records take up almost all of the floor space, except for at the front where you can buy different artisanal goodies ranging from ornaments to locally produced candies and honey.
The shop has been around for around eight years, making it one of the oldest shops on its street, with an extremely convenient location on Main Street, right near Broadway and a 99 B-Line stop.
The best part about Dandelions is the variety. If your musical tastes range outside the most popular genres and regions, then this is the place for you to shop. There are rows upon rows of records of every type of music that you can name, from just about any place on Earth.
When I went the first time, I picked up a vintage Iggy Pop record that was in great shape, as well as an old copy of Blizzard of Oz. I got both for $20, which was surprising considering the fact that punk and metal records are way harder to come by than other genres from the time.
It’s kind of hard to comprehend how they’re able to fit thousands of records into such a tight space, but they find a way. In fact, there are so many records that not all of them have been catalogued and priced. This isn’t anything to worry about because the owners at Dandelion will give you more than a fair offer.
Red Cat Records — 4332 Main St and 2447 E Hastings St.
Red Cat Records is one of the more recognized names in the Vancouver vinyl market, having two stores and being independently owned since its founding just over a decade ago. Both locations offer great variety in terms of new releases and vintage records. Each location boasts a sizable collection of both Vinyls and CDs (for all you 90s lovers). Red Cat also sells concert tickets for any midsize show in the city, so basically anything that isn’t at BC Place or Rogers Arena.
Going and picking up the tickets at the store actually lets you skip on certain fees and charges depending on the venue and artist.
Back to vinyls, Red Cat is the perfect shop if you’re a newbie to the whole trend. They sell a variety of turntables, and tend to keep a solid collection of the foundation records that every collector needs such as old Zeppelin records or Hotel California.
Another plus to this shop is how neatly the records are organized and how the vintage vinyls are kept in incredibly good condition. Some of the records that are over 30 years old look like they’re almost new — something that still flabbergasts me.
The prices are also incredibly fair, with most vintage records priced around the$8–10 range. Plus, the newer releases are never marked up from their original price, which is something you tend to see in other shops and especially department stores that try to sell a handful of records.
Zulu Records — 1972 W 4th Ave.
Zulu Records is probably the oldest name when it comes to record stores in Vancouver. The shop has been around for the last 35 years, having opened in 1981, and features a diverse collection including a pretty good range of smaller seven-inch discs. There is a nice mix of new releases and older records of which they are constantly buying.
There’s also a huge discount section where you can pick up a ton of records for a low price. They might not be the most well-known artists, but it's a good way to discover something new and save money. They also have an extensive CD and DVD collection for you to browse.
The best part about Zulu has to be the way everything is organized by genre. The systematic approach the shop owners took leaves you finding what you’re looking for in no time. The prices are fair too and you’re bound to find some hidden gems for under $10.
Like Red Cat, Zulu also sells concert tickets for most shows across the city. It’s also a great place to go if you’re just starting a collection, as they do sell some good vintage vinyl players and equipment at fair prices.
Vinyl Records — 321 W Hastings St.
When going to Vinyl Records on Hastings, one must bring two things. The first is a stuffed wallet, and the second is a bucket to carry your brain which exploded when you first walked in and saw the store.
This place is no joke and it carries over 50,000 pieces of vinyl at its Gastown location. It’s one thing to have a shitload of records, it's a whole other thing to have everything you could possibly be looking for. There are so many records that owner David Jones had to not only have a Beatles section, but also a separate section for every damn album the Beatles dropped. There are so many copies of classics that some are put into a sale section in the front of the store just to make room.
To put it in perspective, it took me at least a year to find a vintage copy of Dark Side of the Moon. This place had at least five on the shelves. There is even variety in the pressings — the first visit to this shop yielded a Japanese copy of The Clash. Punk records are hard to find, The Clash records are very hard to find and good conditions of Japanese pressings on this side of the Pacific are incredibly hard to find. Add all three of these things together and you can get why I said to bring your wallet stuffed.
This is the place to go to if you are really having a hard time finding a certain record. It’s also great if you’ve just started because you’ll be able to stock up on some of the classics and necessities that any good collection needs.
A plus is that David Jones has a show on CiTR called African Rhythms, which has aired every Friday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. for the last 23 years.
There you have it — a guide to some of the best vinyl shops that Vancouver has to offer. Now get out there and start collecting because let's be honest, a vinyl collection is that last thing separating you from being the inevitable Vancouverite hipster that you’re bound to become.