They say cocaine and sugar are the two most addictive substances on the planet. They (whoever ‘they’ are) clearly haven’t gotten into vinyl.
The excitement as news that your favourite artist has dropped a fresh album. The joy of hearing news of a repress of a classic must-have LP. There’s no choice but to scratch that incessant vinyl itch until the stylus lands on the surface and injects life into your speakers. There are some who believe CDs or digital files sound better but in my ears, there is no argument: vinyl rules.
Whether you’re an ageing dad, who loves a musical trip down memory lane, or you’re a Gen Z’er who appreciates the tangible touch and album artwork bypassed by digital music platforms, vinyl is back and stronger than ever.
Fuelled by re-releases, limited edition coloured vinyl and the chase for rare first press albums, the vinyl market is at its strongest since the 80s and with apps such as Discogs (a marketplace similar to eBay) enabling you to catalogue and value your ‘investment’ in vinyl, collecting vinyl has never been so much fun. Even better is sharing your latest find with a community of like-minded enthusiasts on Instagram.
While many afternoons can be pleasurably lost at physical vinyl stores, their online counterparts allow vinyl junkies round-the-clock digital digging as we hunt for our next audio gem.
To that end, we’ve put together a hot list of the internet’s best vinyl shops (in alphabetical order, as all record collections should be) that will enable you to expand your collection and help you find incredible new music without even leaving your home.
Long live vinyl.
Born from the ashes of Beggars Banquet, an iconic and influential label since the 70s, Banquet Records is a musical feast in Kingston-upon-Thames, London. Operating from its physical storefront with a Tardis-like entrance, its online store is a gateway to a wide range of new music – their specialism – from Indie, Rock and Punk, to Hip Hop, Electronica and Funk, plus the latest re-issues and remastered versions of all the classics.
Check out their ‘Banquet Exclusive’ variants of albums too or ‘dinked’ editions’ (an independent record store collaboration to support local record stores). And if you’re lucky, you’ll nab a signed copy or even a gig ticket to see your favourite artist perform locally in Kingston (The Who, Wolf Alice and Lewis Capaldi have all recently played for Banquet). It’s a true indication of their pull within the music industry.
The website also includes YouTube clips so you can check out tracks before you buy, or hop on to Banquet’s lively social media channels where you’ll catch witty posts and video footage of artists in the store signing your LP sleeve.
Ordering online is easy with a useful search facility for genre or artist, and delivery is swift with well- packaged records. Any issues and their Banquet’s team are quick to help over the phone or via email.
You can also use Banquet’s own gift cards online or ‘Record Store’ gift cards that help to support independent record stores. Head straight to the Sales page to pick up a bargain .
A marketplace for individuals to flip their records and stores to sell the wares, Discogs is essentially eBay for music. If you’re looking for an early release LP that you simply can’t track down elsewhere, chances are someone will be selling it on Discogs.
Each item is catalogued according to year of release, territory (i.e. US/UK…) along with comprehensively detailed biographies of the artist/band and record label. So, if you’re seeking that first press release of Paul Weller’s Wild Wood or happy to go with a more recent reissue, you can shop accordingly.
What’s more, each listing is graded on quality of the actual vinyl plus the sleeve itself (although this is subjective but, like eBay, customer reviews are crucial to your seller rating, so authenticity is key). If you buy an LP listed as in mint condition, expect it to be perfect.
What makes Discogs ideal for record collectors is the ability to catalogue your collection and (providing it’s listed accurately) keep tabs on the resale value. You can even ‘wish list’ your wanted albums so when they come up for sale on the site, you’ll receive an alert. I have managed to secure several albums this way that I’d have otherwise missed out on. The website and app also allows you to add friends and build up a community.
Here is where things start to get serious. Juno began in 1996 as one of the first global online record stores and is now the largest dance music and equipment store on the planet.
It is the mecca for any budding DJ or dance music enthusiast, boasting more than 50,000 titles in stock. But their selection doesn’t start and end with dance music – Juno constantly expands into all fields of music.
What they don’t do is list the records they have to backorder from stockists (except pre- orders). This means that if it’s listed when you order, it’ll be dispatched immediately to you on that same day (orders must be made before 5pm). I ordered at 4.30pm and my shiny new album arrived at 9am the following morning.
Search is straightforward. Choose by artist, album title or label and read up on Juno’s review or listen to tracks before you order. Underpinning their status as the authority on all things dance music is its ‘Juno Daily’ page with reviews, exclusive interviews and news features to help keep your finger on the pulse and assist you to discover new music. It’s what makes the world go around.
Having issues? Their customer service and email response are spot-on and gift vouchers are available online too.
With over 22,000 glowing customer reviews it’s no wonder Norman Records is one of the most trusted online places to buy vinyl. What began as a one-man-band printing out hand- sourced lists of records and posting them to customers in the Leeds vicinity in the early 90s has now evolved into a highly reputable online vinyl store that ships over 5000 parcels a month worldwide.
It’s all down to the same values that underpins everything, from the best music, competitive pricing and top-notch customer service. You sense the team running Norman Records deeply care about music. Whilst some online stores merely copy and paste record label promo notes, these guys objectively review albums and also publish regular guides and features on the site to help customers discover new music. It makes it so much easier to decide whether to indulge in another LP for the collection.
Search by genre, artist or label alongside reissues and pre-orders for a diverse and interesting catalogue of music. Shipping is prompt, packaging is bulletproof, and any issues are speedily resolved.
Established in 2003 in the heart of Soho, London by a trio of music aficionados and part of The Vinyl Factory (an independent British company that collaborates with musicians and artists to create ultra- premium handmade limited editions with its own impressive pressing plant), Phonica is the number one destination for Dance and Electronic connoisseurs with funk, soul, hip hop and reggae tracks also available.
Each EP or LP listing has its own play button so you can check out a snippet of the track before you buy. Choose from new releases, best sellers, pre-orders via genre or artist or check out the ‘Staff Charts’ – their team know their stuff and it’s always good place to browse if you’re looking to broaden your musical horizons. Keep an eye out for their Used Records and Sale pages to grab yourself a bargain.
Ordering is a doddle, with a great reputation for packaging and prompt delivery. Phonica also offer their own gift cards, making finding a birthday gift for the vinyl fan in your life incredibly easy.
Look out for the live streamed in-store DJ performances on their Insta account. And for even more bonus content, check out their sister site, offtherecord.net, for more curated and editorial interviews and mixes.
Run by a hugely knowledgeable husband-and-wife team, Resident is a passion project found in the heart of Brighton’s Laines.
Built on solid foundations of warmth, inclusivity and first-class customer service, Resident offers ‘music for all ears, from all eras’. While the bricks-and-mortar record shop makes you feel right at home, the same ethos and environment is reflected online too.
Navigate your way around the new releases, reissues, dinked editions or pre-orders or pop onto the Sale section to grab a discounted find. Customer service is as friendly and efficient online as it is in the shop and delivery is swift and secure.
Online reviews for Resident are glowing. There’s a lot of love out there for the store. Perhaps the most impressive review of all is a testimonial from music god Nick Cave himself: “you are the best f*cking record shop in Britain!”
‘Independent purveyors of great music since 1976’, the first Rough Trade shop was opened in West London and soon launched its own record label, Rough Trade Records, signing bands such as The Smiths and The Libertines. The two are now independently run from each other.
Its reputation for post-punk grew, and other stores soon followed in the capital, along with Nottingham, Bristol and New York. Today, a much wider range of musical genres are available both instore and online with Rough Trade becoming synonymous with the alternative and underground scenes.
Online, you can sense their strong ties to the industry and deep-rooted passion for great music. This is no online store knocking out vinyl; it’s a well-curated and considered collection of pre-orders, new releases and exclusives packed with intelligent reviews of new albums alongside the option to preview tracks to help make up your mind.
The search facility is super useful enabling you to browse by artist, genre or label making ordering a breeze. Packaging and delivery are prompt and the joy of receiving your Rough Trade branded 12” box in the post gives you that little dopamine hit every time. It makes you feel part of an important musical tribe of fellow vinyl lovers.
Check out their Rough Trade Exclusives and their annual ‘Counter Culture’ compilations – their staff’s ‘mix tape’ of the year’s best tunes.
Sister Ray has been selling music from the heart of Soho for 30 years with the friendliest and most enthusiastic staff.
Named after the Velvet Underground track, Sister Ray has survived the twists and turns of the music industry and consumer trends – striding on through the years when the internet signed most other physical retail and record stores’s death certificate.
Through sheer determination and commitment to the vinyl format – and by becoming a major force behind ‘Record Store Day’ and the recent vinyl revival – Sister Ray is one of the UK’s foremost record shops with a reputation as the authority on vinyl.
Their physical shop is legendary (immortalised on the cover of Oasis album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory) but their online store is the gateway to a vast array of music, both new and old. Search for new releases, pre-orders or dinked editions by artist, label or genre and be impressed by the detailed product info, artist bio, track list and soundwave that accompanies most listings offering a great way to expand your knowledge and discover new music. You can even sell your vinyl or pop into their Merch shop or check out their Latest News section with updates on upcoming gigs or reviews.
Ordering is delightfully simple; vinyl will promptly arrive securely packaged and ready to spin. Their online customer reviews are hugely impressive as are their upbeat and efficient staff who are quick to reply and answer any queries pre- or post-purchase.
Need some help curating your collection? Or perhaps you’re stuck for a gift idea for your vinyl-loving nephew? Well, look no further than VinylBox – a monthly subscription-based offering managed by a small group of vinyl lovers with contacts with the top vinyl suppliers.
From a range of around 14 genred collections (check out the ‘Amsterdam Coffee House’ or ‘Woody Cook’s House Party’ – two of their most popular categories) you will receive around three albums per month, depending on your subscription. Each will come from eight 4 or 5 star-rated album options but you get to veto two in case you already have them or the artists isn’t your bag.
What’s more, new subscribers receive a welcome pack worth £50 and access to rare and limited-edition albums from ‘The Vault’.
With a core customer range of 25-35 year olds, this subscription-based method of collecting vinyl is proving very popular and with great flexibility it allows you to try new music and receive albums that you perhaps wouldn’t had picked up or stick to genres you know and love. Keep an eye out for the exclusive events for members along with pop-up shops
With humble beginnings of a Huddersfield market stall n the mid-80s to a leap of faith into the online sales market in the late 90s, Vinyl Tap has meteorically grown into one of the UK’s biggest independent record sellers.
Its secret? Offering a wide range of artists and bands spanning across all musical genres and with a vast stock of around 250,000 items to order there really is something for everyone. Vinyl Tap (who doesn’t love a musical pun?) offers its own gift vouchers and also accept the ‘Record Store Tokens’.
The site is vast but with a useful artist search facility and the option to browse by genre, you’ll find what you’re after in no time, whether it’s a new release, pre-order or existing stock.
But that’s not all. Vinyl Tap has a vast offering of second-hand records and they’re all graded meticulously so you know what you’ll be getting. Ordering in simple, and it is made clear whether your choice is in stock or is ‘available to order’, meaning that it’ll be ordered in from their supplier catalogues but with orders placed every day, waiting time is kept to a minimum.
Each entrant on this list has been chosen because of their impeccable reputation between fellow vinyl obsessives. I’ve bought from all of them, scrutinising the ease of searching for an LP, ordering and delivery. They all exceed expectations: you won’t go wrong with any of them.
My preferred online record store is Sister Ray for the ease of navigation through a plethora of albums and the non-pretentious, warm help from staff. You feel part of the family. The little sticker that accompanies your album in the packaging is a nice little touch too. They clearly love their music and have survived the leaner years of vinyl collecting – not bad for what began as a Camden Market stall.
Close runner up is Juno for similar reasons as Sister Ray, but just knowing that the albums listed are actually in stock and chances are you’ll receive your order securely in the post the following day works for me. When you get that vinyl itch, it needs scratching pronto.