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Record Shopping

The Secret Rules of Record Shopping

You don't get this on Beatport.

by Josh Baines
24 April 2015, 1:59pm

What did you get up to last Saturday? A nice walk in the park? A quiet pint and a crafty fag in the park? A half price main course for two at a restaurant that does deals with Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert, perhaps? Well, good for you. For a lot of people, the Saturday just gone meant one thing and one thing only: Record Store Day.

RSD is a chance for labels to put out special editions of records you didn't really want until they slapped on a bonus remix by a producer you don't really care about and bundled it with a four page comic, got pressed on marbled vinyl and cost twice as much as a record normally does. Brooker-esque cynicism aside, RSD is a Good Thing inasmuch as it gets people flocking to our nation's beleaguered shops and dropping some cold hard cash on Beady Eye 7"s, Pink Floyd reissues and Call of Duty tie-in picture discs. Which means the shops then — in theory — have extra fiscal resources which means they can y'know, actually stay open.

Everyone likes the idea of going record shopping but the actuality of it can be dispiriting, frustrating, disappointing. You probably won't find the record you've been searching for all these years. That battered selection of Trax tracks you took a chance on for the price of a pint will probably be flatter than a Kronenbourg from Wetherspoons. You're likely to come home dejected, delving into a Dominos for comfort. It doesn't have to be like that though. Here's a few tips to get the most out of the experience.

DO EXPECT SNOBBISHNESS

The author's "I bought all these and they still think I'm a twat" face in full flow (all photos by Angus Harrison)

I've spent exactly one day of my life working in a record shop and it was exactly as you'd expect. As a student who'd finally hit the rock bottom of an already extended overdraft I needed work to pay for the four cans and six wings I'd grown accustomed to as my dinner. I liked records and I liked buying records so it made sense to apply for a job in a shop where I could buy records with my wages. I took a general pop culture knowledge test, passed with flying colours, and was given the specialist exam. Which I passed with faltering colours. A trial shift was arranged. This was going to be a piece of piss, right?

A few minutes into the morning I asked the supervisor what I thought was a reasonable question to ask on a first shift.

"What's the average day here like?"

"We buy fucking records and sell fucking records. What the fuck else do you think we do?"

Right. It got tougher from there. Placing a avant-jazz CD in the acid-jazz section saw me packed off the the general branch of the shop, just down the road, where I spent a few dismal hours writing "£4" on stickers and sticking those stickers on CDs until I received a phone call telling me to go home and never come back.

What I learned in those fleeting few hours was that blokes who work in record shops don't really like people who don't work in record shops and will make snide comments about those people when they've left with their purchases. You can't impress them, you can't please or placate them, so don't even try. They've either already got the acetate or the record you want or it's so embarrassing that you want said record that you might as well not have ears you fucking dolt.

DON'T TRY AND ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION

"Shall we go for a pint later and talk about records? No? Oh."

Obviously don't just sawn up the counter, headphones in, slam your choices on the counter and wordlessly hand over your debit card and slink off because that makes you the kind of twat that ruins every retail worker's day. The key is to be polite, friendly, and always remember to speak when you're spoken to. If the person behind the till wants a quick chat about the Margret Dygas 12" you've brought over then that's great. Don't just assume they'll always want to talk about the B side or how great Rashad at Dubplates & Mastering is. There's nothing worse than overhearing someone nervously blather on about how they've only bought that scratchy copy of "Good Times" by Chic for 25p because they're "playing out at the weekend and it's nothing serious and just a laugh and it's cheesy but it'll go down well hopefully." You don't feel the need to justify your copy of the Beano to the retail assistant at WH Smith do you?

DO PLAN A ROUTE

It doesn't matter if you've explicitly come in to get that Robert Hood re-press you covertly slipped behind the Wham records in the bargain basement — the only way to win the respect of the surly dudes in there is to pretend you're really interested in the new industrial techno releases, the Nu Groove section, the experimental 7"s and the Bauhaus bin. Pick things up and pretend to check the credits on the back, slip the odd record from it's sleeve and 'check' the quality of the vinyl, hell, maybe even study a few CDs. Whatever you do, don't walk straight to the cheapo area where everything is scratched to fuck but costs a quid or less. Doing that makes you look cheap and everyone knows that record shop employees sleep on beds woven from fifty pound notes and bathe in Fiji water so it's really important that you don't look right in front of them. At least pretend you're really thinking hard about dropping a night out's worth of cash on a Villalobos single.

DON'T EVER ASK FOR ANYTHING

Just keep flipping through, pretend you're still looking.

You've been good this month and only been to the pub seven times so far. You've got a few quid in the bank, payday's in a week's time and for the first time in ages you're not doubled over with money related worry. You want to go out and get those L.I.E.S. singles you've had your eye on for a while, so you hop into town, extract a crisp twenty from the ATM and bundle in, bright eyed and bushy tailed. You zip through the racks waiting for that magic moment when that 12" is in your hands and you already feel excited about getting home and sliding a finger nail into the cellophane and slapping it on the platter. Except your search is fruitless. You can't find what you're after. You quickly look over at the till. The clerk is scrolling through Discogs, scratching his beard and scowling. You've got two options. You can either interrupt him and get rejected, or you can quietly leave the shop. Always do the latter. Why? Because if it's not there, they don't have it. Deal with it.

DO PREPARE FOR PAIN

The stance that fucked a thousand feet.

You know what puts me off going to art galleries? Aside from the tourists, the braying middle class children and the stultifying smugness that emanates out of every pore of every single person in a gallery? Back ache. Honestly, you spend a quiet few hours peering down at those little descriptions which interpret art for you — because who's got the capacity to actually engage with art on their own terms, right — and you leave a fiver lighter — you couldn't say no to all those postcards because they really perk your room in halls up — feeling like you just let Prosumer give you a piggy back. The same goes with spending a day bobbing in and out of record shops. You've got to get ready for a lot of peering, craning, sifting. It hurts. It really hurts. And, god, carrying it home too! By the time you've dragged your sorry self to the bus stop that deluxe, three LP version of DJ Assault's Belle Isle Tech pressed on 180g vinyl you just HAD to have will be something you resent from that day until the warm embrace of the grave.

On that cheery note, happy record shopping everyone!

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