record shopping

For all manner of reasons, my patience is wearing very thin with the productivity black hole that is Facebook. One thing that continues to irk me is the endless posting of vinyl DJs looking down upon digital DJs. This meme in particular keeps appearing, and has done so enough times for this veteran vinyl-buying DJ to explain what was so great about tracking down records for those who perhaps haven’t experienced the unmitigated joy of record shopping. Yes, my tongue is wedged very firmly in my cheek.

You had to leave the house? To buy music?

Record buying started with checking out the newest releases on the radio or reading about them in magazines. If you found tracks that you liked, you’d have to travel to your nearest record shop to lay your hands on the latest releases. This could be as simple as popping into town on the bus to get the latest top 30 tracks (yes just 30 back then), but the chances are that as a specialist DJ, you’d have to travel further afield on the train to the bright lights of the big city, where they would have imports from the US too. Already, this is taking time and money on what could potentially be a wasted journey.

Now, even though you may have travelled some distance to do your vinyl shopping, there was no guarantee whatsoever that they’d have the vinyl you wanted at all. They may have had a very limited number, most of which were kept under the counter for special customers (aka their DJ mates), or perhaps only had one copy, which in the whole scheme of things wasn’t always an ideal situation for DJs. It was even possible that the track was so sought after that only the biggest cities would have the vinyl at all, meaning you missing out completely, unless of course the record shop was happy to order it, which would mean coming back next week to pick it up. Yes, next week.

The experience in the record shop wasn’t always straightforward either. There was no magical search button — you had to like use your hands and shit to rummage through the racks, that although listed alphabetically weren’t automagically kept in order. But sometimes devious DJs would put vinyl in other racks before heading off to get cash so you wouldn’t find it first. I never did that. Honest.

They didn’t all have listening facilities, or perhaps had just one turntable behind the counter, and weren’t always so happy about breaking the seal on the fresh import 12″ retailing for an insane £4.99. So you often had to take a leap of faith simply on the label alone. I certainly learned a few harsh and expensive lessons this way.

So at this point, you may or may not have the vinyl you wanted, or may have dropped serious cash on tracks that you have no idea about. And it has cost you time and money to get this far. So you venture home, with a heavy bag full of vinyl, looking forward to breaking the seal and breathing in the smell of fresh imported vinyl.

It’s scratched before I can scratch it

Oh dear. It seems that the 12″ import is warped. Or scratched. Or sounds like pure arse, both musically and from a mastering and pressing plant perspective (shock horror — not all vinyl sounds awesome). So that investment in time and money is pretty much in the toilet, with nothing to show apart from a carrier bag full of shitty music that you can’t play, and most probably nobody wants to hear anyway. Awesome – just bloody awesome.

So summing up at this point — record shopping was a lengthy and often expensive pursuit, with absolutely no guarantee of success, and the end product being something that would wear out, get damaged or in many cases stolen.

Sounds awesome right new DJs? Well for those of who knew no better because the internet wasn’t a thing, yes it was the most awesome thing ever. And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I’ve painted very much of a worst case scenario, but it’s important for us vintage diggers to take off our rose tinted glasses. Sometimes, a lot of times in fact, it was a completely shitty soul destroying experience. But ultimately I have a physical collection of records and the memories that go with them. They are a tangible part of who I am, as will all the records that I continue to add to my collection.

Compare and Contrast

Today’s music buyer is inundated with thousands of tracks every week, all of which can be quickly searched, listened to, bought, and curated from just about anywhere in the world, and in their digital crates within seconds. Be it your sofa, toilet, airport, or beach, the latest hottest music is waiting for you to press “buy”. And it won’t be warped, single copies, or just crap music either. Nor will it wear out, take up valuable shelf space, or break your back to transport. And it’s considerably cheaper too. Your unbreakable huge collection of music you actually want sits safely in your pocket and can be with you at all times. Mission accomplished. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to do that in the 80s.

Understand now?

So new DJs, which one sounds better to you? Obviously the latter scenario makes the most sense, and with good reason. But it’s grossly unfair for a purist to look down upon a digital DJ because they haven’t dug crates or experienced the joy of record shopping — because it simply isn’t relevant to new DJs. Most DJs cannot buy the hottest tracks on vinyl, which really does scupper any argument that purists might have anyway. Record shopping simply isn’t possible for DJs the same way it was in pre-digital times, thus has NO RELEVANCE for them. Hell, taking blu rays back to Blockbusters is becoming a distant memory, let alone finding a record shop.

Record shopping ruled, but sucked too

So please, the next time you feel the need to bemoan new DJs and look down upon them, let’s remember that for the most part, they can’t be vinyl DJs even if they wanted to. And no matter how hard we pontificate about the good old days, buying music in physical form has zero relevance to them anymore.

Tell us!

What’s your best and worst record buying experience? Do you miss those days? Or do you feel that new DJs have got a much better music buying experience?


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