Vinyl Sale: NYC Music Stores

Jonathan Zeller
Updated 12/09/2015

Before fans went online for music, they got in line. And though the information age has made acquiring one's jams more convenient, there's still plenty to be said for the irreplaceable value of brick-and-mortar record shops—where Facebook won't automatically generate a post announcing “Billy just bought Business as Usual by Men at Work on vinyl”—instead of the cold digital expanse of Spotify or iTunes. As a matter of fact, US record sales climbed by 32 percent in 2013.

Whether you're looking for the latest release from Diiv, classic salsa by Héctor Lavoe or a well-worn copy of H20 by Hall & Oates, there's one thing you'll be sure to find at these music dispensaries: the human touch. (And if you're looking for Rick Springfield's “Human Touch,” you may also be in luck.)

By the way, as long as you've got records on your mind, check out our roundup of famous New York City album cover locations.

Rough Trade NYC
The newest major arrival on the NYC record-store scene is this London import. Their Williamsburg outpost features not only an ample music selection, but also an exhibition room and a cafe. The space is now finally soundproofed, and hosts shows as well—some free and some ticketed. They don't sell used records, and there aren't bargain prices, but indie-rock fans may want to drop by all the same.

Come here if you like:
• Sondre Lerche
• The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
• Ingrid Michaelson

Generation Records
Screeching guitars. Painted faces. Primal yelps. Some music scares parents. Generation provides an onslaught of such hard-core, punk and metal—including enough vinyl to fill a mosh pit. Jason, a manager at the store, chalks up the Greenwich Village institution's continued success to the loyalty of those genres' fans. “Metal and punk guys are always buying records, [and] that keeps us going,” he says. If you're lucky, you may even catch a favorite act performing in-store (but don't thrash so hard you knock over the albums).

Come here if you like:
• …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
• Bridge and Tunnel
• Agnostic Front

Academy Records
Academy Records. Photo: Malcolm Brown

Academy Records
Think your records are ancient? Some music predates LPs entirely. Those who rock it really old school can take heart in Academy's extensive secondhand classical catalog. According to owner Joseph Ganun, “If you want the original cover art and a nice package [for certain rare recordings], the only way you'll find it is in a secondhand store like this one.” Academy doesn't forget the past hundred years or so, either. Its jazz selection is outstanding, and there are also rock, folk and R&B gems scattered throughout, plus a nice selection of used DVDs.

Come here if you like:
• Johann Sebastian Bach
• Louis Armstrong
• Philip Glass

Other Music
Other Music. Photo: Malcolm Brown

Other Music
True to its name, Other Music wants patrons to discover new artists. “It's about coming in and finding a lot of interesting, diverse underground music,” says co-owner Josh Madell. Whether you like indie rock, electronic music or experimental jazz, this is the place to find high-quality tunes that haven't hit the mainstream. The shop also prides itself on supporting local musicians (of which New York City has no shortage).

Come here if you like:
• Grimes
• Deerhunter
• The Flaming Lips

Earwax. Photo: Malcolm Brown

Earwax owner Fabio Roberti feels strongly about tastemaking in his hip Williamsburg neighborhood and prefers his store's carefully chosen inventory to “all the [hogwash] that's on every website on the planet. There's a lot of [hogwash] out there.” If you want to leap from The xx to the next next big thing, Earwax's knowledgeable staff may clue you in to your new favorite band. And, as befits its name, Earwax has a huge selection of vinyl.

Come here if you like:
• Roots, blues, country
• Psychedelic rock, Krautrock, alternative rock
• Noise/experimental, world music, reggae

The Thing
The Thing. Photo: Malcolm Brown

The Thing
The Thing is an ever-growing blob of $2 vinyl and whatever else its proprietors find. Previously seen in the space: African statues, theater costumes, carnival props, paintings and found photos from family collections. Though searching the piles almost requires spelunking gear, customers often unearth the valuable and unusual. Just shop with an open mind. If you come in looking for a specific record, you're unlikely to find it—but if you're in search of something new, you'll probably be in luck.

Come here if you like:
• Secondhand appliances
• Every John Coltrane record shoved into one sleeve
• Entropy

Casa Amadeo
This venerable store has stood on the same block for half a century, fueled by owner Mike Amadeo's love for and knowledge of music. This isn't the spot to seek out the latest chart-toppers, as they essentially never receive new inventory: “Anyone who has any sense about what music is can come to me and I'll help them out, but not with the reggaetón,” explains Amadeo. It's a place for classics—including tunes by artists like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Cheo Feliciano, for whom Amadeo has composed. Amadeo also sells musical instruments. He only recommends that you call ahead if you're looking for a specific record, lest you be disappointed.

Come here if you like:
• Tito Puente
• Willie Colón
• Héctor Lavoe

Fifth Avenue Records and Tapes
This Park Slope gem is overflowing with used vinyl (they have new records, too, but the pre-played collection is massive). The stockpile is cramped and not particularly organized, but perusing the offerings is frequently rewarding. In addition to albums, the store carries a large selection of 45s from such standbys as the Beatles and Bob Dylan. There are even cassettes and eight-tracks on the shelves. There are also fantastic finds in the bargain bins outside: anything from show tunes to Phil Collins, Supertramp and Chicago can end up out there. (We saw a vinyl copy of Billy Joel's Storm Front, which, in certain circles, is pretty exciting.) The owner, Anthony, offers the kind of personality that we want from our record store proprietors. When a young couple purchased a Paula Abdul record recently, he gave the album a cursory glance and dryly remarked, “I used to date her.”

Come here if you like:
• The Beatles
• Kenny Loggins
• Density—the small space holds a huge collection that's always changing

Black Gold
Black Gold is a candidate for “Brooklyn-est Store in Brooklyn.” Not only does it accommodate both vinyl snobs and coffee snobs—groups that both thrive in the borough—but it also carries taxidermy. Asked about the unusual combination, co-owner Summer replies that it was a natural fit: “We're all collectors of records, antiques and big, avid coffee drinkers, so it just kind of made sense to us.” Like the store concept itself, the music selection is wide ranging. While the collection is mainly rock, Summer reports, “We have a lot of weird foreign stuff [and] a lot of rare soul.” Now all we need is a record-pickling station.

Come here if you like:
• Coffee
• Taxidermied animals
• Rock, soul, world music

Music Matters
The very essence of a small local record store, Music Matters' inventory is more about what Park Slope denizens want than anything else. Jason, the owner, sums up the motivation behind his purchasing decisions as “neighborhood demand.” Indeed, the shop's collection is curated to meet Park Slope's taste—a healthy dose of indie rock is available on CD and vinyl, with new releases coming in every week. Loyalty is rewarded here: customers get their 16th vinyl album free after filling up a punch card. The store is small, but Jason will order anything you're looking for that isn't on hand.

Come here if you like:
• Radiohead
• Fiona Apple
• Personal attention

Norman's Sound and Vision
Many a record aficionado was bummed at the closing of long-running East Village record-and-video emporium Norman's Sound and Vision—but the place reemerged soon after in Williamsburg, which may be home to the City's highest concentration of vinyl buyers. Norman himself is knowledgeable and glad to talk about music, and the $1 bins hold rewards for those willing to dig. Some of us even learned how to clean musty old vinyl with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol from this shop's friendly staff.

Come here if you like:
• Classic rock
• Standards and show tunes
• $1 records




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