To celebrate Record Store Day, we have picked our top 3 record stores that Birmingham has to offer.
If you’re a keen record collector, you’ll know that there is truly nothing better than sifting through the dusty haze of vintage albums at your local record store, or even, waiting at its doors for that extra special new release. From modern artists such as Billie Eilish to heritage acts like The Beatles, you’ll discover music from across a stretch of eras. For this reason, record hunting is always an exciting experience, even if you’ve been to the same shop a dozen times over – you never know what you might stumble upon. Record Store Day is the collector’s treasure chest in terms of finding new and exotic material; with hoards of artist picture discs and limited edition copies, you might find your nearby store is just a little busier than usual (in fact, most serious Record Store Day shoppers will often wait outside before the store is even open). So if you’ll be one of the many eager-eyed customers swarming the stacks trying to find that perfect new addition, why not take a look at our top record stores that will be participating in Birmingham this year. We also took this opportunity to interview some of the record store’s staff to find out what they think of the vinyl revival over the past few years, and what they’re doing to celebrate Record Store Day.
A place that has been living and breathing records since 1952, making it England’s oldest record store. One of the store’s many famous attributes is its stock; as well as selling vintage and newer records, The Diskery sources extremely rare music that you might not come across anywhere else, but also, a variety of items such as gramophones, radios, record players and other retro memorabilia. With passionate customer service and friendly faces behind the checkout desk, this record shop is a gem in Birmingham’s rich historical tapestry.
Located on Corporation Street, this record store not only sells music, but is also part-cafe, so you can enjoy a cup of tea and a delicious slice of cake after a long session of browsing through your favourite artists. Take a look at their menu here.
Swordfish is an independently run record store situated on Dalton Street and has been selling music since 1979. The store is known for its vast variety of records, alongside its inspiring range of memorabilia spanning across a variety of gender and decades. The record store originally sold music of mostly the punk, post-punk and new romantic variety, hence its original name ‘Rockers’. After becoming extremely popular within Birmingham’s local music scene, the store also soon had their own record label and rebranded as Swordfish Records in 1989. If you’re after a record shop that’s full of history, this is the place for you.
A Few Short Conversations
We believe one of the reasons record stores are such a popular places for music fans to visit is because of their character – so tell us a little bit about yours.
We are situated in a five storey Grade II Listed building which has lots of original features and character, which makes our place unique. The interior design has a mixture of vintage style and bespoke furniture that fit nicely with the aesthetics of the building.
What makes an an independent store is what you decide to stock, also to generate an atmosphere where people can come and chat about the music they love…even if they don’t buy anything!
The Diskery is a well-loved institution and Birmingham’s oldest record shop. The store opened in 1952 by Morris Hunting and has been supplying music in the city ever since. The shop is best described by Sam Colley, The Diskery have ‘loyally stuck to the shop fitting blueprint for the classic vinylstore. Faded promo posters – record covers stapled to the roof – and handwritten cardboard labels indicating quirky categories like; ‘Bits and Bobs’, ‘Big Band Goodies and Much More’, and my personal favourite ‘Cheapo Rock’. I especially love the faded sign writing outside the store that promises ‘Good Disco Music’. But, of course, it’s the wonderful team at the Diskery that really makes the store so special.’ The Diskery has always been a popular haunt for many local musicians, who could explore music and exchange ideas, including the likes of Robert Plant, UB40, Slade and Ranking Roger, who are household names today. Many other people have popped into The Diskery from time to time including Lenny Henry, ELO, Jim Bowen, Chaka Khan, Steve Winwood, Black Sabbath, Paul Barber, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Page and Winston Edwards to name but a few. The Diskery continues attracting artists to date. An integral part of The Diskery’s success are the absolute characters or the staff It is their love of music, depth of knowledge and their willingness to share this with everyone who visits The Diskery that has made it the shop that it is today. The atmosphere and banter is renowned. Where else do you get offered a cup of tea as you walk into the shop?
Why do you think records are so popular with today’s modern customers? Where do you think the revival came from?
I think records are becoming more popular for a number of reasons. One, been people want something more tangible and visible to hold and feel, that concerns newly discovered music or something from their favourite artists. Also I think some are tired of scouring the net for music and want the experience of buying a record. The revival I think came from frustration in some cases from people not being satisfied with the way music is being consumed and also with the latest trends of what’s considered a ‘hip’ thing to do.
People like the fact that they have a really nice object with the sleeve and artwork etc, and after growing up listening to music digitally the sound of vinyl can be a revelation. RSD also played a significant part in the vinyl revival by getting younger people interested in going into record shops.
There is no one overriding reason why there has been a revival in vinyl. For us, vinyl never diminished or lost its appeal as a format. It has been well documented that vinyl sales plummeted after the introduction of cd’s, then downloads and streaming. All these formats have a place and anything that gets people listening to music is wonderful. However vinyl as a format for listening to music is unparalleled for overall quality which we think is an important factor in vinyl’s revival. As a shop we never forgot this and neither did so many artists. Artists wanting their music put out on vinyl and the introduction of Record Store Day are important factors in bringing together independent record stores to celebrate and ask for more vinyl to be produced. It really is thanks to an enormous amount of dedication from those independent record stores that stayed afloat that kept the vinyl flame alive. As Record Store Day goes from strength to strength we started to see main stream store like Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s stock vinyl which widened the outlets for vinyl. The revival continues to go on and vinyl is as popular as ever now. Once you’ve picked up an album on vinyl no matter where from, there is something of a totally immersive experience. Album in hand, you take the vinyl out of its sleeve, lower the needle into the grooves, flipping the record halfway -you’re listening to the album as the artist intended from beginning to end. The album cover can be an piece of art in its own right and something to delight in while listening to your chosen music.
What are you doing to celebrate Record Store Day this year?
As well as having a host of DJ sets within the cafe, we have some new and fresh titles in the record bins as well as some second hand goodness. There will be of course a very vibrant atmosphere.
This RSD we will be having an in-store appearance by the legendary reggae artist Dr Alimantado and also will be giving out beers supplied by a local micro brewery.
As we do every year – with a passion for vinyl, welcoming everyone on the day to our fantastic shop. We always have live music and this year will be no different. The Diskery welcomes Abi Budgen a wonderful singer-songwriter who will play an acoustic set. After Abi we then have two well known DJ’s Kap’t Kirk and Guy Halfords that will go head to head in an all vinyl DJ battle.
And finally, we have a lot of brilliant artists at ACM, what would be your advice to getting their music stocked at your store?
Start off small and be realistic with numbers, go with a label you can have a relationship with and if possible, be involved in as much of the process as possible with mastering, etc. Then, come and see us, and we can throw a listening party of some sorts to celebrate your release!
We stock local and unsigned artists which we take on a sale or return basis.
My only piece of advice is come and talk to us – we would relish in any contact from artists at ACM. To be fair, we do this on a regular basis for many other artists, so we would welcome an approach. All year round we try to have live music in the shop especially on a Saturday. Why not come along as an artist and bring your music? If you would like to do this at some point email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to learn more about how ACM can kick-start your career in music, why not come along to one of ACM’s Open Days.