If you’re traversing the U.S. this spring and are a fan of buying local, we’ve got a great way for you to do that. Record Store Day is held on one Saturday every April, and it’s a great excuse to shop local while traveling. If you’re as big a music fan as we are, and like to get into the nooks and crannies of a town or city while traveling, local record stores are a fun addition to any itinerary!
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Record Store Day: Shop Local While Traveling
Record Store Day becomes more important with each passing year. With so many local independent businesses struggling and/or closing their doors permanently (especially in 2020), supporting local economies is vital. It’s even more important if you’re traveling and just passing through a place. Skip those mega-chain stores that you can find at home, buy local, and get a real taste for the culture! But first…
What Is Record Store Day?
Conceived in 2007, Record Store Day came from a group of independent record store owners and employees that wanted to find a way to celebrate their passion. They wanted to spread the word that this cool and unique culture was still alive, and provided a bond between the businesses, their customers, and the artists as well. The first Record Store Day took place in April of 2008, and today there are participating stores on every continent except Antarctica. What separates this day from any other day at the shop is that special releases, limited editions, promotional products, and other fun goodies are made available specifically for Record Store Day.
Good question! Many stores do, and there’s a very good chance that the one you want to visit is one of them. You can find the stores participating in Record Store Day here. Just click your desired state on the interactive map, and you’ll get a handy list of stores in that state.
This is the fun part, and there’s a special release to satisfy every taste! Hundreds of artists all drop something special for #RSD. You can see each year’s Record Store Day releases here. Check out one of Andie’s faves: Pearl Jam’s first single, Alive celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2021, and was available on 12” vinyl and cassette single! Show of hands – who remembers “cassingles?” Nice one, Pearl Jam!
Buy Local On Record Store Day
Two of our personal favorite things are travel and music, and we think Record Store Day is a great inspiration for combining both, while encouraging shopping local across the U.S.. With that framing in mind, we’ve chosen five independent record stores that we feel represent their communities and are worth paying a visit any time you might be in the neighborhood.
Top 5 Independent Record Stores In The U.S.:
Amoeba Music in L.A. is the world’s largest independently-owned record store. Boasting 20,000 square feet, two-stories, and millions of new and used vinyl, CDs, and more, it’s almost as iconic as the legendary Sunset Boulevard. There’s even a whole separate room dedicated specifically to jazz. And oh yeah, it also doubles as a live music venue! Countless artists have grace its stage – from up-and-coming indies to Sir Paul McCartney. Opened in 2001, it is the chain’s third location, after Berkeley and San Francisco. The store more recently relocated to Hollywood Boulevard, just a few blocks away. Opening for business on April 1, 2021, the new location maintains the massive size and two-story layout of its predecessor. Don’t be overwhelmed on your first visit, though. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and will help you find what you’re looking for and keep you from getting lost. If you’re traveling to L.A., there’s a LOT to see and do. But it’s not all the “Hollywood” stuff you see on TV. It’s actually bursting with culture an locally owned businesses. And despite Amoeba’s size, it’s all heart. We two Angelenos can attest. Go check out their fresh digs on Record Store Day!
We recently had the pleasure of traveling to Athens and put Wuxtry Records at the top of our list of places to visit. Founded in 1976, Wuxtry has been an integral part of the Athens community ever since. Reported to be the oldest continuously operating record store in the state, its role in Athens’ culture and eclectic music scene has been significant. Many notable musicians have worked at the store, including Danger Mouse, Kate Pierson of the B-52s, and Peter Buck. In fact, Buck first met Michael Stipe at Wuxtry, which led to the birth of a little band called R.E.M.! The music of Athens played an important role in the early days of alternative rock and new wave. The 40-Watt Club is legendary for its role in the early days of punk, right up there with CBGB in New York and the Whisky A Go-Go in L.A..The University of Georgia’s on-campus radio station, WUOG has been responsible for breaking several “local” artists, such as a couple mentioned above. Wuxtry Records has been right there all along, playing an equal role in promoting the music and culture of Athens.
For over 30 years, Reckless Records has been the Windy City’s premier spot for vinyl, CDs, and DVDs. It has three locations in different parts of the city, and they’re all open seven days a week. Known for it’s super-homey vibe, the Wicker Park location inspired the look of the classic movie High Fidelity. Now that’s homey! Originally rooted across the pond (they still have a London location), Reckless’ stores have countless bins of used vinyl, but they also highlight new music. Reckless Records is considered a Midwest mecca for all types of music fans.
Seattle is a popular destination for U.S. travel. The Space Needle, the Museum of Pop Culture, and Pike Place Fish Market are a few attractions that come to mind. But Seattle has also had a major impact on music, most notably as the birthplace of “grunge.” Local indie-label, Sub Pop was the first to sign hometown heroes Nirvana and Soundgarden, who along with Pearl Jam, created a movement that changed music forever. We’ve asked some friends and family members in the Seattle area what they feel the best local record store is, and they all agreed… “Golden Oldies.” Chock full of classics and oldies, yes, but it’s also the go-to spot for rare items. In fact, they claim to be the world’s largest supplier of collectible vinyl. Yet, it feels like every record in the shop has been carefully curated, as if it’s someone’s personal collection. What began in 1975 as a tiny shop in the University District, Golden Oldies has since grown into an independent chain of eleven stores, each oozing with Seattle mom-and-pop vibes.
We love a good story, and this one’s a great way to round this article out. The smallest shop in our list, Cinderblock People began in 2011 as a rooftop film and live performance series and then evolved into a label releasing cassettes. Finally, their intimate little brick and mortar location opened 2017 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Owners Emily and Pat carefully select their inventory which includes all genres. Latin, rock, jazz, hip hop, world, house… it’s all there! And they haven’t forgotten their cassette roots, as they’ve got a listening station that consists of a tape deck as well as two turntables. And not only do they buy records and tapes, but turntables too! This shop might be as mom-and-pop as it gets, and we love that. New York is one of the most travel-worthy cities in the world, with a deep history of independently-owned businesses. If you’re in the Big Apple, we highly encourage you to head uptown to visit Cinderblock People. It’s exactly what Record Store Day is all about.
Closing Thoughts: Buying Local On Record Store Day
While massive chain stores like Tower Records have gone by the wayside in the U.S., it seems mom-and-pops are the ones that have survived. Which is fitting, because that’s how it all started, and ultimately those are the businesses that are most invested in their own communities. Record stores also provide a unique glimpse into what their particular area’s culture is all about, and many have played a vital role in shaping that culture. They’re truly a great way for you to tap into the local vibes as a traveler.
We hope we’ve inspired you to get out there and discover a new shop on Record Store Day, flip through some bins, shop local while traveling, and support independent businesses!