Cork DJ and Soul Jamz Records founder Stevie Grainger discusses all things vinyl beginning with…

Record Shops

There are many beautiful things about vinyl records. From the often wonderful artwork and sleeve-notes to the magic of seeing the needle hit the groove, vinyl holds a fascination for many of us. Whether we are casual music fans who buy the odd album or record junkies who spend days on their knees in dusty second hand shops, vinyl love has many stories, and there are many great aspects of vinyl culture that we can highlight.

Record shops have always played a massive part in vinyl culture. Every day is record store day when there is cash in the pocket and let’s face it, we often spend money we don’t have on records too. Record store day itself started off as a well meaning celebration of the role that independent record shops play in the community. In recent years however, it has often been corrupted by cynical speculating regarding to limited and often over-priced records.

Like many who work in shops I ended up making a loss but my record collection grew far richer.

But record shops are open for the rest of the year too. In Cork, at one stage a few years ago, there was a genuine fear that we would lose Plug’d, at a time where there were few shops stocking even old vinyl. Plug’d came back from the dead, Music Zone in Douglas increased their stock, and many more vintage and second shops appeared, leaving us in a relatively healthy position now for a city of our size. Record shops worldwide face massive well documented challenges, but for me, their importance can never be overestimated.

I worked in Comet here back in the 90s for four years, and having been on the other side of the counter ever since I was left primary school, I enjoyed being able to spread the word on new music and even gigs and events in the city. The discounts were good too and like many who work in shops I ended up making a loss but my record collection grew far richer. Whether it was Jim and George in Comet or Albert and Jim in Plug’d, there was always a story to tell and a laugh to be had, and you can’t really get that buying tunes online! Years later I still prefer the ritual of hitting Plug’d and other shops rather than Juno and Discogs, and the social element of buying records is great too.

Having two young kids means that the days of being able to hit every shop every day are gone, but they like coming along too and we have a colourful variety of shops and markets right now that hold the interest of people of all ages. Hanging out there exposes you to different music and people and events and I don’t know how many great records I got by accident this way. I could once map cities like Dublin and Manchester by their record shops and have made lifelong friends from all over the world on both sides of the counter.

It’s 2015 and like many DJs who play music that doesn’t always appear on vinyl, I use a digital set-up too. I can sit down in my kitchen and order a bunch of new tracks that arrive at my fingertips in seconds for far cheaper than vinyl, which now costs a lot more to manufacture. If you have deep pockets you can get plenty of rare records on e-bay and discogs but like record store day, that has sometimes left passionate music people at the mercy of cynical speculators.

I buy some wax online but I don’t think I’ll ever give up the ritual of going into town, hitting the shops and buying some records when I can. Getting your hands on that beautiful wax, finding out about some random gig and shooting the breeze with the many people of all shapes, sizes, tastes is great fun. It’s one hobby that I’ll certainly keep forever.

Stevie Grainger