The vinyl revival: Record stores in Kent
- Credit: Archant
The vinyl revival is hitting all the right notes for Kent’s music lovers. We speak to some passionate independent record store owners
Second-hand record stores have always had a place in our hearts and on our high streets, with keen collectors keeping small numbers of them in business, despite the CD revolution of the early 2000s. But with new independent record stores popping up across the country, it's safe to say it's a booming trade once more.
So just what is it that keeps music fans coming back to the scratchy sound of vinyl, 90 years after the introduction of the first long-player record? Boosted every year by the national Record Store Day (18 April this year), the once-outdated format has come back from the brink of extinction.
Its constant growth over recent years meant that new vinyl records outsold CDs last year, for the first time since 1986. We take a look inside some of Kent's independent record stores.
The Record Store, Ashford
We opened four years ago now. It started really because I'm a collector myself. I moved to Ashford due to illness - I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago - so I downsized the house, moved down here, recovered from the ops and opened the shop.
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Mostly it was on the basis that I, as a record collector, couldn't buy a record in the town at that time. I sampled it first, with a smaller store to establish if there was any interest. Very quickly it became apparent there was and we moved to a bigger unit in Park Mall after six months.
Most of the people I know who have record shops started them because they love music and they love vinyl. The resurgence of vinyl has meant there's much more interest now in the medium that I prefer to listen to music on.
It's the whole experience of vinyl. Picking up a vinyl album, you can't just flick through it.
If you talk to a lot of younger people, they have zero patience with music. They're skipping tracks all the time. And most LPs are made to listen to from beginning to end. The idea is that you put it on and enjoy it as a piece of art.
We get a mix of ages in. It's fascinating to find the 30 to 40 year-olds, who remember it from the eighties but now they've picked up the banner and they're listening to vinyl themselves.
There is still an age gap though, I think, where lots of the younger people are streamers and they just want free, online music. Whereas I feel that if you don't own the music then what have you got?
My best day for a long time was, having just opened the main store, standing in the corner of the shop and just watching people chatting about music. They didn't know each other but they all had something in common.
It was an absolute pleasure for me - loads of people milling around, talking music, buying music and music playing in the background. It doesn't matter what your politics are, what your religious beliefs are, what your race is. Music just moves people.
16 Park Mall, Ashford TN24 8RY
Electric Palace Records, Tenterden
We opened in December 2018 so we've just had our first anniversary. A couple of years ago my father-in-law asked if I'd like to work in his record shop - Grammar School Records in Rye - and I did a day or so a week for him.
I'm approaching 60 and I'm a financial advisor by trade, but I really enjoyed it. When a little shop came up in Tenterden I thought I'd give it a go. I'm having a lot of fun with it.
The shop is the smallest record shop in Kent, according to our research. It's 145sq ft and its name comes from the building itself. It used to be the Electric Palace cinema in the 1920s.
My son does our social media and he occasionally works in the shop, and I've got a stepson who's recently had a record out and he was working here, but he's pursuing his record career a bit more now. There's a nephew that helps out and some other friends. It's very much a little family affair.
The thing I enjoy most about records is I love the art. And that was what I was most passionate about when I started.
As soon as I started working in my father-in-law's shop I started collecting records. I'm quite new to it in that way but I always loved music and now I find I'm much more open minded about trying different things.
We primarily rely on people aged between 40 and 60, but I have got one gentleman in his seventies and he's been collecting records since he was 18. He's got thousands. He's literally obsessed.
We sell coffee here too. It used to be a sandwich bar and the building already had a coffee machine, so we kept it. A friend of mine owns Pluckley Tea and made us our own special blend - it's called White Rabbit after the Jefferson Airplane song.
The reason I think people still love vinyl has a lot to do with that little crackle sound. The way you put a record on, it evokes a bygone era and you listen to the whole album. It's music in its purest form.
1 The Fairings, Tenterden TN30 6QX
Smugglers Records, Deal
We're based near the beach in Deal and we opened four and a half years ago. It was always in the back of our minds that we may do it, but in the end it was just a very random occurrence.
I saw the shop come up and it was the perfect place and also a reasonable price.
Back then record shops were at an all-time low. They were down to about 150 in the UK, so it did feel like a crazy idea.
We already had our own DIY record label for the band I'm in - Cocos Lovers - and we had started a music night at the Astor Theatre. We even started our own Smugglers Music Festival in 2011, which still is kind of a funding mechanism for what we do.
When we opened the shop we weren't record nerds though. We wanted to celebrate the physical format again and it felt like records were the best way.
The artwork is bigger and you can see the love that's gone into them. For the listener, having the experience of turning a record and having to invest yourself while listening is a whole different thing. From an artist's point of view, they have really thought about what goes on Side A and Side B, which I think is really magical.
I think there's a fight back where young people are trying to connect with real things again. And slowing things down in their busy lives, just for a while, to listen to a record, must be very pertinent. You can't have that same experience on Spotify, no matter what.
The best thing for me personally is the social aspect. The high street has been dying because it didn't have much to offer in competition with the internet, but we have a café and we put on live music here, and seeing people come together was key in setting up the shop.
If you look on the internet for some of the records we stock, you would probably be able to save a pound - and some people probably do - but others think if they spend their money here they're investing it in their town and they're also getting an experience.
They can come here, have a beer, meet new friends, talk about music, listen to music. We're not getting rich doing this, but we're becoming rich in our experience and we're very lucky.
9 King Street, Deal CT14 6HX
More record shops
Transmission in Margate | Creekside Vinyl in Faversham | Vinylstore Jr in Canterbury | Vinyl Destination in Tonbridge | Vintage & Vinyl in Folkestone | B Side the C Side in Herne Bay | Vinyl Head in Ramsgate | Medway Record Centre in Gillingham | Rock Bottom Records in Whitstable