In 2016, vinyl accounted for 26 percent of all record sales in the United States, its largest share since 1985.
The reasons for that are complicated. But surely one of them is how available music is today. The iPhone sitting next to me can play any song, from any artist, at any time. But what Silicon Valley has added in terms of availability, it’s taken away in terms of the actual experience of finding and listening to music. That’s a tradeoff more and more people are unwilling to make.
It’s the finding of music I want to focus on today. And by that, I mean record stores, where all the romance of High Fidelity sits mislaid beneath so many Spotify playlists and tangled EarPod wires. Shame, though that’s probably just how the store owners like it.
Here are six stores to check out:
SHAKE IT RECORDS
4156 Hamilton Avenue, Northside
The Shake It Records Label was started in 1978 as a records issuer for local bands. They began selling third-party music (er, everything else) in the heady days of 1999, then moved into their current 3,200 sq.-ft. Northside location just two years later. There they carry 25,000 titles on vinyl and 15,000 on CD, drawing from eclectic independent labels, including the obvious and the obscure. Though they do get new releases, they also do a great job of updating their back catalog, so there’s always interesting stuff to flick through. Check out their used blues section for some good finds. That’s the best stuff you can put on a table anyways.
6106 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge
Like Shake It Records, this Pleasant Ridge record store also started in 1978, though they did so first as a records reseller. You might know them from the cool mural that graces the side of their building, or you might know them from their solid collection of vinyl—new and used, mainstream and eclectic. But Everybody’s Records is most renowned for the folks behind the counter, who are always ready to help. I went in searching for something new wave-y; and thanks to them, came out with three superb finds. Good stuff.
ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST
1333 Main Street, Over-the-Rhine
This record store faces the 1300 block of Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, but its poster-cluttered windows do a pretty good job of keeping that fact a secret. On the inside, it subscribes to the “organized chaos” school of record store upkeep, which means you’ll need to do some crate-digging to find those perfectly used vinyls. That is also to say, if you’re looking for the latest T-Swift release, you should probably go elsewhere. But if yours is an adventurous spirit—if you’re after rare finds of jazz, rock, soul, folk, bluegrass, or international—then you’re in good hands here.
BLACK PLASTIC RECORDS
4027 Hamilton Avenue, Northside / 1411 Main Street, Over-the-Rhine
About a hundred feet from APOTF (see above) sits Black Plastic Records’ new OTR location. But can two stores selling pretty much the same thing survive so close together? That remains to be seen, though it's worth noting they aren’t selling the same thing. Black Plastic Records’ Northside location has more of that prototypical record store feel, with good organization and newer releases from bands like Grizzly Bear and The National. The OTR location follows suit. (And man is their t-shirt collection fresh.) So while APOTF and Black Plastic are both technically record stores, you could go from one to the other without running into the same thing.
811 Race Street, Downtown
Herzog Recording Company was Cincinnati’s first commercial recording studio. It enjoyed a fabulous run of success predating that of Kings Records. But the drain of music talent to Nashville in the 1950s left Herzog Recording without a customer base, and by 1955 it had closed. Fast forward to July 2017 and Herzog Music is back in business as an "emporium designed to bring together the region’s music community.” That means it’s part museum, part recording studio, and part record store. Definitely worth a look if you’re Downtown, especially if you like your vinyl with a side of Cincinnati musical history.
TORN LIGHT RECORDS
406 Fairfield Avenue, Bellevue
It was a nice surprise last time I was in charming Bellevue to discover a new-ish store in Torn Light Records. I don’t know if it’s my strange infatuation with the city of charming Bellevue or the fact that my wife and I walked out with two records a piece, but I really like this place. The selection is pretty good, too, comprising everything from my wife’s Billie Holliday to my Meatloaf (shut up). Anyways, if you’re in the charming Bellevue neighborhood, make sure to pop in.
Honorable mentions I’ve yet to visit:
- Jet Age Records: 817 Monmouth Street, Newport
- Plaid Room Records: 120 Karl Brown Way, Loveland
- Mole’s Records: 111 Calhoun Street, Clifton