A guide to buying vinyl records in Toronto
Vinyl in Toronto, as elsewhere, has undergone a major resurgence. This has surely made it more difficult to snag bargains on used records, but it's also provided the Toronto collector with more options than they have had in a few decades. With so much overlap in terms of genres stocked, it's useful to categorize the city's shops beyond just what kind of music they stock.
Here's a guide to buying vinyl records in Toronto.
For the night owl
They may not open the doors 'til noon, but who wants to buy records that early anyway? Grasshopper Records stays open until midnight every day of the week. Located at Dundas and Ossington between The Garrison and the Dakota, Grasshopper is the best, if not the only place to buy a record after a show.
For the turntablist
Play De Record is a must for anyone shopping for new or classic hip-hop and electronica. Owner Eugene Tam has also established the Play De Record Academy, where beginners can take DJ and production courses to familiarize themselves with new hardware and software before renting or buying turntables, or any other audio equipment.
For the singles people
If 45s are your thing, Kops Records should be your first stop. Now with three locations, Kops has been around since the mid-1970s and has amassed a remarkable collection of 45s and other rarities. The collection housed at the Danforth location is a veritable archive of music history.
For the established collector
Experienced DJs with sizeable collections and those with good taste and ample budgets will be familiar with both Cosmos Records locations, which boast one of the best collections of hard-to-find hip hop, soul, funk, jazz, disco, and R&B. It ain't cheap, but the records are immaculate and well curated.
For the hardcore fan
Faith/Void has been open less than a year, but they've already proven themselves as a live music venue by regularly putting on shows featuring local groups. The store fills the hardcore void in Toronto left after Hits & Misses closed in 2012. It also importantly serves as a venue as well.
For the newbie collector
Sonic Boom is cemented in Toronto's music scene as the biggest record store not only in the city, but also in Canada. That means there's excellent generic diversity and stock levels of new product. Turntables are also for sale, and customers can sell their vinyl any day of the week. This is the perfect spot to get started.
For a taste of Europe
Quixotic Sounds at Dovercourt and College traces its roots back to Switzerland, which means that its Toronto location offers tons of Euro-released records that rarely see the light of day in this city or country. Go here for hard-to-find soul, R&B, and jazz.
For the record seller
Run by Lincoln Stewart, Good Music will make house calls to appraise and buy vinyl Monday through Wednesday every week. Kops Sonic Boom and Shortstack Records are also good places to sell.
For the collector on budget
Neurotica Records in Mirvish Village is a destination for anyone looking to build their collection without breaking the bank. With $1 bins, and even a seven for $5 section, customers who aren't too picky can get a lot for a little. New releases are also reasonably priced should you be after something specific. Discount bins at Kops and Around Again are also worth a look.
For the concert-goer
If you long for the days when you had to buy your concert tickets from a retailer, Toronto has a couple of options that will satisfy your nostalgia. Rotate This on Ossington sells mostly new records, with a focus on indie rock. They also sell tickets to hundreds of upcoming local shows. Soundscapes is, of course, another good shop for tickets, though they carry less vinyl.
For the quirky treasure hunter
LP's LPs is a great spot to find a record or two that you wouldn't expect to find anywhere. Lorenz Peter sells records that might be more obscure, or more difficult to find in the city. His collection is full of electronic, punk, and rock rarities, and is priced accordingly.
For the online shopper
June Records is definitely worth checking out in person for their organized collection of fairly priced new or used vinyl, but they also offer one of the best online shopping experiences for an independent store. With a pre-order list for items with higher demand, a page for items on sale, and even a well-maintained blog, it's the city's top spot if you don't want to leave your couch.
For the old school record buyer
Before vinyl became the next big thing (again), Toronto had shops were you could expect to snag a deal or two, have a conversation with the owner about music, and return the following week to do it all over again. For some of that old school charm and reasonable pricing, check out Chris Gibson's Parkdale Platters.
For the best pre-loved records
Open for almost 35 years, Leslieville's Discovery Records is the best spot to find used vinyl of any genre. Known for their fair prices and the consistent quality of the records available, Discovery is perfect for anyone looking to fill holes in his/her collection. Owner Jim Levitt maintains a comprehensive inventory list on the store's website, with information on the condition of every record.
For the lover of swag
Run by former Sunrise Records employees, Bloordale's Dead Dog Records differentiates itself with close attention to merchandizing and a plenty of accessories and swag that you won't find at many other record shops aside from Sonic Boom.
For the book lover
If you like to do your record shopping with some literature on the side, make your way to Pandemonium in the Junction, She Said Boom on Roncesvalles or Spadina, and Circus Books & Music on the Danforth. All feature solid used collections of vinyl and books.
For the underground radio fan
If you support underground radio in Toronto, head to City Beat Records, which shares a space with TRP, one of the city's most underrated sources for independent music of all kinds. The shop is small, but you might stumble up a live radio show while perusing the latest dance/electronic releases.
For those who want to explore by label
Tonality Records doesn't curate its stock by band or genre first. Instead the idea is to showcase record labels, which leads to a pretty eclectic stock and a rather interesting way to discover new bands.
For fans of the little guy
City Beat Records is pretty small, but if you're looking to support a little guy with a wider selection of vinyl, Tiny Record Shop is the place to go. Located in the back of Token gift shop, it's collection of records belies its diminutive space.
Classic Rock: Kops, Sonic Boom, June Records, Rotate This, Grasshopper, Discovery Records,Loon Records, Circus Books & Music, SRC Vinyl, Tiny Record Shop, Parkdale Platters, (basically everywhere that carries second hand stock)...
Electro: Play de Record, City Beat Records, Cosmos, Sonic Boom
Reggae: Play de Record, Paradise Bound
R&B: Cosmos, Kops, Discovery Records, Play de Record, Around Again
Soul: Cosmos, Around Again, Quixotic Sounds, Loon Records
Jazz: Around Again, Kops, She Said Boom
Blues: Kops, Discovery Records, Around Again, Sonic Boom
Classical: Around Again
Country: Sonic Boom, Kops
Writing by Julian Staniewski. Photos by Matt Forsythe, Jesse Milns, Ryan Bolton, and Hector Vasquez.
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