The Record Store Day (RSD) concept was sparked by a passion for independent record shops and the culture that they support. There truly is something special about how a great record store can connect people in deep and long-lasting ways.
Record Store Day co-founder Michael Kurtz explains,
“People get married in them. Bands are formed in them. Local schools get supported by them. They give the human connection between the music and the fan, providing a place where people can discover and share music. It's not something that can be easily replicated and it's why a good record store can have a huge effect on people.”
The first Record Store Day took place in 2008 with a small list of titles and a handful of record stores. Fifteen years later, the celebration continues, now worldwide, with hundreds of shops and exclusive vinyl releases. Though there is only one annual Record Store Day, held on a Saturday in April, the RSD team curates contests, special releases and promotions all year with the aim to promote independent record store shopping.
RSD Black Friday was created to subvert the Black Friday shopping model. While the traditional Black Friday is about bargain prices on mass-produced goods usually in malls and big box stores, Record Store Day’s Black Friday promotes shopping at brick-and-mortar indie record stores by focusing on music in the form of limited, special editions. Get ready to think about the start of the holiday shopping season slightly differently, with a musical twist. RSD Black Friday releases drop on November 24th at participating stores. Scan this year’s releases and make your list for shopping at the best record stores in the U.S.
Wrensilva was created and is powered by record collectors and die-hard music fans. Our passion for music inspires us every day. So, when Record Store Day comes around every year, we’re right there at our local shop, waiting for the doors to open. Here are some of our favorite record stores in cities across the United States.
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RSD Stores (by city)
Whether you’re in a big city or a small hamlet, you’ll likely find a gathering space for music. It could be a coffee shop with a turntable and a stack of vinyl. If you’re lucky, it’s a full-fledged record shop where clerks spin their favorite tunes.
Each city has its own scene, powered by the music created there and anchored by the record stores that provide the like-minded gathering space, but not all of those stores are created equal. Michael Kurtz says, “To do it right, a great record store requires great customer service, the human touch, and a curated selection that fans can peruse at their leisure.”
These independent stores are a hub for community and they are all part of the Record Store Day collective.
San Clemente to San Diego Record Stores
Year round great weather, surf and skate culture set the tone for SoCal sounds. Record stores abound in cities along the Pacific Ocean from San Clemente to San Diego. Bands like Rocket from the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu got their start in SoCal by playing in-stores and releasing 7 inch singles.
Lou’s Records in Encinitas opened its doors in 1980. Their reputation for having hard-to-find releases makes them a must-shop location and their in-stores have been known to shut down streets and get the attention of local police.
Los Angeles Record Stores
L.A. has seen it all. From Laurel Canyon folk, to the Sunset Strip classic rock, punk and hair-metal, venues like Gazzarri’s, The Roxy, The Whiskey, and The Troubadour launched the careers of local bands like X, the Doors, Beck, Jane's Addiction, and Van Halen… and record stores were there to get the music straight into the hands of eager listeners. Though the landscape has changed, the community spirit remains at shops like Permanent Records and Amoeba.
Amoeba Music has one of the most expansive music selections in the country. With headquarters in San Francisco, the Hollywood shop was long anticipated. When it opened in 2001, occupying an entire city block on Sunset Blvd., Amoeba Hollywood planned to stock as many as 250,000 titles. The shop quickly became a beacon for music lovers of all genres. Now in a new location, a colored vinyl LP installation welcomes customers at the front door and an original Shepard Fairey mural adorns the stage. The massive floor space includes vinyl, CD and DVD/Blu-ray sections; books and posters; t-shirts; turntables and vinyl accessories; and collectibles.
Permanent Records’ motto is “Life is short. Buy more records.” This east side shop sells a wide selection of new and used vinyl. Their space has evolved to become the first bar/record store/live venue in Los Angeles with live music AND record shopping til midnight on weekends.
Photo: Jim Newberry/Voyage LA
Austin Record Stores
Austin adopted the nickname of the “Live Music Capital of the World” in 1991. There are more than 200 music venues in the city with live performances every night of the week. Artists like Willie Nelson, Gary Clark Jr, and Britt Daniel from Spoon call Austin home.
Waterloo Records has been serving up recorded music to the Austin community since 1982. Their support doesn’t stop at just selling records. They encourage unsigned bands to put their self-released CD, LP, 7” or cassette on consignment with the shop. They host innumerable in-store performances, and their 10-day, no-questions-asked return policy ensures that customers are happy with the music they purchase.
Photo: Spectrum News
Houston Record Stores
ZZ Top, Johnny Nash, Lizzo, Selena. This disparate list just scratches the surface of the diverse music roots in Houston, Texas. Southern roots rock, hip-hop, Tejano, country, jazz and blues – you can hear it in clubs and on the dial, and Houston’s record stores have it all.
Bud and Don Daily opened Cactus Music in 1975. It was one of the first music super stores in the U.S. with deep roots in the music business. The Daily brother’s father, Harold “Pappy” Daily, ran a record store called The Record Ranch and a label that released music from George Jones, the Big Bopper, a young Willie Nelson and George Strait. The brothers retired in 2006, but Cactus lives on. As an ode to Pappy Daily’s original store, the new owners created “The Record Ranch,” a 1800 square-foot vinyl-only space and art gallery adjacent to the main store. In addition to thousands of new and used records, The Record Ranch gallery presents ongoing exhibits featuring music-related artwork.
Cactus Music vinyl racks
Photo: Great Day Houston
Sig's Lagoon Record Shop packs a big music punch in its modest footprint. There are thousands of vinyl titles, along with books, artwork and collectibles to peruse before catching a live show at the Continental Club, which is just across the street.
Nashville Record Stores
Country music may be the historic roots of Nashville, but these days musicians of all genres flock to the Music City to stake their claim to stardom, and established artists migrate there to immerse themselves in the scene. Emmylou Harris, The Black Keys, Alison Mosshart and Jack White call Nashville home. Live music pumps out of clubs on Honky Tonk Row 365 days a year.
Grimey’s New and Preloved Music’s 4,000 square foot space in an old church hosts regular live performances and is stocked with new and used vinyl, CDs, cassettes and even a few 8-track tapes.
NEEDTOBREATHE live at Grimey’s
Jack White’s Third Man started as a record label in 2001 and has since evolved into a Willy Wonka-like record store, distribution center and world’s only live venue with direct-to-acetate recording capabilities. The yellow and black color palette envelopes every surface and all Third Man merchandise, as well as the staff uniforms. Third Man’s website states that they
“aim to bring tangibility and spontaneity back into the record business and issue releases that leave no doubt in the mind of listeners that music is indeed sacred.”
New York City Record Stores
New York has been a main character in some of the most legendary music scenes in history. From the golden era jazz of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, the downtown punk of the Ramones and Blondie, and the birthplace of hip hop with Run D.M.C and Grandmaster Flash, the city continues to provide inspiration for groundbreaking music. With 8.4 million people squashed into 300 square miles, it’s entirely possible that you could spot one of your favorite artists shopping for records next to you.
A relative newcomer to NYC, Rough Trade migrated from London in 2013 before moving to their current home in Manhattan. They focus on selling new vinyl with an emphasis on U.K. imports and do not have a used section. They are part of the programming at Rockefeller Centre with live performances held on the building’s 65th floor in the Rainbow Room, and at surrounding spaces like the plaza and, in summertime, the ice skating rink.
Academy Records Annex has been around since 2004. Their store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn sells new and used vinyl, as well as used CDs, DVDs, zines, stereo equipment, and supplies to keep your vinyl in good shape: LP and 45 storage boxes, paper and plastic sleeves, and cleaning products.
Founded in 1992, Generation Records has seen a lot of retail come and go on its block of Thompson Street in the West Village. The street level shop floor, with windows showcasing the latest releases, is a stark contrast to the basement, two flights of stairs below, where racks of used vinyl entice customers to dig for gems.
Current owner Mark Yoshitomi is the former bassist of 90s hardcore band The Casualties and a NYC punk rock historian. He told Washington Square News in 2018, “Listening to records is a much more personal experience because it takes more to put on a record and listen to it than to put it on the computer. It’s a whole ritual.”
Generation Records, NYC
Chicago Record Stores
Mavis Staples, Wilco, Liz Phair and Earth, Wind & Fire all hail from the Windy City. Known as the birthplace of house music, and for its own brand of blues, Chicago’s music history churned out influential bands in every decade: 70s Styx, Cheap Trick (Rockford - just an hour west) in the 70s; Naked Raygun, Big Black in the 80s; and the 90s indie explosion with The Jesus Lizard, Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins. Although the venerable Wax Trax Records closed in 1996, the scene it supported is arguably what launched the legendary music community that thrives in Chicago today.
Steve Kay opened Vintage Vinyl in 1979 to cater specifically to record collectors. He told The Daily Northwestern in 2021, “We’ve always specialized in looking for records that are long out of print, but also in top condition. We’ve never tried to appeal to mainstream taste.”
Steve Kay at Vintage Vinyl
Photo: Angeli Mittal/Daily Northwestern
Reckless Records hopped over the pond from London in 1989 to set up shop and has since become somewhat of an institution in Chicago, now with 3 stores. Staff reviews stickered on new releases are brutally honest and entertaining. Reckless carries an extensive selection of new and used vinyl, with a focus on imports.
Seattle Record Stores
Way up in the far reaches of the Northwest, the isolation of Seattle (and surrounding regions) cooked up some pretty spectacular music. Nirvana, Melvins, Beat Happening and Bikini Kill put Seattle on the indie music map in the 90s. Band of Horses, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie carry the Seattle torch today.
Easy Street owner Matt Vaughan worked at two different record stores in his teen years. When he learned that both shops were going out of business in 1987, he offered to consolidate them into one, and in 1998, Easy Street Records opened its doors. The store has hosted more than 500 in-store performances including Paul Westerberg, Mudhoney, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, and Brandi Carlile. In 2011, Time Magazine named Easy Street one of the ten best record stores in the U.S.
Sonic Boom’s website says that they have been “Seattle’s source for independent music” since 1997. When Death Cab for Cutie released their debut album in 1998, the band did an in-store at Sonic Boom… which led to bassist Nick Harmer’s stint as an early store employee. The rest, as they say, is history. The store hosts listening parties, book release events, and live music. Recent performances include Black Belt Eagle Scout, Wolf Parade, and Taco Cat.
Sonic Boom Records
San Francisco Record Stores
The psychedelic 60s thrived in San Francisco. The city supported a colorful counter culture scene of musicians, poets, artists, and activists. Rock, folk, jazz and blues fused to create the sounds of bands like Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone and Jefferson Airplane. Today, the sounds have evolved, but the scene is just as vibrant.
Rasputin Music has been “keep’n the Bay Area bump’n since 1971.” With seven locations, it’s the largest independent record store chain in the Bay Area. The stores' bins are full of diverse offerings and deep cuts, and their in-stores are legendary. Metallica made their first in-store appearance in almost a decade at the Mountain View store as part of the April 19, 2008 Record Store Day.
Metallica live at Rasputin
The original Amoeba Music location opened in 1990 on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley. Seven years later, it crossed the Bay to open a second shop in San Francisco in a converted bowling alley in the Haight-Ashbury district. They stock hundreds of thousands of music and movie titles in every genre you can imagine, with a particular focus on experimental rock, hip-hop, electronica and jazz from artists like Sun Ra, Frank Zappa, John Zorn, Merzbow, the Anticon collective and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz.
Miami Record Stores
South Florida's oldest independent record store, Yesterday and Today, has been open for more than 40 years. They specialize in new and used records of all genres. Their website lists an exhaustive list of rock, pop, garage, psychedelic, blues, jazz, R&B, soul, funk, metal, punk, alternative, experimental, dance, disco, folk, soundtracks, big band, reggae, surf, instrumentals, gospel, Latin, world music, rockabilly, country, mod, and several more. Their selection of music formats is just as diverse, with DVDs, 8-tracks, cassettes, open reels, laser discs, books, magazines, t-shirts, record cleaning products, and memorabilia.
Record Store Day 2023: Top Picks for Black Friday
There are more than 170 exclusive titles set for release on RSD Black Friday 2023. With a strong showing from jazz and hip hop, this year’s list includes “RSD Firsts” from Dr. Dre, Nas and Schooly D; and an unreleased live album from Ahmad Jamal. The full list is available at RecordStoreDay.com. Here are a few Wrensilva team recommendations to look forward to:
De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising 7” box set on splatter vinyl in custom sleeves, with a pin-up poster and a special turntable slipmat (ltd to 3500)
Charles Mingus Incarnations LP (ltd to 3000)
Joni Mitchell Court and Spark Demos LP (ltd to 6300)
Willie Nelson Shotgun Willie (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) 2 x LP (ltd to 5500)
Margo Price Strays (Live at Grimey’s) on sangria marble vinyl (ltd to 2000)
X Ain’t Love Grand LP (ltd to 1800)
De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising Margo Price Strays (Live at Grimey’s)
Support “Third Places” on Record Store Day
Houston Press journalist John Nova Lomax referred to Cactus Music as a “third place” for Houston’s music scene in his 2007 story about the return of the store after its original owners retired. Coined by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg, "third places" are informal public gathering places. Your home is your first place, work is your second place… and your third place is the space where you can put aside any concerns from your first and second places, and simply enjoy company and conversation. This concept couldn’t be more appropriate for the sense of community and support for creativity that record stores provide.
Record Store Day was created to shine a bright spotlight on these shops that are far more than four walls and some record bins. They are a vital part of the creative community, run by passionate people who, for the most part, do it for the love of music. When you shop on Record Store Day, know that the thrill of snagging one of the 7500 copies of Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels The Last Roundup: Live from the Bijou Café in Philadelphia, March 16th, 1973 double LP is also part of a worldwide movement to support independent record stores and artists.
So, get out there and get involved. Shop at an independent record store. Support artists by buying music. The history and legacy of the music on these Record Store Day releases create collector’s items deserving of the very best listening experience.