Introducing…me!

I have some goals for this blog.  I don’t want it to merely be a place for me to share my too-frequent haul videos; I’d like it to be a space where I can discuss and highlight women who collect vinyl.  I’d love to interview women from all over — ranging from those who are budding collectors to hardcore vinyl enthusiasts — and show the world that even though the majority of collectors seem to be men, we are here too.  We need some visibility in this community.  There are a few well-known vinyl collecting ladies, but the overwhelming focus has always been on men.  Just take a look at any book about vinyl collectors, and you’ll see that at minimum 90% of them are guys.  And that’s fine, since we are in a minority.  But it seems to me that there are lots of women out there collecting, and no  one’s taking the time to seek them out and highlight them.  I’m not sure if the lack of representation in books and such is due to the author not putting in the legwork to bring out some more diverse collectors, or if some women feel intimidated by the sometimes-aggressive and sometimes-dismissive dude majority and won’t insert themselves into the narrative.  And that’s understandable, since I’ve been there myself.  But it’s time to change that.

So, without further ado, here’s a little about me and my vinyl collection.  I’d really love to interview any ladies out there, so please pass the word and let me know if you’d allow me to ask you some questions and highlight your collection.

Name, age, location, social media handle.

Amy, 36, Massachusetts, @vinylhysteria

When did you get into vinyl?

I’ve always been into vinyl to some degree. I grew up in the 80s when cassettes were the big thing, but my parents bought me a small record player housed in a multi-colored cardboard case. I had a few 45s that I would play on it, including Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo.” But I loved pulling the records out of my parents’ collection and studying the covers. As I grew older, I started buying records for the bands I liked, particularly the Carpenters. I loved Karen Carpenter’s voice, and when we went to antique stores or flea markets, or to that one local music store that still had a section of vinyl, I would grab whatever Carpenters records I could find. Mostly I picked up records that held some sort of nostalgia for me – Chicago, Helen Reddy, Rosemary Clooney. And then in my early 30s, my interest grew more serious, and I started collecting records in earnest. This time, however, it wasn’t just old easy listening records, but newer bands that I loved, and rarer vinyl.

What was your first vinyl record, and how was it acquired? Was it a gift or did you purchase it?

My first vinyl record was most likely one of those Golden Book records they made for kids, but the first record I remember owning was Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Since I was quite young at the time, I probably received it as a gift.

What attracts you to vinyl as a medium?

I love the physicality of vinyl. I love the entire process of going to a record store, finding an album, studying the artwork and the track listing, interacting with the shop owner to purchase it. I love taking it home and opening it up, holding the vinyl in my hands and feeling its weight, reading the inserts and looking at the pictures and label information. I love the act of turning on the record player, adjusting the settings, and carefully dropping the needle onto the vinyl. The act of buying and listening takes time and consideration, and that’s something I find lacking in digital downloads. Yes, I love being able to access music with the click of a button, but for me, it’s a lesser experience. I connect so emotionally and viscerally to music that it feels more real to me to find, purchase and listen to that music through the vinyl experience.

How many records do you have in your collection?

I have approximately 200 LPs, a handful of 10″ records, and 50 7″ records.

What is your stereo setup like?

I have a 1984 Soundesign stereo system with a turntable, cassette player and 8-Track, all housed in an original cabinet with storage below. From what I can recall, it was my great-grandfather’s stereo system, and he gave it to my father. Once I started collecting vinyl more seriously, my parents passed it down to me.

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How do you store and/or display your records?

I store all my records in 3 mil polyethylene round-bottom inner sleeves and 3 mil polyethylene jacket sleeves from Bags Unlimited. I have part of my collection – mostly older records in less-than-stellar condition – in the storage beneath my stereo system. The remainder of my collection, including my most valuable records, is kept in a Kallax unit from Ikea. My 7″ records are kept in an Ikea box in the unit, and I put all my band and label stickers on it. I haven’t alphabetized my collection (yet), but I keep all my newest and rarest records stored together, organized by band.

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Where do you shop for your vinyl? Stores? Online? Yard sales?

I prefer to shop for vinyl in record stores. I love checking out new shops, and I like supporting small businesses. I also like to look through records at thrift stores to see what I can find, and I’ve found some gems sifting through dusty boxes. While I prefer to do my purchasing in person, sometimes I resort to online resources to get the hard-to-find items on my wantlist.

What is your favorite record store and why?

I have several favorites, but if I had to pick one, it would be Joe’s Albums in Worcester, MA. I love this shop for several reasons. My first excursion there was for Record Store Day a few years ago. I had scoured all the shops in New England that posted their RSD inventory online the night before, and Joe’s seemed to be the only place that had everything I wanted. The store is small, but incredibly neat and organized, and he places the album info and price on a sleeve sticker at the top of the album so you can flip through quickly without having to pull everything out. He has a great mix of new and used, and I’ve always found his prices incredibly fair. The store inventory is posted in a sort-friendly format online so you can determine right away if the shop has a record you’re looking for, and you can purchase directly online and have it shipped or pick it up in store. Best of all, Joe is a super nice guy. He started this store while working a full-time job because he loves music, and he felt his community didn’t have a shop where you could get fairly-priced records in good condition. I’ve always had nice conversations with him when I stop in to pick up some tunes. Bonus – in a recent article, he said that the majority of his clientele is female. Maybe the girls like going there because he treats all customers with respect and is genuinely interested in the music they’re buying.

Two other favorites – Redscroll Records in Wallingford, CT, and Brian’s Record Option in Kingston, Ontario. I never walk out of Redscroll without purchasing something, and I’ve bought from their online store too when I can’t make the two-hour trip to their shop. They have a killer selection, the only drawback being that it’s a pretty tight space and it’s usually crowded, so crouching to sift through those seven-inches or overflow boxes can be difficult. The bonus here is that there’s always a woman behind the counter, and I appreciate that. In fact, it’s the only woman I’ve encountered working at a record shop during all my travels.

Brian’s Record Option is a long-standing institution in the small city of Kingston in Ontario, Canada. Operating solely on word-of-mouth for nearly 30 years (a superfan just recently started a Twitter and FB page to promote them, though Brian has nothing to do with it), everyone in Kingston knows you go to Brian’s shop when you want something. The tiny store is floor-to-ceiling stacks of records, cassettes, CDs, posters, etc. It’s a literal maze that you need to navigate to get into the store. It seems like chaos, but if you ask him for something, he knows exactly where it is. That Sarah Harmer poster that hung in his window five years ago? Yeah, he can dig that up for you. And he’ll order you anything. Come for a record, but stay for the conversation, because he has a lot of stories to tell, especially about local musicians (and there are a lot in Kingston, the city having been home to a great number of Canadian artists).

What genres of music make up your vinyl collection?

My music tastes run from folk to punk to easy listening to hard rock. I have a little of everything, though a good bulk of my collection consists of bands from the Pacific Northwest and Canada (most of those are punk, post-punk, or indie).

What is your current favorite record on vinyl?

I would say it’s probably a tie between Weeping Tile’s “Cold Snap” and Sleater-Kinney’s “Dig Me Out.”  DMO is one of my favorite albums, period, and I own an original Kill Rock Stars pressing (complete with KRS order form inside), a Sub Pop repress, and the Sub Pop colored vinyl that came in the box set.  And “Cold Snap” is the only album Weeping Tile ever released on vinyl, so I’m glad to have that.

What is your most prized record?

My most prized record is a sealed copy of Weeping Tile’s “Cold Snap.” I have two other copies that are used (and are rare on their own), but I’ve never seen a sealed copy before.

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What white whales are you still looking for?

1)    I’m still looking for a copy of Weeping Tile’s “Cold Snap” on blue vinyl. My copies are all pressed on black vinyl.

2)    The Mugworts’ “Barbies Wedding.” The Mugworts were a Kingston, Ontario band from Luther Wright and his brother Geordie. The album was pressed on red vinyl and I’ve never seen a copy for sale.

What is your favorite album cover art in your collection?

I really like the cover art for the Villa Villakula Records compilation, “Move Into the Villa Villakula.”  The copy I own has the standard black and white cover, which is a drawing of the famous Pippi Longstocking house.  The design on the reverse is excellent as well.  I’m still on the lookout for a copy with the pink-on-silver or green-on-silver silkscreened cover.

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Do you have a favorite record label? If so, what is it and why?

My favorite record label is K Records. I love the DIY movement behind the label, and the tenacity of its founder, Calvin Johnson. Some of my favorite bands have recorded on this label – Gossip, the Spells, Beat Happening, Lois Maffeo, and performance artist Miranda July. I love the variety and affordability of the records, the mark they made on the history of music in the Pacific Northwest, and the fact that they’ve remained small and independent, despite pulling in artists from across the world. Recently they’ve made news for not always paying their artists, which kind of breaks my heart, but it seems that Calvin is attempting to right this by selling off a lot of his studio equipment and overstock to get that money into their hands.

Coming in at an extremely close second is Kill Rock Stars. I have so many records from KRS (probably more from this label than any other), and love so many of their artists. Like K, they’ve remained a smaller, independent label, and I love all the work they do. Plus, they’ve got a great social media presence.

How do you connect with other vinyl enthusiasts?

I connect with others through social media, mostly. Twitter and Instagram, and, more recently, YouTube. I also like to poke around the forums on various music sites.

Do you know a lot of other women who collect vinyl?

I didn’t until recently. As I started to connect with more music fans through Twitter and Instagram, I found that there were women out there with similar musical tastes who were really into vinyl. A lot of us met through a shared interest in one particular band, and while attending some of their shows in NYC, I listened to these women’s stories about their vinyl collections. My hope is that I can meet other women who are serious (or even casual) collectors, and help bring more visibility to female record collectors through my blog.

Do you have any advice for women or girls who are interested in starting a vinyl collection?

Jump in head first. It may seem overwhelming to go into a record store when you don’t know a lot about what you’re looking for, and sometimes it can feel slightly intimidating to be the only female in the room. But start small by going in and looking for a record by a band you love. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, chat with the store employees and ask if they have the record, or if they can order it for you. Ask them for recommendations. Don’t be self-conscious about your music interests, or worry about your selections not being “cool” enough. Be confident, even though you’re stepping into new territory. Being honest and open will help you navigate the sometimes male-dominated world of record collecting, and you’ll find that collecting records is totally addicting and fun.

One other piece of advice: Even though those Crosley turntables are adorable and affordable, spend a little more cash and invest in a better starter turntable. You can find something much better than Crosley for anywhere between $100 and $200. Vinyl can be an expensive hobby, but if you invest in a decent turntable, you’ll be protecting your vinyl investment. Playing your records on a Crosley or another cheap turntable will likely ruin them over time.

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