Vinyl records are a thing of the past – that’s what many people must think if they are completely smitten by digital music or coming from a generation that has never had any contact with vinyls.
They are wrong though.
People could listen to vinyl records as early as the 1860s when the gramophone was introduced to the world, even though the records were made by rubber at that time.
The first actual vinyl records, in the format that we know today, were released in 1948.
They quickly became very popular. However, a few decades later with improving technology came new record formats, first the cassettes then CDs. They were lightweight and portable, something that vinyls could not compete with. Record sales declined and when digital music arrived to the market, all signs pointed in one direction: vinyl records would disappear forever…
Records did go out of fashion for a while and were thought to be dead a few years ago, but they are thriving more than ever these days. Despite the global vinyl pressing issues, record sales in 2021 were the highest in 30 years.
The United Kingdom is the hub of the wave of „vinyl resurgence”, with Cardiff being a particularly great location for music lovers to get their hands on the classic music format.
The capital is home to many independent record stores, including the world’s oldest, Spillers Records, and also possibly the longest-running second-hand record shop in the United Kingdom, Kellys Records.
However, besides these long-established sellers, there is another spot worth visiting if you love vinyls.
Cardiff Record Exchange is the latest addition to the city’s record store landscape. The second-hand music shop is in Whitchurch Road, in the northern part of Cardiff.
With its colourful window on display, it is an exciting sight between the dull storefronts.
Inside, there are records everywhere and music sounds from a turntable, played by the owner, Edward Daw.
Ed opened Cardiff Record Exchange around a year and a half ago, after selling records online and at fairs for almost 20 years. He started to sell records full-time around three years ago. What started as a hobby, became more serious, so much that he left his job at the NHS, where he worked for more than ten years, to get into the record-selling business.
Ed’s love for vinyls started like many other music lovers’. His father used to own a turntable and had a record collection, so he grew up listening to them. As a kid, he found the vibrant album covers and sleeves intriguing.
„It was a fascinating thing for someone young, those elaborate, strange paintings and photos. One of the albums I remember being very fascinated with was Black Sabbath’s ’Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath’. It had this weird sort of tableau on the front, some strange demonic orgy, which was fascinating for a 12-year old.”
Ed became captivated by records and when he became older, he started to buy vinyls of different genres, creating his own collection.
His taste may have changed since then, but at Cardiff Record Exchange fans of all music types can find what they look for. The shop stocks hundreds of records, it is a great place for enthusiasts who are after second-hand albums.
Ed may not have been running an actual store for a long time and he is not located in the city centre, but he already built up a wide customer base. What could show better the popularity of vinyls than the fact that people of all ages, with different backgrounds, visit the shop?
„I get a lot of students, kids with their parents, from 5 years olds up with their moms and dads come and buy records, which is really nice. So it is a multigenerational thing, the people coming in buying records for themselves, and then kids or teenagers coming with them are buying sort of Fleetwood Mac or Beatles records. It is a real mix of people, young and old.”
This is the beauty of vinyls: something that once was considered outdated now attracts and connects generations.
Ed also revealed that many music fans travel for a good record shop. Cardiff is a hotspot for quality stores, so many people come to the city from all over the country just to visit these places and now they find Cardiff Record Exchange, too.
The diverse customer base of course comes with varied tastes in music. It is hard to find a trend in what people buy, but Ed says Fleetwod Mac’s Rumours regularly sells a couple of copies a week, Beatles records are standard to go well and ABBA is pretty popular these days, too.
Well-known records are easier to come across, meaning they are relatively cheap, but there are vinyls, depending on their rarity, that can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds. These are usually classical music albums or from artists that did not quite make it big. Limited edition records and original first releases can be pricey too. Ed recalls his most valuable sale was once a Leonid Kogan record, which he sold for somewhere between four and five thousand pounds.
Cardiff Record Exchange does not only exist because Ed was able to establish a customer base. As it is a second-hand record shop, sourcing stock is a fundamental part of the business. This was Ed’s main reason for opening a physical shop so that people can bring in records.
„The stock I have is the culmination of years and years of buying and selling records. I advertise in the Record Collector magazine and newspapers, and a couple of other magazines occasionally. I travel around the country, around Wales and England, buying collections. When I did not have a physical shop, people could not bring stuff in, all my stock was coming from me travelling around and doing house calls. Now it is 50-50, people bring stuff in, and then half of the time I go out and look at people’s collections, break them down, clean them, press them and then try to sell them.”
Ed is happy he took a chance on opening his own shop and how it has been going so far. He is not worried about the rumoured vinyl pressing problem because he does not deal with new records, only second-hand and as he says, there will always be used vinyls to buy. „It is amazing how many records are still out there in people’s lofts and garages forgotten and unused.”
Maybe this ongoing boom in record selling will not last forever and young people might stop buying records, but as long as there is a collectors’ market, as it has always been with vinyls, Ed is certain that Cardiff Record Exchange will be fine.