Sydney isn't known as the vinyl capital of the world, but there's a devoted group of record stores stocking big beautiful 12" records for you to spend your paycheck on and put up on your bookcase. Maybe even play it once in a while. This is part 1, because there's so many! In no particular order.
Red Eye Records
The place to buy records in Sydney since forever. They used to have two stores, one for new release and one for second hand / collectable. I always liked upstairs in the King St flagship store, I must have spent $2k minimum in there as a teenager.
In 2017, they're still the go to in Sydney. This is a professional outfit, complete with a massive website that not only shows you what your favourite has in stock but about 400 items they can order in. Inside, there are racks upon racks of vinyl and CD, with a small second-hand section and an even smaller cheap CD section. There's also the biggest range of collectables in Sydney, possibly Australia.
They also have live shows and record signings, just like the old days! Spoon is next up.
Who does it appeal to - Red Eye Records appeals to all walks of life. I've seen everyone from school kids up to middle aged men in $5000 suits, and everything in between. You don't have to be a vinyl lover, their CDs are very well priced, and they sell magazines and band shirts up the back. They stock a lot of alternative/indie vinyl, their hip hop collection is growing rapidly, and major artists (Bowie, Prince, Presley etc) have entire rows devoted to their discography. There genuinely is something for almost everyone in here.
Website: Best website of the bunch. Has the majority of their catalogue, searchable, and a huge selection of what they can source for you from overseas.
Location: York St
Record Store Day: They purchase a limited amount of a wide range of stock. You'll need to get there at least 2 hours before opening if you want any chance of securing your favourite release.
The Record Store
While some record stores may try a touch too hard to be cool, The Record Store in Darlinghurst is a benchmark of effortless cool that we must all strive (while giving off the appearance we are not striving) to emulate. Their focus is on the DJ side of things, with racks full of eclectic techno and house, and a helpful and learned ear for anyone thinking of doing more than just pressing play on their iPhone at a party. They sell specialist DJ equipment like turntables, headphones and new needles, and if you have any questions they are more than happy to help. They even provide lessons on Mixing, Scratching, and Production!
Who does it appeal to - Hip hop heads will find much to love in the racks. Rave fanatics will adore the techno/electro sections. Indie kids will like the alternative section, because The Record Store always stocks good alternative music. This place is a haven for DJ's, even if you just want to chat about it, I've never had a problem sparking a conversation and holding it for a while with whoever is behind the counter!
Website: Easy to use, regularly updated in-stock list, lots of great info about turntables and DJing.
Record Store Day: They participate every year, although it can get a bit crowded in-store. Not the most extensive range of RSD releases, but if you love hip hop and dance, they have you covered.
Utopia has undergone some massive changes over the past 2 decades. They have changed location at least twice, and have now honed in on heavier music, with metal getting the major portion of their floor space and funding. The racks are littered with incredible music, both CDs and vinyl. You always feel like you're one row away from another amazing discovery. 90s music is well represented, with a lot of grunge and more underground stuff places like JB and Red Eye wouldn't stock unless asked. And the staff know their thing, but funnily enough, metal fans don't seem like they need a lot of help or extra education. In JB/Red Eye/Egg/The Record Store I overhear customers asking for information on something or other almost every time, but in Utopia, fans are so knowledgeable they know where to go, what to buy, and how much it should cost.
Who does it appeal to - Any fan of heavy music must check this store out. It's required. There isn't much here for hip hop/electronic lovers, but they do stock Depeche Mode and David Bowie. If you're looking for an extensive collection of any kind of metal, this is the place.
Website: Features the full catalogue.
Location: Sydney CBD
Record Store Day: Always participates. Longest lines aside from Red Eye, but nowhere near as bad as Red Eye. They also get much of the same releases so it might be an idea to check Utopia out first!
Easily the most effortlessly cool store on this list. Located in Erskineville, this is genuine crate digging, just milk crate upon milk crate of records. It's glorious, it's the best way to lose 3 hours, always in the hope that you'll find that gem, that hidden, forgotten about favourite record. Everyone behind the counter knows their stuff, and I mean really knows their stuff. I've overheard conversations about The Beatles that I guarantee Wikipedia has never heard before! There are also a number of vintage items you can purchase if your wallet allows you to.
Who does it appeal to - Lovers of hip hop, alternative music from the 70s and 80s, and older Australian music (70s-90s). Most of the records are second hand, and they're all priced very very well, they're not trying to flog you bad quality records. Some stores will put a high price on a low quality record because it's hard to find in Aus, but Revolve won't.
Website: Hasn't been updated in a fair while. Doesn't have their catalogue.
Record Store Day: Always a good time, with stacks of new vinyl to devour, although they don't post the list of items beforehand.
Mojo Music Bar
Uber cool underground bunker attached to a fully functioning bar. All it needs is a red disco light in the record store to turn it into a true 70s after hours venue. Think of Mojo as purveyors of trendiness. Their collection boasts some gems, including a 10" of Outkast's "Players Ball", Swans' To Be Kind, and even some Kid Cudi. Their prices are incredible though! Think $25 for Boards of Canada, $26 for new releases from Rae Sremmurd and Brian Jonestown Massacre, Alt-J and Four Tet for cheap. Honestly, if you only buy records to impress other people, walk in this store, close your eyes, pick up 3 records, pay for them, and feel yourself instantly become more popular.
Who does it appeal to - This is the mainstream of vinyl. Deerhunter, Chelsea Light Moving, Grizzly Bear, Flying Lotus, Band of Horses, they're all artists that look super cool in your home vinyl rack. Very little pop music. There's a lot of mainstream 70s/80s/90s music (Pink Floyd, The Who, The Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin), and some older jazz, but only the most popular (Miles Davis, Coltrane etc). It's a lovely set up downstairs though, drop by and waste a few hours!
Website: Easy to navigate and has all their items listed, searchable, with prices, and purchasable.
Location: 73 York Street
Record Store Day: N/A
Black Wire Records
A record label, a record store, a live music venue... I doubt there's anyone doing more for underground Aussie music in NSW right now. It's all about the live performances, and their blog is the perfect place to keep up to date with coming events. They are closing up soon, possibly by 27th of April 2017, according to this Instagram post, which is very sad. Never underestimate the influence of a place like this, that's willing to promote Aussie music. They put food on the table of struggling artists. You may scoff, but music shouldn't be merely the privilege of the privileged. Every single person on this planet has the right to express themselves creatively, and Black Wire Records was facilitating that.
Who does it appeal to - Their vinyl selection is stellar and well priced. The main focus is the most impressive punk/emo/hardcore/heavy selection this side of the equator. Obscure Aussie acts, stoner rock and European legends are the order of business. Honestly, this place is a haven of knowledge and heavy, fast music. They also stock alternative contemporary music, like Beaches, Beach House, White Lung, and Red Sparrowes feature heavily, and incredible prices. Really cheap, I mean $10+ cheaper than most outlets.
Repressed is a punk-focused record store that does immeasurable work for independent Australian music. They have a fantastic online shop, a brilliant website, and they also offer 7" records, cassettes, cheap CDs, shirts, and books. Add to that an extensive range of second-hand records. Prices are always very very reasonable, and their CDs are a steal. People behind the counter are lovely to deal with, and the racks are clean and uncluttered.
Who does it appeal to - Fans of punk music, especially Australian punk. They also stock a good range of new alternative releases. Their CDs are super cheap, and all genres are represented. The books are interesting, a lot of existentialism. If you're a cassette collector this is a must-visit store.
Website: An easy to navigate online store (though I don't think their whole catalogue is up there) via a simple design.
Record Store Day: They always participate, and they have a traditional 30% off sale that runs along side it. The line outside isn't usually too long, so sneak in here over HUM or Egg Records to beat the queue.
This is more of a place to purchase high-end audio equipment than records, though it has some great racks that house the odd find. Just as with The Record Crate, there's a focus on older, obscure Australian records. Prices are very competitive on second-hand records, about the equivalent of buying off Discogs and having it shipped. But there's no-one to talk to on Discogs. There's a shop assistant in Classic Hi-Fi.
Website: Simple but easy to navigate. Loads of info on their audio equipment.
Record Store Day: N/A
Fish Fine Music
Classical music continues to live on! Fish Fine Music in Town Hall Square is similar to Birdland, in that if you live in Sydney and value browsing you'll want to check it out. Most of their prices are similar to what you'd pay online, and if you can make it to their store you're cancelling out shipping costs.
Website: Extensive catalogue information
Location: Town Hall Square and Leichhardt
Record Store Day: N/A