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  • Writer's pictureBarney Townsend

5 Terrific Tips For Starting A Record Collection

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

When we asked the Townsend Music community the question: "do you have any tips for someone who's just getting started with collecting records?" we received a tremendous response. On today's blog, we showcase some of the best suggestions of the lot and ask some of our most knowledgeable tipsters to expand on their specialist subjects.


It all started with this social media post, digging deep for hard-earned pearls of wisdom from record-collecting veterans to share with newbies to our favourite hobby:

Here are five of the best of the bunch, with expanded contributions from our readers who made the most intriguing suggestions:

1) Find Your Niche

A supertip that we received from the Twitter account of Record Collector Magazine (who know a thing or two about record collecting...) was simply Find Your Niche, which resonated with this reader. The world of recorded music is vast - effectively infinite - and can be overwhelming to enter. Choosing a sub-genre or particular label or even type of vinyl to collect can make the hobby more immediately accessible, particularly if elsewhere you have access to a streaming account for more general and outdoor listening (more about that later...)

@BarneyBoom: "For me, an avid comic collector as a child, having a complete collection of a particular kind of vinyl satisfies my inner nerd."

After receiving the Mondo Gremlins soundtrack as a gift (effectively my first record) I decided that an impressive collection of horror soundtracks on vinyl was exactly what my life had been lacking. Using some online lists such as Rolling Stones' 35 Greatest Horror Soundtracks and Vice's The 31 Best Electronic Horror Movie Soundtracks of All Time this Ahab had his whale: to collect every vinyl soundtrack from these terrifying tomes. Inevitably, my collection soon spiralled off-piste but having the finishing line of that task (one day...) in sight made my entry into the mind-blowing world of record collecting that bit more immediate.

2) Visit Independent Record Shops

Gary, of Out of the Attic Music, an independently-owned music shop in Hull gave us this advice:

@afriendcalled5uk: "My tip is, go into your local indie record shop. Have a look around and chat to the people that run them. Don’t feel embarrassed as they have years of advice and recommendations!"

"When I get people in for the first time, I chat to them about music and what they like and it breaks barriers; they find it easier to come in and talk about what records they are after. There are some formats that new collectors don't know about like 7'' and 12'' singles and don't want to appear silly asking about. Once you have taken the time to explain they appreciate it. I laugh with them and say the singles are my generation's version of streaming!" "There's also the subject of handling and looking after the records which I try to explain about too. Records these days, are expensive and looking after them, by simple handling and plastic sleeves, plus a record box, is all part of record collecting. Also, I talk about the sound of vinyl - the warmth you get - which some new collectors don't even think about. And finally, I tell them record collecting isn't a hobby, it's a habit: a good one to have!"

Thanks, Gary! If you're ever in Clitheroe or Great Harwood, don't forget to give our sister shop Townsend Records a visit for a chat!

3) Try Before You Buy

John, a self-confessed "opinionated music critique, vinyl lover, concert reviewer", gave us this advice:

@JohnArchbell: "Do your homework. Don’t waste money on albums that have too much filler. Use your streaming app before you buy!"

"Back in the day, when I was a teen in the eighties, I could never have imagined a time when a stream could possibly be mentioned in the same breath as music. Unless of course, it’s a reference to Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s classic ‘Islands in the Stream’, where the Islands could be described as metaphors for one of the many streaming apps now available, like Spotify, Apple Music, or my own particular favourite, Tidal."

"I’m not a fan of streaming music; I’m what you would call Old School. I’ve always been a vinyl lover but did convert to CDs. Having said that I do endorse streaming when used in unison with buying physical music. I believe in fair play for artists. Streaming helps me to ‘try before I buy’. There’s nothing worse than buying an album on the merit of one or two big ‘singles’ and finding the rest of the songs just don't appeal to my taste."

"The artist receives a bigger royalty payment if music is bought rather than streamed."

"Recent examples of ‘try before I buy’ for me have been Erasure’s The Neon and The Neon Remixes on vinyl. All of the songs are masterpieces and see Erasure on form.

With Tidal I can also peruse the liner notes and the personnel involved on the album. While I do enjoy the obvious benefits of streaming apps, nothing could ever entice me away from playing vinyl. I prefer to pay the artist their dues and own my own music collection".

4) Buy The Best Equipment You Can Afford

Steve, a Gary Numan fanatic who loyal TM Blog readers may remember from his contribution to How To Organise Your Record Collection gave us this:

@Saintbarca: "Buy the best equipment you can afford"

"I believe your collecting will get off on the right foot if you buy the best equipment your budget will allow. The key is that your sound quality will be driven by the weakest component in your system, so rather than buying one high-quality component, spread your budget between turntable, amp and speakers. Don’t forget the common tip of 10% of budget for interconnects and speaker cables. It is incredible how much improvement you get from changing just cables. There is no point having a £5k turntable running through a £200 amp and speakers."

"You can get a decent setup for under £1,000, in which case a £300 Rega or Project turntable would be ideal. If your budget is larger, especially if you can get to Linn, Naim etc, then invest in a record-cleaning machine to protect your investment and improve your sound even further. I use a Project vacuum cleaning machine on all second-hand vinyl before it reaches the turntable."

5) Enjoy It!

In a hobby where it's all too easy to get sidetracked with audio quality, limited editions and mint conditions, it's common to lose sight of why we get involved with this in the first place: to listen to the music and to enjoy it! @N1son makes the point sharply and succinctly: "Don’t fall foul of music snobbery, if you like it buy it and enjoy it!" Elsewhere @steve.sherwin_ echoes this fundamental sentiment: "enjoy what you like and not what others say you should like 👌🏻"

@deweydjb: "Do you need every colour or just one so you can play and enjoy it?"

My favourite of the Enjoy It! category is this sage piece of advice from @deweydjb that I expect many collectors could benefit from sticking on a Post-It note inside their turntable dust cover: "take the time to listen and enjoy the one you have before worrying about the next one." When the point of collecting records becomes to simply collect them all, you may as well swap the record deck for a Pokémon deck; take a deep breath, make yourself a nice drink, turn the lights low, sit, listen and enjoy.

Are there any tips for record collector novices we're missed? Be sure to drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you have any supertips of your own.

Cover Photo by cottonbro studio Streaming Photo by Castorly Stock
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