A quick online search of “record store” will bring you an avalanche of overwhelming results, ranging from small brick-and-mortar stores to online auctions featuring affordable vinyl LPs from small sellers. While staking out your ideal record shop can be a satisfying and personal experience in the flesh, pinpointing the best online record stores to shop from home during the pandemic can quickly dissolve into one big rabbit hole if you don’t have a solid starting point.
Luckily, the internet has no shortage of hidden gems for vinyl lovers, with everything from new releases to limited edition vinyl records curated for your audiophile needs. It’s just a matter of finding the retailers that consistently match your ethos, financially and sonically.
Whether you’re a lover of new music and your record collection is curated full of hip-hop and reggae, or your turntables only play indie, there are great online spots that will help you gussy up your vinyl collection. So, go ahead and pause your Spotify and close your eBay tab, because you won’t be needing either of those after scouring the 7 best online record stores for goods (listed in no particular order, they’re all beautiful and equal).
With a popular physical store based in New York alongside its big online presence, Rough Trade has set itself apart as an ultimate one-stop shop for music lovers looking for anything from hot pre-orders, to best sellers and exclusive box sets. Their large online store spans a wide variety of genres, so if you’re looking to expand your collection you’ll find plenty of different sensibilities.
If you want to add some band t-shirts to your closet, the Rough Trade online store’s large merch section has clothing featuring everyone from David Bowie to Billie Eilish and T-Rex. The site also has a collection of musical autobiographies, film documentaries, and live concert footage, as well as postcard sets, jigsaw puzzles, and even calendars.
If you’re a collector of colored vinyl, or you love scoring special releases and deals for record store day, then Rough Trade has also got you covered. They also have a submittable form on their website for any record collectors looking to sell or trade slightly used lps. All this is to say, regardless of your shopping needs and style, it’s likely they’ll have something you’re in the market for.
If you’re a lover of subscription services, the VIP feeling of monthly clubs, or having the heavy weight of decisions lifted off your chest, then the structure of Vinyl Me, Please might be a great fit for you.
Vinyl Me, Please is a record of the month club, which means customers pay monthly fees to receive a record in the mail that’s carefully curated by those running the website. When vinyl enthusiasts sign up for the service, they can pick four different genre tracks: hip-hop, country, the classics (jazz, blues and soul), or essentials (a best-of collection spanning indie, folk, rap, rock, and funk).
Each month’s pick is a surprise, and one of the conceits of the club is the “exclusive” element. In some cases, the records are fully exclusive to Vinyl Me, Please. For other packages, members receive a record that’s already been released to the public, but with a special upgrade (this could mean colored vinyl, added picture booklets, new packaging, and more). If members don’t like the record of the month, they are presented with a few “swap” options, either from the other monthly subscription genres or from the larger online store.
If a monthly subscription service doesn’t sound up your alley, the general online store still offers everything from new musical releases to comedy albums, and the accompanying online magazine includes interviews and music reviews. There’s also a variety of vinyl bundles, hats and hoodies.
First launched in 2000, Discogs is an international database full of vinyl, CDs, cassette tapes, DVDs and box sets. In many ways, Discog serves more as a digital marketplace than a single record store. It serves as a middle space for vinyl lovers across the world to sell used records, catalog their music collection, and create discographies and wish lists full of the music they’re looking for.
The marketplace helps connect sellers and buyers with each other as well as the profiles of small record stores, and on any given day has over 62 million items available spanning all genres, with thousands of sellers. While it’s far too massive to passively browse like you might a local record store, the strength of Discogs is how quickly and easily it can connect you to the most specific version of a new album you’re looking for.
In this way, the model of Discogs is taking full advantage of the internet, trading in the charm of a physical store for the possibilities and convenience of an international gathering of music lovers. Plus, if you’re looking to trade or sell, it’s the quickest space to find your match.
4. Dusty Groove
If you’re a lover of funk, R&B, jazz, soul, or blues, then the online store for Chicago-based Dusty Groove is the place to browse. They have everything from spoken word LPs to Motown record reissues to newly-arrived bestsellers, and the online shop is updated with hundreds of new titles a day.
You can shop neo-soul CDs and record cleaning supplies in their online shop, poetry from Sun Ra, and tote bags to carry your new vinyl in. If you’re on a budget, you can shop marked down used CDs and LPs under $9, and if you’re shopping from home but love digging in the crates, they mail out boxes of discounted bulk unsorted vinyl records for those who are both brave and dedicated enough to sort them.
If you like to shop memorabilia and record player gear while browsing in a vinyl store, then Third Man Records is a great online option to scoop it all up. There’s apparel ranging from baby onesies to reversible bucket hats, brand spanking new turntables, flex pedals, fancy LP boxes, and slipmats.
If you’re a fan of comedy, live recordings or concerts, or movie soundtracks, you can find a generous section of each, with formats ranging from 12’ records to CDs and cassettes. While the music selection spans multiple genres, Third Man was started in Detroit by musician Jack White of “The White Stripes,” so it’s an ideal stop for anyone deeply into psychedelic rock, garage rock, indie, folk, experimental, or gospel.
The Memphis-based punk shop Goner Records has a stocked online shop with a full section dedicated to highlighting Tennessee artists spanning multiple genres. While owners Eric Friedl and Zac Ives are dedicated to supporting the local music scene by promoting Memphis artists and booking stacked line-ups at their yearly Gonerfest concerts, the online shop is equally devoted to giving international artists their due. So if you’re looking for some African jazz, some Japanese funk, or some Brazilian dance music, your bases are covered.
The shop covers a wide variety of genres, it’s an especially good stop for fans of punk, garage rock, reggae or jazz. Goner Records also sells zines and music books, but it should be noted, their music format is primarily LPs, so it’s ideal for vinyl purists but generally not the spot to search out rare CDs or cassettes.
Turntable Lab is the place to be if you want to pick out high-quality gear for your listening space while also perusing a bevy of artists. You can shop turntables from under $300 to high-end record players. If your phonograph is doing fine, but it’s now time for a cartridge or stylus upgrade, you can shop a variety of options across different price points.
If you’re working as a professional DJ, or you just like to have a slick set-up, the shop sells laptop controllers, synthesizers, speaker stands, crossfaders, and more.
With everything from phono preamps to record cleaning starter kits, you can give your hi-fi listening corner a full makeover from Turntable Lab all from the comfort of your home.
One of the interesting features Turntable Lab offers online vinyl shoppers is the daily top-selling vinyl chart, which shows which LPs they’re selling the most of that day, which can be both interesting to see, but also serve as a tool for prioritizing when you buy certain albums. After all, you don’t wanna miss out on a favorite artist because other people are chomping at the bit faster than you.
Similarly, Turntable Lab provides daily updates of their pre-orders, restocks, and daily arrivals (this includes gear as well as LPs) so that shoppers can get a scope of what’s hot and how quickly they should materialize their wishlist.
Finding The Best Online Record Store Depends on What You’re Collecting
Naturally, there is a myriad of factors that go into picking your favorite online record store. If you’re a vinyl lover with tunnel vision towards a handful of genres, then finding a spot that specializes in your world of sound is going to be a top priority. Conversely, if you dabble across genres but love to fill your space with merch and new gear, finding a shop that offers variety is more in order.
At the end of the day, quantifying which online record stores are the absolute best is a deeply subjective and arguably impossible task. For this very reason, it’s most helpful to view lists as a jumping-off point for your own needs rather than a prescription.
Hopefully, this list can help you find the online equivalent of a cozy corner full of crates to dig into, or a pristinely polished shop full of upright displays of rare colored vinyls, it all depends on what you’re into.