Spinning discs and deep dives: Inside Cardiff’s thriving vinyl scene

This record store day, Cardiff’s record stores prove that vinyl is not just a relic, but is still alive and is grooving, even in the digital age. Step inside any one of Cardiff’s independent record shops, and you will find a scene buzzing with life.

The limited availability of music releases on record store day creates a sense of excitement and a “hunt” mentality for music fans.

A dense crowd of music lovers buzzed outside Spillers Records on Record Store Day. The shop brimmed with devoted music fans, drawn by the irresistible allure of vinyl, they pulsed with anticipation, eager to get their hands on a tangible piece of musical history. In a world dominated by streaming services and instant music access, the humble record shop might seem like a relic of the past. Yet, in Cardiff, a vibrant scene of independent record stores is not only surviving but thriving in the digital age.

These shops offer far more than just vinyl- they are cultural hubs, fostering a sense of community and a love for music in its most tangible form. People enjoying vinyl goes beyond mere nostalgia. The physical act of holding a record, appreciating the artwork, and carefully placing the needle on the groove creates a unique listening experience.

“There is something about holding a vinyl record, you know? It is not just the music, but also the weight of it in your hands. I feel a connection whenever I take one in my hands, it holds a memory and takes me back to the time,” says John Davies, a 73 year old seasonal vinyl collector based in Cardiff.

“Even when people thought vinyls were gone, they still existed. It has always been steady and is much more bespoke.– Russell Milton

The huge liking towards vinyl and the success of Cardiff’s record stores highlight a consumer desire for authenticity and a deeper connection with music. These independent shops are cultural spaces that cultivate community, foster music discovery, and provide a listening experience that goes beyond the digital realm. 

Russell Milton, who is the store manager of Kellys Records, believes in a community spirit the stores and the patrons share. “Stores like these act like a hub for fans and local artists. We chat with people coming here and there is a community spirit in a way,” he said.

“Online platforms can be a very divisive and opinionated place. With us, we have people coming through of all shapes, sizes, colours, and cultures. It is an opportunity for people to get nostalgic, but it is still alive,” says Milton.

People are loving going back to the old, vintage style, and are actually proud of having vinyl collections.

The digital age has also presented record stores with new opportunities. While digital platforms offer convenience and vast libraries, record stores provide a curated selection, often focusing on specific genres or local artists. According to Milton, digital media also offer the buyer more confidence while selecting the records.

“Digital media is a props up nowadays, clearly. People, especially the youth, have access to streaming services to listen to all the music they need. For instance, if they are going to buy a David Bowie album on vinyl, they have already listened and checked that out online, so there is no risk as they know what they are buying,” says Milton.

Record stores, by complementing the physical browsing experience gives a refreshing feeling to the buyers. Henry Nicholson, who works at an animation company in Cardiff is a seasoned collector of vinyl records. He is happy that record stores are still relevant today so that youngsters can have this music experience. “It is really fun going through the collections. I feel like more and more people are getting into listening to vinyl. Whenever I go to a record store, I can see many people already inside,” he said.

“The music just sounds authentic, but more than that I think it’s just also the novelty of having a physical vinyl and being able to build a collection.”- Elerie Evans

Elerie Evans, who recently started collecting vinyl records, experienced Record Store Day at Spillers Records for the first time. “I love meeting people, speaking to them and finding out what music they’re interested in and how long they have been collecting vinyls for and connecting with the people of the same community,” she said.

Beyond browsing chosen selections carefully, record stores offer a space for discovery and exploration. According to Elerie, vinyl records helped her start discovering and appreciating limited edition live concerts. “I found these really interesting because the tracks in the album are sung slightly differently than in the live recordings. That was really cool because you have a special version of it which not many people have,” she said.

In the heart of Cardiff, the sound of spinning discs and passionate conversations about music serves as a testament to the prevailing relevance of record stores. These shops are not just surviving- they are thriving, proving that vinyl and the unique experience it offers continue to resonate with music lovers in the digital age. 

“I feel like Cardiff is a mix of both vintage and new and they get on together quite well. The future of record stores is just healthy, touch wood,” said Milton.