Best Independent Record Stores in London: 3 Faves

close-up of someone's hands browsing through crates of vinyl records

Following the success of last week’s post about the best independent bookshops in East London, here’s my top 3 of the best independent record shops in London. Two of them are conveniently located in Soho, Central London. And the other one is of course in Shoreditch, my favourite London neighbourhood. All three London record stores offer online purchases and delivery during the coronacrisis.

Well before the vinyl revival, I used to buy music in this format already. Not to make some kind of statement or show how cool I was, but because it was basically the most common format sold in shops.

Yes, we are speaking about the 1980s here.

I bought my first 7″ vinyl single in 1987 a few days after my 8th birthday. Using the birthday money I pocketed, I bought Tiffany’s classic I Think We’re Alone Now. Arriving home, I proudly stuck a sticker on it, indicating it was the first purchase of my future record collection.

close-up of my hand holding the vinyl single record of Tiffany's I Think We'Re Alone Now

My Favourite Independent Record Stores in London

I vividly remember my weekly outing to the local store and picking up the latest chart list. Keeping it close at hand during the weekly radio broadcast of the charts, I’d seek out my favourite new songs. Only to buy it on vinyl again later of course.

Although my CD collection has outgrown my vinyl collection, I still love visiting record stores. Browsing through the crates feels like a trip down memory lane at times. But at other times, it leads to exciting discoveries of my favourite new artists. Want to know where I go record shopping in London? Well, here’s a list of my three favourite London records shops!

1. Rough Trade East

This Shoreditch icon also features in my article about independent bookshops in East London. And while they do have a great selection of books, Rough Trade East is mostly known as one of the best music stores in London.

inside Rough Trade East, one of the best independent record stores in London

Located in hipster Shoreditch, it’s not surprising Rough Trade East was one of the first shops to sell music on vinyl again a few years ago. But besides crates full of vinyl records of pretty much all music genres, you’ll also still find rows and rows of CDs here. And being the ultimate hipster music store, they even sell a small selection of cassette tapes. Who remembers those, eh?

Their regular in-store gigs and events are fabulous as well. Over the years, Rough Trade East has welcomed a number of legendary bands on its stage, including Queens of the Stone Age. While the gigs used to be open to anybody on a first come basis, they now often require purchasing the artist’s record or merchandise beforehand.

Website: Rough Trade
Address: Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL GB

Want to explore more of Shoreditch and find out why this is my favourite of all London neighbourhoods? These following articles will help guide you through the area:
10 Unique Things to See in Shoreditch
24 Hours in Shoreditch

2. Sister Ray Records

Today’s Soho is very different from what it used to look like in the past. While most of the seedy venues and matching clientele have gone, so have lots of the unique shops that made this area such a vibrant hotspot.

Berwick Street in the heart of Soho was the must-visit record shop for music lovers. It even features on the cover of Oasis’s famous album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?. Illustrating its importance, the street was chosen because it was so well-known for its numerous music stores.

But from all the independent music stores that were once located at Berwick Street, Sister Ray Records is one of the few to survive. But also Reckless Records, at 30 Berwick Street, has been here since the early 80s.

Having relocated twice on the same street since its first establishment late 1980s, Sister Ray Records is my regular music shopping destination. Their collection of vinyl and CD includes anything from Afrobeat to Glamrock and everything in between. Besides general releases, the shop stands out for its selection of exclusive releases.

Website: Sister Ray Records
Address: 75 Berwick Street, Soho, London W1F 8RP

3. Phonica Records

Phonica record shop opened in Soho in 2003. To me this date still sounds like yesterday. How could this be already 17 years ago? In my head, anything up to the 90s isn’t that long ago. Perhaps this is just a sign I’m getting old, ha ha! Then again, it is my 41st birthday this Tuesday soooo….

Anyway, back to my list of the best record stores in London!

In these 17 years, Phonica Records has established itself as the go-to shop for DJs and vinyl collectors alike. Specialising in dance music, Phonica Records also set up their own label and organise in-store DJ sets.

Besides offering the best and exclusive electronic music, Phonica Records also stocks hip hop, rock, indie, pop, and much more. Don’t have your own turntable to play those fine vinyl records yet? You’ll be pleased to hear that Phonica sells turntables and other merchandise too! Or simply buy your new favourite tunes on CD of course.

Website: Phonica Records
Address: 51 Poland Street, Soho, London W1F 7LZ

Do you buy vinyl records or CDs still? Or do you prefer digital releases? Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx

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Feature photo by Annie Theby on Unsplash

8 thoughts on “Best Independent Record Stores in London: 3 Faves

  1. Pete

    yes, love Sister Ray and Rough Trade, but Phonica doesn’t sound familiar to me (but i often go round that area looking in all the music shops so may well know it). I still buy a lot of vinyl, and have even bought more cassette tapes in recent years than i ever used to when they were a popular, mainly because some of my favourite artists are releasing stuff as cassette-only releases, but nowadays i record it to the computer and listen from there rather than risking the tape getting snarled up in the player’s mechanism

    1. Dutch Girl in London

      Oh I’m sure you would’ve passed Phonica loads of times without realising 🙂
      That’s great for the cassettes! I don’t think I’ve ever bought music cassette tapes. I used to record my favourite tracks from the radio on empty cassettes instead. I was really sad I discovered my tapes were damaged when I first moved home and threw them all out. Later I wondered if it was just the tape deck, never got to test it though. It was sad because these were such random 80s and 90s songs that I have no recollection of now so can’t look them up, but they are part of my childhood of course. Would’ve loved to hear them again! Clever you record the cassettes to the computer so you’ll always have a back-up.

    1. Dutch Girl in London

      That’s great you have one near you too! They do have several UK stores and even one in NYC. I’ve been there once too and it’s massive! Glad you liked the post and thanks for leaving a lovely comment 🙂 xx

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