SINGAPORE

Record
Store Day

Words by Daniel Peters
Photography Marc Tan of Studio Periphery.

In celebration of Record Store Day globally, we shine a light on the vinyl collecting community in Singapore, where the independent record store lives on.

The age of the music franchise has waned around the world, and even more so in Singapore. In a country where big brand names like HMV and Tower Records, alongside homegrown enterprises like Sembawang Music Centre and Gramophone once made their mark with spacious stores based across shopping malls all over the island, all have shuttered — leaving behind a gaping void for consumer-friendly emporiums that once made CDs king.

It’s barely a loss for local music listeners, though, as the prominence of independent record stores have breathed new life into a local tradition of physical media — specifically, vinyl records. Just like the rest of the world, the format has had a noticeable growth in sales in Singapore, even if it’s a comparably niche market.

These stores carry on a long-standing tradition established by forebearers like Roxy Records and Da Da Records (the former still active today), and they’re catering to growing and diversified customer bases.

Some have acutely incorporated live music, F&B and other services — record stores where you can get a cup of coffee (Choice Cuts Goods + Coffee), a cocktail (White Label Records) or a brand new haircut (The Barbershop Music) — while a place like Retrocrates, which deals mainly in rock and pop, offers a comfy and isolated refuge for jazz purists within their premises, named The Jazz Loft.

The proliferation of a vinyl culture has also allowed these stores to foster a communal appreciation for the format, culminating in a yearly Record Store Day (RSD) tradition.

“You could be an experienced collector or a novice, but everybody is welcome. Music belongs to everyone, not just a select few.”

But while the annual event, which began in the United States, and now in its 13th year, has been celebrated worldwide, the limited amount of copies available for each exclusive title means that not all stores are able to get what they want for their customers.

“We have to submit our orders as early as possible, and hope we land those titles,” says Azri Ali, owner of Mosta Records. “That’s the reality.” Mosta stands out in the landscape of Singaporean record stores by importing directly from independent labels like Third Man Records and Light in the Attic, and will be bringing in “carefully selected exclusive RSD titles”.

The people behind Vinylicious, who began celebrating RSD in 2013, have come to terms with the state of its limited releases. “Unfortunately, we cannot control whom our major supplier allocates titles to,” store owner Eugene Ow Yong says. “Because of the geographical location of Singapore, we do not enjoy priority compared to Europe, USA and Japan.”

With every ensuing RSD, Ow Yong routinely checks in with customers via social media to gather title suggestions. “RSD is important to us,” says Ow Yong, “in terms of bringing together the whole music community in Singapore to celebrate music in vinyl form.”

None of this has stopped Singaporean record stores from celebrating the event with fresh ideas. Mosta’s approach bucks the “first come, first served” practice de rigeur, instead slotting in special RSD titles amongst other available records as part of a treasure hunt, and they will also host live music performances throughout the day.

Another well-reputed store, The Analog Vault, is marking the day this year with special all-vinyl DJ sets, along with the chance to win a custom turntable. With RSD being an annual tradition, it’s also a reminder to these music lovers why they do what they do.

“You learn so much from customers and are always exploring music you’ve never heard before,” says Nick Bong, the “Music Merchant” of The Analog Vault, which offers records encompassing jazz, funk, soul and electronic dance music. “It’s pretty magical to share these moments with people and vibe with a piece of music together.”

Ali hopes that, through RSD, it draws more people into vinyl. “You could be an experienced collector or a novice, but everybody is welcome. Music belongs to everyone, not just a select few.”

Illustration by Tia O’Donnell

Crate Digging in Singapore

There are more than 30 shops selling vinyl in Singapore, here’s our select of some of the best on the island.

Words by Robin Chua

Red Point Record Warehouse
Possibly the largest store here (about 70,000 records), this is the place to visit if you’re looking for rare Asian music. Owned by the knowledgeable Mr. Ong, you can get recommendations on Chinese, Malay and Indian artists. Unfamiliar with Asian titles? Just show the album cover on your phone to Mr. Ong and he’ll find it for you.

80, Playfair Road,
Kapo Building Blk B #06-11
Singapore 367998

White Label Records
Opening late 2018, White Label operates both as a vinyl store and bar selling a range of hip-hop, electronic, jazz & world music. The place is also known for its eclectic music events at night, as well as their online streaming platform, SG Community Radio (showcasing local and foreign DJs). Some of the past guests include Gilles Peterson and Anoraak. They regularly hold music markets for music collectors to buy, sell, or trade music.

28, Ann Siang Road, #01-01
Singapore 069708

Hear Records
Voted #041 by Vinyl Factory as one of the best record stores in the world, Hear Records stock a wide selection of rock, metal, indie, pop titles. Besides having weekly new shipments, the shop is also famous for second hand records sourced from Japan.

175B, Bencoolen Street
Burlington Square, #01-18
Singapore 189651

The Adelphi & Coleman Street
A frequent spot for audiophiles, The Adelphi houses shops offering music equipment like turntables and speakers. But you can also find a few vinyl shops here that are worth your while, like Memory Lane or Vinylicious (both located at basement level). After you’re done at Adelphi, you can walk to nearby buildings like Peninsula or Excelsior. Both shopping centres have vinyl shops within their premises and you will be able to hit a few music stores along this stretch on Coleman Street.

The Adelphi
1, Coleman Street
Singapore 179803

Peninsula Shopping Centre
3, Coleman Street
Singapore 179804

Excelsior Shopping Centre
5, Coleman Street
Singapore 179805

Record Store Day is Saturday 13th April. Fred Perry proudly supports this day, and independent record stores the other 364 days too.

To celebrate, we’ve made some limited edition tote bags featuring illustrators from around the world – available in your local record store to the first customers of the day.

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