Put the needle on the record: where to find the best vinyl stores in St Petersburg

(Photo credit: Pexels)

Record Store Day is celebrating its 10th anniversary today. The event was created to emphasise the importance and uniqueness of indie music stores. Local shops in St Petersburg are also taking part in the day, and are offering special releases and discounts. Check out our article below to find out where to grab exclusive vinyl and rare records

Despite endless streaming platforms in the digital age, vinyl is enjoying an explosive popularity among young and old people today. After playing a niche role for many years, spinning wax has celebrated a remarkable comeback, and not only among hipsters and old music geeks. Record sales are booming in Russia’s cultural capital, St Petersburg, as well, where you can find many cosy and dusty record stores.
In the time before the internet, those local shops were often the first places where the discovery of new music was mad. Many of them still exist to this day.

Since first opening, they haven’t lost their spirit, the main reasons being the guys who work behind the desks of the record stores: living encyclopaedias, who easily can take you on a trip through decades of music and pop culture.
Prospekt Magazine visited these local shops and met the people who work there to talk about their intimate relationship with vinyl.

(Photo credit: Robert Schwaß)

Mikhail (Imagine Club)

Imagine Club is probably the biggest record store in town. It holds over 15,000 vinyl records and a lot of CDs as well. Cheap offers start from 300 roubles, though the shop also sells the first pressings of the first Beatles LP. The 200,000 roubles price tag is likely to scare all but the most ardent music fans! Imagine Club is also a record label and presses copies of well-known Russian groups like DDT. They also own the in Rock café nearby, where you can have a drink while watching a live radio show being produced in front of you.

Of course, I remember the first record I owned! It was Deep Purple (The House of Blue Light) and it was very difficult to get. I bought it in a shop near the Tekhnologichesky Institut metro station. In Soviet times, this was the only record store here in St Petersburg. Sometimes you had to go there five times a month before you got the copy you were looking for because imported records were in demand and rare. There also was a black market near Devyatkino, which was a village in the 80s. It was quite dangerous to go there because police could easily arrest you. Original vinyls there were too expensive, so many Soviet people got copies from Bulgaria or Yugoslavia. Since I’m working in this shop now, I still collect vinyl. I think I own more than 2,000 copies now and I listen to every one of them. I even have an extra room where I collect them, and I’m afraid that I’m not going to stop soon.

Mikhail

Store: Imagine Club
Address: 20, ulitsa Zhukovskogo, St Petersburg, 191014
Website: imagine-club.com
Opening times: From Monday to Sunday, from 10am to 10pm

(Photo credit: Robert Schwaß)

Dimitri (Фонотека)

Once you enter Фонотека (Phonoteka), you are immediately hit with the cosy warm atmosphere that is only found in record stores. A snug leather couch invites you to take a deep dive into a huge mix of records, including special genres like soft jazz, but also contemporary releases. If you’re not only interested in records, Phonoteka also owns a huge collection of music documentaries and biographies and a great collection of classic films.

I’ve been working in the music business for more than 11 years now, and I’ve been working at Phonoteka for six years already. It’s nice to see that more and more people are collecting vinyl again. In the past, it was more or less a thing for older people, while now, many younger people get the feeling for the culture and the spirit of vinyl. Many of them bought their first record here and so did I as well. It was Björk’s first LP, Medulla. After that, I didn’t have money for the ride back home, but it was worth it.
I don’t think listening to music online is bad at all. In my eyes, it’s quite simple: we are all streaming some tunes, having gigabytes of music on our computers, but that doesn’t mean that we truly know the artists already and that don’t want to have everything in our collection. Indeed, it helps us to find the type of music we want to listen to. I have all of my favourite tunes on vinyl. Listening to them on spinning wax gives makes me feel like I’m listening to them for the first time. It feels like this moment when we are talking to each other. Physical contact is also quite important … I’m holding a cover in my hand now, and get information about the artists I often can’t find on the internet.
A record I warmly recommend to foreign visitors who are interested in Russian Music is Bad Balances LP of Город Джунглей (City Of Jungles). Those guys are pioneers of Russian rap. I was 11 years old when it was released on CD and they repressed it on vinyl a short time ago. I was so happy that I immediately bought two copies.

Dimitri

Store: Phonoteka
Address: 28, Marata Ulitsa, St Petersburg, 191040
Website: phonoteka.ru
Opening times: From Monday to Sunday, from 10am to 10pm

(Photo credit: Robert Schwaß)

Kostja (Vertak)

Vertak is located in St Petersburg’s hipster-hotspot, Loft Project Etagi, and opened a year ago.
Compared to the other shops, the collection is a little bit smaller, though you still can find cool and alternative tunes there. Don’t miss the container-store during your next visit to Etagi!

(Photo credit: Matushka.bandcamp.com)

I started collecting records randomly, maybe I was just following the hype. I collected tapes and CDs until a friend gave me a turntable as a present. I didn’t even have monitors or an amp at the time, but when I first listened to my favourite Finnish rock group Reverend Bizarre, I was shocked by the sound and became a vinyl maniac. The shop was an Idea I already had four years ago, but I still see it more as a hobby. I don’t want to sit here all my life, but for now, it’s cool. Actually, I’m a drummer and I teach other people how to play. After I earned enough money I stopped teaching and opened the shop in March 2016. I’m working together with European distributors and choosing the records which I sell here on my own. Once or twice a month, I’m buying a record for myself, so the collection still gets bigger. Personally, I prefer rock music, though I don’t like Russian rock that much, except some hardcore punk like Minefield and psychedelic groups such as St Petersburg-based ones like Matushka and Grave Disgrace. Their sound is more American and British, not like the utopian Russian sound other groups from here have.

Kostja

Store: Vertak
Address: Loft project Etagi, Container B6, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, St Petersburg, 191040
Facebook page: facebook.com/vertakvinyl
Opening times: From Monday to Sunday, from noon to 9pm

(Photo credit: Robert Schwaß)

Oleg (Vinyl Records)

Located near Nevsky Prospekt, Vinyl Record is maybe the right place to grab your personal souvenir despite the ordinary tourist shops. The store offers more than 10,000 records. Sales start from 100 to 200 roubles, though rare records are, of course, more expensive. Next to all-time classics, you can also find a collection of fairy tales and classical music pressed on vinyl.

Vinyl is more than music, it’s a masterpiece of art. In my opinion, it became important in the 70s when photographers put a lot of effort in the LP-covers, artwork and all that stuff. I would compare collecting vinyl or visiting a record store to visiting an art gallery, where you stay in front of the paintings and you’re just amazed by what you see.
Photography was also the reason why I bought my first LP – It was in the early 80s when Asia released their self-titled LP. On the cover, you can see a dragon in a typhoon and I suddenly had the intuition that I held a good piece of music in my hands, though I didn’t even now the group back then. By the way, I bought it on the black market for only 5 roubles, which would be 1,500 roubles nowadays.
Since I’m the owner of my own record store, I don’t have an online catalogue. People shouldn’t just come to a record store to get the LP they ordered online, instead, they just should take some time and find something while digging through records.

Oleg

Store: Vinyl Records
Address: 10, Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa, St Petersburg, 191186
Opening times: From Monday to Friday, from 10am to 9pm; Saturday from noon to 7pm

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