Don’t call it a comeback. Though the music industry isn’t the titan it once was, a resurgence in the popularity of vinyl has breathed new life into independent record stores.
Vinyl sales have jumped dramatically from their 2008 levels going from 1.9 million units to 4.6 million units. Meanwhile, 2012 saw vinyl sales grow for the fifth straight year in a row according to the Huffington Post. (Source.)
No doubt many consumers will always prefer the ease of iTunes or the illegal freeness of whatever site kids are using to pirate music these days. (Illegalmusictorrentsandfunnygifs.net? If it doesn’t exist, feel free to jump on the domain name.)
Still, for those looking for that irreplaceable experience of heading to the record store, these 5 places in Green Bay and Appleton that can hook you up with vinyl, CDs, casettes, and other “real music.”
1. Rock N’ Roll Land- Green Bay
Rock N’ Roll Land isn’t just a music store, it’s an experience. With live concerts, music memorabilia, and an impressive collection of vinyl LP’s, their goal is to help customers “discover a world of music beyond what corporate retailers can show you.”
Owners Phil Doran and Todd Magnuson are all about fostering a relationship with music and bringing it to the community. They’re also in tune with the local music scene and carry albums from unsigned artists on their shelves.
If you’re looking to get rid of old tunes, Rock N’ Roll Land buys back LP’s, CDs, and music-related collectibles. While I’ve never been inside, it seems like an interesting place. Their walls are covered with posters and photos from your favorite rockers.
2. Appleton Import Records- Appleton
Appleton Import Records first opened its doors well over two decades ago on Halloween of 1988. Owner and operator Shane wanted to specialize in punk and metal music that wasn’t readily available at other places.
Though it started with vinyl-exclusive wares aimed at pleasing heavy metal lovers, it evolved over time first moving toward the industrial scene and then expanding its collection blues, jazz, and many others styles.
It’s a small, quirky shop with piles of records, CDs, and even tape cassettes. It also lives up to the “import” in its name with jewelry, incense, and other cool knick-knacks.
Nestled on the west end of downtown near Muncheez Pizzeria and Marley’s Smoke Shop, it’s worth a look.
3. The Exclusive Company- Appleton, Oshkosh, Green Bay
The Exclusive Company prides itself on being not just one of the oldest record stores in the area but in the country as well.
In 1956, Exclusive Company founder Mr. G (masked vigilante by night if I ever saw one) went from selling records at flea markets to opening his first location in West Bend. Since then, others have followed in Appleton, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Janesville, and on Milwaukee’s East Side.
In addition to offering new and pre-owned music, they have great audio equipment and even movies. As you can see from the picture above, Exclusive Company also hosts live music and draws crazy crowds with their annual sales on “Record Store Day.”
They are my music buying place of choice in Appleton. Their staff is awesome and they don’t judge when I just get into bands that were popular back in the 90’s (I hear these Gorillaz fellows are quite the talented artists).
4. Top Spins- Appleton
Top Spins LLC is unique because it specializes in vinyl.
Co-owners Mark and Josh began by drawing on their personal music collections and moved into the space next to the Houdek Hemp House (which is owned by Mark’s brother-in-law).
Since opening about eight weeks ago, they’ve worked to amass a selection of rare music.
Some of their finds include a Howlin’ Wolf album, original Beatles work from the sixties, and a rare record from the band Savage Resurrection. They also sell cassettes, record sleeves, and turntables.
Located in a stretch of businesses that face Houdini Plaza, the owners jokingly use the phrase “tastemonger” to describe themselves and say they are always searching for the next big thing.
I had a delightful time in Tops Spins even though I embarrassed myself by asking why a rack of 45’s were “so small.” That musty vinyl smell always brings back memories of listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” in my PJs.
5. Jim’s Music- Green Bay
Though Jim’s Music & Teaching Center primarily sells instruments, lessons, and sheet music, they have plenty to offer the recorded music lover.
With locations throughout Wisconsin and Michigan, they recently acquired a selection of rare records. Currently, they have 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s era rock albums boasting everything from Supertramp to Paul McCartney.
Jim’s Music also carries CD’s from local musicians that do indie rock, bluegrass, and country in the Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan area. This includes Hanna Bethel, Jeff Krebs, Infinite Idiom, and Papa Crow, and others.
What Did We Miss?
What’s your favorite place to buy music in Northeast Wisconsin? Leave a comment below!