The vinyl revival has been going strong for nearly two decades now, with collectors and audiophiles fueling a resurgence of record sales in recent years. Recurring events like Record Store Day only add to the allure of the LP, bringing fans of the medium to their local record shops to pick up exclusive new releases, re-releases, and plenty of discounted and hard-to-find albums to add to their collections.
There’s no better time to get acquainted with the wealth of unique, popular—and yes, even historic—record shops that call California home.
One of the country’s most famous record shops, Amoeba Music started out in Berkeley before expanding to locations in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and Los Angeles. Founded in 1990, Amoeba has become synonymous with the California music scene, hosting free concerts and live interviews with music legends and local heroes alike to go along with its massive vinyl library, and even producing an award-winning video series on its YouTube channel. The shop is so popular, in fact, that the L.A. location is featured in the Guitar Hero World Tour video game, and even played host to a live recording of Paul McCartney’s appropriately titled album Amoeba Gig in 2007.
San Jose and Santa Cruz
It began as a stereo shop selling A/V components to San Francisco’s audiophiles, but Streetlight Records decided early on to go all-in on vinyl, and never looked back. The success of that decision eventually led to two more locations in San Jose and Santa Cruz (and the closing of the San Francisco storefront). Monthly meetups for vinyl aficionados and regular events highlighting local, indie musicians have made both remaining shops community mainstays for more than 30 years.
MediumRare Records & Collectibles
Voted Sacramento’s best record store, MediumRare is more than a destination for vinyl collectors—it’s a colorful, musical journey down memory lane, thanks to the stores’ ever-changing selection of collectibles and mementos from a bygone era. You’ll come for the records, but you’ll leave with a much-needed dose of nostalgia, too.
The Next Record Store
Created by a pair of collectors who wanted a regional alternative to the wealth of record shops in Santa Cruz, The Next Record Store rose from the ashes (metaphorically speaking) of longtime Santa Rosa vinyl hub The Last Record Store. Still operated by one of the latter shop’s owners, The Next Record Store continues to offer a reminder of everything record shops can be with its packed shelves, well-stocked discount bin, and occasional live performances by local musicians.
More notable record shops in Northern California include: Rock Cellar Records in Truckee, located in the “possibly haunted” basement of a popular book shop, and People’s Records in Arcata, the oldest and largest shop in Humboldt County, with a distinctly old-school vibe. And no mention of California record shops would be complete without a mention of the once-dominant Tower Records, which grew from a tiny storefront in Sacramento to a world-famous brand and still exists as an online music storefront.
The Vinyl Revolution
You don’t get more old-school than Vinyl Revolution, which eschews typical online presence for a back-to-basics, in-person experience for vinyl collectors—particularly anyone interested in psychedelic rock and heavy metal.
Tigers & Daggers Records
Punk, hard rock, and heavy metal get the spotlight in this relatively new Central Valley record shop, but you’ll find plenty of other genres in the racks at Tigers & Daggers, a local favorite with a memorably edgy name.
Tower District Records
A beloved Fresno staple, Tower District Records is a full-service destination for vinyl fans, offering a wide selection of records along with A/V and turntable equipment to make the at-home listening experience the best it can be.
The classic record shop full of packed bins gets a delicious twist in this store that pairs racks of vinyl treats for the ears with a bar serving local beers and soda. If you ever wondered which Golden State craft brew matched with your favorite album, you’ll find out at Armadillo Music.
Going Underground Records
Bakersfield might be best known for its country music, but the region’s connection to the punk and hardcore scene are on full display in this shop that was described as the “unlikely epicenter for punk” by SFGate. Sure, Going Underground has a little bit of everything for sale, but anyone looking for hard-to-find punk records will get a kick out of the selection. A second location for Going Underground in L.A. doesn’t lean into the store’s punk roots as heavily but offers a similarly satisfying record-shopping experience.
There’s no shortage of great record shops around L.A. County, but Rockaway Records is one of the biggest and boldest of the bunch, with a history filled with high-profile vinyl sales and deep connections to the local music scene. While the store offers a wide swathe of genres and records priced to all levels of collector, it specializes in buying and selling valuable releases and collections, and has made plenty of headlines over the years due to the ultra-rare vinyl that has passed through its doors. It also counts music legend Lucinda Williams among its former employees, and has appeared in a long list of films and shows over the years, including episodes of Arliss and Gene Simmons Family Jewels.
Jazz has long held a special place in the hearts of record collectors, and this Black-owned shop with a brightly colored storefront specializes in the genre, filling every inch of its space with a carefully curated collection of vinyl. In a region filled with massive, well-known record-shopping destinations, P.M. Sounds is a hidden gem that rewards collectors looking for a more personal, communal experience with the quest for vinyl in all the right ways.
Along with these two shops, there are plenty of other great record shops in and around L.A. to get your vinyl fix. Record collectors should also check out the aforementioned L.A. location of Amoeba Music, as well as The Record Parlour, bar and music mash-up Permanent Records, Canterbury Records (L.A.’s oldest record shop), A/V destination Common Wave Hi-Fi, punk-focused Headline Records, electronic music mecca Mount Analog, and celebrity-favorite Record Safari, which has created a pop-up location at Coachella in recent years.
A record shop that’s been serving its region for more than four decades clearly knows what its customers are looking for, and Lou’s Records has provided for San Diego’s vinyl collectors since 1980. The shop’s no-frills approach to offering classic records and rare releases to anyone who wanders in is refreshing, and has helped make it a local music hotspot across multiple generations.
If you’re suffering from not having enough vinyl in your life, Palm Springs’ Vinyl Pharmacy has the medicine you need. This eclectic shop offers a great selection of new and classic records along with a wide variety of music-related collectibles. It’s the sort of place you can’t help leaving with something you didn’t even know you needed.
Port of Sound Record Shoppe
Port of Sound, a relatively small shop specializing in new releases and vinyl re-releases, somehow manages to pack a massive collection into its Orange County storefront. The helpful staff have their fingers on the pulse of the local music scene, always willing to point you in the direction of something you haven’t heard before—and will likely find its way into your collection.
A San Bernardino mainstay located 30 miles east of L.A., Rhino Records moved from Claremont to Montclair in 2022, but manages not to lose any of its charm, or its status as a landmark for local music fans and vinyl collectors. The independent record shop offers a surprisingly robust, genre-spanning collection of records, both new and classic, as well as rare releases you’ll have a tough time tracking down anywhere else.