Legendary Manchester Record Shop Vinyl Exchange celebrates 30th birthday

  • In better days Vinyl Exchange used to outsell its rivals in The Northern Quarter
  • The Rise of Streaming services has seen business suffer

Vinyl Exchange record shop on Oldham Street opened for trade in 1988 and soon became the place to go for record collectors and music specialists alike where rarities could be discovered alongside vinyl classics.

Back then the Northern Quarter was little more than a collection of derelict streets and last chance saloons. Factory Records elected to put their prestigious ‘Dry’ bar on Oldham Street, thus beginning the gentrification of a part of town that historically housed Manchester’s declining rag trade. 

Vinyl Exchange was a place where you both bought and sold your records, tapes and CDs. In its prime, it saw more trade along Oldham Street than its immediate rivals at both Piccadilly Records and Eastern Bloc.

Vinyl Exchange counter
Inside Vinyl Exchange

The Shop sells predominately second hand vinyl and CDs. Over time DVDs have made their way onto the shelves and there is even a selection of books in the basement. Much can be perused via the website but also through Discogs and Amazon.

Rae Donaldson has been working behind the counter for 23 years and is now joint manager. He has seen the changes acutely over the years.

Rae Donaldson manager at Vinyl Exchange
Rae Donaldson manager at Vinyl Exchange

“We are still the largest seller of second records and CDs in the North West and the place to come to when you want to sell your record collection.”

As we are speaking, Rae is approached by a customer, Mike Rutter, who has an attic of Vinyl he wishes to sell. “There are some Old Beatles Records in there”. He offers

Mike Rutter; is not a regular in the shop but said: “This place has been recommended to me and I was told I would get a fair price.”

Rae is keen to stress this is true, although not every old record will get a high price. Rae recalls selling a rare first edition copy of The Beatles LP, ‘Please, Please me’ for £2000.

“I actually got into trouble for that as it was worth £2,500,” he sighs.

But it isn’t always pay day for Vinyl Exchange, as Rae explains.

Vinyl Rack at Vinyl Exchange
Vinyl rack at Vinyl Exchange

“We are still going but there just isn’t a new generation of record and CD buyers out there.”

With many people listening to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, Rae has seen a slow down of trade over the years. “The future is not certain.” he said: “And I can’t see us being here in another 30 years”

But Rae is up beat as he sells a handful of CDs to a customer for £17.

“The best thing about working in a record shop is that I can make a living in a place where I can listen to music all day.”