What makes the best souvenir? For most travellers it's an object intrinsically related to the place they're visiting. Yet, for a certain kind of tourist, there's only one object worth bringing home – vinyl records.
"Los Angeles has some great record stores," says Graham Nixon of long-standing Sydney institution Resist Records. "Whenever I'm in the United States, I always make sure I visit Amoeba in Hollywood. It's overwhelming how big that store is."
Nixon knows a thing or two about record stores. His well-stocked shop and record label is a Newtown favourite, catering to a loyal clientele of dedicated music lovers in a suburb renowned for its eclectic stores and colourful locals.
Like many of his customers, Nixon revels in the opportunity to pick up some hard-to-find gems on his travels.
"Headline Records on Melrose Avenue is a great shop that I seem to pick something up from with every visit," he explains.
Had Nick Hornby published High Fidelity five years later than he did, there's a chance the Hollywood adaptation of his popular novel might never have been made.
For years it looked like digital downloads would eliminate the art of record buying, with consumers seemingly preferring to download music straight on to mobile devices.
However, with vinyl enjoying a resurgence in popularity, long-time music retailer and Australian Music Retailers Association board member Michael Fitzgerald says he's not surprised that some consumers prefer the more tangible aspects of buying records.
"It's a much better sound and you connect with the music," Fitzgerald says.
"I grew up listening to The Beatles and The (Rolling) Stones. It was a big event when an album was released and you looked at the artwork, you looked at the cover and you looked at the liner notes," he adds.
Don't Call It A Comeback
While vinyl sales are currently surging, many independent outlets have been trading in the retail business for years.
That's especially true in countries like Japan, where major metropolises like Tokyo and Osaka boast some of the best record stores in the world.
"I definitely would like to spend more time in Japan looking through a lot of their stores for used vinyl," says Nixon.
"I've only been there the once and found a lot of rare LPs at Disk Union. When vinyl wasn't so cool, Japan had a lot of vinyl collectors, so there's definitely a lot of gems still out there."
Fitzgerald, who recently closed his Capricorn Records store in Warrnambool after 35 years in business, says he also enjoys finding vinyl treasures in far-flung destinations, with Japan likewise at the top of his list for places to buy rare and out of print records.
Capitals Of Cool
Just as Japan is a regular go-to destination for dedicated vinyl junkies, so too are major world cities like London and New York teeming with the hip independent record stores – including Rough Trade Records, which operates successful shopfronts in both.
New York has long been at the cutting edge of the vinyl trade, with indie stalwarts like Generation Records and relative newcomer Co-Op 87 continuing to serve a disparate collection of discerning music lovers, long after the digital era looked set to consign record stores to the annals of history.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, dance music fans flock to cities like Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona not only to pile into the mega-clubs blasting frenetic beats at 33 revolutions per minute, but also for the diverse range of record stores that keep many of the resident disc jockeys in business.
Closer to home, Hong Kong is a hotbed of record retail according to the much-travelled Fitzgerald, who has made several shopping excursions to the city in recent years.
"The Chinese and the Japanese really seem to still embrace physical retail," he explains.
Record Store Day
One of the key drivers in the resurgence in vinyl's popularity is undoubtedly Record Store Day. Conceived in the United States in 2007 as a means of celebrating independent record retailers, Record Store Day is these days celebrated across the globe.
Held on the third Saturday in April each year, Record Store Day has proved wildly successful in Australia, with limited edition releases, exclusive in-store performances and meet-and-greet sessions attracting punters into music outlets across the country.
There was even a slew of Record Store Day-endorsed releases to mark last November's Black Friday sales, making 2014 a double delight for dedicated vinyl retailers.
"Record Store Day really has turned into a massive day and it's always exciting to see what will be released or re-issued," says Nixon.
The only question is, where will you be celebrating it in 2015?