The upside of the big chain music retailers' focus on mega-selling pop is that a number of great niche stores - including many fine second-hand CD and LP outlets - have sprung up over the years to address the needs of the diverse Toronto music-buying public. Here are some of current hot spots to score rare vinyl and cool discs at a fraction of what you'd pay on eBay.
The newest addition to the Toronto vinyl marketplace, Spinables (602 B Markham, 416-516-7377), opened without fanfare last week across the street from Suspect Video and the Beguiling. It might not look all that impressive from the outside, but proprietor Andrew Taylor has more than 20 years' experience selling used records, and if the success of his Ottawa-based operation is any indication, the relocated Spinables will soon be a regular stop for serious vinyl junkies looking for hard-to-find rock, jazz, soul, funk, indie hiphop and soundtrack LPs along with a quality selection of CDs. Sonic Boom (512 Bloor West, 416-532-0334) may not be the best used CD/DVD store in town, but it's definitely the largest. Its policy of buying just about every disc that comes in the door means that you'll turn up some obscurities here that the other shops wouldn't touch. But consequently, you may need to spend some time digging through piles of Haywire and Esthero discs to find them. If you don't have the latest 50 Cent or OLP CD, this is where to get it cheap.
Everybody knows that Kops (229 Queen West, 416-593-8523) is the place to go for rare soul, blues and pop oldies 45s, but more 60s and 70s vintage used LPs are appearing upstairs, priced to move. Definitely worth a peek.
Further down Queen, Neurotica (642 Queen West, 416-603-7796) is home to a huge stockpile of easy listening, lounge and exotica records in addition to some strange spoken word stuff and an oddball mix of alt-rock, blues and jazz. It might look small, but the place is stacked tight from floor to ceiling, making it a digger's delight.
Admittedly, heading out to Discovery (1140 Queen East, 416-778-6394) is a bit of a trip from the downtown core, but being out of the way just means that the great country, folk, blues, jazz and soca records that enter the shop might still be there when you decide to show up. One of the oldest and best second-hand vinyl vendors in town.
Also off the beaten path, Harmony (711 Mount Pleasant, 416-440-1386) is well worth visiting for its choice selection of vintage rock, R&B, blues and jazz vinyl, top-notch used jazz and world CDs, music and film books and an impressively large stock of used DVDs. Everything is typically in excellent condition and very reasonably priced.