Paris – a hidden treasure trove for vinyl
7th July 2020
Crate digging has always been a massive plus point for record collectors. There’s nothing better than sifting through cartons of second-hand vinyl to finally spot a hidden gem for less than a flat white. And vinyl nuts are now going further and further afield to find rare records in forgotten boxes in the most undiscovered corners of the world. But what if the best place to go crate digging has been right under our noses all this time? What if the most famous city in the world is also the best place to hunt for vinyl?
Vive la musique ethnique
Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, the city of love, light and art. The city has some of the most symbolic monuments in the world and has inspired artists for centuries. But little do people know that it’s also a crate digger’s dream and one of the best places in the world to go vinyl hunting.
The very fact that Paris is a well-trodden tourist location and a hot-bed of different cultures is one of the main reasons it’s so great for vinyl. As an ex-coloniser, France’s capital has become a multi-national capital of the world. It has seen waves of mass immigration from its former colonies including Francophone Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. And it’s had people emigrating from countries that have no historical tie to the country, including the Americas, Portugal, Russia and Romania. This influx of different cultures has given the city a musical pluralism and a richly diverse vinyl culture – making France, and its capital, the centre for world music.
France is now the go-to place for North African and Lebanese records, it also has a wealth of European soundtracks and American free jazz which first started to stock its record store shelves in the early 70s. And although Paris isn’t one of the biggest global cities in the world, it is a global hotspot for multi-cultural music and why it’s one of the best city’s in the world to find rare and diverse vinyl.
Paris’ native sound is a mix between its classic cabaret sound to its newer and more eclectic music. The city’s brand of electronic music has particularly got music fans talking, such as the unique blend of tango and dance created by Gotan Project and Gaël Faye a rapper and poet who artfully blends Brazilian, electronic and classic Paris sounds. What’s more, some of France’s favourite musicians weren’t actually born in the country. France’s top rapper, MC Solaar, is a Senegal born artist who moved to Paris and dominated the charts ever since. And Rachid Taha, a renowned Raï artist, was born in Algeria, grew up in Lyon and then moved to Paris, where he produced some of his best work. He even named one of his albums ‘Barbes’ after the immigrant quarter of the city centre.
And if you’ve already bought your plane ticket and are raring to go, have a good research about which record shops you wanted to concentrate on because there are a myriad of record shops spread across the city of love. If time is tight, the north and east of the city, especially Montmatre, have the most and arguably some of the best. If you aren’t sure where to start, Superfly records and Benito’s are great allrounders, and Musique Musique is also not to be missed.
France also has tons of different festivals celebrating music and vinyl, including Disquaire Day, very much like the US and UK Record Store Day. Over 200 independent record stores get involved every year and release first press editions for the festival. Paris is the centre of the national festival, with 30 record stores taking part, as well as street concerts and crate digging events in abandoned train stations part and parcel.
Another annual music event is fête de la musique, which happens all over France on the summer equinox on the 21st of June and is a celebration of the country’s music heritage as well as the official start of summer. Streets are filled with musicians and record shops become indoor festivals. Each city has a unique take on fete de la musique, and Paris is definitely the cityto pick if you want oodles of choice, with every square becoming a concert and every quarter a festival.
France also has a very strong antique culture with bargain hunting a national pastime. Flea markets are called either broccantes or vide greniers which translated as ‘empty attic’, aptly named after French houses that have attics piled high with antique treasures. In summer, France becomes a scavenger’s delight with Broccantes and Vide Greniers popping up all over the country. Every town, city and village will set up makeshift tables across streets and squares and sell all their forgotten attic loot. Locals and tourists come out in their droves to eat, drink, bargain and stroll around in the sunshine. You can find mostly anything in these bargain hunting meccas, from antique clocks and vintage china to very rare vinyl. And Paris has ton of flea markets starting as early as March.
If you are looking for a place to hunt for used vinyl in winter, France has got your back. The country has marchés aux puces in every major town, which are basically flea markets that open all year round. Again, there are a lot in Paris, with the most famous being marché aux puce de saint Ouen. But if you are looking for less of a tourist trap, marché aux puces de Vanves is a local favourite.
And if you still need to convince your friends and family that Paris is worth the plane ticket, you also have plenty things to do between record shop visits, like seeing a few famous monuments or two, strolling through its hundreds of museums, eating your way through the bistro lined streets while sipping on ridiculously cheap wine.
Like what you read and want to know more about record hunting hotspots? We are planning on doing a series of spotlight pieces on global vinyl hotspots in the coming months, so watch this space! If you can’t wait that long we also have loads of articles about music and vinyl on our blog. And if you want the next crate digging city straight in your inbox, sign up to our morning coffee newsletter below and receive our latest blogs, competitions as well as music news and views.