Friday, December 12, 2014

Discovering Shanghai via Its Vinyl Stores

Not only have I been figuring out how to buy vinyl on, I also decided that in a city as big as Shanghai, there had to be some interesting record shops I could discover.  Again, the mentality is that maybe I can find interesting releases here easier than I could in Europe or North America.  But actually going out and finding local record shops was also a good way to go exploring the city.  I'm a huge proponent of public transportation, so this was also a great excuse to just ride around the metro.  Shanghai is full of so many enormous malls and chain stores that seeking out some hole-in-the-wall, locally owned stores just really appealed to me.

Admittedly, I first started searching online, entering "Shanghai record shop" and "Shanghai vinyl store" into Google.  I got a few articles, but most of them were from about two years ago or so.  Realizing how quickly the city is changing, I didn't expect all of them to still be around since it seems like two years here is an eternity.  Taking this article as my main point of reference along with this blog entry and this discussion on, I mapped out six record shops I wanted to visit, all of which were on the Puxi side of the city.  (As an aside, one of the reasons why I'm writing this is to have updated information about these places out there.)

Based purely on location, I decided to first visit the so-called "lamp fixtures market store" because the nearest metro station is also on the 7 line, which is the closest line to where I live.  I found the market and the place where the shop supposedly was, but it looked closed.  Disappointed, I left and went to check out Uptown Records.  Similarly, I found the building where it was, but it too was not open.  I wasn't sure if it was right or not because the entrance is beneath a residence building and it looks like you'll get murdered (see third image below for reference). At that point, I wasn't about to trek out to the other stores only to end up feeling like I wasted a whole day in case they weren't open.  This was last Tuesday afternoon, and Uptown Records supposedly opened at 2.  I was there at around 2:30 in the afternoon, so I figured it must've just been a fluke.  Dejected, I went home and left the other shops for another day.

Determined to figure out if these two stores actually were still open, I searched the internet for contact information and wrote them in English and Google-translated Chinese.  The lamp fixtures market one wrote back saying he was still open.  I knew Uptown was still open because when I was there and trying to figure out if I was the right place, I asked an old lady outside the building if she knew the store.  All I could understand was that the day I visited, either the store wasn't open or was opening later.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Figuring Out Chinese E-Commerce Websites

Now that I've been here for about a month, I'm starting to get into the daily grind of living in China. Most of my time is spent job searching, discovering the city, or doing mundane tasks like grocery shopping. The latter two are always an adventure since there's something new I'm going to learn or discover. For most people, shopping online is nothing difficult, but living in a country where my literacy is very limited is a challenge.

In the last few years, I started buying vinyl records again because I like having the physical product. Quite often, new releases also come with an mp3 download code so I can listen on whatever digital device of my choosing. Additionally, I like a lot of music from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, so I just enjoy having the original records, which I have to buy secondhand. About two years ago or so, I went with a friend to Utrecht for the Mega Record & CD Fair where I looked for a lot of old Beatles records. I realized then that being an avid traveler, I could always go hunt for record shops while on vacation and perhaps find releases that would normally be harder to come by.

With that in mind, I thought that looking for records here in China would be interesting since western music isn't common here, and therefore, if there are releases that I could find, they're probably rare and/or fewer people are interested in them. Moreover, China is closer to Japan, which comparatively listens to a lot of western music, so finding Japanese releases here is easier than in either Germany or the United States. Having thought this out, I decided to try out, China's answer to eBay and Amazon. Essentially, it's an e-commerce site that connects small businesses to people and you can find everything under the sun there, including secondhand wares.