We've been selling vinyl since 1995, and selling vinyl online since 1999. But there are only three things you really need to know about Norman Records...
The best service
Friendly and knowledgeable staff. Speedy delivery. A straightforward website.
The best music
A big catalogue with some of the most interesting music on the planet. Vinyl, CD, tape: that's us.
The best prices
Whether it's our stock or our shipping, we're hard to beat on price. Shop around. You'll see.
I've always loved vinylVideo credit: Owen Thomas-Hargreaves
My first contact with vinyl was when I was but a wee child. I was six, and I remember thumbing through my mum's records. I’m pretty sure most of it was utter shite (Baccara anyone?) but I kept thumbing through for days, weeks and months afterwards as I was just fascinated by the sleeves.
At some point through the ‘thumbing period’ I was given permission to actually play the records. My tiny mind was blown. How on earth does the round black plastic thing make noise? This makes no sense. Even to this day, after watching countless geeky videos of vinyl records being pressed, it’s still voodoo to me.
Engineering aside, I remember playing every record I could get my hands on. I wanted to know what they all sounded like. Even the ones I didn’t like sounded great, and I kept on playing them and playing them - much to my mum’s annoyance. Hey, I was only six - and pretty much all six year olds are bellends.
42 years on and I’m still a bellend in the same headspace. I have to know what every record sounds like. What if it’s good? What if it’s not just good, what if it's the best thing ever? If it is then I’m going to have get it, right?!
It was that mentality, 25 years ago, that made me start Norman Records. And it's that mentality that drives me today.
And so here we are, still selling vinyl to the masses 25 years on, from a big concrete bunker in the middle of one of Leeds' less salubrious districts. And still there’s no feeling on earth like the feeling you get when you hold, and then listen to, a new record by an artist you love.
But back in the 90s very few people were still buying vinyl records. Vinyl had been out of fashion for some time. Everyone was buying CDs: small, shiny, portable....and a bit shit. We didn’t care. We stubbornly carried on trying to sell vinyl. The industry at large was trying to kill it off. Punters were turning towards the internet. We didn't care.
Move forwards to 2005 and people really were starting to turn towards the internet. CDs were heading out too as everyone started to buy computer files to play on even-more-portable, handheld, something-pod machines. It was all getting a bit space age. And it was all getting a bit worrying. Vinyl sales were dwindling to freakishly low levels. The bills were getting harder to pay each month. But we stubbornly carried on trying to sell vinyl. We kept on stocking vinyl, promoting vinyl. Because we believed - then as now - that vinyl is truly the best way to own and listen to music.
Full circle. Presently, vinyl is massive again (or so we’re lead to believe) and I’m pleased we stuck by our guns.
Nowadays it’s coloured vinyl this, deluxe gatefold vinyl that, box set the other. And there are usually multiple versions of each release. For a vinyl collector - and at heart, I'm a vinyl collector and always will be - it's daunting. We’re not so much spoilt for choice as overwhelmed by it. But with the doom and gloom lifted from the format, it’s generally a good time to be a fan of vinyl again.
And even if you're one of the fools who gave up, gave your wax to the charity shop, flogged it on Ebay, or simply let it rot beyond repair in the attic...don't despair. Almost everything is being reissued. It's a bit tiresome sometimes, if I'm honest. But even then, at least it means the kids can get to build up their own collections, and help to keep the vinyl spirit alive.
So. I’ve personally had 25 years of experience of knowing what to stock, and what not to stock. 25 years of writing reviews, packing records securely, looking after customers, supporting a sprawling website, and annoying staff. If I’m honest it’s been a slog. I’m tired and I want to get to bed. But there’s still so much more music to be made, and released, and listened to, and bought. There’s no time for resting.
Phil Leigh, Founder, Norman Records
Customers like us somewhat
We try to impress new customers, and we try to keep the ones we've got. That's why our feedback is excellent.
Take a look at our Feefo page if you don't believe us. 15992 genuine reviews from actual customers, independently hosted so there's absolutely no question of us mucking about with them.
The best music We're music lovers.
We pride ourselves on not just selling records but reviewing as many as we can too. This means that we can not only offer one of the most diverse and interesting catalogues you will find anywhere, but we can guide you around that catalogue.
The best service We'll be nice to you.
We're only a small team but we try our very hardest to make sure you get the records you want as quickly as possible. We deal with all questions and queries quickly and honestly. And if we do make a mistake we will rectify it.
The best prices We're cheaper than most
We can't always beat the likes of Amazon, but we're certainly competitive...shop around, you'll see.
We make our customers happy Oh yes we do.
This is no idle boast. Check out some recent customer feedback.
Next-day shipping on many items If it's in stock...
If your order contains only in-stock items then it will usually ship the same day (Monday to Friday).
Superb, guaranteed packaging Your records will be safe.
We take extra care with your records. Whatever we can do to preserve your sleeves against the brutes operating the world's postal services, we will do. And if does go wrong? We will make it right, always.
Trading for 25 years, online for 23 You can trust us.
One way or another we've been doing this for a long time. We're not some fly-by-night operation. We're real.
We love vinyl It's the best format, end of.
Most of us here have huge collections ourselves. Put simply, we understand vinyl and why it matters to you.
Big catalogue 137,953 items by 40,367 artists.
See above. We stock a huge range of things. Everything from big-name indie artists to smaller local bands.
In the beginning (1995-1999)
Norman Records was born in 1995 when Phil set up the business in the attic of his terraced house in the Hyde Park area of Leeds.
Initially selling via ads in Record Collector magazine, by 1997 Phil was employing suckers extra members of staff to deal with the volume of parcels that were being carted off to the local post office.
First record sold? No idea. "Probably something by Cows," according to Phil.
The early years (1999-2003)
In 1999, with a bedroom ceiling beginning to sag due to the sheer weight of vinyl upon it, office premises were found in an old Victorian school in Armley, Leeds. This is where the story really begins. Using an ancient, wheezing, dial-up internet connection a basic website was built offering the latest releases at low prices with super-fast shipping.
The 'famous' Norman Records reviews started around this time, mainly written by Phil as other members of staff shouted their opinions from across the room. Eventually staff were writing their own reviews providing passionate, knowledgeable and idiosyncratic opinions.
As night follows day, the extra space available led to a huge increase in the amount of stock we started to hold. To cope with the sheer number of records needing packing and reviewing, more suckers staff were gradually employed.
The difficult teenage period (2003-2010)
The decline of physical sales that began in the early 2000s presented challenges. We kept on finding the best new music out there. We kept plugging away at the reviews. And whilst we kept refining the site (making it as simple and fast as we could) we resisted the siren calls of the download markets, stuck to our guns, and continued to support the physical formats.
Traffic rose, we were able to ride out the slump, and found ourselves at the forefront of a vinyl revival...
Leaving school (2010-now)
In 2010 we outgrew the antiquated Armley school and moved to larger premises in a brutalist 60s council building in Holbeck, 15 minutes from the centre of Leeds. Fun times.
As well offering a much bigger space for the ever-growing stockroom, the move allowed us to open to the public. Sort of. Although we're not a store in the conventional sense (far from it) customers can not only walk in to chat to us but ’click and collect’ ofter ordering online. It's the future of vinyl retail, it really is.
Having a physical presence also allows us, occasionally, when the organisers are feeling generous, to take part in Record Store Day, the first of which was a cold, frantic morning in April 2013 when crowds snaked down the stairs and out the doors of the building.
We are proud to have been trading for 25 years and proud that the same ideals we started out with are still in place today. And as long as you lovely folk keep buying records, we'll keep selling and reviewing them.
We review lots of records...
We review thousands of records every year, without fear or favour. It's maybe the only thing we're semi-famous for.
Imagine a band who had a minor hit back in the day. Imagine their drummer. Imagine the drummer who replaced that drummer when the good times ended. Now imagine the part-time roadie who set up that drummer's kit on their failed comeback tour. We're the journalistic equivalent.
That said, do check out our latest staff reviews.