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 vinyl
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.
40 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, 23 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 23 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 23 years of experience of knowing what to stock, and what not to stock. 23 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. 9118 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 23 years, online for 21 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 123,014 items by 37,123 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 23 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. Or even have a play with our not-so-fancy reviews wizard and shake your head in despair and outrage at the horrible things we've said about decent, hardworking artists since 2006.
Locked away in a soundproofed enclave near the edges of Ilkley Moor, Ant is our remotely-based expert in techno, house, electronica and frankly quite difficult music.
When not hiding in his lair, headphones on, discovering the finest new sounds in industrial techno, he is responsible for putting all those exciting new titles on our site which you lap up with glee.
Years served: 16
Fastest hands in the office. Amongst the many benefits of his youth, Benn is a veritable demon when it comes to packing. It's the extra 'n' that does it. We haven't seen his like since L'il Biz departed these shores.
Wasn't even born when Norman Records started. Jeez, that's depressing.
Years served: 1
A prodigal son who simply cannot leave no matter how hard he tries.
Clint, after a spell working in even worse offices than Norman Towers, last returned to oversee the weekly review process and become our content and marketing guru - despite not having any relevant qualifications. Those social media rantings about Morrissey, or Guy Garvey, or ubiquitous musical 'personalities'? Him.
Interesting fact: he's not really called Clinton.
Years served: 17 (on and off)
Daoud is a very nice boy who came to Norman in a moment of crisis (i.e. a particularly busy week that panicked us).
He loves pop music and is single-handedly dragging us idiots into the modern era by introducing us to SOPHIE and Ariana Grande.
He plays the guitar, the trombone and video games. He likes to swear at the British press.
Years served: 1
Prancing round the office like a cuddly, camp, unpretentious Matt Berry, Ian is - proudly - the unpretentious one striking out against the high falutin' ways of our more verbose, more pretentious members of staff.
Reared on a diet of metal, shoegaze and kebabs, Ian is unpretentiously responsible for making sure that your orders get sorted. He occasionally writes unpretentious reviews on the latest unpretentious shoegaze records.
Years served: 5
Also known as the 'quiet man of Norman Records' Jamie potters about packing your records and writing reviews of all the quiet music we get in stock. Sometimes we don't know he's here and have considered fitting him with a bell.
Likes lunch and ambient music and nature in equal measure. Shhhhh.
Years served: 2
Swimming against a tide of repressed testosterone, Kim provides much-needed calm, intuition and general zen to the office. A voice of sanity.
The virtual face of Norman Records, Kim is usually the one answering your email queries - thoughtfully, patiently, kindly. One of our customers once said, "They should run their own customer service training franchise" (really, it's true). "They" is Kim.
Years served: 13
Responsible for everything you see on our website and lots that you can't, Nathon keeps the online side of things just-about going.
Often found haranguing everyone over email about being more "customer-centric" he is also, alongside Phil, a Director of this establishment - and therefore responsible for what it is we do, what we do next, and how on earth we do it.
He is far too busy to write reviews, which is for the best because he really does go on a bit sometimes.
Years served: 18
Described by friends and foes alike as "a fucking idiot" Phil is the founder and guiding spirit of Norman Records.
Somehow he has built the business up from the dirt on the ground and managed to kept it afloat during the rough years despite some particularly ill-advised business decisions.
He may be a Director but he can't tear himself away from the shop floor. Close your eyes and listen carefully...that mumbling sound you can hear is him, scratting about in the stockroom looking for some lost 7".
He still likes some forms of music, such as Can and Tears For Fears.
Years served: born here
Robin is rare in the Norman Records universe because he understands words and what they mean.
Hired in a desperate attempt to bring the average age under 40, Robin soon showed that he can write about any form of music exceptionally quickly. Without getting anything wrong. Perfect grammar. Not a bloody comma out of place. The bastard.
Little-known fact: Mark Kozelek is his dad. True.
Years served: 4
Alumni / freelancers
Just a quick thank you to everyone who has worked for us down the years, from the full-time office-dwellers of yore to the do-they-really-exist freelancers who we never set eyes on.
A non-exhaustive list of said folk:
Alicia, Andrew J, Andy H, Annette B, Ben C, Ben S, Cassie S, Chris, Christopher T, Claire B, Daniel, David K, Dean F, Edward T, Evan J, Fog, Fred M, Gordon B, Grace H, Harry B, Hayley S, Hilary K, James E, Jem H, Jim K, Joe R, Jon, Jonny D, Jordan, Katy R, Laurie, Lizzie M, Louis J, Marek T, Mike, Mike R, Mustapha, Oliver W, Paul B, Paul C, Rosie, Seb, Stephen S, Steve N, Tayyab, Thomas S, Tim, Tom B, Tom H.