Alex Rodriguez lives in Los Angeles California and manages a record store called The Glass House. He also builds large-scale pop-up record stores for music festivals including Coachella, FYF, and Desert Trip. He travels the United States five to six months each year buying vinyl records. He’s been acquiring vinyl since 1999 and has been collecting for 23 years, beginning at the age of 14. He started by going to punk shows and buying records from the merch tables and later it became his life’s work. Since then, he’s managed to build a collection to over 22,000 records: 10,000 LPs and 12,000 45s.
When he started collecting in 1994, he mainly bought punk records. Eventually, he started looking for vinyl records at thrift stores and purchased anything that looked interesting--at the bargain prices found there.
In 2017, there is so much information about music on blogs, the social media, and streaming sites like YouTube and Spotify, he has found it easy to become an expert on rare collectibles and valuable music memorabilia. He recalls that he once had to buy records he knew nothing about and then try them out. Collectors used to look for records they didn’t know and take their chances. Now, we have a better idea of what we want and what we don’t want, based on the information technology makes available to us. We can search YouTube and hear a record and then decide whether we want to try to obtain a copy or not. The internet has made it possible to discover music we might have never have found or even heard about. People of all ages, ethnicity, and genders are getting into collecting vinyl records. It’s more than just a fad, and the trend is increasingly expanding the market for everyone.
Alex travels five or six months each year buying records. For The Glass House, he buys all genres and misses as well as hits, but they are mostly what he thinks will sell. His pop-up stores at music festivals offer over 30,000 used records that are in line with the kinds of records that are in demand and can be offered for a reasonable price. His pop-up stores do feature some rare vinyl and music memorabilia--from rock t-shirts to old fliers that people love to see there. He curates the used records, but once the store is set up, a manager takes over and he is free to roam the festival grounds to listen to the groups performing there.
Coachella is a favorite stop. “There were people waiting for the store to open. It’s always a huge deal at Coachella because you’re in the middle of this giant festival on this day that celebrates vinyl and you’re right in the middle of it all.”
For his personal collection, he buys anything and everything. He doesn’t look for a specific sound but only for what his ear tells him is good enough for him to pursue, regardless of genre. As he grows older, he has become more and more focused on acquiring records he absolutely loves.
When asked what three records from his large collection he would keep if he could choose only three to listen to for the rest of his life and why, he named Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon because it’s his favorite album of all time, Love’s Forever Changes because it’s hauntingly beautiful and has memorable and often surprisingly well-crafted lyrics, and Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction because he considers it a “perfect rock and roll record from start to finish with no filler.
Rodriguez knows from traveling the US in search of rare vinyl that the best way to score some amazing finds was to go to big swap meets, conventions, and all the cities where there are established music scenes--and not just go to the same places over and over again. When he’s buying in quantity, he will do a lot of local purchasing but considers his road trips more for curating and searching for rare albums and specific pieces or particular collections.
His favorite state for collecting remains California. “I was born and raised here and although every state has something special to offer and hugely different cultures, I don’t think there is a better place in the world than California. It has it all.”
His advice to collectors and buyers? “Basically, you’ll see money again and again. You might not ever see a [given] record again. Just buy it if you really want it! Keep digging and never give up on looking for a record, sometimes it takes years to find it but in most cases, you eventually do. Keep supporting record stores and dealers. They put in a lot of hard work to find and sell a record. Make sure to show all your friends all the amazing music you discover. The artists love being exposed for their labor of love. Sharing is caring. Stay positive and be kind to one another.”