Vinyl’s back: Downtown Vertigo Music is where they are at

Story by Ty Smith, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of

Down Division Avenue, nestled between Woosah Outfitters and Mourning Star Tattoo Studio, lies Vertigo Music. A music store is already a rarity in today’s world– almost all of our music comes from iTunes, Amazon or Google Music. When it comes time to actually buy physical music, it’s usually a CD from the music section in Walmart, Kmart, or a similar big brand store. Vertigo’s mere existence as a music store already sets it apart– but what makes it more unique is that it doesn’t just sell CDs, or even focus on them. Vertigo Music sells records and other novelties that are remnant of a time much simpler.

Walking inside, the first thing you notice is the atmosphere. Unlike the sterile, crisp feeling of a Walmart or Kmart music section, Vertigo is laid back and friendly, open to everyone. The walls are adorned with posters and pictures of various bands and artists, and the plain wooden floor is cluttered with rows upon rows of stands for the new and used vinyl. CDs line the wall to your left, and to the right are dozens and dozens of posters, all up for sale. Vertigo is also home to a diverse cast of people– when I walked in, there were three punk rockers, complete with mohawks and piercings, checking out a Sex Pistols albums. Two rows over stood an elderly couple, checking out the classical music section.
Speaking of the music selection, Vertigo has an amazing one. Anywhere from Coheed to Lady Gaga, the store’s owners don’t skimp on their catalog. It has almost every genre imaginable, and each genre has a mixture of the most popular artists and a few niche artists, all packed with brand new LPs. They even have a section set aside for local artist, promoting Grand Rapids’ music scene with pride. They don’t only sell new LPs, though. They also have a wide selection of used records with varying prices. Don’t worry if a record is too expensive, though, because the staff is always happy to haggle a little on the price on a used record.

If the rest of the store is a cake, the staff is the cherry on top. No matter when I come in, and who’s working, they’ve always been friendly and helpful. You get the sense that everyone that works there is really a person that just loves music, and is happy to help you find what you need. Their knowledge of their selection is impeccable, too. I’m a fan of a somewhat niche artist, and when I asked the man on duty if they had them in, not only was he able to answer with a yes, he also listed off every album of theirs that they had, which ones they didn’t have, and when those missing ones would be in. They’re not just there for their knowledge, though. I’ve always been able to strike up a good conversation with the attendants, whether it be about music in general or a specific artist or genre I’m into that day.

In all, Vertigo Music is a breath of fresh air in a world whose music buying experience is largely spent online or in a superstore. There’s just something about flipping through dozens and dozens of records, talking to other music lovers, and the simple experience of picking out an album that you can’t get online, or grabbing the latest Bieber from Walmart. It’s special, and Vertigo is the best place to go if you want to experience it.
Records are back, baby, and Vertigo is where to get them.

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