Bargain Vinyl: How to find library music gems

Bargain Vinyl: How to find library music gems

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In the era of the £20 LP, record collecting can be expensive. But if you dig for deals, there are serious bargains to be had. Jonny Trunk of Trunk Records leads the way with his on-going Bargain Vinyl column.

The occasional Bargain Vinyl column continues this week with a dip into the murky and often confusing world of library music. This is music made for use in film, TV and radio, was pressed on vinyl throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s but was never made for commercial consumption – by this we mean it was given to TV stations etc for use but never meant to be sold in shops. But by the early 1990s broadcasters and studio were chucking it all out (who needs vinyl when we have CDs!) and vinyl junkies after music a little different from the mainstream were digging it.

Since then interest and the library “scene” has expanded into a monster, with prices for rare originals exceeding the £1000 mark and heaps of international represses coming at us from here, there and everywhere. It’s also a market that is unpredictable – a £400 original LP could well be an over rated one tracker, a £10 punt could turn out to be a rare and desirable beast of the future.

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So for this Bargain Vinyl column we suggest you start digging about in library music, but SPECIFICALLY British library music, and MORE SPECIFICALLY the Bruton label. Started in 1977, this London-based label (based in Bruton St, Soho), produced over 300 titles on LP, with the cream of British library composers – John Cameron, Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw, Basil Kirchin etc who at the time were often using new and exciting electronic studio gear.

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The catalogue is divided into genres with different catalogue suffixes – BRA, BRB, BRC etc, with a slight feel of either cosmic electronics (The BRI series), world music (the BRR series), pastoral (BRD), drama (BRJ) etc. But the catalogue is so broad in content and sound that a lot of heat still remains well below the radar. There are killer dramatics for under a tenner, amazing submersive sounds for the price of a couple of beers. Weird post disco oddness findable for less that the price of a new 12”.

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But it all requires proper digging and some risk taking. A cursory look on Discogs tells us there are just shy of 2000 second hand Bruton LPs currently for sale, with the chance of grabbing something that looks a bit nutty for buttons. For £5 there’s Popcorn, with music by James Clarke, not just a great composer but also formed soft porn director. I’m a library collector, I’ve never seen this LP, never heard it, but I’d give it a punt for £5, especially as there‘s a track on it called ‘Streetwise’ and another called ‘American Oddity’. And for £6 Soundscapes looks quite interesting, probably a bit ambient, a bit new age, possibly even a touch Balearic. Then again it might not be. But remember, no one ever built a great and individual collection without taking a few unexpected chances.