13 Nov A day at Utrecht (Netherlands), the largest record fair in the world.
A day at Utrecht (Netherlands), the largest record fair in the world.
Saturday. 03:30 a.m. The alarm goes off and for a second I am cursing myself for doing this. But then excitement takes over: I have a long day ahead of me – a day full of digging: 500+ record dealers, 12.500 square meters, millions of records. The largest record fair in the world, The Mega Record & CD Fair in the Jaarbeurs centre in Utrecht, Netherlands takes place on this weekend in it’s 48th edition. This definitely makes up for waking up early.
I’ve been there once in 2014 (the medium format photos in this post were made there) and I just had a ridiculous four hours then, which I just used to browse a little, marvel at the prices and being completely overwhelmed. This year, expectations were low concerning finding good deals, but I was just hoping to see some sellers from all over the world and maybe finding some records I was hunting for years.
We made it! People are already queuing. Parallel to the record fair, The International Collectors Fair, a big vintage event, also takes place, so the crowd is mixed, but on most faces you can already see the excitement for the day ahead.
And we’re in! I am getting a bit giddy as we head through the vintage halls on our way to the record stands. The record fair takes place in one big hall, but in recent years the stands have spread into one of the vintage halls as well. And this outsourced part alone is bigger than any record fair around where I live. So, let’s go digging!
The front hall is already full of bustling activity. On the very first stand, one of the first records I pull out is one I was looking for, with a great price tag: Catherine Ribeiro + 2Bis (1969, Disques Festival).
The origin of the sellers is mixed greatly: a lot of Dutch and German dealers of course, but you also see French, Belgian, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, British, Scottish, Japanese, Mexican and Brazilian sellers. Some of the great reissue labels like Wah Wah, Mr. Bongo, Guerssen and Finders Keepers have stands there, not only offering their reissues, but always having some small crates with intriguing and obscure originals.
The walls behind the stands are always a source of amazement. So many records which I have never seen apart from the internet. Some of the prices amaze me as well: sometimes you see the exact pressing of an album there for 100€, on another stand it’s 1000€. The often discussed over-the-top-prices are of course present, but it’s also possible to get a great deal at most of the stands.
We made it through the front hall, so the large part of the fair still lies in front of me. Up until now, I already found some long sought-after records, so I am already content and look forward to see what is up next!
Woah. I am pretty sure I will never make it to the end of that hall. Too many stands, where should one start? I decide to just focus on crates with Free Jazz, Brazilian records and Psychedelic Rock to narrow the search field down. It would be great to just browse a little bit, but there’s no time for that! Some stands focus on certain artists: of course we have a stand full of Beatles related stuff there, but there’s also one stand solely dedicated to Frank Zappa!
Some dealers focus on one genre, others just offer everything. One dealer from Denmark totally blows my mind by having Zamrock records as originals (check out Witch – Introduction and Amanaz – Africa!). Even though I could never afford that, it was a highlight to have this gems in the hand. A French seller focusing only on original Jazz records made my day: I was searching for Roy Brooks – The Free Slave (1972, Muse) for some time now, and due to a great discount (which he usually gives on Sunday, which is good to know!) I can finally add this treasure to my collection.
The Brazilian sellers were some of the most intriguing to me. I must somehow have missed some dealers from the US, but it was impossible to check every stand.
In the next hours, I am able to tick off some great records of my want list, all for great deals:
I am super happy. And I realize, I will never make it to the end of the hall in that short amount of time.
The day at the fair comes to an end. I’ve met some great people, and I bought 24 records, almost all of them ones I have been hunting for ages and never saw them before.
It was a fun, but overwhelming experience and a bit like Christmas and Birthday at the same time.
I can recommend visiting the fair, just avoid the overpriced stands and set yourself a limit and leave the credit card at home – or win in the lottery beforehand.
I filmed some impressions throughout the day and show some of the records I have found:
Have you been there? What do you think of the fair?
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