It wasn’t too many years ago that you could barely give a record away, yet Saturday, April 22, marks the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day Australia, the local edition of the global annual event launched in the US in 2007.
Not only has Record Store Day been attracting vinyl enthusiasts for years, the event now boasts high profile musicians, industry bigwigs and this year, even a Federal Member of Parliament, as their national event ambassadors.
Anthony Albanese, Federal Member for Grayndler, called in to tell Around The Sound about this year’s event – and what the government should be doing for the music industry.
Albanese – who spins records on the side as DJ Albo – fondly recalls the first record he bought for himself – and the landmark moments in his life that each record in his collection signpost.
“It was Honky Château by Elton John,” he recalls. “I bought it with money from my paper run. I think the second was Band On The Run by Paul McCartney & Wings.
“I have got a large record collection... I think that was probably my main expenditure, up until my mid-20s, was records. They're all in pretty good shape. A few have been borrowed and never given back over the years - but this is one of the things about Record Store Day. I think that records are about where you've been, where you are and where you're going. They evoke memories of seeing a band, that downloading something doesn't. You remember where you bought a record, why you bought it, the first time you heard an artist. It's about that engagement with your life.”
There’s many reasons audiophiles prefer records to digital music: in addition to listening to a full body of work as the artist envisioned it, the memories searching for a physical thing, and finding it like treasure, the quality and warmth of the sound itself, the cover art and liner notes. Records are about a physical connection with the music we love.
“That's right, and the liner notes that tell you who the producer was, who the engineer was, not just who the musicians are,” says Albanese. “The fact that you have some musos that will play on different artists' songs, that if you're just downloading you won't know any of that. You won't find out that that backing vocal that sounds a little bit familiar is Paul Kelly or Missy Higgins or someone. I think that matters as well. An album that fits together, like Place Without A Postcard by the Oils, I think is a great album, better than the sum of the individual songs.
“I think you can hear the way a band evolves, if you listen to whole albums. In Liverpool at the end of last year, I went to The Jam exhibition at the museum. They had an individual room devoted to each album. You really saw that the band progressed with each album. The Beatles' albums are very distinct, too: Sergeant Pepper's is a very different album from Revolver, is very different from Let It Be, or the White Album.
“I think people listening to albums is really important. One of the things that I'm saying about Record Store Day as well, is that these are by and large independent record stores. The people who run them aren't making a hell of a lot of money. They're people who run record stores because they're really interested in music. They're fountains of wisdom if you go in there and have a chat to them – ‘what do you think I should be listening to? Have you heard any new sounds?’"
The sad economic truth is that pressing a vinyl record costs considerably more than a CD. So with more bands than ever recording original music without much hope of even breaking even, what can we do to get a new band interested in releasing their music on vinyl?
“I think it is happening, and it will happen more, I think, as it becomes more widespread,” asserts Albanese, who will be at Darlinghurst’s The Record Store on Saturday. “The return of vinyl is a relatively new phenomenon, but people are buying turntables - there's no point having vinyl if you can't play it - and listening to it. It's interesting that on Record Store Day there's a whole lot of new vinyl being released, and new CDs as well. I can see more vinyl being produced and being bought in future years.”
Whilst Record Store Day’s mission statement is to ‘celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store’, Albanese agrees that there is much the government could be doing to help not only record stores, but to stimulate the music industry in general.
“Absolutely, one thing is giving support to live music,” he says without hesitation. “Bands need to get their start by playing. The decline of venues that we've seen is terrible, even through some of the trading restrictions that happen in pubs. It's good that the Victorian government have introduced a rule to stop people, essentially, moving into an area and all of a sudden saying, ‘well, the pub plays live music - we want it shut down because we live near the pub’. The pub's been there for a long time.”
It’s an issue we in Perth are all too aware of.
“Yep, it's been an issue in Sydney, Perth - well, all of our major cities,” Albanese confirms. “I think the Victorian government has shown the way. I know that new WA premier Mark McGowan made some commitments during the election campaign to give support to live music, and that's really important. Governments can make a difference there.
“There's a ridiculous case near me, the Harold Park Hotel, that had acoustic music playing that stopped at five o'clock on a Sunday afternoon. They were told they had to shut it down because it's near a residential area. This is a place that used to have bands like Spiderbait play late into the night. I think that governments - state governments in particular - can have a role. The federal government can have a role by supporting copyright and supporting the industry to grow, and not having a completely free market attitude that would see artists miss out.”
For full details of RSD celebrations around Australia on Saturday, April 22, head to www.recordstoreday.com.au.