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Callum Godde

Spinning around: record stores stand the test of time

Soundmerch record store owner Tim Everist says vinyl provides the ultimate listening experience. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

What keeps record stores spinning after all these years? 

Tim Everist, owner of Soundmerch Real Life Record Store in Collingwood, reckons it's pretty simple: an indestructible format in vinyl.

"Tapes tried to kill it off, then CDs, MP3s and streaming, but it just keeps on coming back stronger and stronger," he tells AAP.

"Record stores are selling a unique, long-living format that just cannot be killed.

"The ultimate way to listen to an album is by sitting down, putting the needle on and looking at the cover and not being distracted by anything else."

Soundmerch record store
Vinyl album sales jumped by 14 per cent in Australia in 2023 to $42.1 million. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Vinyl sales waned with the advent of cassettes and CDs but have since rebounded.

The latest data from the Australian Recording Industry Association shows vinyl album sales jumped by 14.1 per cent in 2023 to $42.1 million.

Records accounted for 70 per cent of all physical sales by dollar value and 42 per cent of physical sales by volume.

Even in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, the combined revenue of all physical products went up 2.9 per cent courtesy of vinyl.

Records have their origins in the late 1800s, with the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison, but weren't popularised until the late 1940s.

Vinyl has a warmer "crackling" sound and modern pressings can offer a higher-resolution experience than versions on streaming platforms, Mr Everist said.

"You can really hear different sounds, the way the album is supposed to be heard, when you listen to it on vinyl," he said.

Record played at Soundmerch
Vinyl's warm "crackling" sound makes it the format of choice for audiophiles. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Unique or popular LP records appreciate in value, especially when unopened or in mint condition, and it's not uncommon for fans to buy one without owning a record player.

"They're buying it like a piece of merch," Mr Everist said.

"They just love the cover and want that special colour variant. It's just a way to support the artist."

Mr Everist's brick-and-mortar business is among more than 200 across the nation participating in Record Store Day on Saturday.

Since its inception in 2007, the day has offered the chance for staff, artists and fans to come together to celebrate the independent record store scene.

Beyond the regular crate-digging, a raft of special events and in-store activities are planned for vinyl enthusiasts.

More than 2000 punters are expected to show up at Soundmerch to hear free performances from Big Wett, Ausecuma Beats, Bel Air Lip Bombs and Dr Sure's Unusual Practice.

Other performances are planned at Northside Records in Fitzroy, ALT CVLT in Frankston, Impressed Recordings in Sydney, Suffragette Records in Hobart and Perth's Midland Records.

Mr Everist said it was a throwback to the 1990s, when Melbourne record stores like Au Go Go and Polyester would put on live gigs for free.

"That's what we're trying to replicate," he said.

Soundmerch record store
Soundmerch is among a number of Australian stores holding events for Record Store Day. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

ARIA award-winning artist Montaigne, whose real name is Jess Cerro, will release a long-awaited vinyl version of their 2016 debut album Glorious Heights and sign autographs at Sydney's Hum Records to mark the occasion.

"Record Store Day single-handedly keeps a lot of these retailers alive," they said.

"In the year, they make most of their money from Record Store Day, so it's cool to be a part of that."

The Sydney-based musician, who represented Australia at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021, does not own a record player, partly due to the spatial constraints of their tiny apartment.

Montaigne dreams of one day owning a high-fidelity set-up and enjoys dipping into record stores from time to time, including on a recent trip to the US for the Grammys when visiting Los Angeles' iconic Amoeba Music on Hollywood Boulevard.

"I just walked around for like 30 minutes basically and looked at everything," they said.

"I think that's a wonderful way to gain inspiration as an artist. It's kind of like an art gallery for musicians."

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