RECORD Store Day is normally the busiest of the year for Brian “Frog” Harris and his Weston Creek store – Songland – when long lines of vinyl lovers snake through Cooleman Court Shopping Centre, from as early as 5am, eager to snag something special.
But this year, like most everything else in the world today, it’s going to take a little longer to get your hands on those rare, vinyl treasures because the April event has been postponed until at least June 20.
Harris, who has successfully navigated his bricks-and-mortar record store through the ups and downs of independent retailing, remains positive about the future of the one-day sale, from which he devotes the proceeds to the RSPCA Canberra.
Like a walking encyclopedia of all things music, Harris has successfully turned his passion for music into a 40-year long career, 25 of those running his record store.
Some big names have stepped foot inside such as Lee Kernaghan, Suzi Quatro, Wendy Matthews, Normie Rowe, Leo Sayer, Jon English and Jimmy Barnes.
“We do more than sell music; we introduce people to music and in more normal times we sell music tickets, we host concerts, we host in-store appearances… it’s an all-encompassing experience that you get when you step inside a physical store, so I want to thank everyone for their support over the years,” Harris said.
For someone who’s worked with everyone from Alice Cooper to André Rieu, Harris says there’s something magical about small, locally owned record stores and they hold an important role in the community.
“Record stores bring people together, there are many bands that have formed by meeting in record stores, I met my wife “Moose” in a record store, and we have been very happily married for 26 years,” he grinned.
As we enter a second decade of everything-digital-on-demand, Harris is brave to maintain his own traditional record shop.
Like an Aladdin’s Cave of all things music, it’s undeniably obvious why this upstairs gem is standing the test of time.
“People think that dealing online is fast and easy, sometimes its neither,” he said.
“When you walk into a record store you might go to the A section for ABBA but as you flick through you go past the Alessi Brothers, Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Amorosi, ABC, the Allman Brothers, all of these acts you might be a fan of but never thought of looking at unless you went to A for ABBA, and that doesn’t happen online.
“Being in store means you are exposed to different styles of music and importantly the communication you have with the person behind the counter, and that’s the beauty of record retailing.”
In a world of digital sameness, Harris says, many music fans have rediscovered the joy of owning and playing vinyl records.
“There’s been a huge revival in vinyl particularly among the MP3 generation,” he said.
“These people may have had 2000 songs on their MP3 player that they’d listen to on ‘random’ and when they get bored with a song, they flick to something else, it can be quite a cold experience.
“But now, for whatever reason, they were reintroduced to vinyl and their listening habit changed dramatically because when you put a record on you have a tangibility, you get a different experience when you are holding the record, you are looking at art work on the cover, you are reading the words and lyrics so you are getting a piece of art that the artist intended, and an experience you don’t get when listening on random on an MP3 player.”
In our fast-paced society, it’s humbling to know that people like Harris are still giving music lovers the opportunity to experience what a good old-fashioned music store is all about.
“For people who are interested and committed to music in a physical form, we are here and happy to be here, and will be here for a very long time,” he said.
So as he waits to have the Record Store Day confirmed, Harris is asking for donations of unwanted vinyl, DVDs, cassettes, VHS tapes or DVDs, which will be sold to raise money for the RSPCA.
The self-confessed animal lover (and owner of Griffin the cat), “Frog” has been supporting the RSPCA for a decade through sales from the donated music goods.
“Last December, for example, we donated $10,000. I got a list of all the things the RSPCA needs and we bought $10,000 worth of equipment for them, so every single cent goes to the animals.”
Songland Records, Cooleman Court, Weston Creek, call 6293 4677
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