Waxing lyrical

Vinyl is back in a big way, with the global market forecast to double to a value of just over $US4 billion in the next six years.

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“But the numbers don’t tell the full story”, says Theo Bridge, Senior Manager of Innovation Research at ANZ.

"I was really drawn to finding ways to relax that weren’t related to a screen. For me, it was about being present listening to an album – with something tangible you can hold in your hands.” – Theo Bridge

“This is really a story about communities and people being brought together by their shared passion for music in the face of ubiquitous streaming services.”

Theo and his partner Joe Perry run a vinyl store, Queer Records, based in Melbourne. Most weekends they can be found at events across the city, as well as the monthly Gay Stuff Markets at The Victorian Pride Centre in St Kilda.

With Record Store Day approaching on April 20 – a global celebration of local vinyl retailers and the communities they foster - bluenotes spoke to Theo about the significance of the resurgence.

The growth of vinyl record sales is a world-wide phenomenon. Last year in the UK, record sales hit their highest point in a century – after rising for 16 consecutive years.

In the United States over the same period, more than 41 million vinyl records were sold, the most in 35 years. This includes sales by Taylor Swift, which comprised about 7 per cent of US vinyl sales alone.

In Australia, the market grew 14.1 per cent to $42.1 million in 2023, according to the Australian Recording Industry Association. This follows market growth of 20 per cent the year before.

Theo says the boom means more purchasing music by your favourite musician. He attributes the resurgence to people longing to unplug from an ever more connected life.

He points to his own experience, two years ago buying a record player and starting to collect.

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Theo and his partner Joe Perry

“I was really drawn to finding ways to relax that weren’t related to a screen. For me, it was about being present listening to an album – with something tangible you can hold in your hands. Beyond how great vinyl sounds, this tactile experience is still unique.”

As he started collecting – starting with a teenage favourite Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Theo began connecting to a larger community of music lovers. He and his partner Joe were inspired by local stores or those further afield they connected with via Instagram.

This included Coburg’s Feminista Vinyl which celebrates female led, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming inclusive bands, as well as Hobart’s Suffragette Records, which is dedicated to celebrating music by women.

“They demonstrated there were people who’re really passionate about music by marginalised communities and wanted to spotlight the different slices of life within the Australian community,” he says.

“This gave us the confidence to explore what would a queer record store look like. What would it stock? What could we find? How would we represent all the different facets of the community? Because we couldn't find anything like it out there.”

The community around Queer Record has grown organically since its conception, Theo says.

We’ve learnt so much about the history of queer music through chats with our customers and other record store owners,” he says. “The best part of the store is the audible gasp people make when they find a record they’ve been searching for. This typically sparks a conversation, sharing stories about our favourite artists, or customers recommending artists we should stock.”

Theo says such informal communities exist across ANZ and drive workplace creativity and connections between music and vinyl lovers.

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"Whether we talk specifically about vinyl, or just music in general, it’s been a great way to get to know people in my team or connect with stakeholders. And its been the catalyst for me to to learn the synthesiser via one of Service Designers in the Financial Wellbeing, Research & Design team.”

Alongside the in-store experience, Theo says the online world is crucial to keeping Queer Records vibrant. The website is devoted to exploring all parts of queer music history – with sections including pioneers, divas, trans and gender diverse, local and stage and screen.

“The online world is so central because it's how we find other people, tell the stories of the artists we love, and share where we're going to be next. Instagram has allowed us to connect with people all over Australia and beyond.”

“While you can’t recreate the feeling of rummaging through the crates, a common love of vinyl is about the experience of connecting with others as part of a global community.”

Record Store Day will take place on Saturday 20 April, 2024.

This is a day for the people who make up the world of the independent record store — the staff, the customers, and the artists to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.

Theo's Record Store Day Picks: 

  • Gabriels, Live From London 2023 EP
  • Garbage, Lie to Me EP
  • Holly Humberstone & MUNA, Into your Room 
  • Soft Cell, Non Stop Extended Cabaret 
  • The Blessed Madonna, Have Mercy EP

Jeff Whalley is a Journalist with bluenotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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