Address: 100 Railway Rd, Blackburn VIC 3130
Address: 414 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
From an interview with Doug and Chris that has been edited
Our boss David Dixon started Dixon Recycled 41 years ago.
A lot of people were asking for 45s, so he opened a little shop to try and stock his jukebox hire company.
He wanted older rock and roll records from the 1950s and 60s. A lot of them were out of print at the time, and – with a smaller Australian population – getting these records into the country was difficult.
So if he could gather them all together, put them in one shop and rent the jukeboxes fully stocked, it would be quite a unique business.
Jukeboxes were coming back at that stage and he was riding on the crest of that rock and roll popularity in the 1970’s.
He had all of the old classics.
But it became so successful with the records pouring through that he decided to keep it as a record shop.
He gave up on the jukebox idea in the end.
It was the rock and roll era.
He specialised in selling records from The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, The Stones. He also sold some of the cruder hits from the 1960s. The sort of wholesome pop music that appeared on a show called American Bandstand.
So we started with a little shop opposite the roundabout in late 1976.
Then – just before 1980 – there was a place called The Blue Moon which we moved into. That was great, and we stayed there for about twenty years. But they decided to redevelop the place so we moved two doors up to this little red building.
It was a lot smaller but that’s all there was at the time. We filled it up very quickly and stayed there until about 2010. It was a real struggle working there. We had stuff piled on the racks, on the floors and on the counter. We needed more space.
Then this warehouse – which was formerly Bruno’s Trading Place – came up for lease. We thought “we’ll never be able to fill it.”
But within six months it was filled to the gills.
Because of technology the way people listen to music has changed
It’s hard to work with downloading and virtual music in a second hand setting.
We’ve had shops in Dandenong, Prahran and Camberwell over the years but because of changing technology and demographics we’ve trimmed it down to two stores.
Here and in Brunswick St.
The Blackburn store has always been the strongest. We are always attracting new families and we get a lot of younger people in. In other areas – like Camberwell for instance – when the kids left home and moved to more affordable areas the shop became very quiet.
That was the reason we closed.
When the younger people left the audience effectively died.
A lot of the stuff here is out of print.
Something that was in print five years ago might not be there now.
You could possibly find it on eBay but a lot of our customers don’t like to bother with that.
Have you heard the expression ‘the thrill of the chase?’
It’s like that.
Sometimes clicking a button is too easy. There’s a real adrenaline rush in not knowing what you are after and finding something that you weren’t thinking about.
That’s the joy of physically shopping. To see it and touch it. To feel it. To find out by surprise that an artist has released a new album, or an album you haven’t thought about for a while still exists.
There’s just something about that chase.
In the 1970s we would get all of these young people who would come in and say “where are your James Brown records?”
It’s not that we don’t love James Brown.
But the population was tiny and he wasn’t on mainstream radio much. So we had to import it. It was the same with soul, funk, reggae and ska in Australia. It was a bit of an underground thing. You’d have to go into a specific type of club to hear that sort of music.
Now – because of the internet – millennials are far more informed. They’ll come in and say, “I’ll have a bit of psych jazz, and mix it in with a bit of blues funk.” They are using all of these terms, and they know all about it because it’s on YouTube and Spotify.
When we were growing up we had like two rock magazines and a show called Countdown.
With the revival of vinyl you are seeing more diverse selections from customers.
Some people want lounge music because it’s cheesy and fun and they’ll mix it in with something else. And there are customers who want the music your nana listened to. Nice singers from the 1950s and the early 1960s.
But as the audience gets older and pops off that demand will drop. It’s the same with rock and roll from that period. There’s a lot of okay music but – once that generation passes – nobody will listen to them.
The greats like Roy Orbison and Chuck Berry will hang around but the cream floats to the top and the average stuff gets lost in the mire.
Every now and then a person like yourself will come up with a Buddy Holly and that’s cool.
It shows there’s a bit of life left in it.
There was a period when records took a dive.
It wasn’t a question of, “we’ll never sell a record again” as the good ones will always sell.
But there were only two pressing plants which made records, and they would print something like 10,000 copies worldwide.
That was pretty much it.
People came in and said, “do you have any Pearl Jam or Soundgarden vinyls?”
“I’m sorry. It exists but we can’t access them,” we’d reply.
It wasn’t that long ago.
And it was hilarious to watch when CDs came into the market in the early 1980s.
It was a totally new concept and people were initially hesitant.
The response was, “I’ve spent 70 years building my record collection.”
“Why would I buy this?”
Nothing was coming through because nobody had a CD player.
And the ones we received were really bad. It was the sounds of steam trains and muzak. I remember making a rack and getting to about twenty discs.
“Oh wow,” we said.
Now we’re at 25,000.
When CDs really started taking off companies tried to put all of their old stuff on this new format.
They were just grabbing the tapes and running them through before bashing them on a disk. Some of the CDs were promoted as the best possible sound but they were remastered from cassette tapes. It was horrible but people said it felt better because of the format.
The same thing is happening with records. There’s this psychological thing about owning the original, even if it’s 40 years old and scratched. You can’t replicate the aesthetics of a record but I’m of the firm opinion that – if the CD is done properly – I’m going with the CD every time.
When done right, CD’s are a godsend.
But a lot of places aren’t stocking CDs anymore.
Some people still like them for a variety of reasons but we are the only ones who are selling them.
It works to our advantage.
And with DVD’s people are dropping them in droves because of Stan, Netflix and those service providers. It was like a tap. Within two months of it coming to Australia we were flooded.
That’s good and bad. We’re constantly dealing with a new batch of DVDs so we can pick and choose what we sell. With the younger market they are streaming on their computers and phones. It means we don’t really need ten copies of American Pie.
So we’re targeting the customers who can’t really be bothered streaming. We’re still selling CDs across the board but things that were popular ten years ago aren’t that popular now. For example, it’s pretty hard to give away a Linkin Park CD.
But because we’ve been here for over thirty years, we’re well aware of the stuff that does and doesn’t sell. We also have younger staff who can teach us tricks that we don’t know.
It’s not an exact science, but – as a team – it works well.
I think there will always be a niche boutique market for CDs.
Customers are trying to tell us that cassettes are coming back. I’m a bit skeptical but people really like the novelty.
And as time goes on, there will be people who haven’t backed things up properly and will lose music from their computer. So there might be an appeal towards having a CD as a back up option.
Nostalgia is also big component. It’s just human nature. There’ll soon be a generation who will grow up reading history books about compact discs. But – as a force to be reckoned with – I think CDs will fade out commercially within the next five years.
For people my age they’ll probably release the collected works every now and then.
“You can still hear can you? Have this.”
For a lot of people, collecting records isn’t a priority.
If they can download music for free they’ll do that.
By the turn of the millennium – when the internet was up and running and computers were quite fast – downloading became a real game changer.
But we’ve seen a response to that.
There are a lot of young people who are getting back into records. I think it’s because some people want to hold the physical thing. Music that you download isn’t even a bit of plastic.
It’s just cyber.
As long as there’s a small section of the population who want that experience we’ll be okay.
We’re carrying on.
I’m a bit worried that some of the record companies are pricing people out of the system.
At the moment, young people are quite happy to spend $50 or $60 bucks on a record but – when they have a family and a mortgage – are they still going to be coming?
It’s a bit of a minefield but it’s been interesting to watch records go the full circle.
I think we can ride whatever changes the market has. It comes back to being careful about what we buy and not overcommitting to one particular area. We’re keeping our eyes and ears open and trying to keep up with whatever is coming out.
And for whatever reason people will always want the real thing. They want to read the booklet and handle the record. Things like Kindles are undeniably clever but I still like picking up the paperback, turning the corner, putting it down and picking it up again.
There’s just something in our human nature that likes that.
Written by Aron Lewin