As a relative newcomer in the reasonably saturated market of Melbourne record stores, Rocksteady Records has found that with a focus on all things reggae, a strong connection with the local music community and a dynamic customer relationship, they have been able to make a really strong start in their first six months of existence. As part of the tight-knit Melbourne music scene, owner operator Pat Monaghan is realizing a lifelong dream in being able to give back to his community.
“It’s been a very encouraging response from Melbourne and also Australia’s record buying public, getting lots of new customers and lots of returning customers across a variety of age groups,” says Monaghan. “I’ve worked at record stores, or in music, for well over 30 years, I’ve worked at other really great record stores that I’ve learnt a lot from but I wanted to do my own thing that pretty much definitively reflected what I’m passionate about. I feel that record stores and radio stations and record labels and venues and magazines and websites; it’s all part of one creative community and I wanted to give back to the creative community that’s always stimulated and supported me, so this was, and still is, a really good way to do it.”
If you opened up a record store ten years ago people would either think that you’re mad, or that you have incredibly good foresight to be able to predict the return of vinyl as a viable industry. Though the current climate does not make it easy to open a new business – I don’t think any climate does – the encouraging signs seemed to give Monaghan the push that he needed. “I think it was always going to be difficult but rewarding. I think the fact that so many people across a variety of ages and walks of lives and interests are enthusiastic about buying music in a physical form on vinyl is definitely encouraging, it’s definitely inspiring, and I guess from that point of view the time was right.”
One of the great things about collecting records is the personal connection to the physical object that’s created when you obtain them. The intrinsic personal link that is established can often give the record much greater value to the owner than it could ever fetch when being resold, which is something that is important to Monaghan. “Because it means something to me, are probably all of the early, virtually self-released singles by the Perth/Australian band The Triffids, because they were very important to me when I was growing up. Some of them are probably quite valuable, but they mean more to me than any kind of monetary worth, so from that point of view they’re my most valuable records.”
It’s connections like these that are founded in record stores like Rocksteady Records, and flourish in the community that surrounds them. “Record stores, particularly independent record stores, need to have a dynamic relationship with the community that they’re a part of in almost an intimate sense, and almost a wide-ranging sense. They should stock records [including] new releases, new pressings by local artists, as well as second-hand records and classics and stuff from overseas. I think you could have a really good relationship with local radio stations, community radio stations, community press, magazines, websites, bands [and] record labels. If you want to break it down, you’re hoping to make a living out of presenting the works of artists to other people, and I think you’re honour-bound to give back as well.”
Another company that plays a different, but important role in the vinyl community is Audio-Technica, whose range allows for people at all different ends of the spectrum to find a way to play their records. “I like the fact that it’s good gear, it’s affordable… it’s reliable, and, like I’ve said before, you can enter it at different points depending on your budget and your needs from a customer point of view. Also, they’ve got really good service, if you’ve got a question or something you just give them a call or shoot them an email and they get back to you straight away. I think, once again, it’s another version of that community thing. It’s not just a high end player, there’s things for like 250 bucks, which if you’re 14 or 15 or 16, as an entry point that’s really good.”
As the name suggests, Monaghan’s store has a fairly obvious focus, but that doesn’t mean that it differs too wildly from the other independent stores that we know and love. “I’ve got a fairly keen focus on reggae, whether that be ska, rocksteady, roots, dub or dancehall, things like that. I also have a fairly considered and committed support and passion for Melbourne and Australian music, though this doesn’t differentiate from any other independent store in the world probably, I like to talk a lot about music."
Rocksteady Records is located at Level 1, Mitchell House, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. For more information head to rocksteadyrecords.com.au.