Australia's number one Hi-Fi show by a long stretch, and Australia's only 3-day Record Fair is on track to once again prove why many call it the 'Best Show in Town'.
StereoNET spoke with Jon Scanlon, co-organiser of the Australian Record Fair to get an idea of what punters can expect to see this year, starting with the obvious question; what can we expect at this year's Record Fair?
Jon: Well, we have a full book of Sellers which took us less than six days to fill this year. I was kind of shocked at how many people came out of the woodwork with new collections to offer up.
We've had to stop taking bookings as we're nearly over-subscribed. We couldn't be happier with the quality that's coming along!
We're also asking all our Sellers to do something a bit different this year in dressing their stalls. Most of the record fairs in Melbourne look the same, offer the same sellers, and quite often, the same old tired stock. So we're asking our regular and new Sellers to come to the party this year, dressing their tables to impress, put on their best faces and go to town with the offerings. I think everyone will be impressed.
Lastly, by being integrated with the International Hi-Fi Show lets us do many things the others can't. This year, for example, the Record Fair is sponsored by Music Hall, and we have three beautiful new MMF 1.5 turntables to offer as prizes (shown above, valued at $599 each) to anyone who buys more than $50 worth of records from any of our Sellers at the Fair. Everyone who does that gets a ticket in the Draw.
We'll give away one every day of the Fair, drawn just before the end of each day. We've never done that before so we're very excited to be partnered with Music Hall and be able to offer our Fair attendees such prizes.
StereoNET: Who is selling at the Fair this year? Is it all Pros with high prices to boot?
Jon: No, not at all. I've found that there are usually three kinds of Sellers who typically sell at Record Fairs. There are those who sell 'professionally' (whether they are truly fulltime or not is not really relevant, it's more of a mindset than anything else) and they tend to have a very precise and concrete idea of what each item in their stock is worth, per the typical book value anyone can look up on eBay or Discogs, etc. These individuals feel so much attachment to their records that they are quite willing to lug it all back into their car and then schlep it all home again at the end of the day.
A second group are those who sell at Fairs, usually as a part-time or sideline gig. The often do this to enhance their own collection or to "flip" valuable items from the surplus of their own personal collection. Those are the ones who will make deals and offer discounts and who will occasionally miss something rare, or misprice an item in their own stash, resulting in a true 'score' for someone.
When I used to sell regularly at record fairs, I know I always kept one eye fixated on how much of the damn stuff I was going to have to lug back into the car and drag home at the end of the day - not to mention how my back would feel later that night. So I often sold and priced things accordingly. I really hated taking things back home!
So I always kept a running mental tally all day of what portion of my 'good stuff' that I brought out had sold, and what hadn't, so I knew where I stood in the big picture at any given moment.
You often get to the point where you know most of the 'good stuff' you brought in your crates has been picked through and gone. You're really just waiting around for someone to buy that ONE last big-ticket Sabbath album on Vertigo Swirl that you really hoped would sell. You even get to the point where you've stuck it in the front of the bins instead of under "S".
But you're really just killing time. When I'm in that situation the rare and precious Sabbath price tag for me can get very flexible and go way down at the end of the day, especially when it's late and I am getting bored with being out there all day.
However, not every dealer at a record fair is going to think that same way. Now and then there is a dealer there who is NOT a professional, who is not a regular, and just unloading their private collection or a collection of a friend and they want the stuff to have a good home.
This is the third group. These are the mavericks, and that's when both the good deals AND the good karma magically happen and unicorns start running around the room ... (laughs)
StereoNET: So we can expect a few 'mavericks' and unicorns in the room this year?
Jon: One of the features of the Australian Record Fair is that we dig deep to find these maverick Sellers - one of the reasons we advertise far and wide beyond the regular circles that all the other Melbourne record fairs do.
We recognise there is a LOT of competition in the local marketplace, and the calendar for Fairs becomes ever more crowded every year. To sustain a 3 Day Fair such as this, we know we have to think outside the box and really bring something special to the tables.
We think this year we have filled the room with those mavericks I spoke about. And because of that, we are very excited about this year particularly and the chances of everyone finding something really special. Maybe even a unicorn or two ...
StereoNET: What's the highlight of a typical Show for you?
Jon: I've seen records at our Shows I never knew existed. One first time Seller coming in this year is bringing in avant-garde jazz/bop from Japan (amongst other things). I had a sneak look through his collection, and so far, there's not one record I'm familiar with. That's pretty exciting!
I've also gotten lucky sometimes - those times when the cardboard boxes get opened up in front of you and the seller doesn't want crazy money for any of them. He just wants to see like-minded buyers, happy. You buy one or three, think about taking more but walk elsewhere, come back an hour later, and the lot is gone. Those moments you rarely get at retail record stores, and of course almost never online.
I've even got eight crates from an as yet un-named StereoNET Seller on consignment this year - looking through those. I'm quite sure someone is going to pick up a load of tasty bargains. It's those collections we've never seen, anywhere, that get my interest going, still. Those are always going to be a highlight.
StereoNET: Do you have one piece of advice for first timers & bargain hunters at the Australian Record Fair this year?
Jon: Get to the Show early! If you can get to collections before they've been picked over you have a good shot at getting the absolute gems, but you've GOT to get there early. I'm not a terribly patient person, and I'm often burned out after several hours digging. I usually need to take a break, get a drink, maybe eat something, wander around etc. That's not exactly a winning combination for Record Fairs, which tend to be very time consuming and reward the patient and persistent early diggers with gold. But if you are in the right mindset and approach it with a willingness to buy things that aren't always 'on your list', you can clean up at these morning sessions.
But be prepared to get on your hands and knees and get deep into the trenches!
StereoNET: And what about one Record Fair secret that nobody knows, or wouldn't tell you freely?
Jon: Haha..we're on dangerous ground now! I guess the one best secret tip is that the dealers we have coming, almost all have other stock in reserve.
Because we hold the Fair over three days, the Sellers hedge their bets about what they bring in early. They also change stock each night, bringing in more crates and changing prices, based on what they learned the day before.
So although Friday offers some great early bargains, Saturday actually tends to be the best day for shopping the hard-to-gets and personal want list. The Sellers have had a chance to regroup and adjust their offerings, bring in new items people have asked for, or the things they plain forgot about before. Sunday is bargain day... everyone is looking to make deals, quit whole collections at cost, and those $150 special records that everyone has been eyeing (if they are still there!) start to come down in price and are more likely to leave a Sellers hands cheap.
So I guess, don't miss the Saturday for the biggest selection and widest price margins on the best stock. And again, get there as the doors open for the best picks.
Jon Scanlon and Scotty Clarke are co-organisers of the Australian Record Fair, October 12-14 at the Pullman Mercure Hotel, Queens Road, Albert Park. Tickets are on sale now.
This article first appeared on StereoNET.