Its true, the digital age has arrived and yes you can purchase your music online digitally - hell, in most cases you can usually get your greasy mitts on it for free. (Guilty as charged!) But true music enthusiasts - you know, the button lathered vest wearing, shower evading vegan with the black faded band tee and the carry satchel lobbed over the shoulder. These people have always wanted their music paraphernalia in their hands whether it be vinyl, CDs, or music tees, and because of this, there will always be specific retailers catering to those needs.
I'm not talking your local JB-Hifi: those cold mass produced money pits, they're not likely to carry local releases, Eps, singles, or even vinyl. No, I'm talking about the retailer that lives and breaths music: where upcoming gig posters plaster every spare piece of real estate on the walls; where the latest album releases are celebrated; the kind of place you pick up the limited edition collector print t-shirts or bootleg B-side vinyl releases. I don't want the sales clerks dressed in uniforms! I want them bearded, tattoo'd, and pierced, with the strange aloof distinction that could only come from the kind of person who collects old cassette tapes from unknown 80's artists.
Thankfully Brisbane's CBD caters to such specialised music retailers in abundance: Butter Beats, Egg Records, Rocking Horse, Kill the Music, and Record Exchange are all passionate music retailers and all within a two minute walk of each other surrounding the Queen St Mall - Brisbane music freaks rejoice! Spread across the central shopping precinct of Elizabeth, Queen, and Adelaide St you'll find five uniquely individual music stores tailoring to all kinds of musical fetishes and by spending a couple of hours wandering between each you're sure to find exactly what you're looking for.
Level 1, Broadway on the Mall, you'll find the chocolate coloured pillars of the Butter Beats store front: a small but punchy shop catering to major vinyl junkies and street art enthusiast. Butter Beats boasts to being the home of hard-to-find vinyl and CDs and the largest selection of street art supplies in Queensland. It's loaded to the teeth with vinyl records - a sizeable range of both contemporary and collectable artists; there are a stack of books tailoring to urban literature palettes and a number of different band tees and collectables. What sets Butter Beats apart is its infusion of street art and music: the staff are local graffiti artist and some of Australia's best; their strong passions for music act as inspirations for their artwork and this amalgamation makes Butter Beats a total must see for music lovers.
If you like your music short fast and loud then 'Kill the Music' on Elizabeth St is your kind of retailer. These guys have the most revered collection of punk, rock, thrash, and hardcore artist in the state, if by some miracle you managed to call them out on some abstract underground artist they don't have, they can order anything you like. Its a modest collection of contemporary CDs and vinyl in comparison to the size of the store, but KTM is not merely a shop for circular shiny things that go into your stereo, it has an incredibly large range of band merch and street apparel too. Its the kind of place that lets you, not only pick up your latest hardcore releases but, walk out the door decked in the kind of threads that'll have your Vans toting, tattoo'd, skinny-jean-wearing mates green with envy; its a musical street-wear experience that you simply cannot pass up.
Back on the mall and just a hop skip and a jump from Hungry Jacks is Egg Records, the home of Brisbane's serious CD and vinyl collectors. These guys are all about new and used collectables and they have an impressive range of DVD, CD, and vinyl in mint condition. Less is best when it comes to Egg Records and instead of overloading you with music paraphernalia dripping from the ceiling, the guys have gone with a minimalist approach giving you only the best product available in an organised and easily accessible layout. If you're straight-jacket obsessive about the quality of your music collection, then Egg Records is the place for you, cause theses guys are just as nuts as you are about the value of their music.
Down on Adelaide St you'll find Record Exchange, its in the kind of location where if you blink you'll probably miss it but what you'll find at the end of the yellow brick road, is you're no longer in Kansas anymore. Its an instant teleportation back to an era where bellbottoms meant business, beards were customary, and music came only in thick black plastic. Its an ocean of second hand vinyl records in plastic bins and the scent of old mothballs from decades of pre-loved tuneage. Record Exchange is Brisbane's trash-and-treasure of the record community and with LPs overflowing form there allocated bins, down the isles in unsorted stacks you just know, given the right time and luck, you could stumble upon an absolute gem. This is a place for both the novice collector and the financially crippled - those who don't mind a little pre-lovin' in the name of lower prices. Record Exchange is a place I could happily get lost in for hours.
Saving the best for last on your musical tour of Brisbane's CBD is a store that's been supplying the best quality music and the biggest range of local artists in Brisbane for the last 36 years; Rocking Horse Records is an iconic name whispered warmly upon the lips of Brisbane's music lovers. Their range is huge, especially the local selection and Rocking Horse embodies everything a record shop should be: CD, EP, vinyl, singles, band t-shirts, concert tickets, and the kind of staff that have you conjuring up mental images of Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger in the movie Empire Records. Unfortunately, due to a combination of digital music sales, poor retail trade, and the flooding crisis in Brisbane RHR is in real danger of closing its doors. So if you're going to see it, do it quickly, it may be the last time you'll get to savour what a truly first class independent record retailer feels like.
Brisbane's independent music retailers are as fruitfully diverse as its local selection of independent artists, and with all these places so close to one another it's an entertaining shopping experience to sample them all.