Melbourne’s Missing Link Records is more than just a record store. Rich with history, it is less an outlet for selling and buying music than it is a local institution for both national and international based music. Regardless of genre- be it grindcore, metal, punk, hardcore, indie or hip hop, Missing Link Records is ground zero for getting your inside look at music outside of Top 20 Charts, music video hit shows and stadiums.
The store recently went a drastic upgrade as it propels itself well into the new music industry market, opening up an online retail arm to help integrate the name into the massive online terrain of digital music. We spoke to owner Nigel Rennard about Missing Link’s storied history and their burgeoning digital venture.
For those uninitiated, share with us a little bit of Missing Link history and its importance to Melbourne’s underground music scene?
We took over the shop in 1981 after the punk/new wave era had spawned a wealth of new energy and sounds around the World and have continued to import most of the new styles of music since that time. We have always had a strong emphasis on Australian Independent music and have encouraged the sale of all formats brought into the shop, either directly by these artists, or via a distribution network. From Nick Cave to Eddy Current Suppression Ring we have nurtured new talent often losing it to the mainstream after commercial success beckons. Without outlets like Missing Link there would only be gigs and the internet where an artist could sell their music and this is not enough to expose them to both the local and international customers we are in touch with.
Missing Link is now part of the digital world of music sales with its brand new online store- what prompted the change and adoption of the new venture?
We see digital as just another sales format that is now available to music lovers and a format that is becoming a bigger part of the sales environment every year.Unlike some of our fellow store owners we do not see it as a threat or as degrading music.The only threat that all of us should be worried about is the illegal downloading of music through file sharing,etc, but we cannot ignore it and hope that it fails or goes away because it won’t.I remember the change from vinyl to cd and all the doom merchants or purists with their myriad of complaints but here we are 30 years later and both formats still survive.Digital is just another format to offer and rather than just giving up and accepting illegal downloads we decided to try and beat them by joining up.
How important it has been to adapt to the digital age?
It is the format of choice for everybody I see walking around or sitting on a tram on my way to work.I have never seen so many people with headphones or earplugs everywhere.So that tells me that it is big and getting bigger.The dinosaurs were unable to change and adapt and if we don’t our end will come as theirs did.
What have been the immediate benefits to the new digital store?
We haven’t really seen any benefit since we put this together in July and to be frank it is a very long term project. We have no illusions about competing with Apple itunes and we are only offering what we sell instore, if it is available for download, as an option to our customers. We have a lot more to upload and a lot more to do to promote what we have to offer but as mentioned we will not have Justin Beiber or Lady Ga Ga to offer which is where the bulk sales action is. It may take years before we see it being a commercial success but it is the fact that we offer it that counts.
Does an online store mean less in-store staff?
We continue to have a very large focus on our hard copy sales and have increased our stock, diversified our stock and increased our vinyl range and second hand content and in order to do this we need to maintain our staff levels.
You’re working with a select group of indie labels- how important has this partnership been?
Our indie relationships have always been a big part of our business and are important to us and we thank them for getting on board right from the beginning as we are still very much developing the digital part of what we do.
What if the majors come calling- would you consider stocking their goods in the digital store?
Of course we have a history of artists like The Clash, The Cure, Tool, Nine Inch Nails and so forth that are distributed by majors and phase 2 or 3 of our development will hopefully involve the gradual introduction of artists relevant to our store and its history.
What are Missing Link’s plans (both digital and instore) for the upcoming Australian summer?
We are looking at plenty of activity right now including cd reissues of music from Strange Tenants, Corpse Grinders, Huxton Creepers and a new release by Cosmic Psychos, plans for limited edition vinyl 7 inch releases of unreleased tracks by artists from the past and we are also looking at putting together special Missing Link Presents gigs, on a Monthly basis and are in contact with various venues with this in mind. Along with that just an increase in stock levels and ploughing on with more digital material to upload until Xmas.
VIDEO TRAILER (for new digital store):
If you are in Melbourne, be sure to visit the store in person to get the latest in underground music:
405 Bourke Street