The word to describe the Exchange is cluttered, which makes for an interesting digging experience but also leads me to wonder how many great records go undiscovered simply because they’re buried in the deepest recesses of the shop, or in an irrelevant genre/category pile. But, that’s also kinda the beauty of it all.
This is perhaps the longest running Vinyl dealer in Brisbane, and walking through the Adelaide St shop you get the feeling that there are some real ancient relics in here (staff included). The sheer volume of records is enormous, the downside to which is that they are largely unsorted and often in questionable condition.
I’ll be real, the Exchange gets a hard time among Brisbane record shoppers for a few reasons. I’ll try to address some of these gripes and explain why I still frequent this dilapidated record lair, and why I think it’s worth a look through if you’re in the area.
The entrance to the store itself is easy to miss, and is via the narrow staircase besides the Commonwealth Bank on Adelaide st. Up the stairs, you’re greeted by an eclectic array of rock n roll paraphernalia ranging from Hells Angels belt buckles to a unsettling life-sized poster of the gaunt faced Tom Petty that looks as though it was printed during his rougher years. The owner of the Exchange is a lifetime collector of things and will happily give you the story behind literally any item you pick up in the store (seriously, this guy loves a chat (and by chat I mean lecture)). The word to describe the Exchange is cluttered, which makes for an interesting digging experience but also leads me to wonder how many great records go undiscovered simply because they’re buried in the deepest recesses of the shop, or in an irrelevant genre/category pile. But, that’s also kinda the beauty of it as you’re never quite sure what you could uncover.
The selection of records is quite narrow, stocking almost exclusively second hand rock, folk, and easy listening. There’s a little jazz, some crates of soundtracks and blues, as well as recent additions of re-pressed pop and funk albums near the front counter. BUT the overwhelming majority of the records are second hand rock of some sort. It’s interesting, in a way the Exchange is almost a cross section of Brisbane’s music tastes from a time when records were the primary format for recorded music. Unlike other shops like Rocking Horse, or Jet Black Cat, I get the feeling that the record Exchange has very few if any agreements with modern vinyl distro’s and more or less acquires records though private estate sales and trade ins from customers, in addition to the alleged 30 000 records sitting unsorted in the back room. This means that if you’re into Springsteen, Dylan, Elvis, or any other artists that would have been past their golden years by the time your parents came around, there’s plenty of crates to dig through. That said, I’ve found some Stylistics records there, a few Grateful Dead albums, an awesome Blue Note Live LP, and one Tyler the Creator record stored under G for Goblin. So in short, yes there are some awesome records in the Exchange but you REALLY need to dig for them. The narrow genre selection is quite a common criticism, in addition to the sometimes dubious pricing system that is also a popular point of contention.
The shop seems to have a knack for selling rare records at a relatively high price. That Blue Note Live record set me back $65, one of the more expensive records I have purchased, but later when I looked it up on discogs the average price was $17AUD! I’m a fan of so many Blue Note artists (not to mention the best live recordings of Donald Byrd’s Domino’s and Places & Spaces) , I didn’t think twice about picking up the double disc LP, but advertising it as rare did irk me at the time. I’ve heard a few stories similar to this, and have also seen the owner turn down the sale of a bargain bin ’45 to quickly search Discogs for a price in case it was valuable. In general, the records are a little overpriced. Anything big brand like Beatles, Velvet Underground, The Ramones, will all be marked around $30-$40 (second hand) which I think is too steep considering the commonality and quality of the records. The shop is probably trying to capitalise on selling their most popular records but may actually be shooting themselves in the foot by turning away savvy shoppers.
Someone in the know (ahem) doesn’t go there for chart topping albums though. With $25 and an hour to kill I can easily pick up 10 records worth having and satisfy my buying urges within my prescribed budget. But I need the full hour. There are thousands of 45’s and thousands of unsorted records just sitting at the back of the shop, and although I may only buy one out of every 200 records I flip through, there is seriously a lotta LOTTA records in there (if you have dust allergies definitely take your meds with you).
The exchange is more than just a record retailer as well, they sell second hand audio equipment and do repairs for very reasonable prices. The inhouse mechanic has worked wonders on my amplifier and gives great advice on how to configure your sound system for the best listening experience. The exchange also sells all sorts of weird collectables which can often be bargained for at the counter.
If you can get over the mess and eclecticism, then the CD and Record exchange is an interesting dig and totally worth the time to swing in and have a sticky beak. It’s a piece of Brisbane’s cultural heritage from a time before online streaming, and has survived countless re-imaginings of the Brisbane music scene. Even though the business is for sale (and has been for a few years) I hope the exchange sticks around in some form or another and can continue to provide Brisbane with a one-of-a-kind record shopping destination.