Tiny record store Vinyl Room plugging into music's unifying allure – Stuff

Vinyl Room is likely New Zealand’s smallest record store, but for the astronomer at the helm, it’s a pursuit as vast as space.
Ron Fisher​ loves music, and he also loves learning. His background is as an educator, not a retailer, which informs a distinct philosophy to selling records.
The 39 year old, who has taken a portable cosmodome to schools and libraries to teach astronomy, taught environmental sustainability, and lectured parents on the teenage brain, is more interested in wellbeing and community building than unit sales.
He wants Vinyl Room to be a haven of conversations among music lovers, be it teenagers curious about 1970s rock, or a boomer being turned onto a cool new band.
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Fisher said what had always enthralled him about astronomy was its vastness – there was always more to learn. It was the same with music.
“I want to teach young people about old music and old people about new music.”
When a customer flashed the face of a CD by Scottish rock band Travis, Fisher was quick to put the question to the room: “Who here knows about Travis?”
He said the Covid pandemic had taught him what people needed more than anything was wellbeing.
“For me music is a massive component of that. I’ve made wellbeing a priority not just for me but for people around me.”
Fisher started selling second-hand records from crates at the Whanganui River Markets last summer, then in December opened Vinyl Room in a nook of Tr3ble​ Gallery on Rutland St, complementing his stock with an increasing number of new releases and reissues.
It makes his shop the only independent record store in the Manawatū-Whanganui region.
Fisher’s affinity for the revived format stems from his parents’ box of records and strong childhood memories of leaning back in a Lazy-Boy with big headphones and discovering formative albums, such as Paul Simon’s Graceland.
When he moved out of home and headed to Wellington in 2000 he took the collection with him.
At the time vinyl was a fading medium, but Slowboat Records and Real Groovy on Cuba St kept the flame alive. But Fisher also had a fondness for a small gallery that only had a crate or two of records.
“The guy at the gallery had a real personal touch. He’d do what I’m trying to do, introduce people to new music. He introduced me to Talking Heads.
“People come in and they know their collection is a bit tired. I want to help them.”
Vinyl record sales accounted for 43 per cent of all music album sales – both physical and digital – in the US in 2022, outselling CDs for the second year in a row, while experiencing 17 straight years of sales growth.
Its resurgence is often viewed as a reaction to streaming and digital technology, from fans favouring a more tactile and slower experience for consuming music than the “on the run” nature of streaming platforms.
But the revival is not without its 21st century marketing tactics, particularly the illusion of exclusivity through limited releases, pricey repackaging and coloured vinyl variants.
Fisher said he had no interest in vinyl as a fad or sales gimmicks. The last thing he wanted was for someone to buy a record from him and then regret it.
With Tr3ble Gallery on the move, Vinyl Room is about to expand, doubling its floor space. Fisher is keen to increase his orders of new records so he can offer shoppers greater variety.
He also hopes to start some form of a record listening club, providing a forum for music lovers to share their tastes.
Vinyl Room is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 4pm, at 3 Rutland St, Whanganui.
© 2023 Stuff Limited


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