Treasures await record convention attendees

Music collectors are gearing up for another big season of conventions and the never-ending search for the Next Big Find.

Record shows, like collectible shows everywhere, have seen ups and downs in recent years. This spring, a new show returned to the Austin, Texas, venue that longtime collectors remember fondly: Palmer Auditorium. Rhythmhound Productions of Dripping Springs, Texas, hosted the Rhythmhound 2008 Music & Media Show May 16-18, 2008, at the renovated Palmer Events Center. The company promised to “bring together pop culture fans, dealers, independent entertainment companies, musicians, and artists,” and to “blend old and new technologies, offering online formats, DVDs, CDs and LPs.”

It’s no secret that the rules have changed in the way we collect. Things that we never seemed to be able to find now turn up on Web sites like eBay, mail-order outlets and in auctions, including  Heritage Auctions’ entertainment events. It’s become easier to stay at home and sort through Internet listings than go through the expense of traveling to out-of-town conventions. Convenience, time constraints and the rising cost of gasoline all have played a part in a steady decline in show attendance.

So, do conventions still have a purpose? Yes. For me, record cons aren’t the place to make my really big scores, but they are where I tend to find elusive items that seem to appeal to a select audience. Most of my favorite convention finds are the things others might pass by but were to be something I wanted and had a heck of a time finding.

There’s also the thrill of going by a dealer’s booth and seeing a special item “in the flesh” — and most dealers are friendly enough to let you examine whatever it might be up close, with the naked eye. You can’t do that on eBay!

Most important to me is the human connection — meeting and talking to other music fans, sharing their passion for something you can hold in your hand.

Recently I sat down with my associates here at Heritage, Garry Shrum and Jim Steele, to discuss the convention experience and its importance to the hobby:

David: Garry, you’ve been a constant fixture at the Austin shows for many years now, first attending more than 20 years ago while you were operating a record store in San Diego. Why do you continue to go to shows, rather than just rely on your Web site to sell your stock of vinyl?

Garry: Well, there’s nothing like the one-on-one experience — collector to dealer, collector to collector — the camaraderie of being with others who share your enthusiasm for music and the passion for collecting it, in a relaxed, fun environment. There’s always something to learn from others: a record you didn’t know about, a group you hadn’t heard of, a rare picture sleeve you’ve never seen. You don’t get that by shopping eBay.

Jim: It’s energizing to attend shows. It’s like a mini-vacation away from the humdrum of the workweek. Everyone knows that when the right music is playing, it puts you in a happy place, so an event built around music can really be a happy place! As a collector, it’s more. There’s always that single or album that recalls good times, a record that you don’t have in your collection. It’s just fun searching for something specific, or, as often happens, just searching in general and having the song find you!

David: Does the location of the show make a difference to you?

Garry: Sure, and Austin’s a great example. Texas is a major music center, and Austin is the music center of Texas. It’s the perfect setting for a musical event. The town&rsqu

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