District Audio is the new online record store based in Melbourne. Established by husband and wife duo, Alex and Lydia Barlow, the two music lovers have made it their duty to be one step ahead of the crowd in order to supply Australian DJs and music enthusiasts with the very best in underground vinyl releases from around the globe. Specialising in a broad spectrum of electronic music; you’ll be able to find gems ranging from house and techno to the avant-garde and experimental.
Bunker chat to Alex and Lydia about their reasons behind starting District Audio, the online versus in-store record digging debate, and their hopes for District Audio’s future.
B. How did District Audio come about and what were your inspirations for starting it?
A. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how District Audio came about. In Melbourne we’re almost spoilt for choice with an excellent selection of record stores with great variety, we’re just hoping to offer something a little different but equally as good!
L. I think our love for a range of music, and the sense of community that music brings is really the main driving force behind it.
B. Do you remember the first conversation you had about launching District Audio? Were you both as eager as each other or did one of you take a bit of convincing?
A. Our initial discussions around District Audio came about nearly two years ago. We didn’t really have a clue, nor the capital to just go ahead and open up a shop. It wasn’t until more recently when we had a sit down together and agreed we should just go for it; it’s both of our little project, so we were both equally as keen to get the ball rolling!
B. What is each of your roles in District Audio?
L. Well Alex is WAY more in the know than I am when it comes to our current range of stock. He’s in charge of our orders, whether it be deciding the distributors we work with, or deciding on the records to stock, Alex sorts all of that out… I just do everything in between, and keep him in check!
B. Why did you decide to open an online store as opposed to a physical store?
A. There’s a few reasons for us opening up an online shop as opposed to a physical location. First and foremost, the costs involved in the initial setup of a physical store is not exactly cheap. We both also work full time jobs, so whilst we’d love to work for ourselves in a physical store, it wouldn’t be feasible at this point. For now we are just focused on keeping the overheads low, so our prices can stay down too!
B. Did the recent closure of Gutterhype Records and the changing habits of shoppers deter you in any way?
L. Not at all. This has been something that’s been brewing in the background for some time, and we would have ended up doing this regardless.
A. A few well known record stores in Melbourne have either opened, or closed their doors in recent history and shoppers habits are ever changing. At the end of the day, we’re selling a luxury product to be consumed either in a dark basement nightclub or in someone’s living room.
B. One of the greatest pleasures of buying records is the process of rummaging through a stack and striking gold with something that you hadn’t originally considered, then playing it on a turntable to hear how it sounds. How does District Audio compete with that?
A. The record dig can be a bit of a double edged sword. Sometimes you strike gold, but other times you feel compelled to make half hearted purchases to validate the time spent searching! While a website can’t simulate that kind of experience, we have decided against adding particular genre sections to try and encourage some browsing… Maybe the Melbourne techno head will stumble across some wave or house that they may have otherwise missed.
B. Online shopping is definitely great for those who enjoy the 2am sprees but others might still be sceptical about buying records online. Do you think you’re attracting different customers to those who shop the conventional way?
A. Hey! We also cater to the office worker who’s got a bit of down time and the procrastinating uni student! In all seriousness though, people don’t seem too phased as to where they get their fix from and not everyone gets the chance to walk into a record store on shipment day.
B. How do you decide on the records to sell on District Audio?
A. There’s 2 sides to it really. One involves me monitoring our inbox and keeping constant tabs on upcoming releases to ensure we can get our hands on the stock. The other just involves us spending a lot of time listening to a range of music our distributors have to offer and picking it apart from there. It really comes down to our tastes as well as what we think would work in a club environment.
B. What is the scope of records that you have available? Is there a particular vibe you’re going?
A. For the uninitiated we currently mainly stock techno and house of a few different flavours. You’ll also see some EBM, industrial, italo and regular disco, as well as pockets of dub and ambient.
B. What does the process involve for you when selling the records?
A. Our storefront through Squarespace really takes a lot of the work out for us. We pretty much just pick and pack the records (along with a sneaky promo here and there) and take it to be shipped! Generally our records ship out within 24hours of purchase and arrive within a few business days. In the very near future we do hope to help out our fellow Melburnians with a pick up option, saving on the shipping costs and wait time.
B. How will your plans to sell pre-owned records work?
L. This is really a work in progress; for now we’re keen on people around Melbourne to contact us, we’ll probably meet up, have a look and listen, and make an offer. Pre-owned is a really hard thing to gauge (online especially), so we’ll really be playing it by ear, but we want people to know they can head to us if they need to!
B. Has there been a record that you were meant to sell but kept for yourself instead because you liked it so much? With so many records at your fingertips, surely you’ll end up doubling your own record collection!
A. It really is a kid in a candy store situation! Some of the records that we have in stock, we were only able to secure minimal copies, it would be just a tad selfish to keep them all to ourselves! In saying that though, I did just buy a copy of the new Phase Fatale EP because it was too good to pass up.
B. District Audio is still fairly new, what is your plan for its future? Would you consider opening up a physical store?
L. We would definitely love for District Audio to become a physical store, though that’s more of a longer term goal at the moment. Right now we hope to focus on getting District Audio more involved with the local community, as well as growing our customer base, and range of records (…all suggestions welcome). I guess we’ll see where it takes us from there!