Black Dot Music is one of the cultural pit stops in the music scene and the hub of every muso in the New England. Owner Tony Elder tells us about its humble history and how the scene has changed over time …
Tony, tell us how Black Dot Music began?
Black Dot Music began its amazing journey 30 years ago this month, after Bruce and Linda MacKenzie bought Cheapa Music (Armidale) from Peter Harkins. It was the same year, by coincidence, that I came to study at UNE, and it wasn’t too long before I was a regular at the shop. I still have my first classical guitar bought second hand for $50 hanging on the wall at home. There was an immediate connection made with Bruce and Linda; the people working at Black Dot Music have always been friendly and welcoming. It was a great music scene back in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
How has the scene changed locally in your time?
There is always ebb and flow with the number of bands and musicians on the scene at any one time. We are fortunate to have some venues still providing live entertainment for their clientele and local musicians need to support these venues, so the trend continues. I think that musicians these days have to take an entrepreneurial approach to getting heard. The advent of social media, particularly FB, has made creating events easy.
Have you sold instruments to many famous people?
It all depends on your definition of famous. There are too many to name, but here are a few. Al Heeney, Dustin Tebbutt, L J Hill, Jess Ribeiro, Ash Hall, Rick Cuthel, Kerry Watson, Georgia Smith, Brendan Mooney, Steve Tafra, Steve Thorneycroft, Len Streeting and many, many more.
Tell us about working at Black Dot.
I love it. I consider myself very lucky to be doing something that is part of me. Armidale is a great town, and I am grateful to be living and working here. There is something very satisfying about connecting someone with an instrument. People come into our shop with an idea to get started, they feel anxious and excited all at once, and then the process of instrument selection begins. The experience of buying your instrument should be fun and informative. We like to take a consultative approach to the sales scenario. There is magic in new beginnings. One of the great elements of working in the music industry is you get to meet and get insight into the lives of so many interesting people. The common thread is we all play, perform, write and love music. Music is a universal connection between us; it is an integral element in our memories, our present and our future. Music is a binding element that creates emotional responses that stay in our hearts and minds.
What is your biggest brand name at Black Dot?
Fender by far … It is the largest name in the guitar industry. Most famous musicians have been associated with a Fender guitar, Fender amplifier or Fender bass at some time or another. Some legends have made the Fender guitars iconic, like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name a few who used Fender Stratocasters almost exclusively. Bands like the Beatles and the Stones leaned more towards the Fender Telecaster released in 1951. There are a myriad of players and with the new generations, the list appears infinite. The Fender Stratocaster released in 1954 is still the most popular guitar on the planet. The Fender starter pack says it all: “Stop Dreaming and Start Playing”. These packs are fabulous value at an RRP of $549. During our 30 year anniversary sale they are an amazing $389. Very popular with young budding players who want to play an instrument which will help enhance their experience and inspire playing, rather than an inferior deterrent cheap throw away instrument.
Tell us about your family. How have they contributed to the success of Black Dot Music?
Carol and I were both lucky to be brought up in a loving and supportive environment. Our parents are always saying “Let us know if we can help”. We care about our family, friends and community, and hopefully that comes across when people come into the store. My son, Alex, has started working part-time in the business and Carol, my gorgeous, talented wife, is my rock.
We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your support and wish you all the best for the festive season.
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