Since its humble beginnings in the early 1980s, VIP Record Fairs have grown from strength to strength, now drawing dealers from across the world and running 50+ events across the UK annually. With the ever-growing trend of online delivery, record fairs like VIP reinforce the value of community amongst the record industry whilst offering serious buyers the opportunity to meet serious sellers. This melting pot of sellers, formats & genres continues to push all of the right things for all the right reasons and here at Discogs HQ, we’re happy to support.
Now at their new London home of Byron Hall in Harrow, Musicmania is going from strength to strength, hosting their next event on the 26th & 27th October. Ahead of this, VIP Record Fair director Rob Lythall took some time to chat with us about all things VIP past, present, and future!
Tell us a little behind the first VIP Record Fair in the early 80s and what you set out to achieve?
The very first event was on the third floor of the Leicester YMCA on East Street. Tables, vinyl, everything had to be lugged up the stairs and back down again at the end. Despite this, it was a raring success from the outset. A dealer from Peterborough suggested we did similar in Peterborough and within a couple of years, we had four venues on the go!
So give us an idea of the scale of your operations in the UK today, and did you ever think you would achieve this?
Well, I gave up a career to do this so I guessed I had some inkling! We now work in nearly a dozen major cities and have been responsible for some of the world’s hit shows at Wembley, Olympia, NEC, and SECC so the heartache and hard work have paid off. The greatest thrill is to still help music fans satisfy their passion and to give hundreds of full-time dealers a big boost to their income every week.
A personal highlight from VIP over the years?
When we sold a rare Beatles demo, in auction for £20k at a Wembley Record Fair. The press loved it. I always remember a Scottish dealer saying that he was driving to Aberdeen for a fair on the weekend and Radio 2 where all over this rare Beatles record selling in London. He felt like turning the car around and driving south to join in the fun!
With a natural growth in online sales over the years, how important do you think record fairs are to the community to sellers & customers alike?
At one stage online purchasing was thought to be future and the business would all go that way. As it happens, the number of record fairs has gone up since online marketplaces started taking off! People still want to touch, smell, feel and barter with vinyl. Online is of major importance, as Discogs has shown in recent years, but our ‘pop up’ style with many record shops under one roof has great value to the music fan.
What do you predict for the future of VIP & Musicmania?
We keep marching on with these big events. We always look to update what we are doing. We are looking at ways we can add value and new ideas to the fairs. Any ideas always welcome.
Huge thanks to Rob for taking the time out to chat to us on this one, shedding a little light on the ins & outs of the record fair business. If you’re London-based, be sure to visit Music Mania on October 26th & 27th.