Australia loses its last classical record store

Australia loses its last classical record store


norman lebrecht

November 06, 2019

Message from Fish Fine Music in Sydney Town Hall:

It is with much regret that we announce the closure of our store in Town Hall, scheduled for 21st December.

We will still be taking customer orders until 7th December and continue with new releases until 20th November.

It has been a great pleasure to meet and serve so many like-minded, wonderful customers. As this is the end of an era, we look back on so many years of being part of what was such a vibrant industry.

Many will ask why we are closing and it is briefly that record companies continue monthly to delete hundreds of titles in favour of streaming. The difficulty this causes for us in getting regular and consistent supply, along with the vagaries of releases and distribution, have made retail just too difficult. As the last Classical retailer, shoplifting has reached such a level that we are unable to cover the losses on the margins we work under.

While CDs have enjoyed over 30 years of success as the main source of music distribution, streaming has now replaced it and will continue to grow. It too will change, but ‘Will it be here in its current form in years to come?’ is the question.

Collecting albums in physical form still remains the safest bet to me, but the Cloud is shaping up to be a safe storage centre and is set to be the future for collectors.

More to come on that note.

In the meantime…

As the last specialist classical retail store in Australia, we shall have a party on the 21st December at 12pm to celebrate our 50 years as a retailer of music and 35 years as a classical specialist. We hope many of our loyal customers who, along with our staff, have been part of our friendly organisation for so many decades will join us for memories and a drink.

Watch out for lots of sales and deals as we prepare one last hoorah.



  • Brian viner says:

    I will always buy a cd I like the booklet especially for jazz and iam a collector streaming not for me



    judging by the photo of this store it loos truley amazing place for lovers of classical music and opera,alas as we have seen in the UK it is the demise of the record store (classical that is) very sad but things changeand i myself have a streaming service now and it is great

  • Petros LInardos says:

    Where are there still any record stores left ? What about Gramola in Vienna? What about the far east? Latin America?

  • Karl says:

    Don’t streaming services still compress data? That has a negative affect on the audio quality, especially in classical music.

  • Jean says:

    “shoplifting has reached such a level that we are unable to cover the losses on the margins we work under.”

    It is somehow comforting to learn that criminals and dubious people are interested in Bach.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      You think? I think this fact tell us that classical music lovers can be thieves just like everybody else.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Will the last one in the room please turn out the lights?

    Despite all the protests about compressed files ruining the audio experience, it seems like the free market is telling us that streaming is now the format most consumers prefer.

    Even downloading didn’t last as long as the CD.

  • Robert says:

    Very sad. Fish Fine Music was a wonderful store.

    It does seem as if Continental Europe and Japan are far better at preserving their classical record stores than the Anglosphere has become.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Well I am sorry for our Australian counterparts because there are certain aspects to a true record store that the alternatives do not offer. The thing I always loved about good classical/jazz record stores – really good ones — was the impulse buying, taking a total flyer on music or a performer I knew little or nothing about, based on the happenstance of having the physical product in hand. The best classical store in Milwaukee mostly organized LPs by record label and then by catalog number (rather than by composer or performer), so if you were searching for something specific, almost by necessity you’d pull out the LP on either side of the target. That is how and why I found Dorati’s recording of Allan Pettersson’s Symphony No. 7, which in turn started a mild obsession with finding and buying more of Pettersson’s music. It wasn’t the cover art that got me, it was the liner notes. And that is just an example. Sometimes the trigger was that the shop would play music on its sound system, music that interested this or that shop employee. That was the first time I heard any of Philip Glass’s music, so I bought that LP. Another time I bought a 6-LP set of the 78s of Belgian opera singers of the 1930s even though I didn’t understand a word of what the cover proclaimed to be the contents. Would I think to explore that way if I relied on streaming? Not sure. A store can create, or at least facilitate, the desire to take a chance. Streaming it seems to me primarily caters to someone whose mind is made up about what they want.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Completely agree. The impulse buy. Whom of us has ever left a good CD shop without something in the shopping bag we couldn’t wait to get home to hear!! And we might find there are things in that shop that we didn’t even know existed. The internet has reduced choices and increased them simultaneously. I prefer ‘reduced’, if it means having book and music stores. There’s something about the look of books on display, begging to be thumbed through, touched and assessed; same with CDs.

      RIP the shopping experience (and music and books are just the start).

    • ML says:

      May I ask you for the name of the record store? There is no “real” CD store in Chicago after Crow’s Nest, Tower, and Virgin all fell in quick succession in the mid 2000’s. I may drive up and see a real CD store.

    • Lin says:

      This comment is a year old now, but still entirely relevant. Thankyou for good advice and a personal notation!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    As one of the two remaining employees working on the final business day of Tower Records’ Classical Annex in San Francisco, I certainly understand the pain and anguish of the owner(-s) and workers at Fish Fine Music.
    It’s a terrible feeling when a neighborhood record store closes. It’s as if a small community just ceases to be.

  • Richard says:

    The suggestion that record companies’ deletion of titles in favour of streaming is the cause of the shop’s closure is curious. Those same companies continue to release hundreds of titles on cd. Indeed, one might say that for cd buyers times have never been so good. I dare say that Fish struggled to compete with the likes of Presto, JPC and others in terms of cd range and price (even factoring in postage costs).

  • Bill Goldsmith says:

    Add to the short list of not yet extinct classical music stores: Discriminator Music in Salt Lake City. Utah. For further information call 801 487-3047 or email

  • Marj says:

    It is extremely sad for us. Like others have said, one can buy on impulse and discover all sorts of treasures. At least in Sydney we have three or four times a year a massive CD sale at bargain prices of second hand CDs, run by Fine Music radio station. And Presto Classical in the UK provide excellent service with reasonable shipping.