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Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Family-ran convention draws in vinyl-loving crowds, cultivates resurgence of Austin music scene

Michael Ventura / Hilltop Views
Born Late Records displays a custom Motörhead denim jacket in front of their booth. The company buys, sells and trades vinyl, CDs, tapes, shirts and other memorabilia. Their storefront is located at 2920 Race Street, Fort Worth, TX, and their Instagram is @bornlaterecords.

On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, musically-inclined Hilltoppers were presented with an excellent array of over 3,000 collectible vinyls, cassettes, CDs, posters and memorabilia dating as far back the 1930s at the Palmer Events Center. Here, the Austin Record Convention was unfolding, receiving attendees from all over the world.

Since 1981, the Hanners family has operated as the ARC’s administrative head. Doug Hanners, a Texas musical historian, is largely responsible for the institution that the convention is today. Despite the thousands of attendees, the Hanners’ leadership is not authoritarian. Instead, it is more akin to a hosting family running a family reunion. 

The Austin Record Convention, created by Doug Hanners ( right) in 1981, has become one of the largest and longest-running record conventions in the United States. His son Nathan ( left) grew up attending these conventions and formed friendships with many vendors from a young age. Today, he co-manages the event at the “Convention Headquarters” alongside his father, and they both consider the people at the convention their extended family. (Michael Ventura / Hilltop Views)

“Doug is always around greeting old friends and meeting new friends.” His son, Nathan Hanners, said when asked about his father. “It’s like a giant family.”. 

This was clearly demonstrated when the Hilltop Views team asked for a picture of the two, and Doug humorously went missing. A cursory glance revealed he had walked off to go have a conversation at a vendor’s booth down the aisle.

This spirit of family could be felt in the room despite its immense size. Neighboring booths engaged in thoughtful conversation, and mutual admiration for music and art was found throughout the center. Every vendor was incredibly open to speak about their collections, a process which usually resulted in oversharing. 

British vendor Dominic Martin provided a comical, but slightly morally dubious history of how he got his copy of The Smiths’ single “Hand in Glove.” 

When asked about his record, he provided the anecdote that, “A few of the sleeves (records) were placed on a palette for the garbage disposal, and a friend of mine pinched three for me.”

That 45, a term used to describe a 12-inch record in which a single would be pressed on, was listed for $3,000. Items like these made customers snap back into reality and remember the commercial nature of the event. 

Originally started as a swapping event for record enthusiasts in the 1980s, it has now grown to be a nexus for music lovers across the globe. Upon entry to the events center, the administration put up a world map with pushpins for attendees to mark their place of origin. The pins could be found on every continent, but the majority were found in Texas. 

A Seeburg Consolette Jukebox displays a piece of history, taking visitors into a trip to the past. This one was beautifully maintained. (Michael Ventura / Hilltop Views)

Austin has long been lauded as the live music capital of the world, but this testament has been strongly tested by COVID-19 and the rise of housing rates, which have hit a 21-year high. Nathan expressed discontent on the current state of Austin, and he noted that it is “displacing artists and art enthusiasts” alike.

But, despite the city’s diluted state, the Hanners family believes that the ARC brings “people from the outskirts back into the city” for the biannual exhibition. The spring 2023 ARC brought about the largest crowd that the Hanners have seen, a trend which will likely continue as the rise of vinyl remains steady. 

It is shocking to see the large concentration of young people at an event which celebrates antiquated equipment. Some are youthful collectors wishing to establish their own repertoire, while some are young attendees fascinated by the “dead music” that can be found in the convention.

In a city plagued with threats of an emerging technocracy, which could remove what once made Austin special, the ARC stands as a testament to the “old Austin.” A city which has been known to be weird, full of family and rich in  character; a city which may have never actually existed. But in the Palmer Event Center twice a year, residents and visitors alike can participate in the legacy of the Hanners and their fellow music-collecting stock. 

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About the Contributor
Tate Burchfield
Tate Burchfield, Staff Writer
Tate Burchfield is a first year student on the hilltop, and this is his first year writing for Hilltop Views. He is interested in politics and the arts. He is from Galveston, Texas and is excited to spend his time in Austin with Hilltop Views.

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