1972. I left school as a naïve, starry-eyed 17-year-old.
Having studied trombone for 5 years at Perth Modern School, I left “Mod” without the desire (or sufficient grades it has to be said!) to go to UWA (the only Uni in WA at the time) or Teachers College, as was the recommendation of the School Guidance Counsellor. Instead I was offered a job at Theo’s Music.
Having gone in there to buy a new mute for my Conn 88H trombone, my unplanned interview was pretty intense:
- Theo: “What are doing this year?”.
- Me: “Nothing... looking for a job I guess”.
- Theo: “Do you want a job here?”
- Me: “OK”.
- Theo: “You can start tomorrow”
That night when my Dad came home from work, I told him “I’ve got a job”. He asked where and I told him it was in a music shop and, as fathers do, he asked, “How much are you getting paid?” and I had to admit that question had never crossed my mind. I had no idea! In fact, Theo forgot to pay me the first week, so 10 days into the job I still had no idea. My first pay cheque turned out to be $27.
For the next 8 years I worked at Theo’s, learned a lot and also played trombone professionally at night. I loved the instrument - it really was the only thing I excelled in at School (don’t even ask me about my marks in French or Chemistry!) and to this day, I have never really understood why EVERYONE didn’t want to play one?!
After realizing a full time gig on trombone wasn’t going to happen and also feeling that Theo’s was unlikely to offer me the career path or opportunities I desired, I decided to stretch my entrepreneurial wings and went searching for a premises... and a name?!
After dismissing such obvious names as” Graham’s Music” or “Hoskins Musicland” I settled on a non-musical term and chose the word Concept... which was a trending term at the time that meant something new and original. It stuck. Next the “where?”.
No such thing a Google back in 1980 of course so there was really only one way to find premises... drive around endlessly … and after many weeks I found an old furniture showroom in Murray Street, West Perth. It was run down, but central, accessible and... cheap!
At the ripe old age of 25, with the help of friends and family and a with a loan for $10,000 from the Bank, we spent a furious few weeks painting and installing some carpet and showcases, and I had my own shop. Somehow it survived the first very rocky 5 years (it took that long before I could even draw a minimum wage) and was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Retrospectively, I must have had just the right balance of naivety and confidence (some might say youthful arrogance?!) and Concept Music had now found its feet (and beat).
The first incarnation of Concept Music lasted about 10 years before I started to outgrow the premises, but fortunately the owner of the building offered to extend it for me to give roughly twice the floor space. I employed the services of an interior designer and the new store was beautiful. To this day I still miss various aspects of it.
Over the next 10 years Murray Street changed. It became a one way street and got a LOT busier with almost no parking, and with more and more customers complaining they’d have to drive around the block 3 or 4 times to park I knew it was time to move on. In early 2000 I stumbled across yet another empty furniture showroom at the corner of Cambridge and Harbourne in Wembley.
At the time I recall being extremely nervous if people would follow me “out of the city”, but in hindsight it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and we never looked back. Cambridge St was a winner from day one. The exposure was brilliant, people LOVED the easy access and parking. It wasn’t quite the “old” Concept (yet!) but we definitely hit the ground running and Concept grew very quickly. In fact wasn’t that long before I realised, we would need more space again. And soon!
Enter the global financial crisis ... which didn’t affect us so much, but was of course catastrophic for the economy in general and saw the demise of many shops in Perth - including Hearth House who were in the “other half” of the building I occupied. Coincidentally, another 10 years had passed and Concept Music in 2010 was about to double in size again.
Nervous at the possibility of losing the intimate, friendly vibe we had become famous for, I once again employed the services an interior designer, Clare, to help me bring it all together and I couldn’t have been happier with the result. It was like the “old” Concept Music in Murray Street... but better! And finally, I had a “real” acoustic guitar room... and room to breathe.
Today when I walk in every morning, I smile... especially as I reflect on where it all started all those 40 years ago. Honestly, as a young 25 year old I could never have envisioned what Concept would become, or that there could possibly be a market for “that many guitars” in Perth! The journey hasn’t always been easy but I feel so privileged and fortunate to have survived, of course, but also to have met so many wonderful people, not to mention had so many wonderful staff... and none better that the team I have now. I appreciate them all.
Then.... earlier this year, along came COVID19 and gate crashed all our grand plans for how we might celebrate reaching the 40 year milestone. Somehow even COVID has had a silver lining, as business has actually improved with people turning to music in droves to “help them get through”! And our celebrations challenge also took a turn for the better when our good friends at 96FM noticed something... it was their 40th anniversary literally within a week of ours!
Brainstorming how we might be able to celebrate our 40th Anniversary in a way that did not involve a mass gathering... a fantastic plan evolved: to jointly launch the biggest guitar giveaway in Australian history and celebrate our joint 40th Anniversary by giving away 40 Fender Squier guitars over 40 days through 96FM. After some quick talking and enlisting the help of Fender... it happened. The culmination will be at the Camfield on Friday 18th September so naturally we’re pretty excited!
Thank you ALL for being part of the journey, whether you’ve just found us or have been with me for the entire 40 years and through several generations!
What is next? “Stay tuned” and let us see!
Proudly but humbly,
Graham Hoskins. 2020