The Tale of Hobart's Cherished Record Shop Saved by a Millionaire

Published March 20, 2024

In Hobart, Tasmania, the venerable Music Without Frontiers store stood as a beacon for music enthusiasts for nearly three decades, managed by the somewhat gruff but knowledgeable Stefan Markovitch. His extensive knowledge of all music genres made the store an institution and a hub for music lovers. Stefan, son of European immigrants, delighted in imparting musical wisdom to his customers, shaping their musical tastes with his formidable memory and vast vinyl and CD inventory.

Leigh Carmichael, the brain behind the successful Dark Mofo festival, was among the young visitors to Stefan's shop. Though initially brushed off due to his lack of funds and preference for grunge, Carmichael's persistent visits evolved into a lasting relationship that greatly influenced his own work in the music industry, including the programming for Dark Mofo.

The store was more than a commercial enterprise; it was a part of the community fabric, promoting local talent and serving as a place of cultural engagement. However, the rise of digital platforms and commercial giants threatened these independent havens, leading to the closure of many.

Stefan, despite the digital revolution, remained steadfast in his traditional methods, avoiding technology as much as possible and maintaining a mental inventory of over 30,000 records. His dedication was such that even a terminal cancer diagnosis didn't deter him from his mission to preserve his store's legacy.

His salvation came in the form of a text message, not to the eccentric museum owner David Walsh whom he'd thought of contacting, but to Carmichael. Presented with the challenge to convince Walsh to invest in the store, given the financial difficulties faced by Walsh's Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), Carmichael made an impassioned plea. He emphasized the store's cultural fit within Hobart’s arts precinct and the inherent value of the music stock.

Ultimately, his efforts paid off, as Walsh, despite the costs and with an understanding of the cultural significance, agreed to purchase the shop. Music Without Frontiers was integrated into the Mona realm, which included recording studios and live music venues, ensuring its survival and continuity of Stefan's legacy.

Stefan's life story, from the son of migrants with an aspiration for him to become a doctor, to the record importer and shop owner instrumental in Tasmania's music scene, illustrates the indelible impact of a single shop on the cultural landscape.

The new manager, Mel Stewart, is committed to maintaining the store's ethos, preserving its charm and tradition. Through this transition, Stefan passed away with the knowledge that his labour of love would endure, thanks to the promise upheld by Carmichael.

heritage, legacy, community