-by Tim Coleman
It was April 1989 when dad would take over a small shop in Cranbourne formerly called “The Keyboard Man”, starting with a very basic selection of second hand gear and budget items as well as a small music school servicing local musicians. He was a keen musician who had fronted in his local church band and this was his chance to make something of his own instead of working for someone else. He’d been managing paint and chemical companies in Brisbane and Melbourne before finally deciding he needed to get into business for himself.
The beginning was humble. I remember the sights of Valencia Guitars, Casio Keyboards and Aria Pro II guitars as well as the smell of cigarette smoke from the old bloke who used to run the place. The music school was a big drawcard for this little store, having multiple rooms and teaching piano, guitar, singing, brass/wind instruments as well as drums.
In 1990 Cranbourne Music would join the World of Music group which would open up access to some new brands such as Ibanez and Peavey which would be a staple of the company for the next 15 years. Satriani, Vai and Van Halen were at their peak and I remember the mountains of Peavey Rage 108’s, the curious site of a multi coloured guitar with a handle and drooled over a Blue RG550 with a matching mirror blue scratch plate. I can still hear the shred of Metallica and the sound of Rick Astley on the keyboard demos playing out front.
Dad tried all sorts of promotions and we’d have local busker competitions, numerous shopping centre display stands, an Annual Christmas concert for the Music School Students and my favourite event, the 32 Hour Sale. From 9am Friday until 5pm Saturday, we’d be open and on sale with events such as clinics, workshops and performances. Hot dogs all through the night came in handy for those who just left the Cranny pub at 3am and stumbled through on their way to “they don’t even know”.
As a family we’d all been at the shop almost every day since we opened. Mum would pick us up from school and take us over to Cranbourne where we’d sit and watch TV in the back room, eat chips from Kottarou or help out on the tills of the music school. Ryan would formally join the business in 1993 helping on the sales floor.
After outgrowing the small space at 88 High St, (and the space next door at 100) the company moved to 130 High St, Cranbourne in 1997 taking over a large space left behind by the post office. A much bigger space and a blank canvas, dad would design one of the earliest “acoustic rooms” with a wooden shed style about it, corrugated tin roof and wooden floors. Now able to house a big drum section, expanded keyboard and guitar areas, this would be our home for nearly 20 years.
I formally joined the business in 1998 and my younger sister wasn’t too far behind. For me it had never even been a question of if I’d join the business. I loved the store vibe, was obsessed with guitars (should have spent my time practicing though instead of just drooling over the BC Richs) and had tried to help out since I was 12 years old. The music store atmosphere is what I loved and what I still love. The kids playing chopsticks or the teens playing “Fur Elise”, the kids of all ages shredding “Master of Puppets”, the sight of a kazoo on a counter which for some reason triggers a response in so many that “I must pick this up and blow into it”, oh and the sound of person after person playing “Lenny” by SRV which will forever be my “Stairway to Heaven”, the characters, the players, the families, the groups of friends who just want to go to check out the Fenders… hopefully coming into our store feels just as exciting for everyone else.
In 2002 we opened Cranbourne Music’s second branch store in Melbourne CBD at 204 Latrobe St, next to the RMIT University and Melbourne Central Shopping Centre. Daimaru had just closed down and this part of the city was adjusting. We’d had a lot of competition open up on our door step in Cranbourne over the past few years and this was our chance to carve out some more landscape Its only been 19 years but I still never get tired of someone telling me “you’re a long way from Cranbourne mate” or “shouldn’t it be called Melbourne Music”. It was our brand name of nearly 15 years and we’d stick to it, despite the daily comments. I just started telling folks that the founders name was Michael Cranbourne!
The Cranbourne Store exploded during the early 2000’s and would take over sections of the surrounding stores. The “Sound Garage” was our first dedicated PA Room and both the Keyboard and Drum sections had to be moved into the building next door as they outgrew the space within 130 High St! Mum who had become quite the expert in her area had also carved out quite a massive space for print music, where she could find you almost any piece for any instrument you needed (if it was available).
In 2009 we jumped on the Youtube bandwagon and we were probably ahead of the curve at this point with both a solid website and Youtube presence…Our Myspace was pretty awesome as well. Instore signings and Appearances would become common in our Melbourne Store and I still can see the crowd of probably 600 people lining up down Latrobe Street to meet Megadeth in 2005. The story of how Dave Mustaine would spill coffee on my carpet would become legendary. Good guys though, they stayed waaaay longer than we’d advertised to try and meet many people as possible.
After one large competitor took over another large competitor leaving behind a historically busy retail space we opened up our 3rd branch store in 2011 in Blackburn this time. Yes! We called it Cranbourne Music too! Despite some great staff, some solid early Youtube videos and our best efforts this store would go on to close in 2013.
2016 and 2017 would be some of our busiest as we relocated both the Cranbourne and Melbourne CBD Stores. Cranbourne had outgrown the patchwork of stores we inhabited and needed a refresh. The building was tired and the store fitout was dated. The plan was to open in Lynbrook and take over a 1000sqM premises. We’d fit this out to the best of our budget and make a new start. It’s a bold move taking Cranbourne Music out of Cranbourne! Lynbrook’s pretty local for most of our regulars though and its better than the other options we were looking at towards Northern Dandenong! Our 800sqm showroom opened in late 2016 and is one of the largest showrooms in the country.
Our Melbourne Store was located next to RMIT and thanks to a new rail line cutting through town and demolishing all the buildings in its path, In 2017 we were forced to look for a new place. Well, it was that or just pack up and go back to Cranbourne… I mean Lynbrook, but I’d grown far too in love with CBD coffee and when a great spot came up on Elizabeth Street, it was just meant to be. It’s even closer to great coffee shops than before!
So after 32 years after opening as Cranbourne Music, that brings us to where we are now. Two locations. No Stores in Cranbourne itself. Confusing for many? Probably mostly for those who drive around Cranbourne looking for a music shop. About 15 years overdue for a name change, but for so long we have valued what started in Cranbourne in that little shop at 88 High St. However, Cranbourne the location isn’t the constant in our business. It’s dad, it’s mum and the family. In 2021 we decided that we’d put the name on the door dad should have put there 32 years ago. A family name for a family business.
Welcome to “Coleman’s Music”. New name, same family.