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Old 10-16-2006, 06:45 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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the end of tower records

this email turned up on a list i subscribe to and i found it an interesting perspective--what do you make of this?

Quote:
hello to all:

just heard today the unfortunate news that tower records, after years
of being in bankruptcy (and suffering from many other maladies, some
internal, a number of them external), is finally going out of
business. i understand that they'll remain open until the holiday
season, and then the kit & kaboodle is, well, kaput.

not sure how many of you who trawl amongst these various lists will
care, but there is some reason to feel sombre regarding this news.
personally, i haven't been much of a tower customer myself these last
years; sure, i duck in to the nyc & northern nj stores every now &
then (mostly to look through whatever bargain bins occasionally turn
up), but their prices have always been on the high end, and their
depth of catalog has gradually depleted throughout the years.
basically, they carry little that i am interested in, but sometimes
the odd back catalog item or other shows up and necessitates
purchase. but tower has not only been around for quite some time,
they were one of the first 'megastore' retailers to cater to both
mainstream *and* independent tastes. in the haughty days of vinyl,
tower was one of the few major retailers who would stock local
groups' albums (on consignment, of course), their employees were
generally music nuts, their catalog was deep, comprehensive and
vibrant, prices relatively affordable, and, as i mentioned, they
tended to champion the underdog (nee, independent). when i published
my first magazine, i/e, back in the early to waning 90s, tower was
always one of my best 'distributors': my sell-through rate was
upwards of 60-70% (well above the standard 30-40%), and even with the
late e/i, tower was one of my better sellers (although not reflective
of the earlier i/en numbers).

no, this news is saddening because at heart it might be the final
nail in the coffin for the record shop as we know it. tower's demise
calls into question what will follow. the repercussions throughout
the 'industry' will be the first major tremors of a successively
larger earthquake.

now, i'm sure there are those on these lists who might reply to this
news with a shrug and a "so?" many of you probably do a good chunk of
your ordering online as well via the usual suspects (ebay, amazon,
gemm, forced exposure, smallfish, u-cover, etc., etc.). call me a
dinosaur, an old fart, whatever: collecting & listening to music for
over 33+ years now, the idea of the record store becoming one with
the blacksmith and the wooly mammoth is extremely disheartening. it's
the next step in the eventual dissolution of the sound carrier (cd or
wax), the next step in the process of everything we do coming solely
and surely through a computer screen. it's the death wails of an
artform.

who knows? maybe this is simply the twilight for the 'superstore'
concept, that the halcyon days of the behemoths (tower, virgin, et
al) are over, and that perhaps the resurgence of the independent
record shop is upon us. but where do the species such as the amoeba
chain fit in? will they be able to adapt and survive? what will the
indie shop need to do to survive in this age of high rent, precious
real estate, artistic ignorance and endemic downloading? indies
having been dying by the dozen this year (aron's & rhino in l.a. -
although the claremont shop is still hanging in there - numerous
stores in chicago, nyc, hell, throughout the entire u.s.), so perhaps
the writing on the wall here is clear: you soon just won't be able to
walk into a store that was once studded with posters, dusty racks,
bargain bins, shelves and endcaps stuffed with recordings rare,
o.o.p., obscure, & trivial, recordings in various shapes & sizes...in
short, part and parcel of what was enjoyable about the physical act
of music shopping.

perhaps i'm an anachronism, but you know what? tough. this whole
thing simply sucks on ice. and all this wonderful so-called future
shock is doing nothing lately but singing my eyebrows.

- darren bergstein

- - -
e/i magazine
> music electronic & otherwise <

info@ei-mag.com / eimag@optonline.net
www.ei-mag.com
e/i magazine is an interesting electronic music mag, so i include the plug/sigs at the end....
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Old 10-16-2006, 07:35 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I know I'll miss Tower. Mine (66th & Broadway) was unusual in that they had an entire floor dedicated to classical and opera - and the selection was actually pretty deep. The prices were high, but over the years I've picked up some pretty great things that I couldn't find in other stores.

I suppose my buying habits are shifting towards used albums on Amazon, but I know that I'll miss the quick fix of heading into Tower. Also, I knew the head buyer there for the classical department - he had been around for more than a decade and was really dedicated. I don't think there are many places that would satisfy him after working at that branch...

When their discounts get more realistic (10% at the moment, which still puts them higher than many other places) I'll go in there and spend a thousand bucks or so...
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Old 10-16-2006, 10:45 AM   #3 (permalink)
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In our area, Tower was in direct competition with independent retailers, so we didn't often go there. They were in this old, decrepit mall that few visited until they opened a Best Buy there a few years ago. There was a much nicer independent record store right up the road, so we usually went there.

But we did go there a lot--I bought a lot of import CDs in my reckless youth, and Tower was one of the best places to find them.
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Old 10-17-2006, 06:13 AM   #4 (permalink)
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There was a Tower right accross the street from University of Texas for 40 years. It closed down last year and there was a lot of hoop-la about it. Unfortunately, those that complained had not been inside the Tower for quite some time. They reminiced about the days when they held local bands' music (Austin is the Live-Music Capital of the world), and how you could listen to new music before buying it.

Unfortunately those days had long since passed. The only music they really offered in depth was rap and whiney alternative "rock". They no longer carried local music (Waterloo Records is all that's left), and they were far from friendly staff. Their staff could have been ripped out of High Fidelity, feeling superior to customers by their "expertise" in music.

All that was left was an overpriced store with a worse selection than Best Buy and dick for service.
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Old 10-17-2006, 07:10 AM   #5 (permalink)
 
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the email is abuot more than the closing of tower--which personally i do not care about particularly---it treats the end of tower as the canary in the mineshaft and is more about the end of "sound carrier" forms--vinyl, cds, cassettes--in general. the collapse of the entire old model for music-as-commodity.

i am ambivalent about this:

on the one hand i am still a real fan of geeky independent record stores--you know, the kind of places that are run by collectors for collectors--i like the browsing through bins and finding stuff you didnt anticipate--the shopping part of it. i have no such affection for the chain stores--they are in general overpriced and selection-poor.

i have been watching this phenomenon unfold in more specialized types of music for a while now--the collapse of independent distributors starting with world serpent (which had many problems of its own not necessarily related to shifts in demand, but which nonetheless stands in for lots of other collapses since)--the gradual disappearance of more independent releases in physical form, replaced with online ordering of cds and, at the limit, with the replacement of cds themselves with downloads.

on this too, i am of two minds: on the one hand, i kinda miss the graphics. graphics are an interesting extension of the music--they are ways to manipulate how and what listeners experience, how they project themselves into what they are taking in. try to imagine the psychedelic phenomenon of the late 1960s happening without the graphics associated with it; the rise of ecm records in the late 1970s would not have happened had ecm not devoted considerable attention to packaging (its use of monochrome backgrounds and high resolution color photography and--especially--smart layout)--or factory records in the early 1990s....hell there would in all probability have been no punk without the graphics associated with it, teh template for which was older situationist recycles of dada collage methods routed through photocopy machines and a deliberately cheap (diy) look.

and i kinda like liner notes, even the stupid ones (shout outs to all my crew blah blah)--in both cases less as advertising (though they are that) than as extensions of the fantasy world the music is about.

mainstream releases from the major labels tend to look and sound like shit. tower was full of that, as strawberries was before them, as virgin megastores are still.

graphics controlled by the musicians, or developed as an extension of the music are another matter. for this, vinyl was clearly better than cds, simply because they provided a bigger, more interesting surface to manipulate.

from this viewpoint, i find it a bit difficult to get with mp3 download platforms like limewire. they strip the visual element from the sound and in doing that i think reduce the sound to elements in a kind of sonic wallpaper that you can customize to fit your interior bathroom or bedroom.

and this points to the stranger dimensions: personally, i really do not care that the primary victims of this shift in distribution of music are the major record labels--let them die. their collapse should take the riaa with them. fuck them all: they were not and are not about the music or about the musicians--remember that at the height of their popularity, the beatles were making about 6 cents on the dollar.

and i dont think that the collapse of this model will necessarily affect the ways in which musicians make a living, given that most money folk make they make from shows.

part of it is that i grew up with records and retain a real affection for them---they are kinda like electricity and indoor plumbing, those things produced by capitalism that aren't so bad. i grew up in a little town in new hampshire and spent much of my adolscence dreaming that i was somewhere else and the primary instruments that shaped that dreaming were records--as objects and as sound transmission media. and i am kinda sad to see them going. i guess its nostalgia.

on the other hand, i wonder about what the new systems of distribution will look like.
i do not think that supply follows demand--i think demand is shaped by supply, that demand operates within contexts that it does not create as a kind of selection mechanism--demand is structured in terms shaped by supply.
commercial music is a demonstration of this. people want what they know about--and in the present cultural context in america, what they know about tends to be very genre specific and very repetitive within genres.
this did not happen on its own--it followed from the adoption of tightly formatted radio across the middle 1970s, which was extended and rationalized by mtv back when it actually was interested in music--now, in the states, commercial radio is a corporate wasteland and has been for over a decade.

what i guess i wonder about is how folk are going to hear new things.
there is a ton of interesting new music out there: how much do you know about?
if you dont know about it, why is that? or....how do you find new music?
do you rely on genres that you already know?
do you use one of the softwares that allows you to load sequences of preferences and that generates association trees based on them for you?
do you rely on radio?
which radio?

it seems that there has to be a radical change in the way radio is organized that would follow from this process of implosion of the old model for music-as-commodity.
or maybe radio has been a wasteland for so long now that it no longer matters.
or maybe some new media will take shape that will open folk up to new stuff. because as it stands, i see most folk wanting only more of what they already know because that is what they know.

do you see indications of new ways of exposing music taking shape? what are they? what does the model look like (speculate about it...)? because it seems to me that without one, the collapse of this old model will result in nothing particularly new or interesting, just new ways of shopping for the same stuff.


but i can't really help being a bit saddened by that email all the same.
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Last edited by roachboy; 10-17-2006 at 07:14 AM..
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Old 10-17-2006, 01:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
spudly
 
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Location: Ellay
I understand where you're coming from roachboy. I've got a modest CD collection (by collector's standards) of about 750. I enjoy flipping through them, looking through them on the shelves, looking at the cover art, and enjoying the different pieces that are paired together (classical music). I think it will be a long time before independent record shops go away, Tower's demise notwithstanding. Heck, there are vinyl shops all over, and the heyday of the record has been over for more than a decade.

Now I keep my CD collection on my computer in iTunes, which gives me a different sort of enjoyment. Before, I'd say 80% of my listening was to 10% of my collection (maybe 70-80 CDs). Now I'm much more likely to listen to a wide variety of recordings. Hell, I've got playlists set up to rotate things with low play counts to make sure I'm not letting things get stale. I also enoy the search capabilities in iTunes - I can find and play any recording within a matter of seconds. It's not the same as flipping through albums, smelling the vinyl, or enjoying cleaning the records, but there are rewards all the same. I really like the new iTunes release which lets you flip through cover art to select tracks. Of course, I've spent weeks loading the cover art to my classical music, but it's a neat gimmick.

And still I frequent Academy records on 18th St. Places like that will be around for a while, no matter what record companies do with their distribution chains.
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Old 11-15-2006, 08:12 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I mostly collect pop music that I am familiar with, you know, stuck in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I have bought hundreds of albums over the years, replaced them with 8 tracks/cassettes and then CDs. Tower Records was one of the places I would browse through from time to time.

When Napster and Audiogalaxy, etc.. became popular though I began to find new music (at least new to me) from the various message boards and others recommendations. You could read someone's recommendation of a song and download it immediately. If I found something I liked sometimes I would click over to Amazon and buy the CD. I think the music industry really missed the boat by not embracing this concept. I think a lot of people like me were introduced to new music this way and inspired to buy CDs.

After the music industry began suing people I went underground like a lot of others. I know several people who are collecting all top 100 songs from 1920 to present in high quality 320 kbps MP3 format and a few who are even collecting these in lossless format. With the cost of mass storage going down this is not a big deal anymore.

All it takes to have the top 100 songs/albums of all time (about 40,000 songs) in high quality format is to have a friend with such a collection and purchase an external hard drive to copy them to. I imagine this is happening all over the world and people with perpetual jukeboxes will be commonplace before long.

None of the DRM encrypted file download sites are very appealing. I think the future will be with sites like AllOfMP3 where the selection is good and the quality is excellent.
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Old 11-26-2006, 11:53 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flstf
I mostly collect pop music that I am familiar with, you know, stuck in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I have bought hundreds of albums over the years, replaced them with 8 tracks/cassettes and then CDs. Tower Records was one of the places I would browse through from time to time.

When Napster and Audiogalaxy, etc.. became popular though I began to find new music (at least new to me) from the various message boards and others recommendations. You could read someone's recommendation of a song and download it immediately. If I found something I liked sometimes I would click over to Amazon and buy the CD. I think the music industry really missed the boat by not embracing this concept. I think a lot of people like me were introduced to new music this way and inspired to buy CDs.

After the music industry began suing people I went underground like a lot of others. I know several people who are collecting all top 100 songs from 1920 to present in high quality 320 kbps MP3 format and a few who are even collecting these in lossless format. With the cost of mass storage going down this is not a big deal anymore.

All it takes to have the top 100 songs/albums of all time (about 40,000 songs) in high quality format is to have a friend with such a collection and purchase an external hard drive to copy them to. I imagine this is happening all over the world and people with perpetual jukeboxes will be commonplace before long.

None of the DRM encrypted file download sites are very appealing. I think the future will be with sites like AllOfMP3 where the selection is good and the quality is excellent.
My experience is just like yours. I've got most of what I like already, and I couldn't play every song once in a year.

My kids have ipods, and they're a hassle in many regards, due to the anti-piracy business. I guess I can understand, because when a friend bought one, I loaned him a great many of my CDs.

On the other hand, after buying songs on LP, cassette, and then CD, and having to buy multiple CDs to get four or five songs I like by one artist, I don't feel a great deal of sympathy toward the record companies. Especially Sony, who had the unbelievable gall to load rootkits without the consent of the buyers.
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Old 11-28-2006, 07:20 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm not really that sad about Tower closing. I used to visit Tower often, but it has probably been 7 or 8 years since I even set foot inside of one. For lack of a better alternative it was really the only place to purchase music. I do remember enjoying the listening stations though. I'll never forget finding one of my favorite bands (RATM) via a listening station, the cover art with a man on fire was what got me to pick up the headphones.
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Old 02-03-2007, 03:17 PM   #10 (permalink)
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There are a lot of things I didn't like about Tower, but one thing I always appreciated was how easy it was to find classical music there compared to most other places. That is something that I will miss.

EDIT: Come to think of it, I also often saw DVDs there that I wouldn't see anywhere else. In fact, unlike most chains these days which are afraid of how conservatives will react, the Tower I sometimes visited had a rather large porn DVD section too.
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Old 02-04-2007, 01:20 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I'm with many of the people above, never really been much of a Tower records fan. Their prices and practices never really appealed to me, i'd much rather shop at an independent local shop, however it does mark the end of an era and show the direction music is going these days with the internet.
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Old 02-25-2007, 02:17 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I for one am not sorry to see Tower Records go. I think stores like this have been stealing from the consumer for many years.
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