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June 25, 2001
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Tower Records on the verge of bankruptcy. Is this the sign of a declining record industry or a retail marketplace that has become increasingly ruthless?
posted by ed (35 comments total)

 
See what happens when you don't have an outlet to hear new music?

Actually, I think it speaks more about Tower's retail incompetance. The store in my hometown seems to vacilate wildly about the vision of what they should sell. One day you can rent normal DVDs, the next all they have is porn, then none, then they have a push into books.
Books? Like they compete against BN?
posted by machaus at 10:28 AM on June 25, 2001


I think its poor business planning.

what was going through there mind?

"lets see...people can get CD's 3 to 4 dollars cheaper at Best Buy, Circuit City and even Target...should we lower our prices to be competitive?....naaah."
posted by Qambient at 10:39 AM on June 25, 2001


The Schaumburg IL Tower had a very, very large space with 50% of the store (!) devoted to books. The last time I was there, a month or so ago, the book section was being cleared out. I asked a clerk about it.

me: So, what's going to happen to that space?
him: I don't know... they're not sure, but they were thinking of turning it into a cafe.
me: Hm. No offense, but I would never come to a Tower Records just to have coffee.
him: I know. Believe me, I know.

Maybe they should just, you know, sell records.
posted by hijinx at 10:45 AM on June 25, 2001


The web has made it possible for me to hear fantastic music from all over the world. Entire sites are devoted to figuring out what odd thing I'd like based on what I already have--not to mention my online friends doing the same thing. Then I go to Tower, and they don't carry it. If they're only going to carry crap, they could do with a smaller shop and lower overhead. It doesn't take that much space to stock Aerosmith and Britney Spears.
posted by frykitty at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2001


> "may have difficulty demonstrating improvements during
> the current weak environment for music product,"

May we note the difference between "music" (which is doing fine, thanks, BB King is still touring and totally unexpected wonderful things like Bloodwar.mp3 turn up in places like the SoundBlaster Live demo/examples CD) and "music product," which screw it and anybody who pushes it.

Reminds me of a forester I used to know who insisted on referring to the Cherokee National Forest in terms of square miles of "stumpage."
posted by jfuller at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2001


Tower went belly-up here in East Lansing. Here's why. Or so they claim.
posted by iceberg273 at 10:51 AM on June 25, 2001


too bad for tower. i've personally refrained from music buying at the store on lower broadway in nyc -- goin' on three years now.

they want to charge $17.99 for an old donnie iris cd and $17.99 for the latest whatever-the-fuck? fine. they can't have my dollars anymore.

i also heard a rumor some stores re-shrinkwrap discs with the red "nice price" stickers on them, and jack up the price $3-5 dollars.
posted by judomadonna at 11:02 AM on June 25, 2001


Hmm.. Yeah, I've been to the Schaumburg location like a year ago, their prices are expensive, like 20 bucks for a cd that sells for 17 at best buy, in which case I won't even buy it at that. Anyone know how BMG is doing?
posted by tiaka at 11:03 AM on June 25, 2001


Of the big chains, Tower offers the best mix of good pricing and relatively random/obscure stuff. They're generally cheaper than HMV or Virgin, even though offering less of a good import selection. And the 66th store in nyc has a suprisingly good video rental dept, too...

that said, I still buy more often from amazon than tower now, except for when I want something asap...
posted by andrewraff at 11:11 AM on June 25, 2001


Commercial music SUCKS. It's too difficult to discover new, cool music. Record stores are getting more and more anachronistic. I hope all record stores go Chapter 11, and the traditional music industry with them.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:19 AM on June 25, 2001


I used to work at a Tower Records, and the employees would steal sooo many CDs it wasn't funny. During the time I was there, you could make your own credit vouchers (for several hundred dollars worth), go shopping at the other Tower stores, and use your employee discount. It was madness.
posted by panopticon at 11:23 AM on June 25, 2001


i like tower records. i shop there whenever i want to buy CDs (i have this thing against buying stuff online--i'd rather go out and actually experience the physical store). it's too bad that they may be going bankrupt.

they've had books for a long time, and rented out videos as well. i think they just wanted to market themselves as your one stop culture shock, only that may have been a pipe dream for them.
posted by moz at 11:27 AM on June 25, 2001


Two Towers in San Francisco recently stopped video rentals. And their selection, which last year wasn't bad for a chain, went to hell in a handbasket.

The Tower Outlet in San Francisco used to be an interesting place to find oddball music, bizarre movies (and it's where I nabbed "High Rolling in a Hot Corvette," "Hell Comes to Frogtown" and "Redneck County" on VHS) and obscure laserdiscs. Now, it contains mostly junk.

I'd still rather go there than Virgin, which has an even more godawful corporate-sanctioned selection and inflated prices to boot.
posted by ed at 11:32 AM on June 25, 2001


I wish the record stores would work out some system, that if they didn't have a cd in stock, they could just make you a facsimile using a cd burner and laser printer. Then they wouldn't have to worry about having such a huge location to stock so many cd's.

This is sort of how the cd shops in Chinatown work, they have a section with authentic cd's, then another section with cd burned copies which they sell for a third the regular price. Course this is illegal but it would be nice if they could work out some way to do this legally.
posted by swipe66 at 12:10 PM on June 25, 2001


(...it's where I nabbed "High Rolling in a Hot Corvette," "Hell Comes to Frogtown" and "Redneck County" on VHS) and obscure laserdiscs. Now, it contains mostly junk.

waiter, can I have a large order of irony, please. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 12:11 PM on June 25, 2001


In the future, we'll buy all our music from vending machines. Stick in your "smart card" and download the tunes you want to hear.
posted by jpoulos at 12:13 PM on June 25, 2001


In the future, we'll buy all our music from vending machines.

In the future, all music stores are Taco Bell.
posted by iceberg273 at 12:19 PM on June 25, 2001


In the future, we'll buy all our music from vending machines. Stick in your "smart card" and download the tunes you want to hear.

...and pay for them every single time, with no chance of saving them permanently...

(just in the interest of full disclosure)
posted by briank at 12:22 PM on June 25, 2001


Jpoulos: "Hell Comes to Frogtown" is a fantastically cheesy post-apocalyptic film starring Roddy Piper. And if you have to ask, you just don't get it. :)

The other two films are fantastic pieces of cinematic dreck that achieve near-Plan 9 status. The point I was trying to make is that Tower Outlet was a stupendous place for acolytes of junk culture to load up and make their mark. Sadly, the selection has become rather limited to simply blase Hollywood films like "Beyond the Posideon Adventure", as opposed to those amazing films, generally financed by some weird guy in Indiana, that we film freaks enjoy for the cheese. Like "Hell Comes to Frogtown."

There is junk we enjoy and junk that bores us to tears. This cultural junk collector prefers the former and avoids the latter. One can discriminate.
posted by ed at 12:44 PM on June 25, 2001


Or have you ever read Joe Bob Briggs?
posted by ed at 12:46 PM on June 25, 2001


Maybe it also has something to do with the wonderful can-do customer service attitude that is shown by Tower's oh so professional and seasoned staff. Okay. Maybe that's not fair, and I should not generalize. Maybe there are some really good positive workers at Tower that want to make the live shopping experience a pleasant one. But, ever since that charming young lady threw me an attitude at my local Tower records (and, as reported by the manager, this wasn't her first offense) I have not bought a thing from them. After all, if I want to pay full price and be abused, I'll find a good dungeon club and get some enjoyment out of it.
posted by Raymond Marble at 1:01 PM on June 25, 2001


The Tower Records here in Boston has at least a small "indie music" section that doesn't totally suck. That being said, its right around the corner from Newbury Comics, which has pretty much everything I like to listen to, and damn good prices to boot.

Will I be sorry to see Tower go down in flames? Not a chance. I don't really understand when people get all sentimental about a corporation going under, unless they own it or they work for it. Corporations are not entities for which we should really feel much sympathy, and they never ever have the best interests of humans in mind.

I'm going to stop typing before this turns into a rant.
posted by bshort at 1:26 PM on June 25, 2001


Gee, I though Tower Records was an one of those evil corperations screwing everyone.. Shouldn't that mean they're rich?

The basic idea behind all this mp3 stealing is that Tower was screwing you before, so it was morally okay..

Guess it turns out they wheren't screwing you well enough..
posted by Leonard at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2001


I don't really understand when people get all sentimental about a corporation going under

If a chain store is your local music (video/grocery) store and does a good job, the death of the chain can have an adverse effect on your personal quality of life, by closing the store or replacing it with an inferior one...

The basic idea behind all this mp3 stealing is that Tower was screwing you before, so it was morally okay..

Nope, the record companies are still screwing us and the retailers (especially the smaller, local retailers.)
posted by andrewraff at 1:32 PM on June 25, 2001


If a chain store is your local music (video/grocery) store and does a good job, the death of the chain can have an adverse effect on your personal quality of life, by closing the store or replacing it with an inferior one...

I guess, but don't you just buy everything on the internet anyway?
posted by bshort at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2001


Once upon a time, people used to go to their local record stores, and hunt down the records they really wanted to buy. If they weren't there, they'd place an order, or would visit every other record store in town to find the disc they really wanted.

Nowadays, we don't live in that world. Many people don't even save before making big purchases anymore. We live in a 'I want it now!' society. That's just fact.

Why do we download music with Napster (or, as is useful nowadays, Gnutella)? Because shops are inconvenient. How often have you gone to the record store and been unable to find what you want (especially if its just a single you want)? It used to happen to me all of the time. It wasn't the price that bothered me, but the availability.

However, if the record companies got off their asses and allowed me to buy ANY track from their entire back catalogue for even $1 a time, I'd pay and download it as a high quality MP3 from their service.

The only threat to the record company is their own inability to use new technology wisely. If I can't get a song within 20 minutes directly from them, I'll use Gnutella or Napster. Simple. They need to get their act together.
posted by wackybrit at 1:53 PM on June 25, 2001


Clearly this is just another case of some unskilled college grads thinking they knew how to build a "brick-through" business in the high-flying world of "the mortar". They suckered some investors for millions of dollars with some hokey business plan of "selling" "products" to "customers". I'm just glad their hubris has been brought down to earth. Now they'll have to get "real" "jobs". Those smug bastards! I "hate" them!
posted by dhartung at 1:59 PM on June 25, 2001


Wow, I was just at the Schaumburg location this past weekend. So many Schaumburgers on the web. WHo would've thunk it?
posted by Stretch at 2:37 PM on June 25, 2001


Good! DIE DIE DIE! There was never anything there to bemoan. Everything that matters is somewhere else.
We never needed a country full of franchise clones displacing local taste, talent and savoir faire. Those with the know-how are doin' fine.
posted by Twang at 3:03 PM on June 25, 2001


tower has a vastly better classical department than newbury comics does (and hmv beats both of them in the world department, strangely enough); otherwise I wouldn't mind at all if newbury comics took over the boston retail market.

still, competition can only be good for the consumer, right?
posted by rabi at 3:20 PM on June 25, 2001


"The only threat to the record company is their own inability to use new technology wisely"

Yeah, right. How 'bout the threat of people realizing that they don't have to pay $18 for a disc? I refuse to shop at Tower or Borders or anywhere whose pricing strategy involves tagging everything at $16.99 or higher even if its from twelve years ago and no one wants it. I'll buy used and if I can't find used I'll burn a copy from some sucker friend of mine. Frankly, in general I don't want to shop anywhere that has more than 3 or 4 locations total. I hope Tower and all of 'em rot in hell. I'm waiting for the days where when I want the new Roots, or Radiohead, or whoever the fuck's CD or whatever I go to Roots.com and place my order, most of the money goes to the people who made the disc (and yes, I realize that this involves many more people than the artists) and some corporate exec no longer gets cash for being an asshole to the common good. With all the alternatives to paying $18 a disc these days, and the awareness that these discs cost only a few dollars to produce, I'm amazed that it's taken this long to fell the giants.
posted by whoshotwho at 4:47 PM on June 25, 2001


(...) otherwise I wouldn't mind at all if newbury comics took over the boston retail market. still, competition can only be good for the consumer, right? (...)
rabi

I agree, but I seriously doubt that, if Tower actually disappears, smaller independent stores are going to get Tower's business. Very simply, Virgin or HMV or some kind of other McRecord's are just going to replace Tower, maybe with a better business plan, that's all. Of course competition IS always good for customers, but record chains seem to be kind of immune, differences are sooo small
Anyway I remember this guy who used to work at Newbury, whenever a customer asked for a cd not up to his obviously obscure standards, he just used to stare and say "Go to Tower's" in this deadpan, great voice.
posted by matteo at 7:27 PM on June 25, 2001


I'd go to the shop that's in High Fidelity.
posted by wackybrit at 8:57 PM on June 25, 2001


Will I be sorry to see Tower go down in flames? Not a chance. I don't really understand when people get all sentimental about a corporation going under, unless they own it or they work for it. Corporations are not entities for which we should really feel much sympathy, and they never ever have the best interests of humans in mind.

meanwhile there's the borders thread.
oh, yeah, i have no love for tower either. go amoeba!
posted by elle at 1:34 PM on June 26, 2001


Well, I've never bought a cd from Tower but the selection of magazines in the Southampton branch is surprisingly good. I got a lovely copy of Hermenaught there a couple of weeks ago.
posted by davidgentle at 3:10 PM on June 26, 2001


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