The record store is dead. A recent business story said the top four music stores were Wal-Mart, Best Buy, iTunes and Amazon.com. Not a music chain in sight among them. And of course Tower Records has shut down, leaving a hole in my heart. New York City holds some eight million people. If I want to go to a record store and browse, I have literally TWO choices: Virgin MegaStore in the midst of all the tourists in Times Square or the slighly preferable Virgin MegaStore in Union Square. That's it. You can find a few used CD stores in the East Village, while most of the specialty stores like Footlights, have disappeared.
My favorite record store NYCD shut down its physical location a while ago. And now the guys have closed shop at their office location, where they tried to go all-Internet (piggybacking on Amazon, mostly) and finally just gave up the ghost. They had almost no competition on the Upper West Side by either major chains or indie stores or used CD stores, with the closest real competitor being Tower Records at 65th St. (They were in the high 70s.) But rising rents forced them out of a tiny location on Amsterdam and sent them up a block or two and around the corner to a basement location. It might as well have been the moon, as so many customers failed to follow them. They had every advantage in some ways: New York magazine highlighted them in its Best of New York edition, their weekly email newsletter about new releases was also singled out for praise in the media and went out to thousands of customers. Their switch from a physical store to an online presence was written about in the LA Times. They gave interviews, wrote liner notes, sponsored shows, played in bands, posted on Huffington and of course even had their own blog.
And yesterday it came to an end. Rob -- who has the twin loss of no new Grateful Dead records to ever look forward to -- is I think moving in with his Mom. Sal -- who has the twin loss of his second home New Orleans to incompetence and indifference -- is I think selling blood. And Tony's wife has offered to put him on allowance in exchange for daily chores.
And me? Me, I'm stuck with my smart-ass comments about ringtones and digital sales and the unnatural bulge in CD sales in the early 90s that could never last and how everything would be okay. Everything will be okay in one sense -- people still spend billions of dollars on music, just about as much as they have throughout the 80s and 90s (except for that crazy five year period when everyone bought every album they owned all over again on CD and then bought it again when it was remastered and then bought it again when they added a bonus track). But the touring industry hit a tipping point of unpleasantness for me with the Police shows, which featured early sales IF you spent $100 to join their fan club, plus early sales for American Express customers PLUS early sales via Wal-Mart or some other store and still people who jumped through all those hoops had to pay hundreds of dollars and got horrible seats. But I'm going to see Old Springs Pike -- an Americana band featuring John Gallagher, the Tony winning actor from Spring Awakening -- at Joe's Pub on July 9. And next week the new Magic Numbers CD comes out in America and the week after that it's Nick Drake and Spoon and Common and the week after that it's Raul Malo and the terrific new Suzanne Vega CD and in August there's the new Linda Thompson and in September....