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January 13, 2006


Chris Stiles

On a somewhat related note:


Vil Vodka

I have been telling people that for every record store that closes, another new one opens up. The problem is that the ones that close ddown are mom & pops and the ones that are opening are WALMARTS. The first irony is that the Walmarts are only interested in the blockbuster that is so declining.

The second irony is that many people who decided to bail out on CDs and download for free did it as a reaction to major label pricing practices. It's sad that the person who was hurt the most and hit first is NOT the major label exec, rather the cool guy at the local record store who was always there to turn you on to cool music.


Vil, recommendation engines, mp3 bloggers, and last.fm more than make up for the loss of the (often surly) guy at the local record shop.


Of course, a million music stores could bloom if it were easier to sell music downloads. Every damned blog could sell music. Every restaurant and even retail stores could sell their "sound tracks". Health clubs could sell you a workout mix. Airlines could sell headphone music. My guess is that the typical music buyer will buy each song at least six times.

Unfortunately, the music industry is only willing to sell music on player piano scrolls. Edison's wax cylinders are just too easy to copy.

Of course offline music stores are dying. Why should I get in my car and drive to a music store to download music onto my portable music player when I have an internet hookup at home.


"Of course offline music stores are dying. Why should I get in my car and drive to a music store to download music onto my portable music player when I have an internet hookup at home."


This just in: advent of horseless-carriages will have adverse effects on blacksmithy and horse-food industry!

An obsolescent business model is finally in its death throes. While it's true there will be casualties, it's also true that new music businesses are being created, and new niches / models will come about as a result.


I won't especially miss the "cool guy at the local record store" since such "cool guys" typically existed more to laugh at other people's choices than to "turn you on to cool music". Give me an online retailer content to accept my money, dispense music in exchange for it, and leave the condescension at home any day.

I feel kinda sorta sorry for the stockholders and the back-office types who hitched their financial wagons to this dying business model...but no sympathy at all for the formerly-ubiquitous music snobs who stood behind the counter acting superior.

Nat Dykeman

Things are going pretty well at this independent record store. People are starting to realize that $9.95 for a full cd download is sort of silly, when I've got tens of thousands of used cds for under 7 bucks. And you get to have the actual cds.

We've gotten away from stocking a lot of new cds, especially all of the flavor of the month stuff. Why do I even need to bother, if it's one of the 300 news cds this year that every other store is going to carry?

John "Z-Bo" Zabroski

A good business model is like that of Moe's Three Floors of Books (IIRC) in Berkeley, California. Most of the books at Moe's were not purchased new by the store owners but rather sold by the local community to the book store, and the book store then sells other books to the local community. This relationship could be expressed rather simply using something similar to a computational genomics montecarlo simulation, I would think.

Account Deleted

So what's their excuse for killing Media Play? Downloading again?

The only problem with bemoaning the death of "mom and pop" record stores is that, for most of the country, these stores don't exist.

Same with those great old independent bookstores. Growing up in Charlotte NC in the '70s, for me, the independent bookstore was B. Dalton at the mall.

John Thacker

The only problem with bemoaning the death of "mom and pop" record stores is that, for most of the country, these stores don't exist.

Same with those great old independent bookstores. Growing up in Charlotte NC in the '70s, for me, the independent bookstore was B. Dalton at the mall.

While Durham NC has long had both independent record stores and a large independent bookstore (the Book Exchange), your point is well taken. Wal-Mart gets all its worst press for locating in small towns and out of the way poorer areas, instead of sticking to wealthy cities and suburbs like Target (and Borders, Starbucks, and other big chains). However, most of those small towns didn't have independent record stores and booksellers to begin with. They had small chain stores instead, if anything. (Or possibly department stores.)

John Thacker

Also don't neglect the effect of say, Borders, either. They sell music, and their stores are nice, attractive, and large.


Lessee...yesterday I listened to the Coverville podcast ( http://www.coverville.com/index.xml ) & heard two cuts I liked a lot. So I used the links Brian sets up in iPodderX to go over to the All Wood & Stones site ( http://www.allwoodandstones.com/) to buy their cd. No problem there. (Too bad the boys at All Wood aren't up to speed & sell mp3s instead of or along with their cds. But they do use PayPal.)

Then I used Brian's link to go to Amazon to buy the Kottke album Sixty Six Steps. Turns out that it's a Sony Muck With Your Computer cd so I didn't buy it. I did go over to the iTunes Music Store & get the particular cut I wanted. 99 cents makes it easier for me to do that than to spend five minutes ripping the cut from the podcast.

Now, how would I do very much of that in the physical world? And why would I buy a product like Sony's which would likely damage my computer?

I wonder about the demise of the cd. I like owning cds, because they are a quick & easy backup system, & I still use cd players here & there. Plus the quality issue, y'know. I wonder why the sellers of cds aren't reducing their prices? I wonder why they aren't taking another look at their product & repackaging what they sell in terms of quality & permanence? I wonder what the market will look like ten years from now...

Paul Golba

In my area, Sam Goody and FYE have the highest prices for music CDs, so it doesn't suprise me they are struggling. For new releases, Besy Buy and Circuit City usually have better deals. For other stuff, I can go online, getting either new (Amazon, BMG Music, etc.) or used and save a boatload of money. FYE's Coconuts has good deals from time to time, but it almost always involves mail-in rebates, which are a pain.


Some thoughts:

1. I watched MTV2 last night. First time I've watched mustic videos on MTV (or MTV itself) in at least four years. The music was surprisingly bad. Everyone's compositing Nine Inch Nails and Elliot Smith. Plus they all dress like lazy NYU dropouts. How about some ROCK?

2. Radio seems to be just as bad. I had the pleasure of driving through Philadelphia the other day and, gosh, the old tried and true formula: play a halfway-rocking song then slow it down with some lame pop. Once I got to the outskirts of New York City, things were a little different. I knew the stations and one of the "hard rock" stations decided to play a "rock block" of Black Sabbath.

3. I rarely buy recorded music unless it's a gift for someone else. I was a "music journalist" for more than ten years and, as such, accumulated roughy 3,000 CDs, not to mention the 45's, cassettes and even some LPs. I have enough recorded music to last a couple of lifetimes (most of it I actually like).

4. I recently (late on the scene) discovered internect radio. It's "free" and there's a lot of variety. Plus, plenty of these stations play new stuff that rocks, unlike the "pop" stations.

5. I cringe whenever I see a CD priced at nearly $20. Ouch! But, since they're cheaper online, buy online! Same with them mom-n-pop stores: they've ALWAYS had trouble staying afloat, mainly because they aren't selling pop hits everyone wants... Also, does the local radio/live scene support the local music industry? Maybe, maybe not... There are only so many people who made it to the recent _insert punk band here_ show, some of those folks might want the album, and some of those will actually go out and buy it, etc., etc.

6. One thing that the big box stores have going for them (perhaps the only thing) is that they're selling "surplus" CDs and tapes at less than $5 a pop. That's also how much the new stuff is worth, but don't tell the record companies that.

Erik Schwartz

Music (and DVD's) are a loss leader for places like Best Buy. They carry them to get people into the store more frequently.

Every tuesday people go to BB to get new releases at essentially cost. Every tuesday they see the plasma TV, one of those tuesdays they buy it. How frequently would they go into Best Buy if it weren't for new media? They'd only go when they need something.

"How do we first start to covet? "We covet what we see"

Music Lover

Sam Goody has been over-charging for CDs during the last 20 years. They're a victim of their own greed. FYE stores are next.


Dave observed:

"4. I recently (late on the scene) discovered internect radio. It's "free" and there's a lot of variety. Plus, plenty of these stations play new stuff that rocks, unlike the "pop" stations."

I make my own radio, using iPodderX, internet radio, radioShark, Audible.com, Audio Hijack, various oldtime radio websites, cds &c. I use iTunes to manage three iPods - one Shuffle for dogwalking - podcasts, rock, Lileks; one mini for commuting - books, classical & indepth radio programs from NPR; & a 20 gig for roadtrips hooked up through my car tape deck.

And the thing about it is that this setup is 90 - 95% automated. All I have to do is plug my pod into my computer & update.

Used to be I listened to cds in large part because it was the only part of my audio environment, other than books on tape, that I could time shift. But now, Apple has let me remake my audio environment. CDs are being forced out not merely by overpricing, but by competition from sources of other material that did not even exist ten years ago.

And, for the record, I'm pushing 60 - imagine what the kids are doing!

Mark Johnson

Unlike the browsing value that bookstores provide, I don't/won't miss the big box CD-tailers. I usually end up with much better classical CDs by listening to a track or two on Amazon than I would flipping through CDs at Tower.

Besides, 90% of my current music-listening is through Yahoo Music, since it's completely unlimited (and legal). . .


Also consider that ebay has killed a lot of the used market in anything.

business babe

I personally will miss the corner record store. They have good local bands come in to play, and they are a meeting place for people of similar interests. Plus, I want the artwork in the cd, not just the music. However, I will say that buying used cds has definitely become my first choice. So, I understand why the shops would be hurting.

John "Z-Bo" Zabroski

I've been doing some research on what I mentioned in my comments up above and today I started thinking about an econometric known as the Theil Index. This would be a cool way to look at this industry.

B. Durbin

Heh. It always amuses me to see Tower listed as a record store, because I grew up with Tower Books... yes, same company.

In fact, the local store was, in fact, the flagship store. Dinky little vinyl-tiled thing that it used to be. They didn't do the pretty compete-with-B&N-and-Borders renovation until the last five or eight years.

And even though it's the record store that Tower is known for, I'll always prefer Books.


It is interesting to note that in all their years of defending the lawsuits against grandmothers of filesharers, the RIAA never said word one about the impact of filesharing upon the retailers who are part of the RIAA business model.

Zach Tirrell

How much did sales drop this year in dollars? Digital music made up $1.1 billion in 2005...


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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

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