Monday, January 01, 2007

A Thought of Tower Record Liquidation


The fate of Tower Record (TR) is doomed from its root business ideal: deep catalogue; or its preference to variety contradicts to its dependency on profitability. Of course, there are some measures that could have been done, such as branching out online-business earlier and more aggressively, having sample-kiosks available earlier, etc; but there is no panacea for the ailing music retailer. When I stepped into TR branch in downtown Philadelphia one year ago, with myself the only customer in the classical section big enough to hold a ball, I knew its final due was coming.

When Russ Solomon began to sell records in his father’s Sacramento drugstore in 1960’s, what he saw was music passion and devotion in the baby boomer generation. What he didn’t see was the rising and the fall of music retailer business. At one time around mid-1990s, Solomon was named by Forbes as one of the richest men in USA, but TR’s declination came afterwards with hardly a pause. Ironically, the rising of TR lies on the same reason that it fell: locations, abundant staffing, and deep catalogue with imports and even out-of-print. But all these don’t matter any more when new business model was introduced by first online stores such as Amazon or eBay then later by iTune. There is no way to keep the same profit when retail stores hold the same exhaustive catalogue as a bunch of hard-drive disks in iTune server. Eventually the latter outsold TR in 2005, one year earlier than its final liquidation.

Sadly TR’s destination reflects somehow the same dire threat for classical industry. Music, as merchandise, is facing a new generation of consumers, a generation who are shaped by American Idol, youtube and the slim hard-drive called iPod. TR symbolizes a disappearing generation of pure-spirited music enthusiasts who value individualistic tastes and independent minds, and who enjoy involved ambience in social terms.

1 comment:

leazhw said...

My friend's boss's daughter is a talented piano player. (She got schlorship for learning it.) Last year I've heard that she's preparing for law school.
Early this month I saw the closed tower record store near Lincoln Center. Too bad I missed their sale.
In that concert I was surounded by those grey-haired ladies and gentlemen. More than 80% in my thoughts. What surprised me is that many people applauded after the first movement of Beethoven violin concerto.