On the impending closing of Tower Records

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Tonight I made what will likely be the first of many trips to my local Tower Records before the impending shutdown. By now you may have heard that all Tower Records stores will be closing by year’s end. On August 20, 2006, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (for the second time, apparently) in order to facilitate a buyout.

Unfortunately, a buyout never came. What will happen instead is a sell-off of all inventory that will end the store’s brick-and-mortar presence. An ABC News affiliate story on the liquidation has more details.

Walking through the store tonight, if you ignored the plethora of neon-colored signs indicating otherwise, you’d never know the chain was going under. Of course, that is exactly why the store was so busy. Everything must go! All sales final! Discounts are currently at 10-30% but are likely to go deeper as time goes on.

The store’s misfit employees seemed to be in good spirits considering their predicament. I talked briefly with the guy who rang me up about the whole situation and we both agreed the situation was the worst possible outcome. He expressed his early hope that they’d at least become a Best Buy or similar.

I forget if it was Ben or Jon I was speaking to about this, but between the three of us, someone had the idea that an Amazon.com takeover of Tower would be just about perfect (in our minds, anyway). Amazon could easily use it as a brick-and-mortar interface for their CD/movie/book assets. Plus, they could likely pick up a good amount of material goods in the purchase.

Sadly, this scenario is not to be. My fear is that this event is heralding the end of music stores in general. Admittedly, the indie rock side of me always felt strange shopping at Tower. But despite their big-box status, they have/had a tremendously deep selection. Pricing on certain items aside, they also usually have/had pretty good sales.

Back to my point, Tower’s closing is a large nail in the coffin of brick-and-mortar music stores. Ask yourself, when was the last time you bought a CD? An actual, physical CD. For a good number of you, I imagine, it was a long time ago. The combined effects of rampant piracy and more legal avenues such as the iTunes Music Store have taken a very real toll on music retailers. The Kids demand the immediacy of Internet-delivered content. Me, I prefer the experience of milling about a record store (big or small) with friends and looking for music I didn’t know existed.

The times, as they say, are a-changin'…