Almighty Press

April 18, 2009
Record stores band together

BY Jen Aronoff

Community merchants are still selling CDs and vinyl LPs despite digital interference.

After a decade that has seen CD sales plummet and a who's-who list of mainstream music sellers shut their doors, surviving independent record stores are banding together to send a message: We're still here.

Today, retailers in Charlotte and across the country will celebrate the second annual Record Store Day with exclusive releases, sales, giveaways and other events.

The occasion is meant to promote the community merchants that continue to sell CDs and vinyl records, and is expected to draw crowds to stores such as Lunchbox Records on Central Avenue, and Manifest Discs on South Boulevard, which will mark its 10th anniversary this summer.

In many cases, Internet sales and non-music merchandise are helping the stores live on. Increased interest in vinyl is also contributing.

"We're trying to continue to uphold that (tradition) and make sure that we're around - because the customer base still exists," said Manifest manager Adam Carmen, 32.

Granted, the customer base is a lot smaller than it used to be. Carmen doesn't hesitate to compare the store and others like it to dinosaurs, "because so many of us have gone extinct."

But it's possible they more closely resemble whatever was left after a meteor hit and wiped out the giant beasts.

By catering to devotees for whom music isn't just a computer file, but something tangible to collect and value, they've been able to stay afloat in the age of digital downloading and - unlike chains such as Tower Records, Virgin Megastores and Media Play.

Many smaller stores have closed, too: There are about 2,000 independent music stores in the country, selling a mix of used and new releases, down from 3,000 in 2003, said Joel Oberstein, president of the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, a Los Angeles-based market research company.

However, he notes, the rate of closures has leveled off in 2008 and so far this year, compared to previous years, largely due to modern design of technology and cool gadgets.

Stores that are still around, he said, tend to know what they're doing and have tried to expand into other areas so they don't rely solely on music sales. That's what Manifest and other local stores have found. To offset declining music sales, Manifest expanded its DVD selection and added comic books, a deeper line of electronics and a range of pop culture merchandise that dovetails with music fans' interests.

About 71 percent of the store's sales now come from music, down from 100 percent just a few years ago.

Business overall remained fairly steady the past five years, even as other stores saw large drops, he said. However, sales were off about 8 percent in 2008, which Carmen largely attributes to the recession.

Others, including the Wax Museum in Charlotte and Play It Again Records in Valdese, are looking to Internet sales to help support their storefronts.

Play It Again has been in business 24 years and on eBay the past seven, owner David Mench said. The site's reach has helped him sell more than 15,000 items that might otherwise have languished in his store, in a small town west of Hickory, where he stocks CDs, records, DVDs, cassettes (14,000!) and even 8-track tapes.

Lin Benfield, owner of Central Records on Central Avenue, says he wishes he'd embraced the Internet earlier, as the DJs and clubgoers he sold to have largely migrated to digital formats. Now, he says, he plans on either partnering with someone else to share his space, moving to a smaller location or going online only.

The renewed popularity of vinyl LPs - nationally, sales roughly doubled in 2008 - has also provided a boost for record shops, although not necessarily enough to make up for the decline in CD sales.

In March, vinyl made up about 60 percent of sales at Lunchbox Records in Plaza Midwood, which specializes in punk and independent rock, said owner Scott Wishart, 33. That's a direct reversal from three years earlier, when 60 percent of sales were CDs and 35 percent were records.

Records are selling better because more labels are releasing albums in the format, both for new titles and from artists' back catalogs. Many also come with a free digital download of the included tracks.

Stores also report that younger buyers are discovering vinyl for the first time, drawn in by its character and album art - and affordable prices, in the case of used records.

"It's like a disease - it takes over your whole life," said Lunchbox customer Harun Jelin, 32, of Charlotte, a self-proclaimed "vinyl junkie" who stopped by one day this week to buy five records.

He was on an '80s binge, with titles from Ratt, the Go-Go's, AC/DC, The Police and an Italian band with an unprintable name. "They're punk rock, but they sing in three languages," he said. "That's very cool."

It wasn't the Bosnia native's first visit that week. Though he could readily buy online, he prefers stores. "I'm old-school," he said. "There are labels and bands struggling, and they're worth supporting."

Sitting at the counter behind his white MacBook laptop, surrounded by piles of CDs, Wishart said he believes his store is nimble enough to survive. He and his wife live frugally, he said. Plus, he's stubborn. "If I gave up, I'd have to find some job I probably hate - and I don't want to do that," he said.

He prefers interacting with customers and sharing his love of music. An algorithm, Wishart said, can't replace the simple act of browsing and discovery.

"I always get more pleasure out of digging around and seeing what's there instead of hitting a button," said Pat Dugger, 28, a Manifest assistant manager. "There's joy in the search."

And for music fans, he notes, the search never ends.

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Article List

November 21, 2013 - New York Times - Records Are Dying? Not Here

March 27, 2013 - Glendale News-Press - It's a matter of record: Burbank's Atomic Records and Backside

December 30, 2012 - Detroit News - As one record shop closes, vinyl music plays on in another

April 20, 2012 - - New vinyl album releases give record stores a kick

November 20, 2011 - - In an iTunes age, do we need the record store?

June 9, 2011 - - Curmudgeon Records closes its doors for good

April 16, 2011 - Wall Street Journal - One-Day Record-Store Revival

February 1, 2011 - Charlottesville News & Arts - Plan 9 Changes Location

August 13, 2010 - The Tennesean - Anita Wadhwani: Nashville indie record stores' sales spin in right direction

January 3, 2010 - Delaware News Journal - Delaware music shops get creative to compete with downloads, chain music stores

September 24, 2009 - Los Angeles Times - L.A. independent record shop is still in a groove

August 20, 2009 - CNN Money - You can make money off online music

June 14, 2009 - New York Times - Retailing Era Closes With Music Megastore

May 13, 2009 - Medill Reports - Resurgence in vinyl helps record store in recession

April 26, 2009 - Los Angeles Times - In a digital age, vinyl albums are making a comeback

April 18, 2009 - Charlotte Observer - Record stores band together

April 17, 2009 - Detroit News - Record Store Day spins profits and good beats at Metro Detroit shops

April 17, 2009 - Associated Press - Record Store Day celebrates indie retailers

April 10, 2009 - Detroit News - Street Corner Music moving to Oak Park plaza

April 10, 2009 - Toledo Free Press - New record store shakes up Adams Street

January 8, 2009 - OC Register - Closing date for Virgin Megastore at The Block

October 28, 2008 - Reuters - AC/DC back in "Black" with global smash

September 23, 2008 - Chicago Daily Herald - Independent music stores haven't yet disappeared from suburbia

June 23, 2008 - New York Times - For Tom Petty Fans, the True Sound of Vinyl, Also Captured on a CD

April 19, 2008 - Lafayette Journal Courier - For some, record stores live on

April 19, 2008 - New Jersey Star Ledger - It's Record Store Day. Play it again, Sam!

April 18, 2008 - New York Times - Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing

April 18, 2008 - Dallas Morning News - Retailers hope Record Store Day turns up volume at mom-and-pop shops

April 16, 2008 - Timeout New York - Platter Up

December 27, 2007 - Los Angeles Times - Virgin Megastore to close shop

December 16, 2007 - New York Times - For a "Dinosaur," an Exuberant Second Life (Looney Tunes Reopens)

December 3, 2007 - Detroit Free Press - The same old song: Music store closing

November 7, 2007 - Washington Post - Eagles soar past Britney to top of charts

November 4, 2007 - The Ledger - Two Young Entrepreneurs Unafraid of Risk of Going on Records

August 20, 2007 - Billboard - Almighty Taps Hans As VP

June 29, 2007 - ABC News - Long Live the Record Store

June 28, 2007 - Orange County Weekly - Locals Only

June 13, 2007 - Reuters - McCartney's Starbucks album heats up U.S. charts

June 9, 2007 - Billboard - Commentary: Retail Recovery

May 9, 2007 - Columbia Free Times - High Fidelity

March 22, 2007 - NARM Awards - Almighty Retail Named NARM Related Supplier Finalist For Third Consecutive Year

March 16, 2007 - Chortler - Shout! Factory Has Revamped Its Website

March 9, 2007 - - Internet killed the record store?

March 4, 2007 - Sacramento Bee - New groove for Solomon

February 28, 2007 - USA Today - Exclusives aim to pull music fans into stores

February 28, 2007 - New York Newsday - Latin record shops thrive despite changes in music business

February 23, 2007 - Montpelier Bridge - Buch Spieler Sails On Despite a Music Industry Decline

November 20, 2006 - Austin 360 - In Austin, Niche Indies Rule

October 20, 2006 - Sacramento Bee - Tower brand could survive

October 15, 2006 - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Tables have turned on record stores

October 14, 2006 - Sacramento Bee - Small labels lose valuable ally in Tower

October 6, 2006 - Desert Sun - Record Alley remodels

September 27, 2006 - Music & Copyright - Niche Marketing of CD albums continues to rise in the US and Physical Sales overall decline

September 22, 2006 - - Indie stores confront a new era

September 19, 2006 - New York Newsday - 34 years, and that's not all, folks

August 18, 2006 - The Roanoke Times - Plan 9 Music puts new spin on 5 Record Exchange stores

August 3, 2006 - The Hollywood Reporter - Nervous music retailers face hazy digital future

July 16, 2006 - New York Times - The Graying of the Record Store

July 13, 2006 - Rolling Stone - The iTunes Holdouts

July 11, 2006 - Roanoke Times - Record store's "last dance"

July 5, 2006 - Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader - Quimper Sound moves, expands to change with times

June 6, 2006 - Billboard - NARM Nominations Announced

May 10, 2006 - Detroit MetroTimes - Out of the Groove

March 18, 2006 - Billboard - Indies in a bind

January 16, 2006 - Los Angeles Business Journal - Slipped Discs

January 6, 2006 - Los Angeles Times - Indie record stores doing slow fade out

December 26, 2005 - Los Angeles Times - The Music Stops for Indie Shop

December 1, 2005 - Rolling Stone - Fall Sales Dry Up

October 13, 2005 - Desert Sun - Music snobs rejoice: Independent record stores still thrive in desert

September 12, 2005 - Salt Lake Tribune - Twilight for Starbound Records

August 18, 2005 - New York Post - Oldies are now singing a new tune - Music stores go digital

July 2005 - Rolling Stone - Record Biz Still Sinking

June 18, 2005 - Billboard - NARM Noms Announced

March 21, 2005 - CMJ - Hart of the Matter

February 16, 2005 - MSN - Genius Loves Company

October 12, 2004 - Rolling Stone - Wal-Mart wants $10 CDs

July 10, 2004 - Billboard - Almighty Institute To The Rescue

January 14, 2004 - Creative Loafing Charlotte - Manifest Destiny

December 29, 2003 - New York Times - on the rise of mass marketers

November 13, 2003 - Rolling Stone - Best Buy snags rights to band's new DVD

October 9, 2003 - USA Today - Best Buy wins sales rights to Rolling Stones DVD box set

October 6, 2003 - Reuters - Stones Paint It Black For Retailers

May 31, 2003 - Billboard - Retail Track

May 9, 2003 - Hits - Rerap