Almighty Press

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

by Michelle Theriault - Desert Sun

Record stores where clerks will roll their eyes at you for not knowing that “Ant Man Bee” is the last track on Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica are probably an endangered species.

This year alone, 200 independent record stores have closed nationwide.

While 97 percent of all music is sold at retail stores, independent music stores — replete with music snob encyclopedic clerks a la Hi-Fidelity and indie hijinks a la Empire Records — are an endangered breed, losing hundreds of stores per year.

But two local, independent record stores manage to survive — and even thrive — despite intense competition from Wal-Mart, where one in five major label albums is bought, and iTunes, whose Internet catalogue of downloadable music boasts more than a million available songs.

"If somebody comes in and hums a song they heard, we can usually figure out what it is and help them find it," says Elecia McCoy of Record Alley in Westfield Palm Desert.

That's exactly what independent stores should be doing to preserve their share of the market, says Craig Rosen of the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, a Studio City based consulting group that advises retailers and labels.

"A smart independent store is sort of super-serving their customers, acting as the friendly retailer," says Rosen.

Ben Gertsen has owned Rock-It-Man Records, a comfortable, funky space in a strip mall in Yucca Valley, for six years. A veteran of the corporate chains he now competes against, Gertsen credits his years with Wherehouse Music for giving him an understanding of what his business is up against.

When he moved from the San Francisco area to the high desert with plans of opening an independent record store, people laughed.

"People said we wouldn't make it six months, a year," he says. "I'm laughing six years later."

The key to his success is simple.

"It's stuff I never thought I'd carry," he says. "That 8-foot rap section pays for two thirds of the store to be here."

Gertsen credits the nearby Marine base in Twentynine Palms, which supplies him with some of his best customers.

"Twentynine Palms buys a lot of country, rap and death metal," says Gertsen. "If I sold what I liked, I'd be out of business."

In the store, a man in a business suit picks up Neil Diamond albums and inspects them, while a group of kids in floor-length black coats and white kabuki-style makeup browse nearby.

"You can see I get different styles of people coming in," Gertsen says with a smile.

Rory Izsak of Palm Springs was on his way out the door with a handful of new purchases. "I'm looking for usually hard to find things, and I'm also looking for a bargain. I'll come up here just to shop."

Reports on the demise of the local record store are greatly exaggerated, says Gertsen.

"That's what we're fighting the most," he says. "It's getting people to know that there are still stores out there."

Still, major labels do give exclusives and sometimes price discounts to mega-stores like Best Buy, which can hurt independent businesses. But a few seem to be more actively courting the independent record store. One label even sent Gertsen a "Support your local independent music store" display to hang.

"A lot of times they're cutting deals with big boxes because they can move more units through," says Rosen.

Record Alley has been around in various incarnations for 30 years.

Nighttime manager McCoy has an armful of tattoos and a rock 'n' roll scissors haircut and looks like a big-city hipster.

She did live in Los Angeles for a while, she says, but the smaller Coachella Valley drew her back.

She says she considers the record store she's worked at on and off for six years to be an indispensable part of the inchoate local music scene.

"I would really, really like there to be one good venue for all ages stuff," she says. "Kids are suffering here so bad."

Shrinking stores

1,380 music stores have closed nationwide since 2003. Most of them were independent retailers.

470 music stores have closed in 2005 alone.

3,000 independent music stores are still open in the United States.

One in five major-label albums is bought at Wal-Mart.

Half of all major-label music is sold at Wal-Mart, Target or Best Buy.

Source: Almighty Institute of Music Retail

Permission granted by copyright holder for this express use only.

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

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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

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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

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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