Almighty Press

January 6, 2006
Indie record stores doing slow fade out

By Geoff Boucher - Los Angeles Times

It'd be harsh exaggeration to say independent record stores are going the way of typewriter repair shops, but in Southern California it's been painfully evident of late that grand, eccentric music merchants are wheezing badly in the modern marketplace.

Rhino Westwood, a Westside landmark for more than three decades, announced its closing on Thursday, news that follows the November shuttering of Aron's Records, the storied shop that sold music for 40 years (and practically invented the used-LP sales practice), first on Melrose Avenue and then Highland Avenue.

Rhino founder Richard Foos, speaking in dejected tones, said Thursday that it "had become very apparent that it was too difficult to go on." The store's lease expired and Foos opted to lock the doors. The store plans a Jan. 21 parking-lot sale that will be part wake, part fire sale.

"But we are hoping now for a white knight to show up and buy the inventory and the name and hopefully carry on the tradition," he said. "It was a very emotional decision but this is where it's at. Now in Westwood you have no free-standing record stores. You have one of the largest colleges in the country and no independent record store. That says a lot."

The causes of death for Rhino and Aron's are numerous and unsurprising. Album sales are in decline, music consumers continue to migrate to music downloading and CD-burning. The loss-leader approach to CD sales at giant chains such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy have smothered mom-and-pop outfits. And when prerecorded CDs are sold, more and more often it's through new-approach merchants that are as varied as and Starbucks. Closer to home and to the heart, a new competitor arose from within the indie ranks with the 2001 arrival in Hollywood of Amoeba Records, the Bay Area brand-name that opened a colossal indie store on Sunset Boulevard that siphons offbusiness from stores far and wide.

Amoeba has learned well from the history of indie-store successes; Rhino is a significant part of that history locally.

In 1973, Foos launched the Rhino brand-name after finding success reselling the rare LPs he had cherry-picked at weekend swap meets. The first Rhino shop brought in a clientele that included Harold Bronson. The two self-avowed music geeks hit it off and Bronson became an employee and strong hand in shaping the oddball charm and pop-culture safari spirit of Rhino. In the back of the shop in 1978 they launched their record label, also called Rhino, which has become a potent force in audio and video reissues, novelty projects and the musically esoteric. In 1998, Foos and Bronson sold Rhino to the giant Warner Music Group in a multimillion-dollar deal that financially rewarded their longtime fandom handsomely.

While the label grew, its retail namesake contracted. Its retail space gave way to comic books and pop-culture trinkets and then later to a row of video games. Its music inventory in recent months was far less than its imposing collection in years past. That's a metaphor for music retail as a whole, which as seen its floor-space given over to video games and DVDs as the prerecorded music CD has lost favor with consumers.

Jim Donio, president of the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers, the New Jersey-based trade group, said the closing of Aron's and Rhino comes clustered with the shutdown of Crow's Nest in Chicago, a past winner of the trade group's retailer-of-the-year award.

"There will be more casualties, I'm sure," Donio said. "There's a conspiracy of market factors right now. It's not just one thing ... there were only two albums in 2005 that sold more than 4 million copies and there needs to be many, many more than that. In 2004 there was a small but encouraging growth in music sales after three years of decline. Then in 2005 the numbers were down again."

Donio said the loss of singular shops such as Rhino are emotionally hard to take in an industry that puts a premium on free spirits and maverick successes.

"There's a real sense of community in these stores and discovery," Donio said. "Rhino was a great place. Aron's was a special place. It's sad to see them go away and it's not good for anyone."

The group that calls itself the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, based in Los Angeles, has in its database the names of close to 1,000 indie stores that have closed in the past three years. A decade ago, according to the group's stats, there were about 5,000 music shops flying independent flags; now there are about 2,800. The woes go well beyond small and locally owned stores large chains such as Tower Records and Wherehouse Music, for instance, have seen their fortunes battered in recent years and have sought bankruptcy protection.

"There's no secret here that times have been tough, but every time you hear about another closing, it's still hard," Donio said. "You hate to read nothing but doom and gloom into it, but it is hard, isn't it?"

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

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

Almighty on TV:

•Almighty founder Clark Benson on ABC News

•Almighty founder Clark Benson on CNN

(Quicktime required for below files)

KTLA-TV Los Angeles - Low Bandwidth
KTLA-TV Los Angeles - High Bandwidth