Almighty Press


March 9, 2007
Internet killed the record store?

By JOHN WILEN

Trac Records is closing after 32 years, and owner Carolyn Draving has no doubts about the reason for the Doylestown store's demise.

"I'm going out of business, along with thousands of other stores being driven out of business by the illegal Internet," Draving said.

Indeed, the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, an industry research group in Studio City, Calif., estimates that 900 independent record stores have closed since 2003, leaving 2,700 nationwide.

But not everyone believes the Internet is hurting record stores. Despite the fact that sales of CDs are falling as Internet downloading legal and illegal grows in popularity, there is still demand out there for physical copies of recorded music. And stores that offer expertise, insight and a sense of community as well as an eclectic mix of music can still create a niche for themselves and survive, experts say.

"There are a ton of them that are thriving," said John Lyons, executive vice president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.

Siren Records, also of Doylestown, seems to have found a way to survive the age of digital downloading.

"We haven't seen a drop-off in sales, and we've actually expanded the store," said owner Blair Elliot.

Last fall, Siren moved from its long-time 1,500-square-foot State Street store to a newly renovated 5,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the former County Linen building. That let Elliot expand his catalog, offer a wider selection of products such as T-shirts, books and collectible toys, and stage in-store music performances.

The Internet and explosion of downloading have actually stoked interest in music in some, Elliot said.

"I think that the Internet has become a sort of a research tool for our customers," Elliot said. "I have customers who will download tracks just to figure out what to buy."

But Draving says she's lost many long-time customers to the Internet.

"I know a few of them who don't come in anymore because they just download," Draving said.

Trac has been hit as hard by legally copied digital music as by illegal downloads. Draving says her business fell by a third early in the decade, when peer-to-peer song-swapping networks such as Napster and Kazaa first caught on. But iPods and other mp3 players have cost her another third of her business, Draving said.

Warren Greene, owner of Spinsters Records in New Hope, feels Draving's pain.

"People do not buy CDs anymore," Greene said. "CDs are dead."

Greene says he saved himself from financial ruin by finding a new product to sell: T-shirts emblazoned with digital images. He bought a digital garment printing machine last year that lets him print any digital photo a customer wants onto a T-shirt. The shirts sell for $20 to $25, including the printing.

"It enabled me to produce a product which would appeal to the same age demographic and at a higher profit margin than CDs," Greene said.

Federal prosecutors recently charged Greene with criminal infringement of copyright for allegedly selling illegally copied CDs at Spinsters in 2002 and 2003. Greene said he no longer sells bootlegged music and declined further comment on his case.

"My real problem was the Internet," Greene said. "Most of my customers are in the 15 to 25 age demographic. Most of these people are now using the Internet to obtain their music."

Data supplied by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers shows that while overall music purchases increased in 2005 to more than a billion transactions from 817 million transactions in 2004, the share of those purchases that were on CD fell to 650 million in 2005, or 36 percent of total sales, from 708 million, or 39 percent of total sales, in 2004.

There was no shortage of new music released in 2005, when the total number of albums released exceeded 60,000, up from 44,500 in 2004.

Despite the downturn, Lyons doesn't think CDs will go away.

"For the heavy music user, there's something about the packaging," Lyons said.

There will continue to be a "rebalancing" between sales of physical and downloaded digital music, but CD sales will eventually stabilize, Lyons predicted.

"Most of the music on iPods is ripped from CDs," he said.

Elliott said it's tough to gauge whether downloading, legal or illegal, has hurt his business. His sense is that the many of the people downloading illegally wouldn't be buying CDs even if their downloading could be stopped.

It's possible that the music Draving specializes in - more mainstream fare such as classic rock and hits - has made Trac more vulnerable to downloading's effect. Experts say mainstream music is more commoditized: It can be found anywhere, from the grocery store to every download site on the Internet. Because Siren specializes in hard-to-find and independent music which doesn't show up as frequently in Wal-Mart or on Kazaa it appeals more to collectors and the younger generation.

"He's somehow captured the kid market," Draving said of Siren.

Draving has one full-time employee and two part-timers. She's running a going-out-of-business sale and plans to close by March 15.

In part, Draving's decision to close Trac is driven by a desire to get out from under the all-day, every day grind of running a retail store.

"He's a little younger," Draving laughs of Elliot. "He's got a little more energy to stay in that store all day long, all night long and all weekend."

"I feel bad," Elliot said. "I wish her well."

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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 - Boston.com - New vinyl album releases give record stores a kick

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

June 9, 2011 - NJ.com - 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 - PhillyBurbs.com - 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 - CNN.com - 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





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