Almighty Press


March 4, 2007
New groove for Solomon

Tower founder needs new tactics for next venture, experts say.

By Dale Kasler - Bee Staff Writer

As he prepares to open his new record store this spring, Tower Records founder Russ Solomon has a lot going for him: name recognition, industry connections and legions of fans pulling for him.

He even has a sort of home-field advantage, having leased the midtown Sacramento building that served as one of Tower's flagship locations until the retailer went out of business in December.

But consultants and competitors alike say Resurrection Records, as Solomon's new store on Broadway is tentatively titled, will face the same competitive forces that ruined Tower and a slew of other music retailers -- namely, the Internet and big-box discounters.

In other words, good will alone will take him only so far, and Solomon's comeback is hardly guaranteed.

"The reputation helps -- helps get you going," said James Tenser, principal of Arizona consulting firm VSN Strategies. "You probably have a lot of people in town rooting for his success. But then, it's about how you deliver."

His landlord Chris Gianulias said Solomon will be paying the same amount of rent on Broadway that Tower did. Experts say the similarities should end there. In their view, Solomon can't simply try to re-create Tower. He needs to create a brand new store and try new strategies.

"It can't be approached on pure nostalgia. It's got to be forward-thinking," said Joel Oberstein, president of a Studio City consulting firm called the Almighty Institute of Music Retail. "Russ is a brilliant man; I'm sure he knows that."

Among other things, experts say, he probably has to charge more competitive prices than Tower did and devote a fair amount of space to selling used records.

To a certain extent, Solomon will be marketing his name and reputation -- attributes that are "good for initial buzz," said Lynn Upshaw of Upshaw Brand Consulting in San Rafael. Upshaw compared Solomon to Wendy's late founder, Dave Thomas, whose personality helped draw customers to his restaurants.

Solomon is "going to get a lot of people showing up just to see what's going on," Upshaw said. "But they'll go down the street to Blockbuster or wherever if there's nothing else to it besides 'he used to own Tower Records.' "

Exactly what Solomon plans for the store is unknown; he couldn't be reached for comment for this story. In an interview last October, in which he first announced plans for a comeback, Solomon said he can succeed "even though everybody thinks retail (music) stores are dead."

Resurrection Records brings Solomon full circle. He began as a teenage entrepreneur, blossomed into a self-described "aging hippie" overseeing a $1 billion-a-year empire, and now starts fresh as an 81-year-old. He joins the ranks of independent retailers, or indies -- the scrappy, scruffy merchants on the fringe of the music industry.

"Indies live by the seat of their pants in every way," said Dilyn Radakovitz, co-owner of Sacramento's five-store Dimple Records chain. "You work right on the edge, right out there with the customer."

Dimple and other Sacramento independents have shown it is possible to survive as a brick-and-mortar retailer in the age of the iPod and Best Buy. They say the key is quick reactions to the public's ever-changing musical tastes.

For instance, The Beat, an independent in midtown Sacramento, recently sold out its allotment of singer-songwriter Patty Griffin's new CD. A chain store would have taken a week to restock; The Beat did it in two days, said the store's owner, Rob Fauble.

"Independent guys are a little more nimble," Fauble said.

Well-run indies can prosper by promoting musicians who fly under the national entertainment radar but have developed good-sized local audiences.

Case in point: Two weeks ago Dimple's best-seller was an album by a Northern California rapper called Keak Da Sneak, who's fairly well-known in the region but is hardly a household name.

Dimple is a $10 million-a-year business whose co-owner -- Dilyn's husband, John Radakovitz -- scoffs at the "so-called death of retail" and notes that some 90 percent of music is still sold as CDs. The company caters to collectors and music enthusiasts who enjoy the experience of browsing for recordings at a store.

"I like dealing with people rather than going online," said Jan Marshall, 50, of Roseville, as she shopped the other day at Dimple's new Citrus Heights store.

Citrus Heights is a testament to Dimple's health. The store used to house a Tower and still bears some leftover Tower signage.

Dimple may not be done expanding. Having lost out to Solomon in the rush to lease the Broadway store, Dimple is also competing with Solomon and others for the lease on Tower's old store on Watt Avenue. Dimple says it needs to increase its footprint to head off Rasputin Music, a Bay Area indie chain that is believed to be sniffing around the Sacramento region.

Rasputin took over Tower locations in Concord, Mountain View, Stockton and Fresno. Company officials couldn't be reached for comment.

Running a successful indie means paying close attention to product selection. Though they are literally a mom-and-pop operation, with two sons active in the business, the Radakovitzes use sophisticated software to track Dimple's sales. That helps them offer a wide variety of CDs and DVDs that appeal to niche audiences but don't bury Dimple in esoterica that hardly sells.

Another factor is the Web, which provides about 5 percent of Dimple's revenue. Many experts believe every record retailer needs to build a vibrant Internet operation, even if it's merely to drive traffic into the store.

And the product has to be priced right. There's probably no way to fully compete with the big box stores on price. But price does matter, as Dimple's experience shows.

Four years ago Dimple joined a group of independent retailers suing Best Buy, accusing the big chain of illegal, predatory pricing. Other retailers as well as the major record labels have been added as defendants.

But while the case is pending, Dimple has modified its tactics. The company now matches Best Buy and other discounters -- for a week or so -- on selected new releases. Dilyn Radakovitz said the idea is to use the hot hits as loss leaders to snare customers.

"You've got to get them in here," she said, adding that Solomon should do the same at Resurrection.

"People stopped buying at Tower," she said. "The prices were too high."

While they lose money on certain new releases, indies rely on older or "catalog" music, as well as used CDs, to generate profits. The Beat's Fauble, who gets 30 percent of his revenue from used records, said Solomon would do well to emulate that model.

Tower dabbled in used records but never made it a substantial part of the overall business.

Fauble said Solomon's new venture, devoid of the corporate structure that governed Tower, will be free to innovate.

"If you're working for Coca-Cola and you want to change the formula, it's not always easy," Fauble said. Solomon "is going to have a chance finally to showcase some of the ideas he's had the last few years."

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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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