Requiem For Tower Records…


Tuesdays are New Release Days when it comes to music, movies, and (sometimes) videogames. But if you’ve grown accustomed to buying your sweet audiovisual software at the Sacramento-based Tower Records, you’re going to have to find a new place to shop, as last Friday was the final day its brick-and-mortar stores were open for business (a “last hurrah” for its employees was held last Monday @ The Viper Room):

Starting in October 2006, all Tower Records stores in the United States prior to liquidation held “going out of business” sales before final shutdown on the night of Friday, December 22, 2006. …

Tower Records entered bankruptcy for the first time in 2004. Factors cited were the heavy debt incurred during its aggressive expansion in the 1990s, growing competition from mass discounters, and internet piracy. Its policy of selling most Compact Disc (CD) based music recordings at list price also proved detrimental. …

On August 20, 2006, Tower Records filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time in order to facilitate a purchase of the company prior to the holiday shopping season.

A friend went to Tower’s landmark Sunset store last Monday, and he said the mood was rather somber inside. He reported that not only were the fixtures and wall art onsale, but any remaining product that was marked at 80-90% off were being scooped up by opportunists hoping to flip it elsewhere.

The last time I was there was for Fiona Apple (MySpace)’s in-store appearance to promote Extraordinary Machine last October, which shows you how often I went there to buy music.

More after the jump.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Vegan covered the scene @ Tower’s Broadway location:

I stopped by Tower Records on Broadway yesterday – it was their last day open. I didn’t even realize it ahead of time…

Everything left in the store was 90% off, and sadly(?) there were still enough CD’s left to stock a small independent store – mostly stuff I had never heard of though – stuff that STILL wasn’t selling for $1.00. I didn’t buy anything, but after a little digging, I did find a copy of Sound Team’s new record (one of Britt Daniel’s favorite albums), a whole bunch of Rogers Sisters, and about 100 Towers of London CD’s.

Tower’s death mirrors the recent troubles experienced by other music retailers such as Sam Goody, Wherehouse Music, and Moby Disc, as well as local indie shops like Go Boy Records in Redondo Beach, Hatikvah on Fairfax, Aron’s Records, Penny Lane, and Rhino Records in Westwood. In fact, I’d wager that a good percentage of the stores listed in the Los Angeles Record Shop Guide (last updated April 9th, 2000) are now out of business.

And yet, Amoeba Records in Hollywood and Sea Level Records (MySpace) in Echo Park have managed to survive, let alone thrive, in the changing digital economy.

Meanwhile, Tower’s Torrance location will apparently be taken over by FYE:

FYE has backed out of plans to move into two Tower Records stores in Sacramento. FYE had planned on opening stores at the Broadway and Watt Ave stores, but company CFO John Sullivan said the leases “weren’t what they thought they were.” Trans World, owner of the FYE chain, still has plans to take over Tower locations in Torrance, Philadelphia and Nashville. (Read article at Sacramento Bee)

But what about Tower’s iconic Sunset location? According to the December issue of Los Angeles Magazine, the property was purchased for $12 million in conjunction with the liquidation of the entire chain for about $150 million. For such a prime slice of real estate, especially on the Sunset Strip, $12 million, while nothing to sneeze at, seems like an absolute bargain.

And amidst the rumors that a group of investors is looking to buy a few of Tower’s stores to keep the Tower name alive, is there any chance that a Tower v2.0 will succeed?

Later this week: My memories of Tower, including working @ the Woodland Hills location 15 years ago(!), and another former employee is happy the retail chain has seen its last days.

One thought on “Requiem For Tower Records…”

  1. You know I worked for Tower Records. I started working for Tower when the record and video store were separate entities. My question is “Did you have the same experiences with the video stores as well as the record stores?

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