If you're too young to remember the magic of Tower Records, here's what you missed


[Read the post]


@benmarks (oh, what do you know, an author with no account. OK, @beschizza, then) close that tag, sir
EDIT: seems fixed now.

I’m thinking that this headline does not match the story here. There’s nothing about what the store was like, the whole post is about nothing other than the market forces that killed it.

anyway, yes, I have fond memories of the Nashville store, as @SpunkyTWS and I share in an earlier post


I was worried I was the only one seeing that. Funny thing is, I can’t seem to find where that style is coming from. Such investigations make for an interesting challenge sometimes, but it seems this time I am defeated.


I remember Tower Records both in Boston and Los Angeles. It was an amazing place, a real treasure trove. I also remember how the whole selling music as a tangible item died. I have an old copy of Godey’s Ladies’ Book, a mid-19th century magazine, and every issue featured pages of sheet music. That’s one way music was sold during the Civil War. It stopped being tangible early this century.

My favorite elegy for the times past are at http://www.furia.com/page.cgi?type=twas&id=twas0508&terms=silver - from back in 2007 (see item 4):

Nothing makes me feel older, at the moment, and I include imminent parenthood in that “nothing”, than buying CDs. The physical ritual of music-buying is obsolete and irrevivable, held over only briefly for the sake of some isolated nostalgia and small contingencies of storage capacity. I bought fewer CDs than ever, this year, and downloaded more music in files. All the record stores are gone from here but one, and my trips there feel like vastly muted versions of good days with a dying friend. I know that files are better, and that information is no less true to itself without plastic, but you don’t love your friends for their white-cell counts, or miss them less on the days when you weren’t going to see them anyway. It will hurt me to give up holding records in my hand, not because the physical objects themselves have important inherent virtues, but because it has just always been possible to hold them.


that’s a funny attitude to have about someone whose product you endorse, Mr. Goman


From what I can tell, it was mainly the record companies being greedy (big surprise) and the fact that competition in the free market (the thing the libertarians say will fix everything!) was what killed Tower Records. I’m sure Mr. Napster doesn’t shoulder all the blame.


No, No, the REAL creator of Napster.


If you are making cds in large amounts they cost less than a dollar each. The record labels, distributors and stores could have afforded to come down on the price.

If you want to talk about record company greed you could also point to how cds were rush-released in the 80’s using old masters meant for vinyl, then they reissued them with improved audio remasters, then reissued them again with bonus tracks, then still again with more bonus tracks or as part of a box set, like they were trying to trick consumers into buying the same album multiple times.

Record Store Day will probably die out in a few years, but it was a nice thought (even if the idea was actually cooked up by retailers to boost sales), unfortunately the reality of RSD is that people who never go to record stores come in once a year to buy three copies of some rarity, then resell them on ebay for a profit.

Places like Tower were incredible back then because they had what looked like everything. When your small local chain didnt have any Django Reinhardt, Tower would have multiple cds, imports and domestics. You probably still couldnt get a lot of rare private press records, but it was still a huge step up from buying albums at Kmart.


was just going by the movie, and apparently I don’t even remember that very well. still, Parker on some level qualifies as “Mr. Napster,” or one of them, anyway. And without Parker helping build Facebook, Goman would likely never have had a facebook account, which is still pretty ironic, to me.


I can remember when Tower Records was great. It was exactly that period of time when Amoeba Records didn’t exist and the independent record stores were struggling with the Vinyl/CD transition.

I don’t want to wreck the nostalgia party, but Tower Records was emblematic of that great age of recorded music: The era in which you could read about all of the fascinating music being made all over the world, but never actually purchase or hear any of it. You could buy an interesting music magazine at Tower Records, but it was abundantly clear that whoever stocked the place wasn’t reading it. Also, I’m pretty sure that “shrinkage” did more harm to the business than anything else.


Yep, it’s always best to blame those no-good kids. Better than, say, Amazon or WalMart or… yknow… market forces.


I would be old enough to remember the “magic” of Tower Records, but I lived in a small town in the mid-South, so there was no such magic to be had, and no way to find out about what was happening in music outside of New Kids on the Block and Travis Tritt unless you knew a guy who knew a guy who had a CD from some trip to Chicago, and then maybe there was an address to send off to for a mail order catalog…


made me think of what @Garymon wrote yesterday in the Bill and Ted thread. Well, y’all turned out all right, I’d say. Must’ve built character.


When Tower Records opened their store in my suburban town it was just that a record store in suburbia, nothing particularly cool or interesting about it. Especially compared to the SF store it was kind of a disappointment.


@Ratel Yes, back then you had to be like American Pickers to find interesting music. I was fortunate enough to have a local non-chain record shop. But most of the guys there were more into Cheap Trick than Claus Nomi (nothing against CT just not the guys to know about underground and new styles). So besides getting new bands from random weirdos. I often just bought music by the cover art alone. I’d save my lunch money all week and then buy something after school on Friday. I needed culture more than food at the time. Funny thing is I was only an hour from Portland Or. But I might as well have been on an island. It never occurred to me at the time that Portland might have better resources.


Amazon totally changed my media buying habits to the point where I only go to music or book stores to use an in-store Starbucks. The reality is iTunes did more to kill the record store than Napster. Many people still buy their music than steal it. But also a lot of the blame lays at the feet of the music industry for resisting change rather than adapt to it.


Everyone says that about themselves, but I’m slowly coming to the conclusions that I did not, in fact, turn out alright…


I’m old enough to remember Tower Records, but never a point when the store seemed “magical” instead of just overpriced.

Thank Dumbledore, Amoeba Music and Rasputin’s still exist.


Just so. For most people there was no need to go to a dedicated record store instead of a lower priced box store.

Here in Canada the music industry also struck the coup de grâce: They bribed lobbied the politicians to enact a tax on recordable media. In return, private copying of music was made legal.

Being a programmer and doing a lot of photography at the time, I was burning through stacks of CDs just for regular backups and occasionally distributing software. And suddenly, for every CD, I had to pay into the Celine Dion Retirement Fund.

I already had several hundred purchased music CDs at the time. And that just stopped. Trading music with family and friends was not just legal but ethical, since I was now paying for the right. In fact it was STUPID not to do so, since I was paying for the right whether I used it or not.

The business model for music changed, and it no longer included music stores.


I saw the doc and enjoyed it, but don’t recall hearing anyone discuss how many dozens or hundreds of independent record stores Tower drove out of business by using the same method they whined about with Best Buy, et.al.
No tears shed here.