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The continually shifting landscape

Over at the Anime Detour forums, people have been discussing the closing of the last Media Play stores. The ones in the Metro area closed long ago, but evidently the stores in St. Cloud and Fargo hung on a few years longer.

On Friday, Media Play's parent company Musicland filed for bankruptcy, following Tower Records, Wherehouse and a legion of independent music stores into Chapter 11. Chris Anderon's essay names the usual suspects: Walmart, Best Buy, and music downloads, and his commenters go further to point out that the good old days of the mom and pop record store were not always good. Fairly typical is commenter Matt:

I won't especially miss the "cool guy at the local record store" since such "cool guys" typically existed more to laugh at other people's choices than to "turn you on to cool music". Give me an online retailer content to accept my money, dispense music in exchange for it, and leave the condescension at home any day.

I feel kinda sorta sorry for the stockholders and the back-office types who hitched their financial wagons to this dying business model...but no sympathy at all for the formerly-ubiquitous music snobs who stood behind the counter acting superior.

Another commenter notes that shops that sell used CDs are doing just fine, thanks, and I note that we don't see any doom-and-gloom articles about Cheapo, CD Warehouse, or Discland, which are all actually recycled media joints that carry DVDs and video games along with the music....sort of a downscale Borders/Barnes & Noble kind of deal. My personal experience is that I haven't set foot in a record store per se since the Root's place closed - all the music I've bought in the last year or so has been online through half.com, eBay or yourmusic.com; if not there, then at Walmart or Barnes & Noble, usually while I was looking for something else. Ditto with Ed Driscoll and Glenn Reynolds.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC)
Media Play/Suncoast/Sam Goody all have the problem of being grossly overpriced. I'm surprised it took this long. I've been saying it since the mid 90s. Once Best Buy expanded their dvd section to include more anime and sci-fi I let my Replay membership lapse. If I can get Dr. Who and anime for 1/3 off at Best Buy and earn Reward Zone certicficates I will. MP/S/SG tried to sell stuff at the SRP for far too long. I think the internet stores is what finally did them in. Online specials can reduce dvds to about 50% of SPR or even 70% in the case of ADV and Rightstuf's sales.
Jan. 15th, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
It's a matter of simple economics. If you don't have to maintain a bunch of storefronts on high-cost downtown areas, you can slash prices and offer customer rewards programs that your competitors can't. I see that Tower Records has emerged from bankruptcy, but I don't see how, even merged with Musicland, that they could compete successfully.
Jan. 15th, 2006 07:33 pm (UTC)
Well, and the big-box stores have the added advantage of much steeper discounts from publishers and distributors. B&N often has (non-remaindered) items for sale for less than stores like DreamHaven and The Source do.

I just think it's a crappy way to do business.
Jan. 15th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)
See my reply to chebutykin. Those places have survived -and, I predict, will continue to survive- because they're more than just stores, they're gathering places for SF/media/comics/gaming geeks. This is more true of the Source than it is of Dreamhaven, which I think badly needs to get some more exposure to the new generation of anime/manga/SF fans than it presently has.
Jan. 15th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Well, DreamHaven does most of its business in SF/F and collectable books. You can only diversify so much and be able to service it properly.
Jan. 15th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
I'm not saying Dreamhaven needs to diversify; they already have a buttload of manga and comics. They do need to make themselves more visible to the young fans. I've lost count of the number of teenage fans from Minneapolis I've talked to who had no idea that Dreamhaven or Uncle's even existed. That's going to kill them in the long term.
Jan. 16th, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC)
One of the things that I think CONvergence should do on a semi-regular basis is have the "geeks guide to the Twin Cities" as a programming item -- as a way to make people more aware of the Dreamhavens and Uncle Hugos.
Jan. 16th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC)
That's a damn good idea, and I think I'm going to borrow it for AD.
Jan. 16th, 2006 10:04 pm (UTC)
feel free to do so...
Jan. 15th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
Media Play/Suncoast/Sam Goody all have the problem of being grossly overpriced.

Yeah. Even when I worked at Suncoast and got the employee discount, their wares were still more expensive than what I could find online. The normal retail markup on media is so high that the regular storefront model just isn't feasible anymore.

If, say, Down in the Valley were to go under, I'd mourn, but only because they have more local recordings than can easily be found online. Otherwise, I fully agree with wombat_socho's post above -- I wouldn't miss the non-corporate storefronts. These days, I can get better music recommendations for my personal tastes through pandora.com than through most music geeks.

While I don't want all media outlets to grow into pieces of corporate megastores, I do think the death of brick and mortar media specialty stores are going the way of the dinosaur. Hopefully, the mom-n-pop operations can figure out how to turn their physical stores into online ones and stay viable.
Jan. 15th, 2006 10:37 pm (UTC)
I think Ed Dricoll's comment about Borders becoming a "third place" (i.e. someplace where you can hang out and study/surf the Net/talk with friends) points to the only way the mom & pop stores are going to survive. If it's someplace you want to go to for its own sake, that also has the kind of books, music and games you want to buy, then it's going to get along okay in the new media market. If it's just a place to buy CDs and posters, stick a fork in it.
Jan. 15th, 2006 11:04 pm (UTC)
I'll agree with that.

The economy is starting to become more service-based than retail-based. It's no longer about just connecting consumers with products they want. It's about either bringing it to their doorstep, or presenting them with an experience that makes them want to exit their homes. The retail experience is starting to become more like a restaurant experience. The store must provide an entire atmosphere and/or things that you cannot provide online (like a fresh, hot espresso or a purely social experience).

As much as I love the stores, I'm afraid The Electric Fetus and Down in the Valley won't survive a whole lot longer unless they really step up what they provide. If they can hitch themselves to a decent coffee shop and start hosting a stage for small bands to play in-store... then perhaps they'd have a business structure that will carry them beyond the next few years.
Jan. 15th, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC)
I think you're absolutely right. Having the occasional band in to launch a CD just isn't going to cut it any more - those stores are basically going to have to become music clubs that also carry CDs and allow you to pick and choose MP3s (and their players!) in a comfortable environment.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )



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