April 18, 2008

Saving the Record Store [11:31 am]

Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing

NOW added to the endangered species list in New York City, along with independent booksellers and shoe repair: the neighborhood record store.

The hole-in-the-wall specialty shops that have long made Lower Manhattan a destination for a particular kind of shopper have never made a great deal of money. But in recent years they have been hit hard by the usual music-industry woes — piracy, downloading — as well as rising real estate prices, leading to the sad but familiar scene of the emptied store with a note taped to the door.

Some 3,100 record stores around the country have closed since 2003, according to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, a market research firm. And that’s not just the big boxes like the 89 Tower Records outlets that closed at the end of 2006; nearly half were independent shops. In Manhattan and Brooklyn at least 80 stores have shut down in the last five years.

But the survivors aren’t giving up just yet. [...]

Yes, but then there’s this — an ambivalent message if I say so:

Casually dispensed expert knowledge like that is exactly what Record Store Day is looking to celebrate. [Regina] Spektor, who started off selling homemade CDs and is now signed to a major label, Sire, said that independent stores had been the first to carry her music, and that their support helped her career take off. And though she said she now feels contrite that for years her music collection was made up mainly of items copied from friends — “I just had no money” — she is supporting the stores out of gratitude.

“I’m the record label-slash-store nightmare,” Ms. Spektor said. “Everything I had was a mixtape or a burned CD. But I don’t like the idea of all the record stores where people actually know what they’re talking about going out of business. They have their own art form.”

See also this indication of changing times: Longtime Executive Steps Aside at Sony BMG

In a shake-up that reflects the new realities of the music business, the renowned hitmaker Clive Davis is making way for a younger executive known for having an ear toward the pop charts but also an eye on controlling costs.

[...] But the pop hits that Mr. Davis is known for delivering typically require the kind of expensive videos and marketing campaigns that labels are reluctant to finance at a time when music sales have been sliding. Sony BMG’s decision to promote Mr. Weiss underscores the idea that hits alone cannot save the industry.

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