Tower Falls

tower_records.jpgHow should I, a lifelong music fan and major customer of Tower Records over most of the past 35 years, feel about the company filing for bankruptcy?

Nostalgic? Definitely. I’ll never forget the sweet redhead clerk at the Berkeley store who leaped over the counter to kiss me when she saw from my ID that I was buying myself an album on my 18th birthday.

A visit to Tower Records on the way home from work was a sure-fire way to beat the blues–especially if I walked out with a trademark yellow plastic bag with a new platter inside. The classical Tower that used to be a stand-alone on Sunset Strip expanded my musical horizons. (Yes, you read that right. Just down the road from the Whiskey A Go Go and Gazzari’s was a store devoted to classical music.)

Guilty? Probably. Like most of their former customers, I buy most of my CDs from Amazon nowadays; and increasingly listen to music I’ve downloaded from Rhapsody via my subscription.

I’ve never bought a CD at Wal-Mart, the rival cited in most stories, but to me a Wal-Mart would never be competition for Tower, because Tower’s music offerings were vastly deeper than Wal-Mart (or Target or K-Mart). I have only been to Wal-Mart twice, and my purchases were mostly T-shirts (although I did get an external hard drive for $14!).

I still like to stop and browse the Torrance Tower sometimes, however. And I visit their Santa Monica Promenade location every time I go there.

Will I patronize “the brand” after it is taken by its new owners into cyberspace only? Who knows, but it doesn’t sound promising. Virtual shopping I already know how to do. It was the browsing through Tower’s aisles, flipping through the stacks and finding things I didn’t know existed that made Tower special. And it’s probably not a good business model to keep all that inventory around in the world of 2006:

“The brick-and-mortar specialty music retail industry has suffered substantial deterioration recently,” Tower said in court papers.

So that’s what Tower’s bankruptcy and imminent disappearance from the brick-and-mortar world makes me feel:

Substantially deteriorated.



8 thoughts on “Tower Falls

  1. Some will say that Tower’s demise is the fault of the iPod. Not only has the iPod killed off nice places to browse in person like Tower but the iPod is now monopolizing music in an evil way. But as much a I liked to occasionally browse Tower’s stores, I much prefer to listen to 10 different sample of Beethoven’s 9th with iTunes, from my home, before I purchase one. Tower was always a bit of a crap shoot forcing one to play it safe. It continually suprises me how different the online recordings are (not to mention pieces I was completely unfamiliar which I wouldn’t have taken a chance on at Tower). Not just the styles, interpretation and playing but such things as the mic placement, acoustics and recording quality. Of course, you can do the same with some of the other excellent download services. As a result, I feel I have the best collection of music I’ve ever had, with more convenience and at less cost. Tower got eclipsed by a better system, sad as it is. iTunes is simply the dominant system right now. iTunes has some problems but generally it’s very much liked by many and not an unhelpful monopoly like Microsoft.

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  3. I just got an e-mail from Tower’s CEO trying to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of Chapter 11.

    I haven’t bought much of anything there except gift cards for quite a while. One of the things that annoyed me about the place was that when I was trying to find classical CDs a while back I was told that the store “didn’t carry any.”

    Um, what?

    I had to take my purchasing desires elsewhere. A 15-20,000sf store and it couldn’t have one aisle devoted to classical music?

  4. Apropos of absolutely nothing, I lived around the corner from the original Tower Records in the mid-to late 1970s in Sacramento. I didn’t know it was a chain until I left the town in 1979.

    It was a fine store for browsing in, but I was a DJ, so I got all my albums free. It wasn’t called payola, just keeping DJs’ ears tuned so they could play the latest records (KZAP-FM was not heavily formatted) with some sense of what was on them.

    I later sold my record collection numerous times (during the 80s I worked for nine months at a station, then would take off for three or six) to finance a number of trips to Europe. Back when travel was cheap. But it STILL wasn’t payola.

    Ah, memory, an intoxicating subject, Stodder, but we do begin to seem…old.

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