Shocking News: Record Stores Keep Closing

Mar 25th, 2008 // 20 Comments

goingoutofbusinesssale.jpgNot entirely surprising, but college-area record stores are closing left and right. So, what’s supposed to be our reaction to this sort of news these days?

A few years ago on just one block of Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street, the main drag in what’s been called America’s ideal college town, four or five such places catered both to locals and University of North Carolina students.

But with the demise of Schoolkids Records, the last one is gone. Schoolkids had planned to gut it out through March, but couldn’t even make through its final week and shut down Saturday. It’s just the latest victim in an industry hit by rising college-town rents, big-box retailers, high CD prices, and — most importantly — a new generation of college students for whom music has become an entirely online, intangible hobby they often don’t have to pay for.

Chapel Hill is hardly alone. In recent years, perhaps hundreds of independent and small-chain record stores in college towns have shut down or consolidated as music downloading all but eliminated the demand for them.

In State College, Pa., Arboria and Vibes have closed. Iowa City, Iowa, used to have BJ’s, Sal’s Music Emporium and Real Records.

Boulder, Colo., has lost at least a half dozen — Cheapo Discs, All the Rage, Rocky Mountain Records and Tapes, and others. Albums on the Hill, a holdout across from the University of Colorado’s campus, is down from 18 full-time employees to three part-timers.

In Tempe, the most recent incarnations of Arizona State University’s area record stores are still around, although the on-campus store closed due to a fire in their building last year. Salt Lake City’s Greywhale thrives next to the University of Utah, and continues to expand. Somehow, those stores manage to hang in there, while Chapel Hill’s choices evaporate. Why? While in theory I’m pro-record-store-survival, we’ve probably all had the High Fidelity experience where the tastemaker turns into the snobbish gatekeeper of cool. Isn’t it just easier to get your recommendations from the Web these days, and then make an instant purchase (or “purchase”, as it were) from the keyboard? Is it OK for the market to shuffle out some of these stores? Will the kids be fine without a store within walking distance?

College-Town Record Stores Shuttering [AP]


  1. Tauwan

    Being a teenage to early twentsomething West Coast transplant on a New England campus was not easy or financially rewarding, but you best believe I spent many a work study dollar on New Release Tuesday. [Both during the day and Monday night at midnight.] And one of my favorite record stores ever had to be Bull Moose Records on tiny little Main Street in Brunswick, Maine. New releases [no matter how big the artist]ranging in price from $6.97 (?*%$#@!) to $11.97; New release/top sellers shelves that would place a new Janet Jackson disc next to a new flava of the month in indie without batting an eye; Chill as record store clerks who gave advice [of the non-condescending variety] AND sought advice [I turned a clerk or two on to Basement Jaxx with one simple purchase]; And a points system that rewarded you for buying discs, and which in the end helped me save a few dollars on many a disc. -Sigh- I miss that place, and it sucks to keep reading headlines and articles about little islands in the sun falling by the wayside…

  2. Anthony Miccio

    While I’m glad to see the media cares about the CD store situation
    in State College (if City Lights closed while I was living there I’d
    probably have jumped off something), it has to make a townie laugh to
    see “Vibes” mentioned as a evidence of a recent sales slump. I believe
    they closed circa Ani DiFranco’s Little Plastic Castle (a window
    display was left up for awhile before another local CD store briefly
    took over the space), so I don’t think you could even blame Napster for
    that loss.

    The AP’s lack of attention to the finer details of independent record shopping in central Pennsylvania sickens me to the core.

  3. scott pgwp

    It’s a really unfortunate situation. When I lived in Arizona I worked for a small store (stinkweeds – by the way, they recently went from two locations to one, closing the one that was in the vicinity of ASU) and frequented all the others. When I moved to NYC I cut down on trips to the record store for financial reasons, downloading instead.

    Here in LA, I’ve returned to the act of shopping in a record store, thanks to Amoeba. The very act of sifting through bins and taking a chance on something is just an irreplacable feeling. I would feel incomplete, to say the least, if all I ever did was scroll through my google reader or scavange MySpace.

    Unfortuantely the corporate record labels stopped seeing record stores (indie or not) as a priority in their business model; this was pre-Napster. I don’t want to see record stores go away altogether, but I fear they will in time.

  4. Anonymous

    How boring! Why isn’t success as sexy as failure? I sure wish AP (or Idolator, for that matter), would report on Record Store Day, or any of the amazing indie-stores that are still awesome centers of their communities, like Grimey’s in Nashville, Shake It in Cincinnatti, Sonic Boom in Seattle, Luna in Indianapolis, Jackpot in Portland, Good Records in Dallas or dare I say it, my own bitchin’ store in Atlanta.

  5. Catbirdseat

    I noticed a few weeks ago that NYC’s Cake Shop, which had a store in the back that already had the tiniest of footprints, has now managed to shrink even that! It’s basically just a counter now. I think Other is doing okay, though.

  6. Cheap Shot

    I blame all you internet savvy bastard children!

  7. bcapirigi

    in providence in your ear closed because it wasn’t as highfalutin’ as the boston outlet (ie. no members of mission of burma ever worked there) and it was great when they did because i bought every abba album for a dollar.

    the (more interesting) store across the street from that closed because the owner had ms and then a series of strokes. and now providence has one metal record store, a newbury comics in the mall, and, um, one fye. and that’s it for new music.

  8. bcapirigi

    @Tauwan: ps – i used to love the bull moose in portsmouth. i even remember almost going to one because, um, something weezer related and that was the only place you could get it. are they still around? bull moose, i mean, not weezer.

  9. drjayphd

    @Tauwan: I pretty much did the same at Exile on Main Street in Hamden. Who knows how many dollars went towards the used CD’s, and how many quarters went into the Homies vending machine. Then they lost their lease and retreated to Branford, which, while okay, isn’t nearly the same.

  10. Manifestation

    I don’t get iTunes, I love the feel of the physical CD. (And the audio fidelity)

  11. Lucas Jensen

    @bcapirigi: Wait, when did In Your Ear close? I bought my first Magnetic Fields record there.

  12. Cannot Find Server

    Wow. All I knew of record stores was mall stores until I visited Franklin Street when I was 14. Going from store to store opened my eyes. I still vividly remember the anti-Jesse Helms pamphlet that I picked up alongside the zines. I buy almost everything digitally now, but this really drives home what we’ve lost in the process.

  13. revmatty

    For at least the next decade there will remain a niche market for physical record stores. Zappa proposed a digital music delivery system back in 1990 that looks remarkably like Rhaphsody or Yahoo Music (technical details like ISDN lines aside).

    He concluded that there would remain a strong enough demand for physical stores to support the indie stores because people like to fondle product and frankly you can’t flip through the bins on a computer and come across something totally new and unexpected. Like finding a misfiled out of print Sonny Rollins for a steal of a price.

  14. Handsome Pete

    The record store in the Schine Student Center didn’t even make it to the mp3 era.

    However. Its going out of business sale netted me a few dozen compact discs. And the bulk of my Morrissey and Pizzicato Five collections.

    I’d like to see record stores make it. But if they aren’t going to. I’d like to benefit.

  15. Ned Raggett

    @scott pgwp: Here in LA, I’ve returned to the act of shopping in a record store, thanks to Amoeba. The very act of sifting through bins and taking a chance on something is just an irreplacable feeling.

    Amoeba’s dollar bins are brilliant for that, for sure. That said I’ve cut down on that a lot myself just because I’m trying my best to get rid of CDs rather than accumulate them! But that’s just a personal decision.

  16. removed from the loop

    I actually live on top of a record store (which also rents movies) here in Blacksburg. I’ve been told that it wouldn’t be surprising to see it close in the near future.

  17. G3K

    The day I heard Hoodlums burned down was the saddest day of my life.

  18. bcapirigi

    @Lucas Jensen: two or three mays ago. i also bought my first magnetic fields record there, shortly after they played at brown and made everybody sit on the cold floor.

  19. Tippy and Bad Girl

    Ugh, my favorite record stores in my hometown and NYC have already closed. Is it that they’re just not creative enough about changing their models? I’d feel bad about some of these stores closing, but you’d have to be a doof to base your business around people buying compact discs.

    Is there a way for stores to break into the digital downloading market in kinda the same way that used bookstores use Amazon? I mean, if faced w/ buying a $.99 from iTunes or buying it from a record store’s website, I know what my choice would be.

  20. Cannot Find Server

    @Tippy and Bad Girl: is my first stop online. Their selection’s not as extensive as iTunes, almost by design (if it’s even slightly successful in the mainstream, they don’t have it), but it’s all DRM-free. Lately they’ve been undercut by Amazon on price, but I like to support them on principle.


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