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Re: [ARSCLIST] Virgin Sacrifice

The story is all over the place, but in little pieces here and there. 
You have an excellent subject for a book or a PhD. dissertation.  Mort
Frank once did an ARSC presentation on his experiences with Sam Goody, I
have two magazine articles from the mid-50s and mid-60s on Goody, Roy
Evans tells some neat stories about when he worked at the Paramus
Goody's, I have my memories shopping there, and I always wanted to put
this all together.  Uncle Dave just gave us some of his memories of
working at the L.A. Virgin.  I should interview David Hall on his
memories of record stores going back to the 30s, because he always
credited their help in his books.  There was a magazine in the 40s
called Record Retailing, and they published at least two books near the
end of the war.  Record stores were discussed in Billboard (now on the
web in Google Books) and Variety, Cash Box, etc.  The early record
companies had monthly magazines they published for their franchised
record stores, and there is a re-creation of an early Victor record
store in the Eldridge Johnson Victor Museum in Delaware.  

This really is a great story, but it is a big story.  I think it is
bigger than the story of the record companies, and that has been
incompletely told in several dozen books.  I've been reading thru The
Label this week, and as thick as it is, it isn't complete (and is full
of nagging little factual errors) and it only scratches the surface of
how Columbia records were retailed.  Gad this is a great topic but it
needs a REAL researcher to do it, and someone with long experience to do
it.  NO I DO NOT HAVE THE TIME TO DO IT, SO DON"T ASK.  But I would like
to do it.  Please, someone else pick this idea up.  I'll proofread.

Mike Biel  mbiel@xxxxxxxxx    

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Virgin Sacrifice
From: "Barnett, Kyle" <kbarnett@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, June 17, 2009 1:15 am
To: ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


I certainly understand your comments here. While I understand your
reliance on the web, I'm happier that certain regional independents seem
to be finding a real niche on a number of fronts (to name a few: Luna in
Indianapolis, Other Music in New York, Waterloo and End of an Ear in
Austin, Ear X-tacy in Louisville). These shops help to propagate and
sell various kinds of niche music -- and in some cases these shops run
their own labels. They also bring musicians to town for in-store
performances (sometimes a given musician's only stop in town). 

It may be self-evident to a lot of folks on the list, but record stores
(like bookshops and other retail locations) have the potential of
fulfilling a certain "tastemaking" function for a given city. I can't
estimate how much I've learned from good record stores. In fact, just as
restaurants can make statements with its food, so can a record store
with its selections and method of organization -- even the store's
institutional culture.

While the web has certainly taken over much of the retail and
tastemaking function previously handled by retail shops, I think there
remains a future for "boutique" record shops that provide a niche not
easily replicated by bigger chains or online.

Let me end with a question: Can anyone point me to historical work on
the emergence of record stores as social spaces? Phonograph records were
sold in so many different ways early on (mail order, furniture shops,
music instrument/sheet music shops, five & dime and chain stores, etc. I
think the story of how record stores emerged in the first place remains
a story untold.


-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List on behalf of Tom
Sent: Tue 6/16/2009 5:19 PM
To: ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Virgin Sacrifice
Maybe it's an age thing, but I can't see any reason for physical stores
for music since Amazon took 
off. I haven't bought a book or CD from a physical store in probably a
decade now. And downloads 
trump even that because not only are they convenient, they are
near-instant gratification. Now if 
only full 44.1/16-bit downloads would go down to 99 cents or less per
song and be commonplace, we'd 
finally be at a reasonable "new paradigm." As it is now, the only places
not selling 
lossy-compressed audio downloads are places like HDTracks (Chesky) and
Linn, and they charge a big 
premium for them compared to lossy album prices.

The last really good music retail store I was in was J&R Music World
back in the 1980's, when they 
had a huge rock/pop store that had tons of imports, DIY punk albums and
other interesting stuff and 
separate classical and jazz stores, all staffed by people who knew
music. If I had been 10 years 
older back then, I'd have had more serious cash to drop there and now
have a few thousand more LPs 
in the house. Tower in the village never held a candle, in my opinion,
although at least their 
prices were competitive and they had at least one copy of most
mainstream stuff. Virgin and HMV were 
jokes, overpriced poser stores in midtown.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dave Lewis" <dlewis@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 3:47 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Virgin Sacrifice

I was employed at the Virgin Megastore on Sunset Blvd. as their
classical buyer from 1995 to 1997, and I can wholly concur with what
Mike says below. People would duck into my classical room just to find
relief from the incessant throbbing, thumping, bumping of the main sales
floor; I once commented that it was like a war to the death between
squads of cybernetic robots.

Thanks for the link, Mike. This is a sad day for me, and for music
retail. I, at least, was older than 23 and I often trained staff to be
more respectful and knowledgeable on the floor, but there was such a
high turnover me and my older colleagues at Virgin could only do so

David N. "Uncle Dave" Lewis
Assistant Editor, Classical

Macrovision Solutions Corporation

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:ARSCLIST@xxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Michael Biel
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 10:27 AM
To: ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Virgin Sacrifice

Here is the link to the New York Times story with photos about the
closing of the last Virgin Megastores in the U.S. -- the last large
record store in NYC.

 (stitch these two lines together if necessary)

Leah and I were in the Union Square neighborhood a couple of weeks ago
and stopped in to see the ruins. Even then there was nothing much
worthwhile left to buy. The article mentions the shocking statistic
that album sales dropped 45% between 2000 and 2008, but that the Times
Square store's sales were still over $50 million annually, but that when
the Virgin chain was sold in 2007 to two real estate companies, the
stores were more valuable to their buyers for their real estate value.
The article doesn't mention it, but that the Tower chain had also been
bought for its liquidation value, and they would not consider allowing a
few of the stores to be bought by a group intending to keep them

The article states about Virgin: "Its first American store was opened in
1992 in Los Angeles, and it set itself apart from rivals by developing a
clublike atmosphere with booming sound systems and by offering steep
discounts." I have often said that the too-loud playing of really
offensive "music" was literally scaring away more paying customers than
it was attracting, especially in tourist heavy Times Square Broadway.
By 2005 even the industry gurus were noting that while the kids had
stopped buying physical media, old fogies like me were still buying the
actual artifacts. But by blasting obscenity-laden crap, er, rap, it
would repel those who might have come in and bought a ton of classical,
easy listening, jazz, classic rock, DVDs, and especial Broadway Show
Music. I watched tourists move away from the open front of the store as
they walked by. Occasionally even I decided not to venture in to run
the gauntlet to get downstairs to the lower floors where the Broadway,
classic rock, nostalgia, jazz, and classical sections were. The
Broadway Show section should have been in the upper front level, and
they should have been blaring out the South Pacific revival, or whatever
show was playing in the Marquee theatre across the street. Certainly a
high percentage of the heavy foot traffic past that store were tourists,
and a large percentage of them were there to attend a show. These
people still buy CDs. Kids don't.

As for discounts, I noticed that the prices there at Tower and Virgin
were no longer bargains in recent years, but as the article said, they
originally had been. For example, a few years ago I just happened to be
in the Colony store a few blocks Northwest on Broadway when the new CD
of the just-opened "The Producers" was hand-delivered by the distributor
salesman. They immediately put it up on the front counter at a high
price like $21.95. (The Colony is famous for its high prices.) A
little while later I stuffed some tissues in my ears and ventured into
Virgin and saw a display near the down escalator selling "The Producers"
at something like $14.95. But going into that store for a bargain was
like the challenges in that worthless TV show "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me
Out Of Here!"

But cost-cutting and mistaken emphasis in the youth culture resulted in
a staff that was never older than 23 with a resultant misunderstanding
of potential paying customers and under-stocking of the departments
these customers would be interested in.

Mike (I've bought 18 CDs in the past 3 weeks--none at retail) Biel

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