Perambulating the Bounds

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sad Day at Tower

So they’re liquidating liquidating Tower Records finally. Other than boutiques, used stores, and maybe mall stores, the record store is an outmoded economic form. Tower has seemed to be on its last legs for a long time. Whenever I went to the Opry location, there were far too few people on the floor for it to have any chance. I’ll buy a bunch of stuff over the next 9 weeks – I made my first trip today, but the discounts are only 10%. I’m betting a lot of the stuff I want no one else will want. Which is the whole problem, isn’t it.

It occurred to me that these next few weeks are going to be my last time shopping for classical music in Nashville. For rock and pop, and a bit for jazz, there’s Grimey’s, but they don’t really try to carry classical music. I wouldn’t if I were them. Sure I can get stuff on the internet, but there won’t be any bins of classical recordings worth running through. The classical section at Borders always seems crummy to me. I travel, so I can hit the classical music store in Berkeley, or Melody Records or Olsson's in DC (not sure how stable Olsson’s is). But it’s hard not to see the demise of Tower as a narrowing of classical music, with harder access when you leave major cities and university enclaves. Sure, the Nashville Symphony has opened a new hall, and it sounds like they are getting great houses. But they only need to sell 1,870 tickets to fill the hall. They don’t really need a broad audience, but a loyal audience that can afford it.

Tower is/was just a store, but its demise feels like a diminishment of cultural life.


  • I've wondered for years how Tower stayed open. You'd think that the West End store being right across the street from Vanderbilt dorms would easily prosper, but not so apparently. Seeing your post, I'm thinking about stopping in there as well to catch some deals. It seems almost a shame for me to patronize them when they're on the way out, but such is life.

    By Anonymous Brenda, at 2:32 PM  

  • Melody Records in DC doesn't count towards classical stores. Inventory is not so hot, and probably getting worse. When Golijov's album "Ayre" by Dawn Upshaw was fairly new they didn't have it (and hadn't heard of it). That was freakin' Dawn Upsahw and Golijov. Superstars. If they don't have that stuff, well, extraploate from there...

    I'm cuious to know how small "classical" stores like An Die Musik in Baltimore are doing? Seems to me that the underground / sub-culture niche-market model that served indie-rock so well would be a possible option for classical music?

    By Blogger Jon Morris (Matis), at 9:09 AM  

  • In a town the size of Nashville, I'm not sure you've got the critical mass of people who will spend money on classical music and who are frequenting the same parts of town to keep a small specialty store open. We don't have a lot of specialty stores -- there are several discotecas, there is a hip-hop store that's been around for years, a couple of country music specialty stores, and Grimey's, the local independent rock emporium, but I'm not sure any of those are exactly sub-cultural niches.

    The classical specialists I'm familiar with are the one in Berkeley I mentioned and one in Vancouver, and I don't know that they are necessarily rock solid financially.

    I figure the model for keeping classical music in circulation will be a bit different from what we've seen. Artists themselves are going to self-produce more. On-line may become more important, but I think there is room for an on-line retailer to emerge. Amazon very often cannot get fairly straight forward stuff -- my wife was trying to get me one of those William Christy recordings of French baroque opera, and they couldn't get it. I don't know what the inventory challenges are for companies trying to sell classical online.

    I also can see the possibility for a service more like a broker, that helps people sort through which recordings are good, the way experienced classical clerks in combination with the CD guides do, and can serve as a broker for the artist-produced recordings which might otherwise be available only on a thousand different websites.

    I see what you mean about Melody. Yeah, the section is small, but the last times I went there they did have a couple of Messiaen recordings I've had my eye on. But that's probably been a couple of years now, and it may have gone downhill.

    By Blogger David Maddox, at 5:01 PM  

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