« The coming of the "virtual concert"? | Main | A summer night's Figaro »

Tower Records -- an idea whose time has gone

August 21, 2006
tower.jpgOver at ionarts, jfl has a post on the "sad news" that  Tower Records is filing for bankruptcy. That's a shame -- I guess.  A decade ago you could always pass an interesting hour or two browsing the classical section of their DC store, which (as jfl points out) was pretty impressive in its day.

But frankly, there's a whole lot more to celebrate than to mourn.  Buying music online is so preferable in every way that it's hard to work up any real tears over TR's possible demise. I've bought hundreds of hours of music in the past year, but only set foot in Tower once -- and that was just to escape a downpour a few months ago.

And honestly? It just felt ... totally obsolete.  Stand around listening to snippets through greasy headphones that never work? How pleasant!  Confine yourself to whatever the store happens to have on the shelves, instead of the limitless depths of Amazon?  Very sensible.   Rely on the advice of a salesperson, rather than accessing  a thousand points of view online?  Riiiiiiight.  Buy a whole CD when you only want one piece?  Hey -- thanks!

The brave new world of online music is here, and I think most of us have never been happier. What's more satisfying than coming across a reference online to a particular piece, getting curious about it -- and then being able to instantly download it for a few pennies? (I use emusic a lot -- you can download their vast inventory for about 20 cents a track, with no DRM.) I'm feeling deliriously rich, with this near-infinite supply of recordings at my fingertips for a fraction of what I used to spend. Not to mention the  expanding universe of reviews, recommendations and suggestions from the musical cyber-community.

OK sure -- MP3's have their quality issues.  But recordings are mostly for study anyway.  And I'm absolutely ecstatic that it's finally possible for virtually anyone, anywhere, to dive into the world of classical music and explore it at a non-prohibitive cost.  It's the single best thing that could have happened, and I'm betting it will invigorate the music community in ways we can barely forsee. 

So, farewell, Tower Records -- R.I.P.

Posted on Monday, August 21, 2006 at 06:09PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | Comments3 Comments

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (3)

Your predictions for digital music at your fingertips are fascinating. Let's say goodbye, without sadness, to the $50 opera boxed sets.
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersfmike
Hi Mike -- I think we're really at the beginning of a revolution, and I love it! The recording industry has been operating under this outdated notion that people will only buy one or maybe two CDs a week, so they need to charge as much as possible for them.

But as prices drop, people aren't spending less -- they're buying more! The public appetite for new music is soaring, and people are much more willing to try new and unfamiliar music if the cost (ie, the risk) is reasonable. Good news for composers, performers and the music scene in general!

But I'm also hoping that audiophile recording -- SACD and so on -- takes off, as well. Low-cost MP3's are great for getting familiar with huge amounts of music, but there's definitely room for genuinely beautiful sound.
August 21, 2006 | Registered CommenterStephen Brookes
OK, I'll miss Tower a lot if it goes away. I can't ever get back those countless hours poring over the selection in high school, for example. And given the incredibly random metadata entry for classical CDs (screw the CCDB metdata regime!), it's harder to find what you want than it should be. Took me ten damn minutes of searching to find Philip Herreweghe's recording of Schubert's Ab mass on Amazon! Information superhighway my bunghole.

I rock eMusic (though mostly for popular stuff, as my tender ears hate MP3 artifacts on exposed high notes) as lustily as I drop the credit-card hammer on a Tower. But more retail options are always better.

And Tower's listening stations will actually let you listen to the entire damn CD for records selected by the store's staff. What better way is there to wait out a thunderstorm than by listening to the Takacs's recording of Op. 18 no. 1 in its entirety?
September 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLindemann

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.