The Death of Retail Music

In the last two weeks, I’ve been to three going-out-of-business sales. The first was Tower Records in New York, where I picked up the first 16 or so CDs listed here. Then, during my day-long layover in St. Louis, McMurray Music in St. Louis, where I bought an A/B switch and various other accessories (all the guitars were gone by that point). Side note: McMurray is affiliated with Brook Mays Music, whose store closing sale in Dallas I also recently attended. And last weekend I went to Millsap Music to find that they’ll be closed by Christmas. And, add to the list Sam Goody in McCain Mall, which I’m led to understand disappeared without a trace recently. No big clearance sale to say goodbye.

Whether it’s CDs or instruments, music stores across the nation’s larger cities are sighing their last. With the loss of Tower Records, retail CDs stores have officially died by the one-two punch of Best Buy and the Internet, while instrument retailers have been pounded to a pulp by the Internet and Guitar Center. Only small town stores like Harrison’s Guitarsmiths and Ashley Music have any hope of survival because they exist in a town too small for Guitar Center to reach. And even Guitar Center, I’m told by my sources, has not posted a profit in a very long time. Maybe it’s because musicians are by nature bargain-seekers. We’re not generally a demographic known for our petty cash. We’ll seek the bargains whererever they may be, be it Ebay or Amazon or somewhere else. The used guitar market in general has nearly dried up as people are learning that pawn shops and music stores will never give you a reasonable amount of cash for your instrument compared to Ebay.

For everything you gain, you lose something.