Needless to say, record stores are generally having a tough financial time of it these days, and it seems that owners are left with more or less two options to prolong their survival: coax the general public into the store with aromas of delicious food, such as pizza or popcorn, known for their attractive tendencies; or, traverse into the digital world, toward which the market has consistently been moving over the past decade or so.
If there’s any music shop capable of effectively making this transition without hastily receiving a metaphorical boot to the neck by the iTunes Store, it’s the California-based chain Amoeba Music, known for their mammoth physical collections on display in Hollywood, Berkeley, and San Francisco. As Variety reports, the store launched the beta version of their revamped website on October 2 of last year, and contained within it are some tremendous appeals to audiophiles and fans of rarities alike.
The new Vinyl Vaults section makes available for download thousands (okay, at the moment, there are only about 1,000) of rare and out-of-print LPs, and more are being added each day, often with brand new remasters. On the rare side, I’ve discovered the Satanic musings of televangelist Jack Van Impe on the spoken word LP Demons and Exorcism!, and more to the liking of those who don’t buy records for sampling or irony’s sake, there seems to be quite a few singles from jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Browse for yourself, why don’t you? The price-per-track depends on the format; it’s 78¢ for individual Mp3s, 80¢ for lossless M4As, and $1.50 for WAV files.
The rebirth of amoeba.com, which coincided with both the new Vinyl Vaults section, as well as the store’s digitization of more well-known albums, took a full six years of work, and was handled inhouse by around 200 people, at an estimated cost of $11 million. Sales numbers for Amoeba were flat over the past two years, but co-owner Marc Weinstein elaborates on just how much green presidential blood has been spilt in the process of this undertaking: “Every bit of profit we’ve had for the past few years has gone into trying to build this thing, to get to where we’re at now.”
The goal, according to (also) co-owner Jim Henderson, is to have to a website that “helps prop the stores up.” Let’s hope, for the sake of music fans, and for the sake of the long-term mental stability of Amoeba’s owners, that they succeed.
• Amoeba: http://www.amoeba.com