Two of Los Angeles’ biggest indie record stores -- Sea Level, lodged in the Echo Park neighborhood, and Santa Monica’s ancient second-hand emporium House of Records -- have both closed their doors for the last time. But guess what, avid industry watchers? Neither of the closures, apparently, have got anything to do with you evil download-doers and your thieving ways. And there’s no connection to the arrival in LA in 2001 of the ultra-indie Amoeba.
Indeed, contrary to what you might expect, Sea Level has actually seen an increase in its sales the past couple of years. The problem with Sea Level, at least, seems to be that boss-man Todd Clifford has gone all old and nasty on your pimply and pert little indie asses. Time was he would show MUCH love to all those who would come in and buy Zwan vinyl.. then, I dunno, it sounds like something just snapped -- now things have changed somewhat. “Now, when customers come in, I'm like, 'Just buy it and leave,'" he says. "This isn't a job where I should wake up and say, 'I don't want to go to work.' "
So, Todd decided that he wasn’t going to bother going to work anymore, and the shop recently closed. You can understand where the dude is coming from, right? Owning a successful indie store in one of the most interesting LA neighborhoods would drive me to self-mutilation at an absolute minimum. Better off for all concerned to get as far away from that shit as you can, Toddy.
House of Records has a similar sort of story; shop seems to have been doing good enough money-wise, but owner Philip Smith sounds like he’s simply had enough of running the store he’s owned since 1991. He reckons the second-hand music business is best left to those who excel at “being a hustler.” Somewhat more sinisterly, he opines that “...the business isn't going to walk in the door anymore. It has to be pursued." This sort of makes me imagine being furiously chased down the street by a gigantic, animatronic version of the face off the front of R.E.M.’s Monster CD should I even dare to pass by the store without at least popping in. I can totally understand Mr Smith’s wish to not be involved in that sort of thing a moment longer. It is evil.