Another Indie Record Store Learns To Adapt

from the good-news dept

While Tower Records collapsed when they weren’t flexible enough to cope with the opportunities (and challenges) presented by the internet, we’ve pointed out repeatedly that doesn’t mean all music stores need to go out of business. Independent music stores, in particular, have done a much better job figuring out how to adapt in the changing world. Some have become more like clubs that also sell music. Others have become their own record labels or destination sites. This difference between indies and dinosaurs like Tower may be most clearly demonstrated by the store Other Music, a popular indie record store in the East Village of Manhattan — right across the street from where a huge Tower Records was. Going to Other Music is like a pilgrimage for many people — though, a potentially disconcerting one, as it’s not organized like other record stores. However, Wired News has an interview with the owner of the store about its efforts to offer its own online download store. They’ll be selling completely DRM-free MP3s, recorded at 320 Kbps. However, more importantly, it looks like they recognize where their value comes in: in recommending good music. With so much music out there, Other Music’s focus has always been on cutting through the crap and pointing you to the really good stuff — and they’re looking to do the exact same thing online. In other words, they’re looking at where they can actually add value and going there, rather than fretting about how their existing marketplace has been shifting away from CDs.

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Comments on “Another Indie Record Store Learns To Adapt”

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Michael Long says:


In many ways the article slant here seems schizophrenic to me. On one hand, we’re supposed to be happy that a store is attempting to compete by offering value.

OTOH, that value is based on selling high-bitrate MP3s that can be placed on a torrent as fast as the first copy can be purchased, and based on information (e.g. ratings and recommendations) that can be mined, or simply used as a tool to find what’s hot so it too can be torrented.

OTOF (on the other foot), if the store is successful in its approach and sells a virtual ton of MP3s, then that tends to shoot a hole in that entire zero-scarcity argument, since apparently people are willing to pay for music, and do so directly. The fact that they also have recommendations is a mote point: EVERY online store of any size, from iTMS to Amazon and on down has them.

Or to quote a famous philosopher, “A difference that makes no difference is no difference.”

misanthropic humanist says:

Re: Schizophrenia

In many ways the article slant here seems schizophrenic to me.

I’m in two minds about that. ITOM I am happy because they’ve already proved a business model by surviving for 10 years. That model is a selective aggregation and filtering, read “tastefullness”. People will pay for taste, like a good quality tea. But, as your voices are telling you, if they go to the net then that taste is infinitely replicatable at zero cost. It almost only works because they are a (physical – brick and mortar) store.

“A difference that makes no difference is no difference

That was Newton on the differential limit right?

Bookman says:

What drives file-sharing?

That’s a question worth asking when discussing DRM-free content. I seriously doubt that there are many “let’s-screw-the-artists” types out there file-sharing, and, of course, there are the “who-cares?-it’s-free-to-me!”, but I suspect that there are a _lot_ of “let’s-screw-the-evil-corporation” types. Just how much file-sharing is driven by those on a crusade? How many people would be happy enough to pay, without the corporate hoops (DRM, et alia)? Does anyone know?

Of course, this is based on my own presumtion: that most folks are basically honest. Anyone who holds the opposite opinion is likely to draw other conclusions. Still, I do think it’s worthwhile to ask just how much the corporate attempt to rigidly control music is driving the culture that’s fighting to prevent that control.

I suspect that if this were strictly artists vs. file-sharers, the FS’s would simply be called “thieves”.


Dan says:


Here’s where we see how adaptation works in the wild. There are “Mom and Pops” of every variety that have been known to cry foul when the chains roll into town. They claim the chains have massive buying power which allows for them to buy the product cheaper, and thus sell it cheaper (much like the MPAA/RIAA’s “compete with free” argument). While they wave their arms complaining how they can’t survive against cheaper, they go out of business, giving them the last “Ha, I told you!”
Those that survived have survived by adapting, or at the very least recognizing where they do add value, and holding firm to those tenets. They recognize that there’s more than just having the lowest price, that service is worth something. Deal with the threat once (chain store opening up across the street) and the next “threat” (online “pirates”) don’t seem so threatening, because you already have your “identity” (that which brings people to your business over someone else’s) established, as this article says.
Whether music has DRM in it does not change the behavior of those buying. For those who buy to share, having DRM-free music reduces the number of steps to share the music (it’s not like it’s impossible), but it doesn’t change the fact that people who are sharers share and people who aren’t, don’t. The MPAA/RIAA could learn a lot from these Indies that have survived…

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