Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Tower Records Committed Suicide

The calamity caused by the liquidation of Tower Records doesn’t just consist of the 2700 workers fired and the dozens of small label releases that will lose their most important national outlet. It isn’t just that Tower will certainly take down with it some indie labels and distributors to whom it owed a fortune. It certainly isn’t just the eight-figure losses each of the major labels will absorb, probably resulting in more firings at those that aren’t already pared to the bone.

You’re going to feel the demise of Tower too, even if there isn’t a Tower anywhere near you. Tower died not because of illegal downloading or any other record biz boogeyman. What killed the chain, in the final analysis, is the breakneck expansion and consolidation of the past 20 years. Although Tower didn’t participate in the merger and acquisition of other chains which have led to so many other bankruptcies, it did attempt to spread tentacles coast to coast and continent to continent.

Tower CEO Russ Solomon is revered in the music industry. But why? In the name of profit, Solomon made Tower one of the chains that most avidly championed Tipper stickers and record label lyric screening committees. Combined with the equally crazy campaign to condemn fair use of copyrighted material to the dustbin of history, this shrewd maneuver choked the most exciting record-making climate since the dawn of rock’n’roll. Then he expanded his California business all the way to New York and Tokyo, without managing to figure out how to do anything but lose money.

Now, consider what you’ll do for an alternative. Probably, if you’re a big music fan, you’ll do more ordering from the Internet–meaning a wait of a day to a week before you can hear the music you’ve paid for.

What you won’t be doing is going to your town’s record store with the knowledgeable staff . That store doesn’t exist any more. Most likely, price competition from the chains drove it out of existence. So what we get out of the process is a temporary set of lowball prices, vastly fewer musical options, and a long-term lack of convenience and absence of expertise.

This phenomena operates throughout our society. It’s the reason airlines and oil companies, insurers and drug corporations, even electricity providers, jack up prices and strip down their services. Most of the time, the only people who come out smiling are the financiers, who peel off a part of every dollar in order to hire sometimes great artists to play at their birthday parties.

Tower Records was a poster child for “hip capitalism,” a fig leaf term meant to cover a system which justifies itself by providing “competition” that leads to “innovation”–until the reckoning comes and the cartel or monopoly begins to take shape, driving out all not on the inside. The idea that this has made our society wealthy, efficient and convenient is lunacy, as Tower’s demise confirms.

Tower Records was a suicide.

The choice we face is whether we’d like our entire society to do the same or whether we will begin working to change it fundamentally.

LEE BALLINGER is coeditor of one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, Rock and Rap Confidential, where this article originally appeared. He can be reached at: Rockrap@aol.com

For a free copy of the latest RRC issue, email your postal address to: RRC, Box 341305, LA CA 90034 or send an email to: Rockrap@aol.com

 

 

 

More articles by:

Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: rockrap@aol.com.

May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail