Now that Tower is gone ...

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Lance
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Now that Tower is gone ...

Post by Lance » Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:56 pm

... where are New Yorkers, Philadelphians, DCers, Atlantans, San Franciscans, Bostonians, and other former American Tower cities going now to pick through CDs? Obviously, one cannot do that on line (i.e. go through bins of discs just looking for items of interest), however, on-line buying has picked up considerably for places such as H&B, Arkiv, J&R and a few other places and collectors are going overseas╖or at least they were. I put together [only on paper] a rather large order the other day for CDs to be acquired from Europe or England and then made a price comparison between England and Germany. I was startled to see the difference from even late last year in the Euro and pound vs. the US Dollar. If one had a $200/USD order from England it was double-plus in US dollars (plus rather heavy postal fees); The Euro was 1.56 to the every US dollar. I also hear tell that major suppliers such as MDT-England and JPC-Germany are both down substanially on American orders. JPC at one time was offering a 6% discount on American orders, but that expired last year.

My Canadian friends are telling me that even though the Canadian dollar and US dollar are about on a par, the Canadians are still paying the same price. That is to say, the higher Canadian dollar is not saving the Canadians any money and the retail prices stay the same (substantially higher for the same product in the USA), which doesn't seem quite fair for the Canadians. Canadians are thus buying books and CDs in the USA now. This will surely hurt Canadian economy because it doesn't stop with CDs and books.

What's anybody's guess that the American dollar is going to be strong again -and when? The latest news indicates the nation is in truly a bad way financially. It could also eventually affect the economies of other nations in an equally bad way. America seems to exist mostly on credit cards these days - and interest rates are exorbitant. Shall we all dispense with our credit cards?
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Barry
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Re: Now that Tower is gone ...

Post by Barry » Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:59 pm

Lance wrote:... where are New Yorkers, Philadelphians, DCers, Atlantans, San Franciscans, Bostonians, and other former American Tower cities going now to pick through CDs? Obviously, one cannot do that on line (i.e. go through bins of discs just looking for items of interest) ...


This Philadelphian simply doesn't do it anymore. Maybe every once in a blue moon I'll stop into FYE, which took over the space of the last Center City Philly Tower, but their selection is so bad compared to what I was used to when Tower was in its prime, that I just generally walk out within a few minutes. I actually buy fewer commercial CDs than I used to. I download a lot of live performances or listen to them via on-line stream (I find it more exciting than listening to studio recordings at this point because there is always the element of surprise). But when I want something commercial, I generally go to Amazon.com and often get it used to save a few bucks. Browsing through bins is simply a thing of the past for me. I haven't even had much interest in Academy Records the last few times I was in NYC because the selection had gone so far downhill from what it used to be based on what I saw during my last several visits there.

I do miss it somewhat. Even after Tower had gone downhill, because of how close it was to where the Philadelphia Orchestra concerts are held, I still used to stop off there to browse a little late Saturday nights after leaving a concert as I was walking home. Although in later years, it had gotten to the point where I left the store without purchasing anything more often than not. FYE isn't worth it though; neither is the Borders across the street from it, which is even worse than FYE in terms of selection.
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Post by Febnyc » Thu Mar 20, 2008 6:40 pm

Manhattan suffers from the same malady as Barry describes in Philadelphia. One decent outlet is J&R Music World which, contrary to business trends, actually has, in the past year or so, expanded its classical CD department. But that's about the sum of it - unless, of course, one wishes to mention Academy Music, where used CDs are to be found. But even Academy (as Barry accurately notes) has reduced the amount of floor space allocated to classical discs.

I find myself buying specific CDs from a couple of domestic and three or four overseas online merchants. And it's expensive to grab the new releases from Europe when I haven't the patience to wait until the local websites offer them for sale.

No, the old days are exactly that - and "browsing" takes on a whole different meaning, doesn't it?

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Post by Imperfect Pitch » Thu Mar 20, 2008 9:09 pm

Here in Boston, we lost Tower and Virgin Megastore in quick succession. Now, all we have left (and someone please correct me if I'm wrong) is Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Newbury Comics. Orpheus is good for used. Around here, mall stores like FYE are useless when it comes to classical. Ditto for Best Buy, Target, etc. I order most of my music online now, but the experience - as Lance said - is not quite the same.

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    Post by Ralph » Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:11 pm

    It's J&R for me but I can get there at best once a month. It's amazing how much money I haven't spent since Tower went down. :)
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    Post by nadej_baptiste » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:04 pm

    Here in Seattle there's a place called "Silver Platters" -- when Tower went out of business they took over (most of) the main locations, and still offer basically the same stuff, with just as much variety.

    I guess the internet is really where it's at, huh? I don't like that.
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    Post by Barry » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:10 pm

    Seeing the west coast mentioned made me think of one place that I still find worth browsing, but it's on the west coast. There are actually three Amoeba Records stores; two in the San Fransciso area and one in L.A. They have a selection of used classical CDs that even surpasses Academy at its best; at least the Hollywood location does.
    Last edited by Barry on Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

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    Fugu

    Post by Fugu » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:16 pm

    nadej_batiste wrote:Here in Seattle there's a place called "Silver Platters" -- when Tower went out of business they took over (most of) the main locations, and still offer basically the same stuff, with just as much variety.

    I guess the internet is really where it's at, huh? I don't like that.
    Silver Platters only took over the Queen Ann store, but yes, that is the only game in town.

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    Post by dirkronk » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:18 pm

    In San Antonio, no new classical exists outside of Barnes & Noble and Borders...and my nearest Borders recently cut its CD area significantly, with the classical section now about 40 percent of what it once was.

    A chain of used CD stores--CD Exchange--used to mark most single classical discs at $5.99 or $7.99. Now they've "discovered" Amazon and eBay, and those same CDs are now being marked at amazingly higher prices. Senior staff there claims that they're supposed to be looking at the LOWEST online prices and marking DOWN from that point. But I've found literally dozens of examples where they've marked at the item at the HIGHEST price to be found (at least on Amazon). I mean...what? Do they think I can't get on the internet myself to check when I leave the store? Needless to say, much of their classical stock is distinguished by its ability to avoid being sold now.

    Half Price Books is about the only chain that still marks used classical product (and occasional special-purchase new) at anything close to reasonable prices.

    *sigh*

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    Post by nadej_baptiste » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:21 pm

    Fugu wrote: Silver Platters only took over the Queen Ann store, but yes, that is the only game in town.
    Oops!

    Hmm... could have sworn I saw one where a different Tower used to be...oh well...
    --Kamila

    Fugu

    Post by Fugu » Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:29 am

    nadej_batiste wrote:
    Fugu wrote: Silver Platters only took over the Queen Ann store, but yes, that is the only game in town.
    Oops!

    Hmm... could have sworn I saw one where a different Tower used to be...oh well...
    I don't know what happened to the U-District store, maybe that's the one.

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    Post by Jack Kelso » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:07 am

    Our place to find CDs is SATURN in Mannheim. It's got a far better selection than even Media-Mart----and what we don't find there we can order from them.

    We generally don't order online because it's difficult without credit cards, which we refuse to own. It's not so bad in Europe just paying cash.

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    Post by RebLem » Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:40 am

    Here in Albuquerque, Barnes & Noble and Borders have a few things, but I reserve them for when I have a gift certificate to redeem. I can usually find a little something or two I've been wanting, but its a search; they don't have that much.

    For me, its mostly buying online and from the Musical Heritage Society. BRO and Arkiv are my faves in the US, but I also have a special love for Buywell in W. Australia. There is lots of stuff on the Eloquence label that isn't available from any other source, and they're mostly pretty inexpensive, too. And Buywell gives great service.
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    Post by Seán » Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:23 am

    There are two Tower shops left in Dublin. I visit one of them on a weekly basis and buy most of my cds there. I use to buy Jazz cds but now I mainly buy classical records. The classical section is quite small so I expect that I will soon have to revert to buying cds online, I hate doing that. I love to spend a couple of hours browsing in the record shop and I always feel that it has been a waste of my time if I leave empty handed. I expect that Tower will soon go the way of most of the music retail outlets and end up just selling DVDs, but until then I will continue to do most of my shoping in Tower.

    It is depressing to read that there are very few good retail outlets in large cities in the U.S. Given the large urban populations I would have thought that there would be very large shops in these areas that sell classical records. I am surprised to learn that there isn't a market for these products.
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    Post by Seán » Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:28 am

    Jack Kelso wrote:Our place to find CDs is SATURN in Mannheim. It's got a far better selection than even Media-Mart----and what we don't find there we can order from them.

    We generally don't order online because it's difficult without credit cards, which we refuse to own. It's not so bad in Europe just paying cash.

    Tschüß!
    Jack
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    Post by absinthe » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:15 am

    I really miss the Tower at Piccadilly Circus. They cut back on their UK operations around 1999. Virgin bought the shop turning it into more of a pop shop. I used to buy most of my stuff at Tower, jazz classical and the more obscure "pop" I liked. (Once, HMV ruled the avant garde pop/indie scene but Tower took that over too.) We could import Jap reissues that always appeared way earlier than the european.

    I visit shops in France but they have nothing much. To be fair, they're trying to run commercially and couldn't hope to survive on the repertoire I buy these days. So it's on-line - MDT and Caiman when they have something.

    As for the economy, things will restore eventually. The cycle goes up and down. The present problems seem to stem from totally imprudent lending based on some disastrous bank practices like lending long-term on a base of short-term deposits; sometimes some totally stupid practices in the UK like mortgages of 125% the value of the property hocked at the very time it was obvious that the market couldn't go on inflating. Sub-prime itself is no problem with adequate risk assessment but knowingly selling mortgages beyond the reach of the mortgagors is asking for trouble. The bonds market and some "financial instruments" were inspired by greed that has now fallen foul. There are many components to the economic woes however. America's economic relations with China resulted in a huge liquidation recently to deal with the balance of payments just to think of one.

    And now Sterling seems pegged to the Dollar. The GBP->AUD, for example has dropped alarmingly in about a month from something like £1 = 2.60AUD to £1 = 2.00AUD and ok, they're having a bit of a boom in Australia at the moment but that much of a shift is worrying.

    Things will even out. At the moment it's extremely easy for America to sell abroad. Because we are taxed to the hilt in the UK thus having little pocket money, economic patriotism goes out of the window as we buy consumer goods from America whenever we can. Holidays in America are cheap, not so for Americans in Europe. But as investment in Europe starts to falter through an unsustainable exchange rate, it'll calm down a bit. I do hope!
    .

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    Post by Lance » Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:55 am

    absinthe wrote:[snipped] Things will even out. At the moment it's extremely easy for America to sell abroad. Because we are taxed to the hilt in the UK thus having little pocket money, economic patriotism goes out of the window as we buy consumer goods from America whenever we can. Holidays in America are cheap, not so for Americans in Europe. But as investment in Europe starts to falter through an unsustainable exchange rate, it'll calm down a bit. I do hope!
    Absinthe: Yours is the most optimistic reading I've seen yet on the subject. It was uplifting and a pleasure to read your thoughts on the matter! We shall all keep fingers crossed.
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    Post by Imperfect Pitch » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:12 am

     
    Febnyc - I used to live in NYC and I remember the Juilliard bookstore had a decent CD selection focusing on smaller labels; I wonder if it still does. The B&N across the street had a good selection of more mainstream stuff, and the Met had an OK bookstore with some CD's. But nothing topped Tower/Lincoln Center, which had lots of classical videos in addition to a superb classical CD section (with a stand-alone room for opera).

    Barry - You're right, the L.A. Amoeba is great. I can't remember their classical section per se, but the overall selection is staggering and it's a fun store. The one is S.F. is less impressive but also good.

     

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    Post by Ralph » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:18 am

    Imperfect Pitch wrote:
    Febnyc - I used to live in NYC and I remember the Juilliard bookstore had a decent CD selection focusing on smaller labels; I wonder if it still does. The B&N across the street had a good selection of more mainstream stuff, and the Met had an OK bookstore with some CD's. But nothing topped Tower/Lincoln Center, which had lots of classical videos in addition to a superb classical CD section (with a stand-alone room for opera).

    Barry - You're right, the L.A. Amoeba is great. I can't remember their classical section per se, but the overall selection is staggering and it's a fun store. The one is S.F. is less impressive but also good.
    *****

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    Post by Febnyc » Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:56 pm

    Imperfect Pitch wrote: 
    Febnyc - I used to live in NYC and I remember the Juilliard bookstore had a decent CD selection focusing on smaller labels; I wonder if it still does. The B&N across the street had a good selection of more mainstream stuff, and the Met had an OK bookstore with some CD's. But nothing topped Tower/Lincoln Center, which had lots of classical videos in addition to a superb classical CD section (with a stand-alone room for opera).

    Barry - You're right, the L.A. Amoeba is great. I can't remember their classical section per se, but the overall selection is staggering and it's a fun store. The one is S.F. is less impressive but also good.

     
    Ralph replied re the Juilliard bookstore. The B&N still exists across Broadway but, in my opinion, their prices are ridiculous in most cases. The Met store and the Lincoln Center store in the underground passageway both are expensive and not too well stocked - especially for non-mainstream recordings. And we mourn for the Tower/Lincoln Center which was the best by far.

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    Post by Barry » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:00 pm

    Imperfect Pitch wrote: ...Barry - You're right, the L.A. Amoeba is great. I can't remember their classical section per se, but the overall selection is staggering and it's a fun store. The one is S.F. is less impressive but also good.
     
    I remember going to the Hollywood store with a list of hard-to-find CDs and I found I think all of them except for one, and a couple things that I almost never see around here were there in multiple copies.
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    Post by Darryl » Fri Mar 21, 2008 5:03 pm

    We had a Tower here in Dallas, but it gradually went down with the others several years ago. The website is now just a front-end to Caiman.com, also selling on Amazon. I've been shopping on-line exclusively for several years. I like MDT for fast fulfillment, but as Lance said, they've been expensive the last few years. HMV Japan, whom I've been using for some things over the past year, is even more expensive, primarily because they only ship USPS Express. Customs is usually the bottleneck for Japanese imports, but they can get here within 3 days of shipping. I also have an account with Alliance Entertainment, a wholesaler that provides product for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. They require a $150 minimum, and have only some imports, so I don't use them much. All told, I think the low bidders on the Amazon Marketplace are the best deal. As for picking through bins, it don't happen here anymore either.

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    Post by Wallingford » Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:16 pm

    Fugu wrote:
    nadej_batiste wrote:
    Fugu wrote: Silver Platters only took over the Queen Ann store, but yes, that is the only game in town.
    Oops!

    Hmm... could have sworn I saw one where a different Tower used to be...oh well...
    I don't know what happened to the U-District store, maybe that's the one.
    Nope, it's the Queen Anne store. And SP doesn't have nearly as much to offer the classical buff as it does the pop or jazz buff. I stick with online (when I'm not prowling the used-LP bins).
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    Post by Auntie Lynn » Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:01 am

    Here in San Francisco, the loss of Tower was a heartbreaker. Not only did they have WONDERFUL help at the store at Columbus and Bay, but the ancillary products - books, magazines, academic helps (nope, no Cliffs Notes) was just outstanding. Got my LAST copy of the Schwann there, changed my life when they went out of business. Needed it bad! Anyway, Crochet and Amazon try to help me out. Amazon tracks your interests and e-mails you when something new pops up.

    Obviously, most of my music-buying $$ goes to Sheet Music Plus, Hutchins and Rea and that legendary shop in NY which name escapes me. Amazon helps with the fake books.

    The SF Symphony boutique stocks a pretty good, but limited supply. Star Music over on Hayes and the big sheet music store have also disappeared. Hope it's not a sign of the times...

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    Post by slofstra » Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:25 am

    Lance is correct about Canadian pricing. Books and CDs in Canada have generally been priced at a 25-30% premium reflecting a 65-70 cent (US) Canadian dollar. Our dollar has been close to par for over a year and the premium has not come off.
    Really this means a 25-30% saving from the prices I'm used to, when I purchase in the U.S.
    I have switched my ordering to arkiv from amazon for the most part. Arkiv improved their search, and is now much 'cleaner' than trying to find items at amazon. As well, Amazon's shipping charges to Canada have tripled.
    And BRO is fantastic. I've been pretty pleased with my purchases there. I keep meaning to buy from H&B Direct but have not yet.
    But I do miss the semi-annual or annual trips to HMV on Yonge Street in Toronto; I can't bother now as the selection is too poor. I used to enjoy browsing through the CD racks, but my want list exceeds my time available for listening so again - why bother. In fact, I can have a "mini" shopping experience every time I go through my unopened CDs and pick one to play. (I try to keep the backlog manageable, but it's also nice to always have something 'new' to listen to).

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    Post by Ralph » Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:45 pm

    Febnyc wrote:
    Imperfect Pitch wrote:
    Febnyc - I used to live in NYC and I remember the Juilliard bookstore had a decent CD selection focusing on smaller labels; I wonder if it still does. The B&N across the street had a good selection of more mainstream stuff, and the Met had an OK bookstore with some CD's. But nothing topped Tower/Lincoln Center, which had lots of classical videos in addition to a superb classical CD section (with a stand-alone room for opera).

    Barry - You're right, the L.A. Amoeba is great. I can't remember their classical section per se, but the overall selection is staggering and it's a fun store. The one is S.F. is less impressive but also good.
    Ralph replied re the Juilliard bookstore. The B&N still exists across Broadway but, in my opinion, their prices are ridiculous in most cases. The Met store and the Lincoln Center store in the underground passageway both are expensive and not too well stocked - especially for non-mainstream recordings. And we mourn for the Tower/Lincoln Center which was the best by far.
    *****

    The underground passageway store at Lincoln Center was demolished over two months ago to make way for the new garage ramps.
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    Post by Imperfect Pitch » Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:34 pm

    Ralph wrote:The underground passageway store at Lincoln Center was demolished over two months ago to make way for the new garage ramps.
    I remember that store. It was very odd - not really connected to anything, just kind of exiled in the cold basement of Lincoln Center. The only time I'd ever see it was on my way to or from the 1/9 train.

     

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    Post by dirkronk » Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:41 pm

    Auntie Lynn wrote:Here in San Francisco, the loss of Tower was a heartbreaker.
    Yep. Last two or three times my wife and I went to SF, we gauged the gradual demise of the Tower classical annex. Last time was several years back and its stock had dwindled to about half of its original size, maybe even less. Sad to think it's totally gone now.

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    Post by Guitarist » Mon Mar 24, 2008 2:04 am

    The Virgin Records in SF on Market St. is not bad...not close to the Tower Annex in its prime, but it has a decent selection.

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    Post by dirkronk » Mon Mar 24, 2008 9:24 pm

    Fugue wrote:The Virgin Records in SF on Market St. is not bad...not close to the Tower Annex in its prime, but it has a decent selection.
    Yes, I went in there a couple of times on our last visit, bought a couple of items. I just liked the Tower atmosphere better--and Tower's cutouts were WAY cooler. In terms of used stuff, the Rasputin near Virgin Records and the Amoeba by the park (didn't get to the one across the bay) were both miles ahead of the Wherehouses I managed to visit. Now that I think of it, I bought quite a few CDs on that visit...

    :wink:

    Dirk

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