Friday, October 24, 2008

Indie Record Store Saga

An interesting article and a sign of the times:

As part of our ongoing Navigating Tough Times coverage, the Business Times asked a handful of small business owners to talk about how they are coping with the volatile economy.

Navigating Tough Times: Jerry Weber struggles to keep sales spinning in tough times

Pittsburgh Business Times - by Tim Schooley


Jerry Weber’s Squirrel Hill business has 1 million to 2 million albums for sale. He says the future of his business is online.

It’s an ongoing economic indicator about as subtle as a long, grinding scratch across pressed vinyl.

Jerry Weber is used to seeing people come to his Jerry’s Fine Used Records store on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill looking to make a customer out of him rather than vice versa.

“Not only are they not buying records off me, but they want me to buy records,” he said, of the 10 calls or more he gets each day. “I hear this a lot: ‘I’m streamlining, Jerry. I’m cutting back.’”

Such is life for Jerry’s these days.

Weber’s business has accumulated between 1 million and 2 million records, many of which are stacked floor to ceiling at his 13,000-square-foot retail store.
Now in business for “33 and a third” years and decades after LPs were replaced as a standard music medium, Weber recently turned 60.

He understands that many of his customers are his age and have bought all the records they’re likely to buy, and that his business model of buying 2,000 records each week and selling 200 to 300 would make any business major wince.

Last year, Weber grossed between $170,000 and $200,000. This year, he expects about $20,000 less.

More than the record owners looking to empty their attics, Weber is concerned about buyers from overseas, who visit his store to buy large quantities of records to take home to Europe and Asia and resell.

Those foreign buyers have been cancelling their trips lately because of the economy. He received a fax just the other day from a buyer from Europe cancelling a trip.

“This is a guy that would come over and spend $200, $300 or $400 dollars, it hurts losing him,” Weber said.

He sees limits to the adjustments he can make. Jerry’s already operates with only a few people. Running discount sales only prompts existing customers to come back for lower prices.

Last year, Jerry’s devised a plan to bring two other businesses — Dave’s Music Mine and Heads Together, an independent DVD rental shop — in to his store to share his space, reducing costs for all of them.

Yet Dave’s dropped out, unable to support a single employee, and Heads Together is struggling, Weber said.

Weber plans to work for a few more years and then turn the business over to his son, Willie. He expects the future of Jerry’s Fine Used Records to come from pursuing demand for its product on the Internet, selling to buyers throughout the world.

“That’s the only way I’ll be able to pay all the bills,” he said. “I have to change my whole outlook, and I’m not really looking forward to it.”

This Date In Music History- October 24


Birthday wishes to Rock producer Ted Templeman (Van Halen, Doobie Brothers, Captain Beefheart).

Edgar Broughton, the blues guitarist who led the band that bore his name, was born in England in 1947.

Bill Wyman, bassist of the Rolling Stones ("Brown Sugar") turns 72.

Santo Farina of Santo & Johnny ("Sleep Walk") is 71.


The late J. P. Richardson (AKA the Big Bopper-- "Chantilly Lace") was born in 1930.

The "TAMI (TeenAge Music International) Show" was filmed at the Santa Barbara, California Civic Center in 1964 with Jan & Dean, the Rolling Stones, Lesley Gore, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys and many others.

John Lennon sued the U.S. government in 1973, accusing it of tapping his phone and that he was under constant surveillance.

Maybe they should have called it Earth Day- In 1975, at Long Island, N.Y.'s Nassau Coliseum, James Taylor, Pete Seeger, and John McLaughlin performed at the First Planetary Celebration to promote awareness of global responsibility. The gig attracted only 4,500 people.

Bob Dylan re-recorded "Hurricane" in 1975, after earlier versions of his song about the imprisoned boxer misidentified a bystander in the bar where Hurricane Carter was alleged to have shot two men. It's his final session for the Desire album.

The British government presented Paul McCartney with a rhodium-plated medallion in 1980 for being named "the best selling songwriter and recording artist in history", by The Guinness Book of Records. Since 1962, McCartney wrote or co-wrote 43 million-selling songs and sold over 100 million records.

This silly music business- In 1988, opening arguments were heard in the case of Fantasy Records vs. John Fogerty. The label claimed Fogerty's solo recording "The Old Man Down the Road" sounded a little too much like his Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Run Through the Jungle," for which it owned the copyright. Fogarty eventually won.

The Beatles left Great Britain in 1963 for their first tour outside of their homeland. The Beatles leave for their first tour outside of England.

In 1970, U.S. President Richard Nixon appealed to radio broadcasters to screen songs with lyrics that urge drug use. It’s called censorship.

Madonna's album "Erotica" was released in 1992.

Elvis received his first letter from the local draft board in 1956 concerning his draft status.

Neil Sedaka recorded "Calendar Girl" in 1960, which will reach #4 in the US early the following year.

Brenda Lee reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the second time in 1960 with "I Want To Be Wanted". It was her fourth US Top Ten hit of the year, but only reached #31 in the UK.

Frank Sinatra had the #1 LP on the US album chart in 1960 with "Nice 'n' Easy".

In 1962, James Brown's appearance at the Apollo Theatre in New York was recorded for a live album called "Live At the Apollo". The LP would go on to sell over a million copies and earn a reputation for being one of the finest concert albums ever made and was listed at #24 in Rolling Stone Magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Pink Floyd were at the top of the UK album chart in 1970 with "Atom Heart Mother", the group's first #1 LP.

'Abraxas', Santana's second album, topped the album chart in 1970. Although it is a favorite of FM rock stations, it also yields a pair of AM hits in "Black Magic Woman" (#4) and "Oye Como Va" (#13).

Classic Rock Videos

Leslie Gore- You Don't Own Me

Album Cover Art

Continuing our look at's list of the most controversial, weirdest, best and worst album covers (as put together by their staff), we are now in the top 5!


5. Brujeria: ‘Matando Gueros’ – The debut album from this Mexican heavy metal crew shows a hand holding up mutilated, decapitated head against a white background. Add to this content that talked mostly of killing white Americans and crossing the border, resulted in the album being banned in many stores. Gee, I wonder why.



5. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: 'Trout Mask Replica' (1969) The third studio album by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. The album was produced by Frank Zappa, a friend and former schoolmate of Beefheart (also known as Don Van Vliet), and was originally released on Zappa's own Straight Records imprint in 1969. Combining blues-rock, psychedelic rock, free jazz, and other apparently disparate genres of American music, it is regarded as an important work of experimental music and appears at number 58 on the List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Schenkel created the artwork and design for Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, described by the BBC's DJ John Peel in these terms:

"If there has been anything in the history of popular music which could be described as a work of art in a way that people who are involved in other areas of art would understand, then Trout Mask Replica is probably that work."

And the critic Steve Huey wrote that the album's influence "was felt more in spirit a catalyst rather than a literal musical starting point. However, its inspiring reimagining of what was possible in a rock context laid the groundwork for countless experiments in rock surrealism to follow, especially during the punk/new wave era."



5. Europe – ‘The Final Countdown’: As Gigwise wisely states: "Everything about this cover wreaks of Eighties cheese and tackiness. The Swedish hair rockers may have produced one of the songs of the decade, but their artwork left a lot to be desired."

Europe is a Swedish rock band formed in Upplands Väsby in 1979 under the name Force by vocalist Joey Tempest and guitarist John Norum. Although widely associated with glam metal, the band's sound incorporates heavy metal and hard rock elements. Since its formation, Europe has released seven studio albums, three live albums, three compilations and seven videos.

Europe rose to international fame in the 1980s with its third album The Final Countdown, which became a high commercial success and sold over three million copies in the United States. Europe was one of the most successful rock acts of the 80's and sold over four million albums in the United States alone and over 10 million albums worldwide. The band has achieved two top 20 albums on the Billboard 200 chart (The Final Countdown and Out of This World) and two top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart ("The Final Countdown" and "Carrie"). From 1986 to 1992 Europe sold over 20 million records worldwide, making them the 4th most successful act from Sweden in history.



5. The Strokes: ‘Is This It’ – The album that has probably defined indie music since the turn of the millennium more than any other sports a cover of simple cheekiness.

Is This It is the debut album by the American alternative rock band The Strokes, released in 2001. The Strokes were the first band to break into the mainstream as part of the turn-of-the-millennium garage rock trend. After signing with RCA, the band went on the opposite way of recording adopted by traditional rock bands. Instead of doing their full-length debut in a professional studio, the Strokes instead opted to record in a basement on Manhattan's Lower East Side, to which they put the name Transporter Raum Studio.

Is This It is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 2000s. It was ranked 89th in a 2005 survey held by British television's Channel 4 to determine the 100 greatest albums of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 367 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In June 2005, the album was ranked number 100 on Spin's list of the "100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005". In July 2006, the album was ranked 48 on The Observer's list of 'The 50 Albums That Changed Music.' In November 2007 Q magazine rated it at 21 in "21 albums that changed music" In addition to being ranked among the greatest albums of all time, the non-U.S. version of the album cover has been ranked as one of the greatest album covers of all time. The U.S. cover is different; it features a photo of particle collisions in the Big European Bubble Chamber.

We have seen this cover before, why they (Gigwise) choose to 'recycle' covers for their list, is beyond me, I can think of a hundred covers better than this one.