The music is dying

LIQUIDATING A LEGEND<br>A man holds a sign advertising Tower Records’ going-out-of-business sale on the corner of Second and Main streets.

A man holds a sign advertising Tower Records’ going-out-of-business sale on the corner of Second and Main streets.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

The musical mood around Chico is about to change. Tower Records will soon close its doors for the last time, leaving a gaping hole in the heart of downtown.

The man who has probably spent more time than anyone in the iconic store is Lynn Brown. His 30th anniversary was set to come up in December.

“I was hoping to make it to 30 years,” the manager said from the office behind the new-music half of the store. Above him rested a board covered in employee names and photos.

“I feel sad for my employees,” he said. Thirteen people will soon be out of jobs. “I’m going to miss the music and my family here.”

After much speculation about the future of Tower Records—the Sacramento-based company filed for bankruptcy in August—it was put up for auction. Great American Group had the winning bid, at $134.3 million, but rather than keeping all or any of the stores open, it decided to liquidate. That means getting rid of all inventory and closing the 89 locations in the United States.

“It’s different from liquidating a furniture store,” said Peter Berkow, local video producer and musician. “It’s people’s art—their heart and soul.”

It is unclear what will happen to CDs from small record companies and local bands. As far as Brown knows, the money from those sales will go to the liquidator.

“In the past, when Valley Music Distributors [of Woodland] went out of business, the smaller musicians lost thousands of dollars because their inventory was lost,” Berkow said. So it’s more than just the local music lovers who will lose in a few weeks or months when Tower shuts its doors. “The picture’s not good for small record labels.”

It’s especially hard because Tower was one of the last big record chains with a deep catalogue. Best Buy and Wal-Mart (who Tower blamed in part for its downfall) typically carry what’s hot and new, not a smaller artist’s first album from 10 years ago.

“It breaks my heart,” Raymond Smith said about Tower’s closing. He shops at the store’s Chico location and, before that, did so in Southern California. He expects he’ll travel all the way to Sacramento for his music needs in the future because “there’s nothing else in Chico.”

Brown, while he said he loves Melody Records, agreed.

“I don’t know what this town is going to do without a really good record store,” he said.