Jazz music, news and views

Saturday, July 14, 2007

R5 Records

During a brief visit to my hometown, I dropped by the new R5 Records, a reincarnation of the recently dissolved Tower. Much is being made of founder Russ Solomon's stalwart brick-and-mortar mindset in the digital age, but I think it's too easy to view it as simply quixotic. There are plenty of people who prefer buying CDs in a record store, and it sounds like Solomon's focus is serving them, not necessarily winning over digital consumers. Of course, like anyone who values "the album" over "the single," his newest endeavor doesn't follow the trend, as he told The Sacramento Bee:
"I believe that there's life left (in the business)," he says. "There are things that need to be tried. And since I was preaching against a wall the last two years that what Tower was doing and what the industry was doing was misdirected and wrong, I owe it to myself and to the business to do it my way."

Solomon's way, as he puts it, "is getting back to the fundamentals. Our focus has to be on people who love music, giving them great variety at great prices."
He might not be able to compete with some of Amazon's prices, but the browsing experience is valuable enough for some consumers (and not just Tower loyalists like myself). Antony Bruno, senior writer for the digital section of Billboard said of stores like R5: "There's clearly room for good record stores... There will always be record stores that survive, because they know the area and the people and the music."

The store itself occupies the location of the original Tower Records at 16th and Broadway in Sacramento, which wasn't large, but it seems they plan to maintain a healthy inventory. The jazz section looked a bit thin, but there were signs throughout the store asking for suggestions of titles to carry, and there were carts of new albums waiting to be shelved, too.

The trend may be digital, but there are plenty of hangers-on like myself, and for now at least, that's the majority (though I guess there's no accounting for taste).

R5 Records
Sacramento Bee
Another Sactowner's perspective


  • At 7/23/2007 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Liked your piece about Tower. I used to work there, in corporate. Russ's new store is very much like Tower was, and I think it will actually be better with time. I am a huge consumer of prerecorded sound and it's great to have a decent catalog store in town again, especially for the lesser-known new releases you can't find at the other indies, where it's hit or miss with used catalog.

  • At 7/27/2007 11:26 AM, Blogger Kellen said…

    I'm sure it'll grow and improve, too. And you're definitely right about the unpredictable stock in indie stores.

    I have no qualms with digital audio formats, but there's nothing like walking the aisles and thumbing through random CDs. Tower was one of the few chains with a healthy jazz catalog. I can't tell you how much money I spent there in my early jazz-listening days because of all the Blue Note covers I'd find staring at me.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  • At 8/11/2007 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've been in there a few times. The best thing I can say about it, is that it's a work in progress. The one thing they need to do is be more selective about the music being played in the store. Last Saturday night the noise passing for music was unbearable,so I left. No shopping, no buying. I simply could not stand that shit being played in the store while I was there. If it affects the bottom line, it must be changed, period.

  • At 9/13/2007 9:06 PM, Blogger Robert said…

    I have a real soft spot for Tower and was sad to see it go away. When I was in high school in Macon, Ga., in the early '90s, it was a thrill to go to Tower Records in Atlanta. If you love music, then Tower was the adult equivalent of a giant toy store.

    I heard about R5 on NPR the other morning while waking up and was glad to hear that Tower is back in this form, however small it might be.

  • At 9/13/2007 9:10 PM, Blogger Robert said…

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Virgin Megastore in Chicago closed in July, seven months after the two Tower stores closed. I went to Borders today to look for the new Axe Riverboy album and couldn't find it. Sigh ... I guess I'll go online and buy it, but Virgin and Tower probably would've stocked it.


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