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."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."
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."
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).
Another Sactowner's perspective