Could Tower Records Resurrect Itself Today?

I’m sure exactly when the coining of “third places” occurred, but I do believe it’s real–the idea that people have a need for a cozy, appealing space where they can be next to people they don’t necessarily know or interact with. After college, Tower Records was definitely such a place for me, and watching this reminded me of this.

Based on what I gather from the film, Tower Records did not need to go out of business. For one thing, if they had made a transition to online music streaming, thinking they could still be here seems reasonable. On the other hand, I believe they filed bankruptcy in the mid-2000s, and this was before a lot of music streaming sites like itunes. Made going to a music streaming wasn’t viable at the time. But even if you put that aside, there are other, perhaps more critical reasons they went out of business…con’t.

3 thoughts on “Could Tower Records Resurrect Itself Today?

  1. (con’t)

    According to the film, Tower Records overextended their business, borrowing a lot of money to build more stores. This created a huge debt for the company. Additionally, while they made the transitions to cds quite successfully, they made critical errors later on. For example, they didn’t try to allow songs to be sold individually–or at least they never attempted to make this happen, primarily because they benefited from customers having to buy an entire album. This proved short-sited especially when internet sites like napster allowed people to get individual songs for free. At this point, I think Towers should have adapted by either working with record labels to sell songs individually, or lowering the cost of cds. I know for me, I thought the cost of cds was too high, especially since there were used and online stores with much cheaper prices. Even at the time, I was a bit surprised they never changed their prices. I almost never bought something there unless there was a really great sale, or I happened to find something I couldn’t get anywhere else (which was pretty rare). I spent a considerable time in their stores, but I almost never bought anything. And the prices of the cds were the main reason for this. (The same applied to Border’s, too.)

    So here are some questions: Would Tower Records still be in business today had they lowered their prices and then eventually had a online streaming service? More specifically, I’m interested in whether they could re-open a brick-and-mortar store now.

    The last question may not seem interesting, as the odds of success seem so low. But let me lay out a case for this by going over some of the strengths or potential strengths a store like this:

    1. The need for a third places is significant. If this weren’t true, I don’t think there would be so many Starbucks. I suspect the malls in Hawai’i would not be doing as well, too. Businesses that can become a third place can be economically viable, if not very profitable.

    2. In my view, with the right business, generally one conducive to being with other people, and the design of the built environment, are the two elements that can build a successful third place. For the first point, one storefront that attracts people can have a spillover effect to other businesses around it. Think of businesses around a movie theater.

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