Amoeba Music Survives the Turmoil
By Tom Ryan
With a focus on supporting independent music and its broad selections,
California’s Amoeba Music has managed to steer through the upheaval in the
music industry that has led to the demise of competitors such as Virgin Megastores,
Tower Records and Sam Goody.
According to a profile in The Los Angeles Times, Amoeba Music is the
world’s largest independent record retailer, with close to one million albums
in three California locations — Hollywood, Berkeley and San Francisco.
The first store opened in Berkeley in 1990, the second in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury
district in 1995 and a third in Hollywood in 2001. Rolling Stone magazine
in September named it among the nation’s 25 best record stores, calling it "simply
the most thorough and welcoming place a record lover could hope to shop."
CD sales have been free falling in recent years with the ongoing shift to digital
for most of the industry, sales for Amoeba Music are more manageably down 10
percent to about $45 million this year from $50 million at the stores’ peak
a couple of years ago. Much of the decline is at the Berkeley store, where
students are more likely to steal downloads online. The L.A. store, its biggest,
has seen no decline.
The article stated that one reason it has survived is the independent
culture it has kept since opening its first store in Berkeley in 1990.
"When most of the chain stores moved into video displays that marketed
the latest hits, we’ve been adamant that independent artists have equal standing
next to major-label artists," Marc Weinstein, co-founder and co-owner,
told the LA Times. "We don’t put up major label displays on the
wall. We don’t sell shelf space. Never have. Our customers know that."
reason is its curated stock. While other record stores featured top-40 albums
and a small back catalog, Amoeba Music’s buyers have remained committed to
searching estate sales and buying used records.
its vinyl selection is helping make up for the decline in CD sales. The Hollywood
store sells about 1,000 vinyl records a day. Demand is strong for vinyl from
jazz collectors, DJs and even younger heavy-metal fans.
"Many of them are 18 or younger," Mr. Weinstein said. "It’s
a very artifact-oriented crowd that’s attracted to how these things looked
Discussion Question: Does Amoeba Music’s experience hold lessons for other