Uh Oh, Uh Oh, Uh Oh, Oh No No
HOLLYWOOD - If the music industry circa 2008 had its own theme song, it would be angsty and jittery and built around a minor-key melody. There would be a steady, persistent drumbeat of negativity and more than a few discordant notes. The lyrics would be weirdly optimistic, though, with a chorus about new paradigms, new distribution systems, new opportunities, etc. (And what a lame and unwieldy chorus it would be.)
Still, it would be a dark and downcast song because because, as you might have heard, the music biz is in trouble. There's a bloodbath at some of the major labels (EMI is cutting as many as 2,000 music-related jobs worldwide), stock prices at Warner Music Group have bottomed out, album sales are continuing their eight-year decline, blah blah blah blah.
To industry outsiders, it's just numbers on paper, really - and maybe something for the schadenfreudists to get excited about. But there are a couple of very visible reminders here in this company town that all is not well in musicland.
The Tower Records shop on the Sunset Strip - once among the most famous music stores in the world, a place where Elton John was a regular and Brian Wilson showed up in his bathrobe; where Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart and other stars made regular promotional appearances - is boarded up now, its iconic yellow and red paint having given way to a somber shade of blue. Towers everywhere are closed, of course, but this one was always different, a symbolic and historic outpost.
A mile east on Sunset, the Virgin Megastore is closed, too, having sold its final CD last month; in the building's parking lot, the murals of Axl Rose and other music stars have been ignominiously painted over. The Virgin Megastore on Hollywood is still open, but music has ceded considerable display space to non-musical items - clothing, electronics and pop-culture ephemera, from "Scarface" dolls and Wii games to Blu-Ray players and Levi's 501 jeans.
At least the landmark Capitol Records tower still stands proudly at Hollywood and Vine. Of course, the building, which looks like a stack of 45s on a turntable, no longer belongs to Capitol: Its parent company, EMI, sold the building two years ago to a New York developer. Meanwhile, EMI has been consolidating its U.S. music division inside the tower. No word as to whether they're playing that angsty, jittery music-biz song in the elevators there.
By J. Freedom du Lac |
February 15, 2008; 12:12 PM ET
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