November 11, 2010

Another Nail On The Coffin? The Music Retail Business Scene.

A future without music retail therapy ?

The music retail scene in Malaysia is depressing. In the last few years, we have seen the lost of Salem Power Station, Tower Records, and many smaller scale music retail shops, owned by music loving folks like my buddy James. His shop, Action Valley Trading, folded sometime earlier this year. James told me that his music business revenue has been on the decline since year 2005. James is now a successful financial and wealth management adviser.

Quite sometime ago, we also noted with sadness that Borders chain book store in Malaysia had decided to stop selling music and movies to reduce floor space, hence lower cost of rental to concentrate on selling books and other print ables only.

Today, I see MPH bookstores clearing their music and movie inventories, in a similar move like Borders, to sustain book sales. With that, it got me doing a count on what's left of the music retail scene in Klang Valley, which yours truly resides.

We are now left with the following music retail that I know of, while my list may not be comprehensive, please feel free to update any other music store that you as our dear reader know of and still in a healthy state of operation, that I have missed out.

1) Victoria Music, located at mainly Sg Wang Plaza, Amcorp Mall and Atria Shopping Centre. Stock quite a variety of music and staff are generally helpful. Will also special order for you if not available locally with a small deposit.

2) Rock Corner, located at Subang Parade, I Utama BU, Mid Valley Mega Mall and perhaps, other places I am un aware of. Have just as great variety of music, but with larger audiophile music section. They've got a great inventory database search system, if their staff available then is helpful enough(the guys in 1 Utama BU are normally pretty good). Otherwise the staff can be sometimes be non-attentive, especially at the Subang Parade branch, where they stock a decent variety of non-audiophile rock/pop LPs. Which is a shame!

3) CD Rama @ Popular Book Store, located in every Popular book store. Their specialty is Chinese audiophile CDs from China. They are also very supportive of Pop Pop Music releases. Most of their part timer staff is however, unhelpful(they tried to help but knows little about music or what they have in store). In other words, you're pretty much on your own and what you see is what you probably get!

4) Love Music, located in Ampang Park, one of the very first retail complex in KL, the store is small, but stocked full of music, from floor to ceiling! And should you not find the title you want, they can order for you with a small deposit. The lady boss is enthusiastic and extremely helpful.

5) The flea market stores @ Amcorp Mall every week ends. Most of these stores sells used CDs and LPs. Most of the used LPs there are of the horrible sounding Australia/New Zealand pressings. There are 2 exceptional stores, one on the 3rd floor just next to the escalator maned by a young chap that sells mostly good condition CDs, and other on the LG concourse, maned by an older gentleman that sells mostly audiophile grade LPs.

6) Various Hifi-Outlets now selling audiophile music. I hate to say, but this is where I get most of my music now days. Sad to say, my relationship with hifi stores is better than with music stores! I find most hifi stores like A&L Audio Station, CMY Audio & Visual, Nova Hifi and Center Circle Audio to have most music I want to buy in stock. Surprisingly, these people do know non-chart music better than most of the music retailers mentioned above.

In the past two years, I've bought nearly 50% of my music from Amazon web store on the www. I've also bought some of my music overseas when I am traveling. So not surprisingly the local music retail industry is not doing well, that is, if I am a representative of a typical audiophile, the last small bunch of paying customers for music that we consume.

If audiophiles typically make up of 5% of total music market customer. Of these 5%, if 50% bought stuff from the Internet or overseas, that really says something about the reality and viability of music retail sales. That means, despite a drop in purchasing customer, the local music industry is just not stocking the right merchandise perhaps for this group of customer? Well, maybe the 5% audiophile music market really means nothing to them?

I do not have any answers or remedies to the problems faced by our music retail industry. All I know is that the middle aged audiophiles are quite possibly the last batch of paying customers for music, because most youngsters I know today are raised on the environment of free downloads! Once it's free, most people don't really mind if it's MP3 or high rez files, especially when music is played back on iPods, PCs or laptops! It's just good enough.

I also think on the whole, the world wide music industry is on a slow, down ward spiral, with instantly manufactured artist like Lady GaGa, Justin Bieber and all those other guys disguised as rappers. I surely doubt if any one of them would be remembered in twenty years time! They're just too forgettable and their music too disposable. I do not see any future Elvis, The Beatles, Micheal Jackson, or even a Miles Davis in any of today's artist, in terms of musical relevance. Despite that, I think Taylor Swift and Maroon 5's chart music is pretty cool.

It's a sad, sad time for today's music industry indeed.


Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Big E,

IMHO, it needn't be all gloom and doom.

It is just time for media companies to reinvent themselves. Why not create an online download system where Gen. Z downloaders can access. It is all about beating the system, convenience, low cost and cutting edge technology for this group of people.

Currently, they are actually ahead of the system if they do that as I am not sure if Malaysian government has any legislation on download guidelines.

That way CD stores can consolidate their business to cater for audiophiles, collectors,classical music afficionados or just simply mainstream music lovers.

Drubb said...

Big E,

The future is in hi-rez downloads. CAS (computer as source) will become more popular. There will be newer and better Media Control software as well as USB/Firewire interfaces. This will be the successor to CD music and there is no stopping the trend. Gone are the days when artists like the late Michael Jackson would rake in millions on CD sales alone.
Someday soon, some homegrown entrepreneur will start selling copies of downloaded hi-rez 24/96 and 24/192 files all compiled on DVDs. Nothing too difficult for Malaysians.

Pet Shop Boys said...

good writing.

I like to shop in Rock Record Bangsar. Thats the best rock Record in town i think. if not i''ll going to Amazon like u did.

Big E said...

Hi guys!

Music retail therapy is one of my favorite past times. I used to love going in to Victoria Music and sample CD after CDs, sometimes for a few hours long. That kinda changed when they only allow testing of 3 CDs at once under supervision. I do not like to sample music under that kinda of spotlight.

I can understand from the shop owner's point of view, if I had sample music for hours and end up buying only 1 CD, I'd certain be in the way when other customers want to sample CDs.

Rock Corner has a similar rule, again I just can't hack the spotlight, as it always makes me have to buy at least one CD before walking out because I didn't want to disapoint the staff supervising me.

Buying music locally allows me to take my music home right away, mostly I'd start playing them imeadiately in the car on the way home.

Buying from can be an ok experience, only if you know what you're looking for. They have 30 sec track samplers, but 30 sec is too short to make out anything, especially with soundtracks and classical music. Plus you pay premium for shiping, sometimes more than the CD it self! Then only to face the uncertainty of arrival in the next few weeks, or perhaps never if one is unlucky.

That's why, I feel lost and perhaps grieve, when another music store closes down.

But that's life, and nothing is ever certain, except change it self.

Joseph said...

Hi Big E, checkout I have purchased quite a substantial number of products from them. I'm pretty satisfied.