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  1. #1

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    All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    The day of great music stores are gone, mainly thanks to digital downloads and that Wal-Mart that only sells the top 20 (BORING). With some exceptions of course, like Amoeba Music. Anyway, a documentary has been made by the son of Tom Hanks, Colin Hanks (grew up in Sacramento) about the cultural impact of Tower Records.

    My hometown Sacramento, Ca doesn't get a lot screen time and being it was the birthplace of Tower Records, I get a kick out of it...
    http://kck.st/ko9cSR
    If the video doesn't work, check out the source: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records by Colin Hanks — Kickstarter
    The Tower Records story is about a man, his company and the unprecedented economic and cultural impact it had on the music industry and people around the world. Tower Records begins with the man who created it… Russ Solomon.

    From an early age, Solomon had a special love of music, a dynamic personality and the inventiveness of a crafty entrepreneur. His first job was sweeping floors in his father’s drug store, located in the Tower Theater building, in the sleepy northern California town of Sacramento. Still a teenager, Solomon had the idea to sell discarded record singles from the counter-top jukeboxes for 5 cents a piece. His father gave him a shelf in the back of the drug store and this became the training ground for Russ Solomon, the young man, who would one day create a Billion dollar a year music empire.

    From the opening of the first Tower Records in 1960, Solomon empowered employees at each store to make the decisions necessary to help foster the local music taste. This leadership style gave each Tower outlet a great sense of individuality and to its employees a great sense of responsibility and pride, not often found within the "corporate" environment. Tower records helped lay the groundwork for what would become the modern music retail business and in the year 2000 alone, the company did over one billion dollars in business.


    From a cultural standpoint, Tower Records had a monumental impact on millions of people, worldwide. It was “the place” to escape for a few hours; a sanctuary, a haven. Tower Records was a place to meet your friends, your co-workers or a place to meet new friends who shared a common love of music, literature and all things cultural.

    Yet, in 2004 the company filed for bankruptcy and by the end of 2006, Russ Solomon's Tower Records had shut the doors to nearly every one of its worldwide outlets.
    So here is the “What, Why and How”…

    As you can tell, we are looking to finish the production on our documentary film. So far we have pooled resources and some initial seed money to get the project off the ground. We are approaching this as a passion project, and as such are dedicated to making this film as cost effective as we can. In other words, we are trying to do this grassroots.

    We hope that with a little help from you, and the Kickstarter collective, we will be able to see this project to completion. Your donation will go towards the small nuts and bolts of film-making. These monies will help pay for various production and post production costs; including things like equipment rentals, additional personnel, and travel to locations to conduct interviews.

    This will be a long process that will involve lots of time and energy but one that we are very passionate about. Our goal is for this to be a communal process, so please be a part of it! And please pass this along to friends and family, post it on your blog, twitter and Facebook pages...help us get the word out!

    You can also follow the project on Facebook and Twitter:
    Tower Records Documentary | Facebook

    http://twitter.com/#!/TowerRecordsDoc



    Video Photos Courtesy of: Karen Salomon
    Video Music Courtesy of: Three Eighty Three's and La Strada

    "All Things Must Pass" by George Harrison


    Project location: Los Angeles, CA
    Tower Records still exists today, only online and the only remaining chain of stores is over in Japan (only because the owner sold the rights to Japan). Home to the worlds largest music store...
    Last edited by JMora; 05-31-2011 at 11:41 AM.

  2. #2

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    Wow, this is cool on a bunch of levels.

    I terribly miss visiting Tower Records stores and browsing the stacks, the video section, and the magazine rack. I fondly recall discovering exotica music at the Tower Records in Costa Mesa in the mid-90s when that genre was experiencing a revival, and I eventually bought the 2-CD album that captured my heart - The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter. I still remember listening to the track "Mozambique" at the CD listening station there and thinking "I MUST have this album!"

    I also think it's extremely cool that Colin Hanks is financing this film independently, and going this route with Kickstarter, seeking grassroots online funding from ordinary folks, rather than just doing the easy thing (for him) and borrowing the funds from his dad or getting some other kind of traditional film financing. That really says a lot about him as a filmmaker. I'm looking forward to see this film and hope he finishes it soon.

    Thanks for sharing! I joined the Facebook group and I'm going to help spread the word about this.

    (By the way, I noticed the project just got 17 more backers and about $1,000 more in funding just since I first read your post!)
    Last edited by Retrocool; 05-31-2011 at 02:57 PM.

  3. #3

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    It's a shame, but that's the way this world is these days. Recordings are commodities, and low prices require low inventory costs.

    My Tower Records was the one on Van Nuys Blvd near Parthenia Street. Got my first Springsteen tickets there, for the April 1981 shows when he played the Sports Arena for six or so nights. The crowd that morning was awesome. We all got a raffle ticket, and the winning number got in line first, while the rest followed in order of their raffle ticket number. Good times.

    I'd also check out the two Tower Records (one for classical only) across from each other on Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks.
    "Here You Leave the World of California Today and Enter the World of, um, er, California Today."

  4. #4

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    Quote Originally Posted by Retrocool View Post
    Wow, this is cool on a bunch of levels.

    I terribly miss visiting Tower Records stores and browsing the stacks, the video section, and the magazine rack. I fondly recall discovering exotica music at the Tower Records in Costa Mesa in the mid-90s when that genre was experiencing a revival, and I eventually bought the 2-CD album that captured my heart - The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter. I still remember listening to the track "Mozambique" at the CD listening station there and thinking "I MUST have this album!"

    I also think it's extremely cool that Colin Hanks is financing this film independently, and going this route with Kickstarter, seeking grassroots online funding from ordinary folks, rather than just doing the easy thing (for him) and borrowing the funds from his dad or getting some other kind of traditional film financing. That really says a lot about him as a filmmaker. I'm looking forward to see this film and hope he finishes it soon.

    Thanks for sharing! I joined the Facebook group and I'm going to help spread the word about this.

    (By the way, I noticed the project just got 17 more backers and about $1,000 more in funding just since I first read your post!)
    That's too cool, once I discovered this. I had to share the news and even though the last day of all Tower Records across the states sold music was back on December 22, 2006. Just like Disney has it's fans & followers. So did Tower Records, and thank you for the complement

    The *earliest memories of Tower Records was when I was a little kid, around 1983, and how excited I was to be going. It was such a dance club atmosphere. The parking lot always seemed packed, especially on the weekends; the energy was like turning up the volume leading up to the front entrance. Once walking in, there was just a certain aroma (vinyl records) that triggered, yes, ďIím in Tower Records.Ē People dancing to there own beat, the music blasting through many speakers, the aisles upon aisles of music, it was a music library!

    No matter what the size of which store you were in, it always seemed intimate and original. All kinds of music being be discovered, and one could easily spend hours listening and mingling with friends. Plus, being an artist, I loved the individual persona each store had, thanks to the talented hands of the ĎStore Artist.í Which I too became a Tower Records ĎStore Artist, first at Tower Books then Tower Records. =)

    Nothing has or ever will top the experience of what Tower Records offered. Iím proud to had experience of not only being a shopper of Tower Records but at one time, an employee. A job that didnít seem like a job, and the perks for any Tower employee were great. They were much better in major cities where the music companies had there main/sister offices LA, SF, NY, etc because the chances of meeting the bigger music stars were always great, especially if you became good friends with music label reps. Up until the looming end of course that ALL stopped (cut backs meet & greets, TIXS to any local concert, album releases parties, CD promos, etc).

    Once something that is major factor on what makes the music world go around and gives into Wal-Mart style way business. Which sadly, Tower did in the very and everything just went downhill. It takes away the interaction of socializing with the locals and no longer becomes fun either but became just another 9 to 5 job. That wasnít Tower Records.

    I remember the years that I worked at Tower, the thought of digital song and a mp3 player (the very first iPod had came into play by then) as the size of your hand could one day, not just take down a record store but a whole music store company? That seemed unreal at that time, time frame of around the late 90s/early 00s. The main reason Tower went down, while many other music stores looked up to Tower as what to do next, was that music companies (aka The Big 4: Sony-BMG Music Ent., UMG, EMI, & Warner Music Group) didnít know exactly how to distribute the digital track nor how to adjust royalties between them & the stores. Add that confusion with the rise of Napster, then all hell just broke loose. People started getting music for FREE. Why go to a music store and pay the full retail price of $15.99 for a new album when one can get it for free started to become the norm.

    Another reason Tower got hit hard is that the music companies/labels didnít want to lower the adjusted set prices of 'New Releases,' 'Singles,' and the entire album catalog that Tower had made between them years ago compared to what they were then competing against, Wal-Marts cheap music prices. The Big 4 music labels gambled on Tower's house-hold name, that people would rather shop at Tower for it's wide-selection, and repetition then go to a massive one-stop store that housed a small music section with less variety. By the time the music companies gave in, it was way too late for Tower to be saved or even gain a gross from the new lower prices (which weren't that low). Since it was already in bankruptcy, and for all sales that were made, Tower had to give that money back to the banks for declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

    Though itís 2011, I really miss a true music store like Tower Records. Yes, while millions of songs are at our very finger tips and some stores like Dimple or Ameba Records have that much needed variety. Truth of the matter is, there are still songs that havenít been digitalized to be made available, even from CDs and well, it just isnít the same. Itís like Facebook, its making people less social with reality by staying in then being out the real world around them.

    Another fond memory at Tower Records (the one off of Market ST in San Francisco) and the only place I knew they would be. All the imported, domesticated and special edition single(s) of Madonna's single MUSIC. The EU Maxi-CD, EU 12" vinyl, UK CD single 1, UK CD single 2, AU CD single 1, AU CD single 2, JP CD single, CA Maxi-CD, US Maxi-CD and so many more. Each had there own variations & differences. The days of searching for special single package's, albums, box sets, etc. like some hard field worker in a filled library field of music are pretty much long gone.
    Last edited by JMora; 05-31-2011 at 07:29 PM.

  5. #5

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    Quote Originally Posted by JMora View Post
    Though itís 2011, I really miss a true music store like Tower Records. Yes, while millions of songs are at our very finger tips and some stores like Dimple or Ameba Records have that much needed variety. Truth of the matter is, there are still songs that havenít been digitalized to be made available, even from CDs and well, it just isnít the same. Itís like Facebook, its making people less social with reality by staying in then being out the real world around them.
    Well, Dimple and Amoeba and other independent record stores (I enjoy one locally, Cactus Music & Record Ranch) do duplicate some, even much, of that original funky vibe that Tower engendered, but you're right, it's not quite the same as it was at Tower back in the day, and that's because the music business, and the music consumer culture, have changed rather drastically in such a short time. I think that, as a society, we're only just beginning to get over the initial shock of the digital revolution in music, and the culture of the record store is slowly but surely beginning to see a resurgence (witness the annual Record Store Day celebration, the sustained revival of vinyl records, and a burgeoning nostalgia wave for the culture as well). I actually don't think that Facebook, MySpace, and other social networks are damaging this - they're actually crucial to its success, because they can help get the word out about events a lot quicker than might have been done traditionally, and they can help foster a stronger feeling of community across a wider area.

    Yes, music is still available for free in various corners of the internet (yes, entire albums even), but the music business, as a whole, including independent labels & artists, have begun really responding to that in a great way, with more value-added items being added to CD releases. I think it's just a matter of time before we see Tower reestablish a brick & mortar store in the US again. They may never be able to rebuild the huge business they once had, but the brand does still survive, so that means that it could come back again. Stranger things have happened before!

  6. #6

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    Quote Originally Posted by sediment View Post
    Got my first Springsteen tickets there, for the April 1981 shows when he played the Sports Arena for six or so nights. The crowd that morning was awesome. We all got a raffle ticket, and the winning number got in line first, while the rest followed in order of their raffle ticket number. Good times.
    2nd leg of The River tour was in town August 1981 (he broke the L.A.S.A. record w/ 7 shows on the Born In The U.S.A. tour).

    Anyway I will always miss Tower Sunset because it all happened there. So many live concerts, signings, meet 'n greets, ridiculous stunts, amazing displays, celebrity shoppers, etc. Met all the original Pretenders there and missed Bruce and his blue corvette by about 20 minutes there one sunny summer day.
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

  7. #7

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    August makes more sense. I didn't check online or in my nostalgic ticket box for exact dates.
    "Here You Leave the World of California Today and Enter the World of, um, er, California Today."

  8. #8

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    Wow! The funding goal of $50,000 is getting closer. They're up to $39,732 currently, with 42 days left to go. Not bad from $15,000 on Monday. I think they just might make it!

    I checked the progress of another Kickstarter project I'd posted about here previously, and they just reached their goal (which was the comparatively more modest $4,000) and still have 10 days left to go! So it looks like Kickstarter is a great way to finance a project!
    Last edited by Retrocool; 06-02-2011 at 07:39 PM.

  9. #9

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    I miss tower records, I will now have to travel to Japan to use my Tower Records gift certificates there.


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    Now the Tower of Sauron has fallen
    Also, this picture and my Avatar was taken with a Nintendo DSi System and Nyko Magnification Lens & Case for DSi.

  10. #10

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    Will they not honor them on their site?
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

  11. #11

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    Quote Originally Posted by ALIASd View Post
    Will they not honor them on their site?
    From the Tower.com website:


    Tower Records Gift Certificate Policy
    NOTICE AND PROCEDURE FOR CUSTOMERS HOLDING GIFT CERTIFICATES PURCHASED AT A FORMER TOWER RECORDS RETAIL LOCATION:

    As of June 11, 2007, the assets of Tower.com, including the website, were sold by the bankruptcy estates of Three A's Holding, LLC and MTS, Incorporated. Those holding gift cards of Tower Records or Tower.com should make their claims to the Bankruptcy Court presiding over these bankruptcy cases. For information, you may view the court docket, In re Three A's Holdings, LLC, Bankruptcy Case No. 06-10866 (BLS) pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware.

    Information may also be obtained on-line at http://www.omnimgt.com/public/files/...?cboclient=802.

  12. #12

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    Re: All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

    Quote Originally Posted by Retrocool View Post
    From the Tower.com website:


    Tower Records Gift Certificate Policy
    NOTICE AND PROCEDURE FOR CUSTOMERS HOLDING GIFT CERTIFICATES PURCHASED AT A FORMER TOWER RECORDS RETAIL LOCATION:

    As of June 11, 2007, the assets of Tower.com, including the website, were sold by the bankruptcy estates of Three A's Holding, LLC and MTS, Incorporated. Those holding gift cards of Tower Records or Tower.com should make their claims to the Bankruptcy Court presiding over these bankruptcy cases. For information, you may view the court docket, In re Three A's Holdings, LLC, Bankruptcy Case No. 06-10866 (BLS) pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware.

    Information may also be obtained on-line at http://www.omnimgt.com/public/files/...?cboclient=802.

    LOL Even when Tower Records was open, the site was hardly used, much less known about to the an average Tower shopper (even to most). It always seemed liked a separate being (even among the Tower family). What was good about Tower, one can order a cd, vinyl or any product if they couldn't have find it that that particular store, and have shipped.

    With the help of that Finder kiosk in each store, it made easy for people to find anything, so there wasn't much a recommendation to the online Tower store. I believe even today, most don't even know about Tower.com: Buy Music CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, Books, New Releases, did you? =)

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