How many of you actually still have a record store where you can shop, hang out, and actually talk about music?
Death of a record store
Famed Rhino Records shop in L.A. has last gasp
By Chris Morris
The Hollywood Reporter
LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- They're throwing a wake of sorts for the Rhino Records store Saturday and Sunday.
Founded in 1973, the venerable record shop officially closed its doors after the turn of the year, hard on the heels of the folding of crosstown competitor Aron's Records.
But, in a final gasp of Rhino tradition, old customers will gather at the Westwood Boulevard location to paw through boxes of CDs, LPs, DVDs and videocassettes at the store's final parking lot sale.
Rhino, a Westside institution for three decades, never recovered its footing after moving into a large new space about five years ago. The old shop, left open as an outlet for used and budget product, closed within a year. A partnership with the Golden Apple comics store failed, and an attempt to rebrand the shop as Duck Soup with the addition of high-priced collectibles never caught fire.
These stabs at instilling new life into Rhino coincided with a precipitous decline in the music business. Owner Richard Foos says: "As bad as it is for everybody, it's much worse for independents. I don't know all the reasons. It's so complicated. There's literally hundreds of reasons."
Foos adds dispiritedly: "There's too many other things to do and too many ways to get your music without paying $18 for a CD. ... I don't see a great future for physical product."
The demise of Rhino hits home on a very personal level for this writer. For years, it was my neighborhood record store, conveniently located between my Westwood Village apartment and the Santa Monica Boulevard office of the film exhibitor I worked for.
It was the hip shop on the Westside -- one of the few places you could buy that hot import album or that cool local punk 45. There, music obsessives gathered to buy their records, socialize and, frequently, argue with the store's highly opinionated clerks. In a gambit worthy of "High Fidelity," Rhino for many years maintained a "Worst Customers List," posted prominently behind the counter; the more obstreperous patrons -- including, on more than one occasion, myself -- were duly namechecked there.
As combative as things could get, the store also spawned its own tightly knit community. When Rhino's fledgling record label wanted to promote one of its early novelty acts, the Temple City Kazoo Orchestra, the store drafted some of its regulars to march through Westwood Village, where they serenaded passers-by with kazoo renditions of "Whole Lotta Love" and other classic-rock chestnuts.
The era when music lovers on both sides of the retail counter bonded is long gone. Foos notes with some astonishment that there are now no free-standing independent stores selling music between West Hollywood and Santa Monica. The options are Best Buy, Borders and Barnes & Noble.
"The days of going into a place like Rhino and saying, 'What's the cool new import?' -- forget it," Foos says.
Things aren't any better for the big mall music operators: Witness the bankruptcy filing last week of the 869-store Musicland chain.
Does this reflect a paradigm shift? Of course, but, if a new study from England's University of Leicester is to be believed, it also reflects a basic difference in the way consumers are looking at music. The school's psychologists noted last week that music had "lost its aura," and was now viewed as simply a commodity.
Says Foos with a sigh: "It's really sad and dangerous. Everybody's like a silo."
Ave atque vale, Rhino Records. For some, you were a way of life.
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