Tower Records sings its final song

Alexandra Capotorto

Tower Records’ founder Russ Solomon began selling records out of his father’s drugstore in Sacramento in the 1940s, and opened his first store in 1969 on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard. But on Oct. 6 of this year, all that changed for the now 81-year-old Solomon, who told employees in an e-mail: “The fat lady has sung. She was off-key. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.”

Once known for stocking records that were hard to find, a last bid to save the retailer and its 3,000 jobs failed. Great American Group, which has 89 stores in 20 states, purchased the chain for $134.3 million after 29 hours of bidding and was approved by a federal bankruptcy judge. The company outbid Trans World Entertainment, based in Albany, N.Y., by just $500,000. Great American was set to begin liquidation and going-out-of-business sales on Oct. 7.

Tower Records was at one point in time one of the most dominant retailers in the country, in regards to music. According to, “the 46-year-old company attracted consumers to its spacious stores with flashy merchandising and a focus on deep catalog in a breadth of musical categories. Its store on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip was a legendary music-biz hangout.”

Profits started to plummet in the ’90s, even after its annual sales in the mid-90s reached $1 billion, when retailers such as Wal-Mart, Borders and Best Buy began getting heavily into the music-selling business and online retailers such as and online music downloads added to the demise of Tower’s downfall. reported that, “The court-supervised auction of Tower climaxed two months of drama, which began in early August when word surfaced that the retailer’s major suppliers were refusing to ship product to the chain after it was unable to pay its bills. Estimates of Tower’s total debt ran as high as $200 million..Tower asked the court for a prompt sale of its assets so that a new owner would be in place before the critical fourth-quarter holiday sales season.”

Several Quinnipiac students blame iTunes for Tower Records’ demise.

“I feel like a lot of the overall sales of CDs is going to decrease because of iTunes, and everyone has an iPod,” said sophomore sociology major Christina Roche. “But because of iTunes, I sometimes just buy one song from an album, not the entire album, which ultimately hurts the artist in the long run, in regards to record sales.”

Echoing Roche’s opinion is another sophomore, Jessica Fagerberg, a business major. “MP3s and iPods are taking over. It’s much easier to download an album than to buy one.”

According to WCBS Newsradio 880, outside the Sunset Boulevard store, REM lyrics scrolled across the marquee reading, “It’s the end of the world as we know it. Thanks for your loyalty.” A mock gravestone as a Halloween decoration had just one word written on it: “Tower.”