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Thursday, 10/19/2006 - A note from Mike Dreese - co-founder of Newbury Comics

Every few weeks there's an important story that comes out in the news or through an email that gives insight into the state of the music industry - from bands being dropped by their labels to illegal file sharing, payola, etc. Living in and around Boston over the past several years you can't help but see what the trend in music retail has become - Strawberries' are now being replaced by FYE's, HMV is gone, Tower is all but gone (or will be very shortly) and now the Virgin Mega store in Boston will close. I won't go into another rant of how the industry works - if you really want to know there are plenty of books out there that explain it thoroughly and painfully. bottom line - getting tunes for free off the internet without the consent of the band or musician is illegal. Ripping and burniing CD's for your friends (passing them around for free) is illegal - bands make zero money when that is done, they can't show their record label 1,000,000 free downloads and/or burnt free CD's passed around, and they are soon dropped because no money made from sales means no money to record a second or third album. Yeah - I'm talking to you - quit getting your tunes for free and passing them around for free - YOU ARE PART OF THE DEMISE OF THE BANDS YOU LISTEN TO - YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!!!!!

As an unsigned artist, I was fortunate enough to get some CD's into the major chains (FYE, Strawberries', Coconuts) but to get my CD into Target, Best Buy, or any other larger retailer you basically had to give it away - they wanted all of the money. Newbury Comics is, by far, the most musician friendly of any retail store - they may not stock a lot of your CD's but you WILL be able to get your music into the chain. They're also the most inexpensive retail store to purchase any CD at and have been since the 80's (I speak from many years of purchasing experience).

Below is a note from Mike Dreese, co-founder of Newbury Comics - I find him to be a class act in writing a letter about his former competition.

A Message From Mike

Thoughts on Tower Records and Virgin Records Closing

The end of '06 is truly the end of an era for music retailing in New England. Whatever one's view is of brick and mortar retailing, napster, ipods, wal-mart, target, best buy, customer service, or even if you just have fond memories, the landscape will never be the same.


Virgin Records has announced the closing of their massive backbay store on November 4th. This was somewhat expected, but not so soon. The store never really resonated with mainstream music customers, the way the original backbay Tower store did in the same location, many years ago. Virgin is an awesome brand. Richard Branson is one of the few folks I really, really look up to in retail. I have a picture of him and I on my office wall....

I remember visiting one of the original Virgin Megastores on Oxford Street in London in 1979-1980. The had a separate comic book room! They sold shrunk wrapped T-shirts, they had poster displays, they even had a snack bar. But most importantly they had a MASSIVE assortment of LP's. Huge racks as you walked in, with HUNDREDS of the same title in a rack. Branson knew how to make a statement. Truly impressive. Newbury Comics followed in Virgin's steps in a small way.

But times have changed. It's very hard for any entity to pay Newbury Street rents for 50,000 square feet of mainly just CD's and DVD's. So Virgin is closing in Boston. And with that closing goes dozens and dozens of jobs. Jobs of people who are passionate about music and film. The web isn't up to full speed yet, so there will be a large practical loss of accessibility of a lot of culture for a time...


I first spoke with Russ Solomon, Tower Record's founder, when I was writing an editorial piece in Boston Rock Magazine in the early 80's. The New York Village Tower had just opened and had set the record world abuzz with it's massive assortment. Outside of London, nobody had ever seen anything like it!

Russ was charming and wise. A true visionary, who took a record rack in the back of his father's store all the way to a global brand. He was listed in Forbes Magazine as one of the richest people in America. He always has a sharp sparkle in his eye, and is a keen listener and observer. Has a completely understated "hippie" type class about him. We KNEW Tower was coming to Boston soon. And they came.

The day Tower opened in Backbay, our sales in Harvard Square dropped 25%. But Newbury Street instantly became THE place to shop for music. So we did okay. Tower brought excitement and media attention to specialty music retailing. They embraced media more than computers. We always respected the Tower folks and had a lot of fun competing against each other. We used to leaflet the hell out of 'em with coupons. They finally put up a sign that said "we accept all competitors coupons". Since their pricing was always a bit higher, they could get away with it.

But then one day we got this great idea to offer $5 off all CLASSICAL CD's. We only had a few bins of them at the time. They had a whole floor! About 3 weeks later we received a shipment from them that was a box full of THOUSANDS of our classical coupons, with a note that said "you win". They took the coupon signs down. When we renovated and expanded the store, they sent us some pizzas. Truly great people at Tower! The lifer's loved the company. And the company tried its best to take care of 'em. Kinda like Newbury....


Tower's 2nd Bankruptcy is a complete disaster for the music retail industry. The ENTIRE chain is liquidating. That's insane! Unfortunately the high bidder at the bankruptcy auction was a liquidation company. So EVERY store is closing. Usually in a bankruptcy, some of the best stores are saved, or at least rolled into a competitor. Apparently not this time. Another company in auctioning off the real estate/leases so it is unlikely anyone will be able to put anything resembling the chain back together again. The toll will be very heavy on their staff, small labels, small distributors, and musicians who could always count on Tower to be open to their records. Tower always had its flaws, but this truly sucks. It's a bad outcome for way too many.


We are still doing okay, but things remain challenging for us. Our sales continue to decline modestly. The closures of key competitors will not give us too much of a lift. The loss of small labels will hurt us. The mass merchants like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target are the ones who are taking away the most business. When HMV left Harvard Square, we barely felt it. Radio still largely sucks. We have gotten a lot more aggressive with our suppliers, and they have largely been very, very supportive of us. We have reduced shelf prices on about 3,000 titles in the past 3 months, and will be reducing prices on another 2-3,000 more CD's and DVD's as we continue to negotiate better trading terms with record labels and studios.

If you want to see specialty music retail survive, please continue to shop us!

cheers, mike dreese

co-founder - newbury comics

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