Traditional music stores search for ways to survive in digital age

What do you do when the college crowd that used to buy up all of the CDs sold by your independent music store has transitioned to iPods and other MP3 players?

“We sell more digital turntables,” said Rock Cesario, owner of Triple Play Records, which has been on Main Street for 21 years.

Cesario was converting tunes from a vinyl album onto CD on a recent weekday. It was an album from a 1950s a cappella college choir. The digital turntables, which grew in demand late in the Christmas season last year, are trending the same way this year. They go for between $149 and $189.

Cesario said retail sales at the store are always unpredictable, despite the fact that he’s seen an increase in foot traffic over last year.

“Last year, I thought we were having a better year than before and, actually, we were down,”
Cesario said. “This year, it’s looking better. It’s hard to say. Grand Junction is a last-minute item place. We’re perfect for that.”

His daughter, Loryn, 24, who attends the University of Oregon on a master’s program, worked at longtime independent record store The Finest in Greeley during her undergraduate studies. That store, along with another at a location in Windsor, is today in the process of closing down for good.

“That was the age group that was one of the first to get iPods,” she said.

Cesario’s store is surviving, he says, despite the wave of a younger generation turning to new technology for their music.

“There’s nobody I can think of that’s secure enough to say, ‘We’ll still be around next year,’ when you’re a small business,” Cesario said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have this business here on Main for this long. There’s not many record-store owners in the state who can say
that.”

In addition to a selection of CDs and record albums, his store also sells tie-dye shirts, disc golf equipment, band-titled lunch boxes, stickers and other band-
specific wall hangings.

Big-box record stores demanding immediate profit from CDs may soon not carry them, leaving only the small independent record stores, Cesario said. He said he has heard of a group of musicians in Los Angeles who are reportedly banding together to help save small independent record stores, and he plans to get in on the action after the holidays die down.

“I think the real classic artists will sell forever,” he said. “The Beatles, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead — they’ll sell long after I’m gone.”

As long as he and his crew stay in touch with what his customers want, he’ll continue selling those classics, he said.

“I’m lucky to be here, in business in this town.”


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