In unfortunate timing in the lead up to this Saturday’s international Record Store Day, another iconic record store has fallen to the era of digital downloads.
Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies, a legendary New York record store, closed its doors forever on Saturday to make way for a frozen yoghurt shop, due to open on the first of June this year.
45 years ago in 1968, Robert Plotnik aka ‘Bob’, first opened the doors to his Greenwich Village record store, located at 118 West 3rd St, New York. Bob’s was the longest running record store in New York history, housing the largest collection of rock, punk, new wave, and alternative music.
In operation for over four decades, countless big name stars have graced the aisles of Bob’s, making their purchases and adding to their vinyl collections. David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and Robert Plant are just a few known to have shopped regularly at Bleecker Bob’s over the years.
It is said that high rent prices and a lack of customers contributed to the record store shutting its doors.
JK Kitzer, the long time manager and girlfriend to Robert Plotnik, explained “[The landlord] wanted us to make it into more, but there wasn’t anything more we could make it into.” According to DNA Info, Kitzer claims that the landlord, Al Rosenthal was looking for a new tenant to generate $15,000 a month, while Bleecker Bob’s was struggling to even make $10,000.David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and Robert Plant are just a few known to have shopped regularly at Bleecker Bob’s over the years…
“We’re letting them stay there until we get somebody, so it works for both of us,” Rosenthal explained in July last year, when the first news of the record store closure was revealed. He added that there was stiff competition for the 2,000-square-foot space at the heart of a restaurant and boutique filled hub.
The frozen yoghurt chain, Forever Yoghurt, snapped up the deal in Februrary, to add to their national chain that originated in Chicago. There was talk of a deal being made in the lease, to keep a music counter inside the FroYo store, to pay homage to the record store’s legacy.
A store manager of seven years, giving his name as Ski, commented that it was “insulting” to have such a small space dedicated to Bleecker Bob’s. “They were nice enough to consider us, but being in the back of a yogurt shop is a slap in the face – this is Bleecker Bob’s!” he said.
The proposed deal would have allocated about 300 square feet of the 14,000-square-foot space to Bleecker Bob’s music, with the remainder of the store being devoted to frozen yoghurt, self serve style. Although the thought was there, it seems to be a degrading shift from an iconic record venue, to a tiny space in a fast food chain. “They were nice enough to consider us, but being in the back of a yogurt shop is a slap in the face – this is Bleecker Bob’s!”
“It ended up being about a quarter of the current space for about half of the current rent,” Ski added. “They’re asking for too much to just stick us in a small space in the back.”
Bob’s is the latest in a ream of record stores that have succumbed to the same fate. From New York to Melbourne, record store come cafe Wolly Bully recently had to shut its doors due to a lack of profits from the joint business.
It’s not just independent record stores such as Wooly Bully and Bleecker Bob’s that are being forced to close up shop in the changing music landscape, earlier this year UK retail chain giant HMV collapsed, forcing the business to sell their remaining 116 stores in a financial fallout that saw thousands of employees made redundant.
It would appear that the looming death of physical music is largely due to the giant leap into digital downloading. Interestingly however, Australia’s recorded music market is now the sixth biggest in the world, according to the IFPI’s RIN report for 2012.
Unlike a majority of other countries,where the popularity of physical and digital music is vastly outweighed by one or the other, Australia’s preference to digital versus physical purchases are almost neck and neck; (as ARIA demonstrated in their 2012 sales report) with the RIN study showing that 47% of Australia’s generated AU$ 492.2m revenue was from digital sales, while physical was still high at 45%.
Perhaps the anticipated death of CD and Vinyl is further away than we think, giving hope to record stores and collectors worldwide.
The news of Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies having its last days sparked emotion in many dedicated shoppers and vinyl enthusiasts, and as Record Store Day fast approaches to celebrate the importance of supporting local retailers and the wonder of owning physical music, hopefully it sparks a passion inside music lovers to quit the easy downloading and once again hold their favourite music in their hands. It would be a shame to lose any more beloved record stores worldwide.