Wednesday, May 30, 2007

RIP Sam The Record Man

It’s no secret that sales of pysical CDs have been suffering at the expense of digital tracks from online services like iTunes, Puretrack, and, dare I say it, illegal peer-to-peer sites. We saw the iconic Tower Records close, and now downtown Toronto’s long-standing music retail store Sam The Record Man has seen its last days. As tough as it is to admit, we saw it coming.

The store will close next month. The CBC quoted Bob Sniderman, son of Founder Sam Sniderman, as saying: “Culture and society are changing. Our decision is a reflection on the state of the industry. We can't compete with what's happening in technology."

Other music retailers have taken steps to help offset the decline in CD purchases: Future Shop launched its own online music download service called Bonfire (powered by Puretracks) in 2004; while traditional music/DVD retailer HMV added video games, consoles, and accessories to its product mix last summer. The reality is, however, that digital will only continue to rise: with sites like iTunes, downloading a digital album will sometimes even provide you with the full CD jacket, including artist bios and song lyrics. Those who used the absence of these things as an argument against digital are certainly tight-lipped now.

If a music retailer wants to compete in cyber-world, here are a few suggestions. Cater to a specific niche market: offer tracks that haven’t yet found their way into the online arena. For example, a couple of my colleagues are hard-core classical music fans, and can’t find specific symphonies and performances through a music download site. These audiophile customers will remain faithful to the traditional retail model until they find a comparable alternative.

Another idea is to convert into a music café. I visited a Starbucks in South Beach, Miami last year, which was outfitted with really neat music listening stations that let you preview songs, and create your own custom-made CDs while sipping your latte. Speaking of Starbucks, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of those erected in the Yonge St. spot Sam currently occupies.

RIP, downtown T.O. Sam. Us Torontonians will miss ya.

Note: Two Sam franchise locations still exist: one in Belleville and another in Sarnia. I can hear the clock ticking…

1 comment:

Lee_D said...

I grew up in Brampton, just outside Toronto, which used to be a small town. One of the highlights of coming in to Toronto on shopping trips in my teens was going to Sam's and loading up on vinyl records. I will always have fond memories of Sam the Record Man and his hugely garish neon sign.