Since its inception in 1990, Amoeba Music has established itself as the mecca for independent music in L.A. Located in the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard, it offers a massive collection of diverse new and used vinyl LPs, CDs and DVDs. It also doubles as a popular live performance venue, hosting the likes of Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello for in-store concerts. Co-owner Marc Weinstein talked to TheWrap about how Amoeba has stayed in business, the place it serves in the L.A. community plans for its own online digital independent music store.
So are record stores really in as much trouble as everyone says?
Obviously, we are statistically. Big chains went under because of big corporate greed. They lost track of core customers and grew too big and expected to make a certain amount of profit. Virgins were almost like banks or something. They didn’t showcase the product. It was always just so sterile. But we feel like we’re strong in the L.A. market for many years to come.
What makes Amoeba different from other stores in L.A.?
We have so many people who love music on both sides of the counter. We don’t have a real corporate hierarchy. People really get the passion when they come in the store. It’s an infectious feeling.
Another thing is that L.A. is so unbelievably diverse, you can go into the store and see a diverse scene of music. A lot of collectors come in and buy hundreds of records off the wall, and lower-income families come in and buy VHS tapes. All kind of culture is being recycled.
Have sales dropped at all?
None in L.A. In San Francisco a little bit. Obviously if they stop manufacturing CDs, we’d be in trouble.
Do you sell a large portion of your music online?
We sell select titles on our website, but we keep it to recommending and suggesting at this point. That’s all the capability we have in terms of our mail-order department.
Any plans to expand on the Internet?
Yes. We’re launching our own digital store probably early next year. What we’re hoping to do is create ultimate indie version of a digital store with a lot of data and ways to look things up. I’ve had artists thank me for printing a bin card with their name on it so they look legit compared to other bands. In this case with digital, there’s an opportunity for independent artists to have their own store within Amoeba’s site. What makes me sad is that a lot of indie stores don’t have the ability to develop digital stores because it’s so darn expensive.
We’re also digitizing old artifacts and article. Every single will have an original 45 sleeve. Eventually, there will be far more music online than is represented in our retail store. And we will also have a marketplace where you can not only hear stuff digitally, but buy a hard copy as well.
All of us are record collectors and the records on wall represent what we love. In the future, none of us really know what we’ll be able to use our collections for — and in this case, we can archive a massive amount of music that represents a huge inventory of stuff that no other stores have.
Who was your biggest in-store event draw?
Probably Paul McCartney. We were able to accommodate 11,000 people in the store that day.