Tower Records was a retail music chain based in Sacramento,
California, USA. It currently exists as an international franchise and
an online music store. From 1960 until 2006, Tower operated retail
stores in the United States, which closed when
Tower Records filed for
bankruptcy and liquidation. Tower.com was purchased by a separate
entity and was not affected by the retail store closings. The
corporate name was MTS Inc., but this was little-known compared to the
much more widely recognized Tower Records.
1.1 Inception, expansion, and description
1.2 Tower Pulse! Magazine
2 Other stores
2.1 Online return
3 International stores
3.2 Hong Kong
3.10 South Korea
3.13 United Kingdom
6 External links
Inception, expansion, and description
Russell Solomon opened the first
Tower Records store on Watt
Avenue, in Sacramento, California. He named it for his father's
drugstore, which shared a building and name with the Tower Theater,
where Solomon first started selling records. By 1976, Solomon had
opened Tower Books, Posters, and Plants at 1600 Broadway, next door to
Tower Records. In 1995, Tower.com opened, making the enterprise one of
the first retailers to move online.
In addition to
CDs and cassette tapes, the stores sold DVDs,
electronic gadgets like mp3 players, video games, accessories, and
toys, and a few
Tower Records locations sold books as well, such as
those in Brea, Mountain View, and Sacramento, California, as well as
stores in Nashville, New York, Portland, Oregon, Austin, and Seattle.
Tower Records on the Sunset Strip
Seven years after its founding,
Tower Records expanded to San
Francisco, opening a store in what was originally a grocery store at
Bay Street and Columbus Avenue. In 1979,
Tower Records in Japan
started its business as the
Japan Branch of MTS Incorporated. The
Sapporo Store, the first in
Japan opened. The chain
eventually expanded internationally to include stores in Japan, United
Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Ireland, Israel, United Arab Emirates,
Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina. The
Tower Records stores in
Japan split off from the main chain and are now independent. Arguably
the most famous
Tower Records outlet was the purpose built building
that company staff general-contracted, with many personally
contributing their labor, which opened in 1971 on the north west
Sunset Boulevard and Horn Avenue in West Hollywood.
In New York City,
Tower Records operated a suite of stores on and near
lower Broadway in the East Village. The main store, located at the
southeast corner of East 4th Street and Broadway, consisted of four
levels, sold mainstream items, and was famous in the 1980s for selling
albums of European new wave bands not yet popular in the U.S. It was a
noted hangout for teenagers from the wider metropolitan area.[citation
Tower Records Annex was in the same building, but located
"in the back" at the southwest corner of East 4th and Lafayette
Streets, and stocked items that were older and a bit more obscure. (As
the CD replaced the LP, vinyl moved from the main store to the Annex.)
The third store, Tower
Video located on the southeast corner of East
4th and Lafayette Streets, specialized in video and, for a while, the
second floor of this location also sold books. Their location on the
Upper West Side, near
Lincoln Center on 66th Street and Broadway, was
a magnet for those working in the field of musical theatre.[citation
The Nashville location on West End Avenue (across from Vanderbilt
University) was in a former
Packard dealership. The old showroom floor
in front was devoted to CDs, cassettes and vinyl. The area in the back
housed videocassette sales and rentals, PC and console games and music
paraphernalia. The strip mall next door contained a
separate Tower Books. The location was famous for their late-night
Monday events that culminated at midnight on Tuesday when staff
started ringing up sales of new releases. Because of the store's
proximity to Music Row, country music stars could occasionally be seen
performing or shopping there.
As part of a 2002 settlement with 41 states over
CD price fixing Tower
Records, along with retailers
Musicland and Trans World Entertainment,
agreed to pay a $3 million fine. It is estimated that between 1995
and 2000 customers were overcharged by nearly $500 million and up to
$5 per album.
In 2005, the company began using "scan and listen" stations in its
stores. These stations allowed customers to listen to audio samples
CDs and to search for particular songs, albums and artists. This
model of listening station is still used at the Arizona-based chain
In 2006, the company introduced the Tower Insider program. The program
was free of charge and allowed a customer to receive a membership card
which could be scanned with each purchase, allowing the customer to
receive coupons and notification of special deals via e-mail.[citation
Tower Pulse! Magazine
See also: Pulse! (magazine)
In 1983, the company began publishing a music magazine, Pulse!, which
contained record reviews, interviews, and advertising.[citation
needed] Initially, it was given away free in their stores to promote
their record sales. After nine years, in 1992, the magazine began
national distribution with a cover price of $2.95, but it was
cancelled when the company discontinued U.S. operations. From 1983
until December 2002
Tower Records published it monthly, 222 issues in
Tower Records entered bankruptcy for the first time in 2004. Factors
cited were the heavy debt incurred during its aggressive expansion in
the 1990s, growing competition from mass discounters and Internet
piracy. Mismanagement, managerial incompetence, and crippling
restrictions from the first bankruptcy deal also contributed to
Some observers took a pragmatic view. As Robert Moog, inventor of the
Moog synthesizer, has stated: "I'm sorry if Tower Records' and
Blockbuster's sales plummet. On the other hand, it wasn't that long
ago that those megastore chains drove a lot of neighborhood record
stores out of business."
In February 2004, the debt was estimated to be between
$80 million and $100 million, and assets totaled just over
On August 20, 2006,
Tower Records filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the
second time, in order to facilitate a purchase of the company prior to
the holiday shopping season.
Tower Records store in Portland, Oregon.
On October 6, 2006, Great American Group won an auction of the
company's assets and commenced liquidation proceedings the following
day. This included going-out-of-business sales at all U.S. Tower
Records locations, the last of which closed on December 22, 2006. The
Tower Records website was sold separately.
The managers of f.y.e., a music store chain based in shopping malls,
had negotiated a deal to acquire the two historic Tower locations in
the latter's home base of Sacramento. f.y.e. later backed out, stating
that the "leases aren't what we thought they were". f.y.e. did acquire
the lease of the West End Avenue store in Nashville, which
eventually closed in 2011. f.y.e. also took over a
Tower Records in
Torrance, which continued to operate until early 2016.
Rasputin Music, a new and used music and video store based in the San
Francisco Bay Area, expanded in the Central Valley of California by
acquiring the leases for the former
Tower Records stores in Fresno and
Tower Records for rent in Lincoln Park, Chicago
The Landmark Plaza
Tower Records Store in
Alexandria, Virginia was
permanently closed on December 18, 2006, and the Tysons Corner,
Virginia, store permanently closed on December 21, 2006. The noted
24-year-old store in
Washington, D.C. (Foggy Bottom) closed down the
next day, as did the store in Atlanta, Georgia.
On Friday, December 22, 2006 – 40 years after Solomon had opened the
Tower Records store in Sacramento - the last
Tower Records store
in New York City, located at 1961 Broadway, one block north of Lincoln
Center, on Manhattan's West Side, closed permanently along with all of
the other remaining
Tower Records stores in the United States. The
Tower Records store (in the Pacific Time Zone) to be closed was
the one in Mountain View, which closed at 5:00 p.m.
One building in Sacramento had been a
Tower Records store for 40
years, and the lot across the street had been the location where
Solomon began selling records in 1941.
R5 Records closed on June 4, 2010, and was sold to rival Dimple
Records, which reopened the store in mid-July 2010.
Tower Records building in Boston, located at the intersection of
Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue, was instrumental in the
conversion of the former street's commercial value. The eight-story
building, renovated by
Frank Gehry in the late 80s, is prominently
visible from the eastbound Massachusetts Turnpike. The store (which
occupied the first five stories) featured gold stars of
(including Gang Starr, New Kids on the Block, and Yo-Yo Ma) embedded
in the front landing.
Virgin Megastore took over the store from 2002
to 2007. The space was later a
Best Buy store and, after being vacant
for some time, in 2016 was opened as a
T.J. Maxx store.
On-line merchant Caiman, Inc., reopened the website from Montreal,
Quebec, on June 1, 2007. This company also announced plans to reopen
the stores themselves—opening stores in Los Angeles, New York, and
San Francisco within the next nine months. They hired
former Tower buyer Kevin Hawkins to assist with the re-opening.
(Hawkins, however, along with former Tower employee George Scarlett,
then left Caiman.) In 2009, Richard Flynn was hired as President. The
website remained based in Montreal, but the relaunch of the brand
never moved forward. Currently, the website features only the
brand's logo with the message "...some Things Must Not Pass," along
with a sign-up form for an e-mail newsletter.
Tower Records operated in Canada in the mid 1990s with a flagship
store at the
Toronto Eaton Centre
Toronto Eaton Centre at the corner of Queen and Yonge
which opened in December 1995 and closed in 2001.
Tower Records opened
a second location in Toronto in the late nineties at North York Centre
also on Yonge Street but was closed just prior to the flag ship store
Tower Records opened stores in the
Hong Kong in the 1990s. There were
two stores, one located on the seventh floor of Times Square at
Causeway Bay, the other at Diamond Hill.
Tower Records is operated in Ireland by Record & Discs Ltd. under
a licensed franchise of MTS Incorporated (USA). As of
2014[update], two stores still operate in Ireland both located in
Dublin, one on
Dawson Street and the other on O'Connell Street
upstairs in Easons. It is proposed that
Tower Records could expand to
other cities in Ireland in the coming years.
Tower Records Israel opened in 1993; a joint venture between Tower
Records USA (MTS INC of W. Sacramento, CA) and two local businessmen.
The Founding Director was Joel Abramson, who had previously managed
Sunset Strip location in Los Angeles. The first three
locations were in Tel Aviv (the Opera Tower), Haifa (Hutzot HaMifratz,
opened in early 1995) and Jerusalem (1995). The Tel Aviv location,
with its beachfront location, was a popular shopping spot for Israeli
pop stars like David Broza, Meir Ariel, Aviv Gefen, Riki Gal and
others. TRI closed its final location in Ra'anana in November
Tower Shibuya store.
Tower Records in
Japan started its business as the Japan
Branch of MTS Incorporated. The following year,
Sapporo Store, the
Japan opened. In 1981, Japanese subsidiary Tower Records
Japan Inc. (TRJ) was established.
In October, 2002, TRJ went independent from the international chain by
management buyout. The bankruptcy of
Tower Records in the U.S. in 2006
did not affect TRJ as it had been completely independent (as of 2015,
NTT DoCoMo and Seven & I Holdings are the main stakeholders). As
of October 1, 2014, TRJ maintains 85 directly operated store locations
throughout Japan, including 10 Tower Mini Stores, and the Shibuya
Store in Tokyo (moved to the current location in March, 1995) which is
said to be one of the biggest music retail outlets in the world,
occupying selling space of 5,000 m² (9 floors). TRJ also
publishes free magazines Tower, bounce, and intoxicate directly and
through its subsidiary NMNL.
In addition to being the leading CD retailer in Japan, TRJ was the
majority stakeholder in Napster Japan, a joint venture between TRJ and
Napster LLC. On March 1, 2010, Napster
Japan and TRJ announced that
Japan would terminate all of its services on May 31, 2010 due
to the difficulty in covering the costs for maintaining the required
systems to continue the services.
Japan has a subsidiary record label called T-Palette
Records, which specializes in idol performers.
Tower Records opened stores in
Malaysia in the 1990s.
Tower Records store in Mexico opened in the mid 1990s in the
Zona Rosa area featuring 3 floors and a live DJ. After international
bankrutpcy, the stores were acquired by Promotora Musical, a retail
company owned by Grupo Carso, the same owner of Mixup record stores.
Tower Records stores in Mexico City (Gran Sur and Mundo E),
Puebla (Las Animas) and Monterrey (Paseo San Pedro).,
but eventually closed.
Tower Records opened three stores in the
Philippines in the 1990s. The
first branch was located in Glorietta 3 Ayala Center Makati City which
opened in 1998. The second store was in Alabang Town Center
Muntinlupa City which opened on 1999.The third store was in
Robinson's Place Manila, all of which are in the National Capital
Tower Records opened stores in
Singapore in the 1990s.
Tower Records opened stores in
South Korea in the 1990s, with stores
Seoul and Busan.
Tower Records opened two mega stores in Taipei, Taiwan in the 1990s.
Both stores were located in popular areas of Taipei。They became
centers of fashion and music during their existence.
Tower Records opened stores in
Thailand in the 1990s, introducing
comprehensive music CD stocking into
Thailand for the first time with
revolutionary effects on the retail music business. There were several
stores in Bangkok, including three megastores inside popular downtown
malls. In the 2000s as business declined due to piracy and the
downloading revolution, the stores were progressively closed and the
remaining ones were eventually sold to another dealer.
One of the biggest megastores was located on the top floor of
CentralWorld mall in central Bangkok
Tower Records was just a London-based concern, with a first
Kensington High Street
Kensington High Street in 1984 being followed the next year
by a 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) flagship outlet at 1
Piccadilly Circus and later two more, smaller outlets at
Bayswater, and Kingston. However, by the start of the 1990s the chain
had grown to encompass a number of other stores, with large
entertainment stores also selling movies, books, magazines and games
Birmingham and Glasgow, as well as a number of smaller stores that
had been purchased from rival American retailer
Sam Goody when it had
left the UK marketplace (for example of this express
However, with tough trading conditions in the UK market, as well as
the company's trouble in the States, the firm followed
Sam Goody in
retreating from the UK market. The London stores in
Kensington were sold to
Virgin Group in 2003, who for a while traded
under the Tower brand at the former site until the store could be
fully refurbished, while the other stores were closed. The store was
subsequently renamed Zavvi in September 2007 after a management buyout
of the Virgin Megastores. The
Piccadilly store closed on Wednesday, 14
January 2009 by the administrators and is now occupied by a non-music
retailer as of 2017.
All Things Must Pass (2015) is a documentary by filmmaker Colin Hanks
chronicling the rise and fall of Tower Records, using archival footage
and exclusive interviews with former staff, especially Russell Solomon
and former COO Stan Goman, as well as celebrity customers Bruce
Elton John and Dave Grohl. Another documentary called
Art Gods (2013) is an oral history of the development of an
influential in-store display design ethic at Tower, originating from
the Berkeley location.
^ As Tower Fades at Home, It Still Shines Abroad
^ "Tower Theatre Homepage". Retrieved 2006-08-26.
Tower Records Turns To Digital Downloads". Rap News Network. June
^ Vincent, Roger (November 10, 2014). "Gibson to open store at former
Tower Records site in West Hollywood". Los Angeles Times.
^ Branson-Potts, Hailey (November 19, 2013). "No historic designation
Tower Records store on Sunset Strip". Los Angeles Times.
^ "CD Price Fixing Suit Settled For $143 Million". Billboard.
2002-10-01. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
^ Stephen Labaton (2000-05-11). "5 Music Companies Settle Federal Case
On CD Price-Fixing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
Tower Records Deploys TouchMedia's In-Store Digital Media Stations"
(PDF). TouchMedia. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
Tower Records Files For Bankruptcy". CBS News. February 9,
^ Jens F. Laurson & George A. Pieler (2006-11-15). "The Tower that
Fell". Forbes. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
^ Kettlewell, Ben (March–April 2003). "Synthesizer Pioneer: Dr.
Robert Moog". ArtistPro Magazine. p. 47.
Tower Records declares bankruptcy". BBC News. February 9, 2004.
Retrieved May 25, 2010.
Dow Jones Newswires
Dow Jones Newswires (2006-08-22). "
Tower Records files for
bankruptcy". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2006-08-22.
Tower Records to be liquidated". Hollywood Reporter.
^ "Buh-Bye, Tower West End; Hello f.y.e". Nashville Scene. November
^ Bob Shallit: Russ Solomon's presence will be felt at new Dimple site
in Sacramento Archived 2010-12-14 at the Wayback Machine. The
Sacramento Bee, June 5, 2010
^ Goodison, Donna, "
T.J. Maxx coming to long-vacant Newbury Street
spot in Back Bay",
Boston Herald, Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Tower Records Store Information (in Japanese)
Tower Records Shibuya Store press release dated June, 2000 (in
(in Japanese). March 1, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
Impress AV Watch (in Japanese). March 1, 2010. Retrieved August 23,
Billboard Daily News. Billboard Japan. 2012-12-11. Retrieved
^ Mary Fagan,
Tower Records to sell remaining British sites to Virgin,
Daily Telegraph, 26 January 2003
^ "ALL THINGS MUST PASS". TowerRecordsMovie.com. Retrieved October 25,
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tower Records.
Tower Records Project — an archives project and campaign to
Tower Records history.
Tower Records Mexico: Locations
Tower Records Dublin Ireland: About Us
Tower Records Japan
Tower.com — purchase