More than a year after the pandemic forced it to close, and shy of his 20th anniversary as a Hollywood star, Amoeba Music’s music retail store was reinstated at its new location Thursday morning.
The moment, marked by cutting the coveted jumbo tape, happened just before 11 am on Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue. A line of perennial young shoppers, most of them masked shoppers, many of whom had been waiting early in the morning to enter Valhalla music, extended south below Argyle and around the building. The queue stayed this way for hours.
Alonzo Vasquez, who drove from the Central Valley with his friends to shop, said: “The epidemic has been cruel to everyone, so I feel this will lift the spirits and bring joy again.” His mission: Track anything on LP by Los Angeles-based group Psych-punk Osees.
“I feel it will normalize times.” He said, the lower half of his face is obscured by his face mask.
“We have been waiting for a year,” said Keri Barta, a resident of Silver Lake, who was near the entrance at the doorstep. Until COVID-19, visiting an amoeba was part of the weekly rituals of her and her companion Jason Yates. “It was a big hole in our lives.”
As the line attests, the same was true of many Angelenos, especially store employees. In mid-March, management summoned many of Amoeba’s 200 employees who had become unemployed by the lockdown, and on Thursday they helped dozens of enthusiastic customers explore 23,000 square feet of retail space in the store.
If, from an outside point of view, the reopening of Amoeba appears to have attracted great attention given that the California retailer only has two other stores – and you can buy anything you want online – then the reopening of Los Angeles is a moment for one of the world’s hottest music centers.
The multitude of artists, music producers, music supervisors (Netflix is one block away), studio architects, and most importantly, millions of fluffy fans with social media accounts whose moves will help define the sound of tomorrow’s music, Hollywood has had some kind of retail store. Huge has been in the area since Wallich’s Music City opened at Sunset and Vine in the early 1940’s. Amoeba took over the role after Tower Records’ sunset shop Closed in the middle of the twentieth centuryAnd the new site confirms his condition.
Thursday shoppers entered the store greeting dozens of lanes filled with products: T-shirts, turntables, collectibles, books, posters, posters, pins – and of course hundreds of thousands of albums, CDs, tapes, 7-inch singles and 78-rpm records. Rows of vinyl and new and used display shelves showcase new versions. Halfway to the store, the lower level consumes about five steps down the back half. It mostly contains CDs.
One of the implications of the music retail market in 2021 is the amount of space allocated to vinyl and merchandise at the expense of CDs. The long-dominant physical form was designed to replace less profitable and more difficult vinyl starting in the early 1980s and remained the best-selling physical form until last year, when vinyl sales surpassed CD sales for the first time in decades.
Mark Weinstein, co-owner of Variety said last week, “Sure, DVDs and CDs don’t get as many premium locations as they did at the other store, and vinyl is sure to be on display.”
The live stage is located in the store in the southwest corner of the room, and centered around the same wallpaper designed by Shepard Fairey and used at Sunset. Co-owner Jim Henderson, who helped cut the red tape on Thursday, said the store’s schedule for collections will be determined according to safety standards. He did not want to speculate when the live groups would return.
The store’s legendary check-out line, which can run on busy days at the old place into the store’s interior, runs in the middle of the room with social distance markers every six feet. The store was ready to dash.
These should be prime times for music retailing, especially those that deal in both new and used products. Not only is there an active market for used records, but the volume of new vinyl that has entered the ecosystem in the past decade guarantees new stock for years to come. Add to that that cassette tapes and CDs continue to garner loyal loyalists and it can be shown that stores that survived the shutdown will make a strong comeback.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, new vinyl sales in 2020 jumped 29.2% to $ 619.6 million, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. In 2019, that number is $ 479.5 million. It still accounts for a fraction of the total billions earned in the larger music business. In 2020, broadcasting was up 13.4% from the previous year and generated $ 10.1 billion, which the RIAA said accounted for 83% of the music industry’s total revenue.
That flowing news struck a deaf ear among those waiting in line, who gathered in groups of two and three and attempted to master the art of social and distant emotion. Another streak ran the other way down Hollywood. As clients haul away the standard boxes, CD bags and stacks of books they hoped to trade for new records – or sell to make the rent in April.
This move was planned a long time ago. In 2020, the epidemic pushed the shop to … Skip any celebrations that may have occurred As she left her former home on Sunset Boulevard and headed towards the new address to be ready when the pandemic allowed it. The goal was to open in November, but the further drop in COVID-19 pushed the schedule through Thursday.
Amoeba opened its first two locations in the San Francisco Bay Area before unveiling its 42,000-square-foot mega-Hollywood store in 2001. Amoeba is housed in an Amoeba-owned building on Sunset Boulevard and Cahuenga Avenue, and Amoeba-Hollywood has been a destination since today. The first – although overall retail music sales were declining at the time due to Napster. After Amoeba sold the building to developers in 2015, relocation was inevitable.
The old spot has been a magnet for record-loving celebrities and musicians, and the new venue is sure to be the same.
Located in the newly developed El Centro residential and retail complex, across Hollywood Boulevard from the Pantages Theater and Frolic Room, the new Amoeba has about a quarter smaller space than the Sunset Store. However, it’s a vast space with high ceilings, exposed air ducts and really has the feel of the store you live in. Tapes and stickers are assembled on doors, shelves are full, glass shields protect personnel at the help station and departure counters. The store’s walls are devoured by huge posters of David Bowie, Prince, Beyoncé, Patty Smith, the Beatles and dozens of others.
To absorb lost footage, vinyl and disc shelving units use secondary shelving at floor level, which previously held excess stock. Stools are spread in the aisles to facilitate access to the lower boxes; The Diggers crouched and flipped over jazz recordings in a corner and hip-hop vinyl a few rows away.
Elsewhere, bargain hunters searched boxes for used CDs selling at the ridiculously low prices that stunned vinyl collectors in the mid-1990s.
Vásquez wasn’t necessarily looking for deals, as he said when the line approached the door, but it was an ephemeral and permanent thing. “The first time I was here, it blew my mind. I still have flashbacks to that day.”