- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

Upbeat ‘80s music plays over the loudspeakers at the Rockville location of Tower Records, but they might as well be playing funeral hymns.

Things are looking bleak at the 46-year-old music retailer.

College students in sweatpants and middle-aged shoppers carry big stacks of CDs in their arms as they pass a sign that says, “If you don’t buy it now, it may not be here tomorrow.”

After 20 years on Rockville Pike, Tower Records in Rockville is closing Friday.

Everything in the store is being sold, the racks are nearly empty, and entire sections are cordoned off with yellow caution tape.

Even the fixtures are for sale. The large blue CD racks are going for $35 and the CD listening stations are being sold for $250.

When Max, an employee there, heard the location was closing, he thought it was about time.

“Honestly, I won’t really mind if it’s gone. The Internet is much better, whether you download music or buy CDs from Amazon.com,” he said. Max didn’t want to give his full name. He was hired about a month ago and was told that he would be helping to close down the store.

MTS Inc., the parent company of Tower Records, filed for bankruptcy protection in August 2004 and again in August 2006.

Two months later, the Great American Group, a corporate liquidation firm in Woodland Hills, Calif., bought the chain for an estimated $134 million at auction.

The next day, the company announced the liquidation of all Tower Records’ assets by the end of the year.

“I started coming here when I heard it was closing,” said Tzaldi Andoque, a young shopper in the DVD isle. “I don’t usually buy CDs. I get most of my music from ITunes because its more convenient.”

Tower Records has faced significant competition from online music download sites such as ITunes.com and online retailers such as Amazon.com.

“I would only go to a CD shop if I wanted to buy a present for a friend that didn’t have an ITunes account,” she said.

Still, others lament the loss of the music institution.

Phil Stevens, a computer programmer from Fairfax, says he’s going to miss his favorite CD shop.

“I liked Tower because they had some of the biggest varieties of music out there,” he said. “They had CDs that I couldn’t find anywhere else except for really niche music stores or Web sites.”

Mr. Stevens is a dedicated compact disk consumer, and says he is proud that he doesn’t own an IPod.

“I hate MP3s. The quality of sound is important to me when I listen to music, and MP3s don’t have the kind of quality I desire.”

MP3s are digital audio files that are commonly used by consumers who download and share digital music.

“I guess digital music is the wave of the future,” Mr. Stevens said. “People don’t care that they are not buying something tangible, like a CD.”

Mr. Stevens admitted, though, that he had problems with Tower.

“I will admit that their prices were kind of high. In the ‘90s I used to come here every two months and spend $100 on CDs. But when their prices started going from $15 to $26, that’s when I started cutting back on CDs.

“The liquidation of Tower Records is just another shovel of dirt on the grave.”

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