September 19, 2006
34 years, and that's not all, folks
While chain and independent competitors are struggling, Looney stays in tune
BY TANIA PADGETT
Newsday Staff Writer
Tell Karl Groeger Jr. about the demise of the independent record store and he's likely to give a small, polite smile.
That's better than what he's thinking, which is: "Enough, already!"
Groeger, the owner of Looney Tunes, a mom-and-pop record store in West Babylon, has been hearing about the end or "the graying of the record store," as The New York Times put it recently, for the past three years and finds it about as endearing as a skipping album.
"People should talk about the independent record stores that are thriving," Groeger said quietly, almost humbly. "There are some."
He's right. And Looney Tunes is one of them. In fact, Looney Tunes, according to some industry experts, is one of the country's most successful independent stores - one that has been able to groove to the current cacophony shaking up the music industry.
"They are not a huge store," said Clark Benson, chief executive and founder of a music research company, Almighty Institute of Music Retail in Studio City, Calif. "Still, pound for pound, it is one of the best stores in the entire country."
Not an easy accomplishment when record stores - both indies and chain - have been drowned out by the beat of steadily falling revenue. In the past three years, 760 independent and 1,300 chain stores have gone out of business, according to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail. The latest victims include Musicland Holding Corp., which filed for bankruptcy in January, and Tower Records, which filed for bankruptcy for the second time in August and is up for sale, experts say.
Meanwhile, Long Island's independent record stores are washing away like sand castles in a high tide filled with Wal-Marts, Best Buys and Targets. Only 19 independent, brick-and-mortar record stores exist today, down from more than 50, two decades ago, according to Almighty and Long Island record store owners. The culprits: big, boxy discounters that sell music at lower prices and the Internet, which enables people to download music cheaply and conveniently.
So what is Looney Tunes doing to keep its business soaring like a No. 1 hit?
"We have changed with the times," said Groeger, 37, who owns the store with brother Jaime, 34, who handles buying.
When Groeger first saw signs of people getting their music elsewhere, he joined in 1999 the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, a Birmingham, Ala.-based trade association of 28 independent record stores from around the country that have banded together to compete with bigger competitors. As a member, Looney Tunes gets more advertising packages, promotions, giveaways and exclusive products, such as band concert CDs.
Because of the store's longtime relationship with record companies, Groeger has been able to attract big-name artists, such as Ice T and Ozzy Osbourne, to his store.
Top bands regularly give concerts in the 4,000-square-foot store. His biggest set was in 2001 with metal band Staind, who performed on Looney Tunes rooftop for a crowd of 7,500 people.
The store on Brookvale Avenue and its Web site (looney tunescds.com) hawk more than 600,000 items, including hard-to-get releases, DVDs and books. It also sells T-shirts, posters, body jewelry and other music-related goodies.
Customers also can browse and listen to their favorite songs at either site and blog about their musical experiences.
So far, Groeger's strategy seems to be working. Experts estimate Looney Tunes' annual revenue to be more than $2 million - a number that Groeger doesn't dispute.
Groeger's father, Karl Sr., opened Looney Tunes in 1971 with $15,000 and a passion for the Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Kinks. "I wanted to bring the joy of music to people," he said.
He sold music effortlessly, expanding the store in the '80s and in 2000. But then the competition came, and one by one indie retailers in Long Island began shutting their doors. Karl Jr., who took over the business in 1999, said he used to be happy when competitors went out of business, thinking it meant more market share for him. That attitude changed when he realized the factors hurting his competitors were hurting him, too. "Now when a store closes, I think there goes another soldier," Groeger said.
One of the most enjoyable parts of his job is helping Long Island bands that he showcases in his store, newsletter and Web site. Members of Point Blank, an unsigned metal band, say they would not have been able to play in some of the more prestigious Long Island venues if it weren't for Groeger's constant trumpeting of their act. "Now people know us," said Bill Kelly, the band's lead guitarist. "I think it will only be a matter of time before a record label signs us."
Groeger said working with local bands comes with owning a Long Island record store. "People have supported us all these years," he said. "We just want to support them."
1972. Karl Groeger Sr. opens Looney's doors.
1984. Looney Tunes starts to offer clothing and other music-oriented items.
1985. Store adds 1,000 square feet.
Mid-1990s. Looney Tunes starts to do in-store concerts and autograph signings.
1995. Looney Tunes launches its monthly newsletter, reaching more than 11,000 customers.
1997. Looney Tunes is asked to join Coalition of Independent Music Stores (cimsmu sic.com).
2000. Store expands again by 1,000 square feet, to its current 5,000 square feet.
2001. Bought building; Looney Tunes hosts in-store events with Staind for 7,500 people and Ozzy Osbourne with thousands in attendance.
2003. Web page is launched.
SOURCE: Looney Tunes WHEN & WHERE On Friday, Saosin and local emo band Envy on the Coast play Looney Tunes, 31 Brookvale Ave., West Babylon, at 7 p.m. To get into the show and autograph signing, you must preorder Saosin's upcoming self-titled album. Visit www.looney tunescds.com or call 631-587-7722.
Permission granted by copyright holder for this express use only.
Article List• November 21, 2013 - New York Times - Records Are Dying? Not Here
• March 27, 2013 - Glendale News-Press - It's a matter of record: Burbank's Atomic Records and Backside
• December 30, 2012 - Detroit News - As one record shop closes, vinyl music plays on in another
• April 20, 2012 - Boston.com - New vinyl album releases give record stores a kick
• November 20, 2011 - Salon.com - In an iTunes age, do we need the record store?
• June 9, 2011 - NJ.com - Curmudgeon Records closes its doors for good
• April 16, 2011 - Wall Street Journal - One-Day Record-Store Revival
• February 1, 2011 - Charlottesville News & Arts - Plan 9 Changes Location
• August 13, 2010 - The Tennesean - Anita Wadhwani: Nashville indie record stores' sales spin in right direction
• January 3, 2010 - Delaware News Journal - Delaware music shops get creative to compete with downloads, chain music stores
• September 24, 2009 - Los Angeles Times - L.A. independent record shop is still in a groove
• August 20, 2009 - CNN Money - You can make money off online music
• June 14, 2009 - New York Times - Retailing Era Closes With Music Megastore
• May 13, 2009 - Medill Reports - Resurgence in vinyl helps record store in recession
• April 26, 2009 - Los Angeles Times - In a digital age, vinyl albums are making a comeback
• April 18, 2009 - Charlotte Observer - Record stores band together
• April 17, 2009 - Detroit News - Record Store Day spins profits and good beats at Metro Detroit shops
• April 17, 2009 - Associated Press - Record Store Day celebrates indie retailers
• April 10, 2009 - Detroit News - Street Corner Music moving to Oak Park plaza
• April 10, 2009 - Toledo Free Press - New record store shakes up Adams Street
• January 8, 2009 - OC Register - Closing date for Virgin Megastore at The Block
• October 28, 2008 - Reuters - AC/DC back in "Black" with global smash
• September 23, 2008 - Chicago Daily Herald - Independent music stores haven't yet disappeared from suburbia
• June 23, 2008 - New York Times - For Tom Petty Fans, the True Sound of Vinyl, Also Captured on a CD
• April 19, 2008 - Lafayette Journal Courier - For some, record stores live on
• April 19, 2008 - New Jersey Star Ledger - It's Record Store Day. Play it again, Sam!
• April 18, 2008 - New York Times - Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing
• April 18, 2008 - Dallas Morning News - Retailers hope Record Store Day turns up volume at mom-and-pop shops
• April 16, 2008 - Timeout New York - Platter Up
• December 27, 2007 - Los Angeles Times - Virgin Megastore to close shop
• December 16, 2007 - New York Times - For a "Dinosaur," an Exuberant Second Life (Looney Tunes Reopens)
• December 3, 2007 - Detroit Free Press - The same old song: Music store closing
• November 7, 2007 - Washington Post - Eagles soar past Britney to top of charts
• November 4, 2007 - The Ledger - Two Young Entrepreneurs Unafraid of Risk of Going on Records
• August 20, 2007 - Billboard - Almighty Taps Hans As VP
• June 29, 2007 - ABC News - Long Live the Record Store
• June 28, 2007 - Orange County Weekly - Locals Only
• June 13, 2007 - Reuters - McCartney's Starbucks album heats up U.S. charts
• June 9, 2007 - Billboard - Commentary: Retail Recovery
• May 9, 2007 - Columbia Free Times - High Fidelity
• March 22, 2007 - NARM Awards - Almighty Retail Named NARM Related Supplier Finalist For Third Consecutive Year
• March 16, 2007 - Chortler - Shout! Factory Has Revamped Its Website
• March 9, 2007 - PhillyBurbs.com - Internet killed the record store?
• March 4, 2007 - Sacramento Bee - New groove for Solomon
• February 28, 2007 - USA Today - Exclusives aim to pull music fans into stores
• February 28, 2007 - New York Newsday - Latin record shops thrive despite changes in music business
• February 23, 2007 - Montpelier Bridge - Buch Spieler Sails On Despite a Music Industry Decline
• November 20, 2006 - Austin 360 - In Austin, Niche Indies Rule
• October 20, 2006 - Sacramento Bee - Tower brand could survive
• October 15, 2006 - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Tables have turned on record stores
• October 14, 2006 - Sacramento Bee - Small labels lose valuable ally in Tower
• October 6, 2006 - Desert Sun - Record Alley remodels
• September 27, 2006 - Music & Copyright - Niche Marketing of CD albums continues to rise in the US and Physical Sales overall decline
• September 22, 2006 - CNN.com - Indie stores confront a new era
• September 19, 2006 - New York Newsday - 34 years, and that's not all, folks
• August 18, 2006 - The Roanoke Times - Plan 9 Music puts new spin on 5 Record Exchange stores
• August 3, 2006 - The Hollywood Reporter - Nervous music retailers face hazy digital future
• July 16, 2006 - New York Times - The Graying of the Record Store
• July 13, 2006 - Rolling Stone - The iTunes Holdouts
• July 11, 2006 - Roanoke Times - Record store's "last dance"
• July 5, 2006 - Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader - Quimper Sound moves, expands to change with times
• June 6, 2006 - Billboard - NARM Nominations Announced
• May 10, 2006 - Detroit MetroTimes - Out of the Groove
• March 18, 2006 - Billboard - Indies in a bind
• January 16, 2006 - Los Angeles Business Journal - Slipped Discs
• January 6, 2006 - Los Angeles Times - Indie record stores doing slow fade out
• December 26, 2005 - Los Angeles Times - The Music Stops for Indie Shop
• December 1, 2005 - Rolling Stone - Fall Sales Dry Up
• October 13, 2005 - Desert Sun - Music snobs rejoice: Independent record stores still thrive in desert
• September 12, 2005 - Salt Lake Tribune - Twilight for Starbound Records
• August 18, 2005 - New York Post - Oldies are now singing a new tune - Music stores go digital
• July 2005 - Rolling Stone - Record Biz Still Sinking
• June 18, 2005 - Billboard - NARM Noms Announced
• March 21, 2005 - CMJ - Hart of the Matter
• February 16, 2005 - MSN - Genius Loves Company
• October 12, 2004 - Rolling Stone - Wal-Mart wants $10 CDs
• July 10, 2004 - Billboard - Almighty Institute To The Rescue
• January 14, 2004 - Creative Loafing Charlotte - Manifest Destiny
• December 29, 2003 - New York Times - on the rise of mass marketers
• November 13, 2003 - Rolling Stone - Best Buy snags rights to band's new DVD
• October 9, 2003 - USA Today - Best Buy wins sales rights to Rolling Stones DVD box set
• October 6, 2003 - Reuters - Stones Paint It Black For Retailers
• May 31, 2003 - Billboard - Retail Track
• May 9, 2003 - Hits - Rerap