Agony Shorthand

Monday, July 21, 2003
IN PRAISE OF AMOEBA….This New York Times business section (!) article from Sunday’s paper finally takes a look at the business side of the AMOEBA MUSIC phenomenon that has music obsessives in three California cities (including mine) keeping their collections exceptionally well stocked and growing. (the link requires quick NY Times registration, but it’s an easy process). Amoeba is a retailer worth cheering, since they alone have applied the universally-known 80-20 rule to music buying – 20% of your customers are buying 80% of your records and CDs -- and thus they (we) are the customers to focus on. Because they (we) purchase so much music, their tastes are likely to be more eclectic, so their store of choice had better have a large selection (Amoeba’s is enormous). Because they are more willing to try something out they haven’t heard, you gotta keep prices really low, and sell a lot of used CDs to encourage this sort of behavior. Oh, and my favorite thing about Amoeba? They have never once in over ten years refused to buy a shitty promo CD from me, not even the Primus and Monster Voodoo Machine CDs I used to get for review in my fanzine in the early 90s. As the article mentions, the Amoeba concept plays well in cities with well-developed, eclectic music scenes and hoards of buyers (a good influx of tourists can't hurt). I lived in Seattle for two years and always thought that city would be perfect for an Amoeba store – Seattle has several great small independent specialty stores (Fallout, Singles Going Steady), but after that, it’s going-nowhere, piss-off-your-customer chains like Cellophane Square and worse, Tower Records (that entire chain will be out of business by next year, mark my words). Amoeba would provide much-needed refuge from the rain, and put the final nail in the coffin of the chains while letting the indie specialty stores breathe – at least that’s what’s happened here in San Francisco. Anyway, I’m hoping that non-Internet music retailing continues to move this direction.