The record store is dead. Long live the record store. While the death knell sounded long ago for the eventual demise of physical media, this sentiment may not necessarily be true. Though last year showed a staggering decline for both physical and digital media sales in favor of rising streaming demands, vinyl has continued to show improving sales every year in the last decade, even topping ad-supported streaming revenue.
Depending on how you look at it, the music shop's struggle has only grown worse either despite or in favor of these numbers. It is no big surprise. Records gave way to tapes, which in turn bowed to CDs. Just when CD sales were looking good and stores began to expand, the iPod took over, pushing physical media and the locations where it is sold into obscurity. That's not to say that all record stores have folded.
While the likes of Tower, Rasputin, and many others have all disappeared in this changing market, Amoeba Music has been a California mainstay since 1990. Anyone that has been to Amoeba can add testament that it is a place like no other for the music lover. They had to re-strategize after the height of recorded music sales in 1997, creating their own online marketplace. But that is not what sets them apart; Amoeba has developed deep relationships with artists and fans alike — shows, vinyl sales, and a great music guide, Music We Like.
Sadly, all that has not been enough to keep Amoeba afloat. What is a failing business to do in a failing market? Reorganize and diversify. Amoeba has had to continually reformulate its business in a volatile marketplace, and marijuana may be the answer. Given their San Francisco location is in the heart of the city's Haight District combined with a dearth of office space, some extra room upstairs logically became a medical marijuana clinic a year ago.
Now, with their flagship location in Berkeley failing and the city opening its application process for another medical marijuana dispensary permit, a club inside Amoeba's 25-year-old store may be the answer. Amoeba co-owner David Prinz thinks so.
"Weed can help save music — absolutely. Here's a way," he said.
Seemingly, it's the only way.
"We need supplemental income," he said. "That's the real truth. This helps keep us open and enables us to do some amazing shit."