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Burning instead of buying

Summit Daily/Reid Williams Budget Tapes and Records owner Bill Graves discusses the challenges and setbacks independent music retailers face in the age of electronic file-sharing and big box stores. Graves is retiring this summer, trimming the independent music store options in 1010Summit County to one.
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SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County is home to only two independent record retailers. Owners of both stores tell the same story of customers with CDs in their hands shopping with a friend who says, “Don’t buy that. I’ll burn it for you.”

The product goes back in the bin and another sale is lost to new technology that allows music listeners to share music instead of buying it.

CD burning has deeply damaged business at Affordable Music in Dillon. Owner Gary Koenig says his business is down 50 percent since the technology to copy music became widely available.



“There was a kid in here the other day who was proud to say he had never bought a CD,” Koenig said. “He’s the reason that in five to 10 years you won’t be able to buy music.”

Nationwide, record stores report up to 30 percent decline in sales. The Internet’s downloads and convenience are blamed for pushing large stores like Tower Records into bankruptcy. The technology is causing tremors throughout the industry.



“If people continue to do it, the artist loses out, the record label loses out, I lose out and we’re all going to lose out eventually,” Koenig said. “It’s going in a bad way, and eventually the money won’t be there for the industry to seek out and develop new artists.”

Bill Graves, owner of Budget CDs in Frisco, agrees that the result will be less good music.

“The music industry has been hurt by not bringing out quality albums,” Graves said. “It’s part of the problem of why sales are down. If you don’t deliver a good product, why buy it?”

Koenig said record labels have stopped producing thousands of items, such as Jerry Garcia’s music from Arista.

“I can’t get it in anymore,” Koenig said. “They stop producing it because there’s no profit. They’re still re-issuing items, but the ratio has changed in recent months to not producing as much and re-issuing less.”

With new Internet sites that allow customers to buy songs for 99 cents, the record industry seems to have figured out a way to make money on downloading. Koenig envisions the day when computer terminals will be the only place to shop for music.

“They’re not interested in independent stores,” he said. “Once they figure out how to make as much money on downloading, they will stop producing hard products. They’ve already cut back on them.”

Customers may like the incense smells and stacks of cardboard albums in stores like Affordable Music, plus the added benefit of talking with experts who can find or order work by obscure artists. But Koenig thinks there may not be enough of that type of atmosphere-seeking customer to support a small store in a small community.

To combat reduced sales, Koenig diversified into other products such as drums, posters and T-shirts. Graves dedicated more space to used CD sales. One bin is marked “Just In This Week” so that frequent customers can quickly peruse the section.

Sales also were down at Budget CDs by up to 35 percent last year, according to Graves. He is retiring this summer and plans to sell the stock and close his doors. The business will not be sold, leaving one independent record retailer in the area.

Koenig is unsure whether his store, which he recently moved from Silverthorne to downtown Dillon for lower rent, will survive plummeting sales. Local customer loyalty has kept Affordable Records afloat, but the soft economy is trickling down to further reduce sales.

“People have to eat, they have to wear clothes but they don’t have to buy music,” Koenig said. “It’s a gift to yourself to buy music.

“Geez, if Tower Records is going out of business, maybe the writing is on the wall,” he continued. “I’m just hanging on with blind faith.”


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