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Struggling stores forced to face the music.

Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran 1/25/05): Cat's Meow Jazz & Blues will host a closing party from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. A story on Page B1 of Monday's paper listed the wrong time for the event.

After 22 years in business, Jeffrey Ogburn is liquidating his store.

"It's pretty depressing spending years decorating the store and seeing it all go out the door," said Ogburn, the owner of Cat's Meow Jazz & Blues.

Ogburn is one of the latest in a batch of local retailers who has come to the conclusion that, in a digital age, brick and mortar music retailers can't survive. He is selling everything down to the posters on the wall.

He's not the only one.

Across town at Face the Music, another shop with more than a 20-year track record, used CDs are on sale for $1 each, as the store prepares to close its doors for good.

Aaron Bell, 23, recently snapped up new and used CDs by the armload. The store already had liquidated more than half its stock.

"I'm kind of bummed out; I really like this place," said Bell, clutching a collection of banjo music, underground hip-hop and trance techno. "It was always nice to just (stop by and) browse through their selection between classes."

The reasons for the decline of the old-fashioned record store are many, but at the top of the list, Ogburn says, are Internet music downloading, the explosion of digital music players, file-sharing Web sites and the popularity of CD burners.

"Nobody's buying CDs," Ogburn says. "Our sales are down 40 percent this year and they were down 30 percent last year."

The growth of satellite radio and cable TV music stations as well as competition from chains such as Wal-Mart and Internet retailers are also cutting into sales.

"I got an iPod for my birthday and I found 1,700 Duke Ellington albums on iTunes," said Ogburn, referring to the Apple Web site that offers songs and albums for downloading.

Sales began sliding in 2000, Ogburn said. Five years ago, he regularly saw $30,000 in November sales. That number was closer to $12,000 in 2004.

Several other area music stores have gone belly up in recent years including Mountain Jam, Stylus Grooves and Balladeer Music. The Record Garden consolidated its operations into one Springfield store and CD World closed its Corvallis store.

Nationally, 2004 was a relatively good year for the music industry. For the first time since 2000, CD sales increased, according to numbers from Nielsen SoundScan as reported in USA Today. Unit sales, which includes singles and downloads were up 19 percent, which is little comfort to Karl Payne, owner of Face the Music.

Payne says sales have been declining at his store for nearly 10 years.

"New CDs are just too expensive, and unfortunately, we (music stores) are the canary in the coal mine," Payne says.

His sales started leveling out in the mid-1990s, about the time the 13th Avenue store moved to a bigger space down the street. When sales declined, the store returned to its old location.

"This has been something that has been ongoing," Payne said. "It's been a matter of, `Let's get as far as we can.' '

At House of Records in Eugene, which has no plans to close, store managers admit that business isn't exactly booming. "We've found a way to survive," says Greg Sutherland, a buyer for the store. "We're not exactly thriving."

Although new CDs still account for the majority of House of Records' business, the shop has branched out into other areas, selling records and tapes and even offering a service burning old records onto CDs. The store has beefed up its online presence, selling music that won't sell in Eugene over the Internet.

"My boss says there's somebody out there for every record," Sutherland says.

At Feinstein's Museum of Unfine Art, a quirky North Willamette music store, something interesting is happening. Owner Shawn Mediaclast is seeing a renewed interest in vinyl records, which appeal to DJs and audiophiles who regard it as a much "warmer" medium than CDs.

"Vinyl has all of these advantages," Mediaclast says. "And, it's really social. If you're in a room and you pull out a record, everyone sees it."

Vinyl is still an extremely small slice of the record industry pie, but Mediaclast says record companies are realizing there's still a market for LPs. They've been reissuing classic rock albums on vinyl, along with some not-so-classic albums from the 1980s. Brand-new hip-hop albums are routinely pressed on vinyl, along with techno and dance music, and some older jazz recordings.

Mediaclast, who supplements his music income by selling cigarettes, says specializing in records keeps him in business. He now devotes over half of his shelf space to LPs and has started selling new turntables, which, he says, are re-energizing modern music the way the electric guitar did with rock 'n' roll in the 1950s.

"It's such a thing for kids. It seems like everybody's a DJ," he says.

The underground popularity of vinyl and the news that CDs may be susceptible to "CD-rot" has led some to joke that records may outlive compact discs.

Whether the old record stores themselves will survive has led some to lament the loss of not only the shops but the musical expertise of those who run them - such as Ogburn.

"Jeffrey has introduced me to a lot of jazz (artists) that I didn't know existed," says Gerry Gundlach, of Eugene, a regular customer at Cat's Meow.

"It's like losing the downtown drug store that you went to and had a Coke at the fountain."


Cat's Meow Jazz & Blues: Open through March 6. The store will host a closing party at 7 p.m. Saturday featuring music by Mike Denny and Roger Woods. After that, all merchandise will be on sale.

Face the Music: Open until it's all gone. Manager Karl Payne expects the store to be open until the end of the month.


Owner Jeffrey Ogburn has decided to close his record store, Cat's Meow Jazz & Blues at 122 E. Broadway in Eugene, after years of declining sales.
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Title Annotation:Business; Unable to compete against file sharing and CD burning, two retailers decide to close
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 24, 2005
Previous Article:After relief, the real job lies ahead.
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