Why I Can’t Wait Until Amoeba Music Gets Demolished

Amoeba Music: Going, Going, Gone...
  • Save

If the owners of Amoeba Music don’t care if their store survives, why should I?

Tower Records entered two bankruptcies before it crashed ten years ago.  The company struggled against a myriad of deadly competitive threats, until it couldn’t hang on anymore.  Target, iTunes, Amazon… Napster.  The world moved on, and Tower Records bit the dust.

It was a pretty ugly death, and there’s still a hole where the iconic Tower Records stood on the Sunset Strip.  Plenty of older music fans still feel the void in music discovery, ten years later.

Now, the focus is on another iconic record store: Amoeba Music in Hollywood.  But unlike Tower, Amoeba smartly figured out a way to beat the odds.  They created a crowded hotspot among hip urbanites, and smartly served them vinyl, CDs, and in-store performances from a long list of notable artists.  They created a giant sandbox of music, and while other record stores perished, their concept succeeded.

When vinyl started roaring back, Amoeba stood tall as a proud beneficiary, and proof that music fans still love experiences, tangible products, and community.

Then, they sold their building to a major developer for $34 million.

What happens after you voluntarily sell your property for millions in straight profit?  Well, Amoeba is now paying rent to the people that purchased their lot.  And all around, the price of real estate continues to soar in that particular neck of Hollywood.  Instead of a semi-depressing, somewhat seedy grid coordinate in Los Angeles, Amoeba is now in a prime zone of luxury hotels, high-priced restaurants, and expensive condominiums and apartments.

So Amoeba did what any smart businessperson would do: they sold while the market was booming, before the next bust.

And yes, Amoeba Music is a business first and foremost.  They put dollar bills before dusty vinyl and indie cred, and that’s perfectly okay.  But pretending that Amoeba was in any way forced out by developers, victimized by gentrification, or punished by pirating music fans is completely misguided.

Amoeba Music doesn’t need to be saved.  The building doesn’t need to become a protected historical structure.  Because the owners didn’t want to save it themselves.  They played the game well, and now they’re rich.

Should there be a rule against that?  Of course not!  If the owners of Amoeba cared about preserving their relic of record store history, they shouldn’t have sold it.  It was all their choice.  And they have two more stores in Northern California anyway!

And yes, the next step is demolition, with a big, fat wrecking ball.  Amoeba said they’ve received assurance that they’ll remain protected within their lease for at least a few years.  Now, if you believe that, the next question is obvious: what happens next?

The entire building gets demolished, that’s what happens next.  Then, GPI Properties initiates construction on a shimmering condo/apartment complex, and Amoeba finds a new location.  Sure, every local paper will send a photographer to the demolition, there will be a half-dozen YouTube videos filming the wrecking ball as it makes contact.

Meanwhile, the owners of Amoeba will probably be picking a new, super-hip location stuffed with gentrified young hipsters, and double their yearly revenues.

In fact, as a Los Angelino myself, I’d say they’re currently in the wrong spot!  They’re in Manhattan when they should be in Brooklyn.  Because that’s where the greater density of hip, younger music fans with disposable cash are these days.  LA’s version of Brooklyn is Echo Park or Los Feliz.  Hollywood is now a tourist trap with nicer streets, with traveling Europeans instead of indie-loving twenty-somethings.

“Pave paradise, put up a parking lot!”

So while local activists demand action, and scream against relentless development, I’ll be applauding the move.  Amoeba will take some flack from the purists, but they should be congratulated for figuring out a way to make a lot of money running a record store.

That’s worth a celebration, not a half-baked preservation campaign.


Top image by Rich Anderson, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.  


6 Responses

  1. Your Biggest Fan

    What a load of crap – Amoeba didn’t get rich selling the building, the sold it to keep the Berkeley and SF stores open. They’re not rich and they didn’t put dollars in front of anything, they used the dollars to stay open. The LA store is doing fine. The original Berkeley and San Francisco stores? Not so much. They are currently fight for a license to have medical marijuana dispensaries at both location because they don’t make enough money selling records. Your article is snide bullshit that makes Amoeba seem like a big corporate entity just because they have three locations. They are not. And they are nothing like Tower Records. Sure they made the choice to sell the building – but that doesn’t mean that what’s happening to the east bay, San Francisco and LA is not a huge problem that is absolutely affecting their ability to survive. They might not be deserving of a preservation effort to stay in this exact building, but they are definitely not deserving of this lame article.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      “the[y] sold it to keep the Berkeley and SF stores open….”

      … what are you basing this on?

  2. No.

    This article as well as all of them are so anti capitalist and pro marxist its unbelievable.

  3. recordperon

    I hate Echo Park and Los Feliz. People from all over the country make a point when they’re visiting Los Angeles to go to Amoeba. Those people are much more like to swing down to Sunset than the get lost trying to find Los Feliz or Echo Park.

    • Pack Daddy

      You do know that Sunset runs right through Echo Park, right? I don’t know why I care but between your lack of geography knowledge of our great city and your ridiculous and multiple typos I’m guessing you don’t live in LA, have never been to LA, and likely have yet to leave your European village somewhere, near, I dunno, Europe.

  4. Hank Alrich

    What a ridiculous premise. Paul, have you any idea of the extent to which property taxes drive the sale of such properties? You are clueless here, incredibly so.