Lou’s Records, about to enter its 30th year of business, is in “serious financial trouble,” according to a store employee. The source and others say that the Leucadia record store is experiencing at least temporary difficulty in providing some product because distributors have restricted delivery due to credit and/or financial reasons.
A different Lou’s employee, Chris Rogowski, went on the record to say that this is not Lou’s Records’ “heyday.” He says, “Everyone knows the music industry is going through some rough times.”
Rogowski acknowledges that market forces have made it difficult for a brick-and-mortar music outlet such as Lou’s — with 20 full- and part-time employees — to survive.
“When gas went crazy — over $4 a gallon [last summer] — people started staying home more. It was easier to shop [for music] online and get it shipped to your house. We don’t get a lot of foot traffic here.”
In the past, Lou’s popularity has drawn performers such as Jack Johnson, Flogging Molly, Interpol, and Rocket From the Crypt for free outdoor concerts adjacent to the store.
Making business more difficult, says Rogowski, is the fact that many record distributors have either gone out of business or, due to the shrinking economy, switched their terms on buy-backs, which means a store such as Lou’s is stuck with merchandise it previously could return for credit to buy new product.
Tony Davis, who worked for Lou’s for 21 years, now works at CIMS (Coalition of Independent Music Stores), which, once it is launched in a few months, will help Lou’s and other stores get income from downloaded tracks.
“It used to be [that] a big blockbuster would sell seven million copies,” says Davis, noting that people are “straight up stealing” music online. “Now the biggest sellers only sell one million. And video games are winning the attention of youth. And you can’t steal video games.”
But, Davis says indie stores are getting into the sale of collectible pop-culture toys. And Rogowski says the sale of vinyl records has increased strongly this year.
“Kids have discovered that records have a different sound and feel,” says Rogowski. “Plus, records have their own artwork. Kids are finding that the record-buying experience can be a social event.”
Former Licorice Pizza employee Lou Russell opened his store in 1980 at a Cardiff strip mall. He was not available for comment.
— Ken Leighton