"Is the Music Store Over?"
That's the question asked in this Business 2.0 article. It's the right question to be asking as once-giants in the industry like Tower Records or Wherehouse Music are either filing for bankruptcy protection, closing stores, or just flat going our of business.
Personally, I don't buy CD's at these mega record stores anymore. I might pick up a new CD that I can't find on Apple Itunes, but usually I buy it if I happen to be in Costco or shopping for books in Borders. Why? Well, Costco's cheap and Borders is usually the same price (if not a little bit more than) as Tower, but at Borders I can get what I really went in for . . . books.
The article goes into some depth about stores needing to be a "cathedral for music" (i.e., a place where there is, for lack of a better term, a "music experience"). Unfortunately, the article fails to mention Amoeba Music, which creates exactly this type of experience. To be honest, if it's an older CD that I am looking for, I'll make the trip to Amoeba because chances are they'll have the CD I'm looking for used, saving me a bunch of money. Also, the experience at Amoeba is just plain cool and fun. Unfortunately Amoeba isn't everywhere, but it wouldn't be too hard for a representative of a mega store to go to an Amoeba and emulate what it is that makes Amoeba different (or maybe they can't emulate it, maybe that's why they're failing so miserably).
Another avenue that the article explores is the model that Virgin uses. Virgin has a definite "music experience," albeit very different from that at Amoeba. You can find just about any CD at Virgin, even CD's you didn't know existed or CD's that are not normally for sale in America (i.e., imports). Furthermore, Virgin combines books, artist merchandise, and music technology within its aisles to improve the music buying experience. Virgin Music will most likely succeed where others are failing simply because Richard Branson always seems to get it.