A detailed recap of this past weekend’s shows/festivals will be encapsulated in this week’s column (probably). I went to Nebraska Pop, Maha and Rat Fest. And as we all know, the weather was perfect, though it didn’t help attendance that much, at least during the daylight hours at Maha (though I’m told it filled in somewhat after dark).
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A bit of news that I had tucked in my e-mail that I missed reporting last week — Homer’s is closing its Saddle Creek store Sept. 19 (This even after I begged Homer’s general manager Mike Fratt to keep it open or move it to Benson!).
“Leases are up at Lincoln and Saddle Creek, and based on their volume of biz and the ridiculous prices landlords still think they can get, we can’t risk it by re-signing,” Fratt said in an e-mail. He went on to say that Homer’s is signing a new lease in the Old Market (but at a new location). “We’re not going away, just positioning ourselves to remain profitable.”
In fact, the Saddle Creek Homer’s was profitable, Fratt said, but just recently slipped to break even. “To some extent, Old Market and Saddle Creek compete with each other.”
He said Homer’s tried going month-to-month on the Saddle Creek lease for the rest of the year, but the landlord “would not work with us. We tried to buy the space and they would not work with us.”
OK, now this seemed strange. How could that little notch of property be worth holding onto, especially considering that when Homer’s is gone, the converted Kwik Shop building likely will remain empty indefinitely, just like the sad old Target store that’s been sitting empty right next to it for years?
Fratt said the property was owned by an oil company and it has changed hands six times since Homer’s moved in. “That piece of land is bundled with over 100 other properties around the country and the current owner will only sell the bundled real estate package,” he said. “But, as you say, it will likely sit empty because REITs (real estate investment trusts) are in big trouble right now ($3 trillion in commercial real estate loans are up for renewal in Sept., next bubble to burst?), so there are no buyers.”
All right then, what about Benson? Surely it has better “foot traffic” than Saddle Creek, and we all know there are plenty of empty storefronts along Maple St. “I remain interested, but have concerns about what’s happening in Benson right now,” Fratt said, “Two restaurants closing, the bridal shop closing, no new food coming in to replace the losses. Also, Mick’s closing has chased away affluent adults to some extent, and Espana, since the sale, is not doing very well, so it’ll have to wait until the economy improves.”
I suppose you could call it a “duck-and-cover strategy,” and I can’t say I disagree with it. “You won’t find an indie like us, anywhere in the U.S., with more than two locations per metro,” Fratt said.
Want more data? Here’s Christine Laue’s recap from the OWH. In it, Fratt says Homer’s, as part of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, has negotiated with the major music labels to be able to sell new releases at $9.99, or $2 below cost. He called the price drop “a game changer” that will help them compete with the big box stores (Wal-Mart, Target, etc.).
I hope he’s right. For me, the big game changer continues to be the Internet, but not necessarily because of illegal downloading. Case in point: Who remembers the old days before the Internet and Myspace when it was impossible to hear a new album without buying it? It was so difficult, in fact, that you often bought albums sight-unheard just because of your curiosity — you took a chance, and sometimes the chance paid off, sometimes it didn’t.
With the Internet, that sort of blind commitment no longer is necessary. These days, if you wonder what a band sounds like — and I mean any band — you can just go to Myspace or Lala.com where you can hear their latest album for free.
This ease of availability has turned us into a nation (or world) of listeners with short attention spans. We click on a link and begin listening, and if the track doesn’t turn us on in 15 seconds we click to the next track or click away from the recording entirely, deciding that it sucks, whether it does or not.
The mystery is gone, for better or worse. For the better, it means we no longer have to waste money on an album that turns out to be 95 percent dud (We’ve all done this before). For the worse, we’re discarding a lot of music that we simply haven’t given enough time to “sink in.” Fact is, most great albums don’t sound great the first time through. It takes repeated listens before we “get it.” And, of course, it also means with fewer people willing (or needing) to make a blind commitment, that Homer’s and other record stores are selling fewer albums.
That’s just my theory, of course…
I’ll miss that little store on Saddle Creek. It was like a miniature version of the Old Market location, complete with that horrible incense stench that permeated your clothes so that you were left smelling like a head-shop for the rest of the day. Saddle Creek didn’t have the biggest selection, but it had whatever I was looking for. And the people who worked there were always cool, just like everyone who works (or has worked) at Homer’s. Here’s hoping they all land on their feet.
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Tonight at O’leaver’s, Little Brazil labelmates Roman Numerals (Anodyne Records) is playing along with fellow Kansas City band Waiting for Signal. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Over at The Waiting Room, it’s indie hip-hop royalty Eyedea and Abilities, along with Kristoff Krane and Maxilla Blue. $10, 9 p.m.
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