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Music faces transition in 2007

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

The music industry changed dramatically in 2006.

"The digital revolution is in full force," says Brian Richards, owner of Orion’s Music Shop. "CD sales are down; the physical product is less hip. I’ve had to redirect my focus."

Richards said his CD sales were down 10 percent while digital music sales went up 60 percent industry wide.

"It’s definitely turning," Richards said. "Music wise, it’s tougher these days."

The popularity of iPods is the culprit behind the drop in sales, he said. It’s evidenced by the bankruptcy of Tower Records and its eventual closing earlier this month. It was a thriving music business for almost 40 years prior.

Richards believes iPods aren’t the end of the trend either, even though iPod sales are increasing every year.

"Pretty soon phones will take over too," Richards said. "It’s up to the industry to decide how they’re going to move. It’s still in flux."

The music industry, specifically small shops like Orion’s, must learn to tweak and modify their business in order to stay afloat in the changing times.

"I’ve adapted my store and embraced the digital age. I’m not going to be a music store only," Richards said.

Richards believes if one adapts well, that person can make a profit of the new digital-minded customers.

"It’s created a huge amount of music interest and exposure," Richards said.

In response to that, Richards has sold a large number of T-shirts, buttons and other music memorabilia. He is selling unique cigar and smoking accessories.

Because of the increased interest in all music, younger music lovers, he said, are able to explore music from Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd without spending $15 on each CD. Many of his T-shirt and poster sales reflect a growing interest in the classic rockers.

"I’m giving them what they want," Richards said. My CDs are down but my accessories are up 20 percent. My sales are as strong as ever, just not as much in music. There are still ways to keep the shop relevant."

Richards has implemented many business ideas throughout his nine years in Park City. Not all of his ideas work, however.

"It’s about adapting, what can I do to keep the business alive? We’ve tried everything," he said.

If similar shops aren’t as adaptable, they may suffer the same fate as Richards’ Salt Lake store.

"There’s a good chance we’ll be closing the store in Salt Lake because we weren’t able to accessorize it as seamlessly as the (Park City) store," Richards said.

Richards is not intimidated by the change he’s witnessed this last year.

"It’s exciting because I have a chance to reinvent my store," Richards said. "When it does happen, I’ll be involved."

Richards understands that with another possible change in technology, his business plan may also have to change down the road.

"You have to be on your toes," Richards said. "For any small business owner, you never know in two years what’ll happen to your business. I never really know with technology."

Orion’s Music is also adapting to the Internet and using it for a profit. Richards doesn’t believe an Orion’s Web site would compete with other music sites, but he’s utilizing sites such as Amazon.com.

"I consider myself part of the digital revolution, Richards said, "I’m also hoping my distributors will go to a digital format."

There’s a downside to the change however. With an increase in Internet usage, there is a decrease in the personal side of the business. That’s something that Richards says is a key part to music.

"When people walk in here, I can turn them on to a lot of different music. You can’t do that online," he said. "I remember going to record stores, talking and hanging out with the clerks."

Richards is concerned about society spending hours on the Internet instead of getting out and being involved in the community.

"I get sad that so much commerce is through the Internet. People can’t spend an extra 15 minutes in a store. The theme of society is changing; the CD industry is representative of how we go about our daily lives."

Richards has styled his shop to represent what he enjoyed as a kid.

"I think there’s a certain counter-culture here. My shop is an old-school store, something out of the ’60s and ’70s. I hire people that come in and end up talking and hanging out in the store."

He hopes that with the increase of music interest, that aspect of his store won’t change.

"The CD store is being reinvented," Richards said. "Someday it will be a nostalgia store."

Orion’s Top 10 albums of 2006: Tom Waits "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards" – With 56 songs over 3 CDs, Waits never ceases to amaze the listener with his sheer brilliance. "Orphans" is three separate discs with three distinct styles: "Brawlers" is a raucous affair, "Bawlers" is beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking and "Bastards" is just a strange trip. Waits deserves his place among the legends of contemporary music and this collection just adds to his legacy. American Minor "American Minor" – On their debut LP, American Minor offer up a familiar yet refreshing dose of bluesy guitar riffs and soulful vocals. ’70s influenced guitar rock lives on with this album produced by Blind Melon’s Brad Smith. Califone "Roots & Crowns"- A truly unique take on American roots music. Califone’s desire to experiment never fails to create interesting songs and the detailed arrangements and production are awe-inspiring. Mastadon "Blood Mountain" – Brutal prog metallers return with perhaps their most realized album to date. "Blood Mountain" is both raging and melodic with monster riffs and beautiful melodic turns waiting around every corner. Los Lobos "The Town & The City" – Los Lobos, possibly the most underrated roots rock band ever, returns with their best effort since "Kiko." Relying less on straight forward rock, Los Lobos creates a restrained masterpiece with "The Town & The City." Drive By Truckers "A Blessing & A Curse" – Moving away from the themes of the south that have so richly defined their previous studio efforts, the Truckers concentrate on writing more melodic and classic rock songs on yet another amazing record from the finest rock band currently walking the earth. Rodrigo Y Gabriela "Rodrigo Y Gabriela" – Taking a cue from such players as John Mclaughlin and Al Dimeola, this Mexican guitar duo create a mesmerizing blend of acoustic, flamenco, tango, and even hint of metal. Exhilarating and seductive. Comets On Fire "Avatar" – This acid-drenched rock fest is by far the best jam band record of the year, if you can call it that, because it is so well thought out. Calling to mind bands such as Quicksilver Messenger Service, "Avatar" gives a nod to the acid rock bands of the ’60s while creating its own unique sound in the present. Neko Case "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" – Case possesses one of the most haunting and seductive voices in rock and roll. "Fox Confessor," with it’s tales of friendship, faith and love is Case’s masterpiece.

The Sword "Age Of Winters" – Retro stoner metal out of Austin, The Sword lay down Sabathesque riffs with lyrics about fantasy and legend. Heavy as hell, get the devil horns up.

Richards’ favorite local live music from 2006: On the One – Star Bar. If you were one of the 11 or so in attendance, you know why this show made the list. A rippin’ funk band out of San Diego brought the grease. As a good friend told me, everybody needs a little funk in their life every once and awhile (or something like that). Ween – In The Venue. Maybe the best show that I’ve seen in the last few years. Even though they swore they would never play in SLC again, Deen and Gene Ween brought it from the minute they hit the stage (maybe they thought they were in Boise). Special kudos for the last couple songs, "fluffy" and "l.m.l.y.p.", they lasted close to 40 minutes, what a way to end the show. North Mississippi All Star Suede. Not many people at the show being that it was a Sunday night, but those in attendance got their asses rocked. Best NMA show that I’ve seen to date and the ZZ Top encore was killer. Mountain Town Stages Music Crawl – Main Street. Spontaneity was the theme of the evening and what a night it was. Everything that is special about live music was in full effect. Musicians jammin’ with each other, outdoor music and five bands playing at five different venues. Mofro Suede. Greasy-funk and blues from the swamps of Florida, Mofro was a fresh act to Park City and put on one sweaty show. If you weren’t getting your groove on, you might as well have just stayed home. Hopefully they will grace us with their presence in the future. Drive By Truckers – Suede. On a break from their opening slot on the Black Crowes tour, the Truckers rocked out for a solid four hours. You could tell that they were fired up to be able to let loose and play in a smokey bar for their fans and not the Black Crowes. Drive By Truckers are my favorite live act out there today and this was by far the best show I’ve seen by them. Brian Richards Orion’s Music Shop Park City, Utah


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