Monday, July 21, 2008

Morninglory Music to close final store

BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

For the past 38 years, Morninglory Music has promoted what longtime employees call the “culture of music.”
It is a concept that goes beyond product, something they say can’t be found online, inside the mega-storage of an iPod or within the broad walls of a big-box entertainment store.
And so it’s tragically fitting that Stan Bernstein, owner of Morninglory Music, has decided to close his store at 1014 State St. He said shifts in the demographics of music lovers who still shop in stores and illegal downloading on the Internet are behind his decision to close.

“It’s kind of sad, really,” Bernstein said yesterday. “We needed to have the younger people and they basically bailed out on buying music because they think it’s supposed to be free.”
Bernstein, who doesn’t own an iPod, said he saw this day coming. He closed down the flagship Morninglory location in Isla Vista, which he opened as a UC Santa Barbara student in 1969, six years ago. Last December, he shut the doors at the Morninglory in Lompoc.
Now, the Santa Barbara location — the only one left — will shut its doors in August after 13 years on State Street.
Over the years, Bernstein, said he’s watched his clientele grow up. And as the faces got older, few new ones came along to replace them. Couple that with the current economic climate in the U.S., and it’s a perfect storm that seems to be waging war against small, independently owned music stores.
“If the country is in a recession, the music business is in a depression, so that’s what’s happening,” he said. “There’s definitely a slow-down.”
Bernstein’s not the only one closing his doors. According to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, 3,100 music retailers in the U.S. have closed since 2003, 1,400 of which are independently owned.
While the trend toward Internet sales and downloading began years ago, Bernstein said it is the illegal aspect that bothers him the most. He said regulation of illegal Web sites like Napster in 2001 did little to stem the bleeding of small stores like his.
“It just kind of spread to a bunch of smaller, illegal ones,” he said of online downloading. “It’s affected retailers, record labels, publishers, songwriters — everybody in a negative way. It’s just the way it is.”
If illegal downloads were taken completely out of the picture, Bernstein said he believes stores like his would have fighting chance for survival.
“That’s at least legitimate and possible to compete with,” he said of legal online operations. “You can’t compete with free.”
Though illegal downloading is a large part of the problem for Bernstein, Morninglory Manager Vincent Thomas said it’s also difficult to compete with legal online music outlets like iTunes, which sells individual songs for 99 cents. He said the ability to purchase a couple of songs from an album is enticing when the alternative is to spend about $20 on the entire CD.
“You can’t really compete with 99-cent songs,” he said.
But to some, establishments like Morninglory are more than just a store.
Seven-year Morninglory employee Jamal Andrews said everything from the posters that hang on the walls to the face-to-face conversations that take place allow the customer as well as the employee to broaden their musical knowledge. It’s the “culture” or soul of the store that Andrews said is an important element that’s falling by the wayside, primarily because it hinges on actual people.
“It’s the soundtrack to your life,” he said, attributing the quote to Bernstein. “[The store] takes you back in time kind of. I think that’s what really sets us apart here.”
Though Andrews said stores like Borders serve a purpose, he said few establishments, small and large, offer the kind of service Morninglory does. He cited the store’s liberal return policy, which allows customers to return a CD for any reason at all, even if they simply don’t like it as much as they thought they would. He said Bernstein was one of the first music storeowners to buff used CDs, repackage them and guarantee quality.
Andrews also said experiences like having a smoke with Carlos Santana, which Thomas once did in front of the store, or meeting the drummer from the band Tool — his favorite — can’t happen online.
Also not online in one convenient, hand-held package is the feel of a record or CD. The artwork on the album cover. Information about who wrote the songs. The lyrics. All of the things any record collector will say is an integral part of the well-rounded music experience.
One regular shopper at Morninglory, who asked to remain anonymous, said he’s sad to hear the store is closing, but isn’t surprised.
“They’re all closing down,” the man said. “It’s disappointing to me.
“The artwork and feel [of a record] was as important as the music. Sometimes you can’t get that from an iPod.”

Editor's Note: A closing sale will begin Aug. 1 at Morninglory. Bernstein said the store will close later that month.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dinosaurs will die.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:28: True, but that doesn't mean it's not sad. I own an iPod and I still shopped there. It was like being back in the 80s for a half hour. The store had a great atmosphere.

cpage said...

It was also one of the last places downtown with good deals on stuff. It's yet another hit to downtown as a 'real' place.

(I think 2006 was one of the worst years though - both of the larger thrift stores got pushed out! And Alpha's old space is still for lease even after a remodel, ha ha.)

Meanwhile, Apple's staked out a large spot on the next block down...

jqb said...

Dinosaurs will die.

Dinosaurs lived for 150 million years, far longer than the human race is likely to, and were decimated by a catastrophe -- the impact of a 6-mile-diameter meteor into the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago. Even then, they did not entirely perish ... a branch of dinosaurs that had already evolved feathers because of their effectiveness in retaining heat went on to become the birds we are familiar with today.

solo basura said...

Thanks Stan for all your hard work. TMMSSIMEMOL (this makes me so sad i may end my own life.) UCSB 1975.

beep said...

I'm a dinosaur by now, and I'm not dead yet :) I am so going to miss Morninglory...and music stores.

Anonymous said...

I wish you the best and hope that all your dreams came true! Your store was and always will be in the hearts of "real" music lovers! Your store made Santa Barbara a better place for musicians and music enthusiasts! You truly made a difference and I thank you.
Sincerely, Meow

Anonymous said...

I wish you the best and hope that all your dreams came true! Your store was and always will be in the hearts of "real" music lovers! Your store made Santa Barbara a better place for musicians and music enthusiasts! You truly made a difference and I thank you.
Sincerely, Meow

Anonymous said...

This is so sad! I was just thinking I need to get into MorningGlory and stock up on some new music....WTF?!? This just sucks. I don't do IPod, downloading or any of that crap -- yeah, I'm old. In my 40's...guess by todays youth-obcessed cultural standards I oughta be dead by now, but here I sit, broken hearted. I absolutely love music and can't imagine stealing it or even buying sound files. Sound files blow! It's like smashing your pizza through 4 window screens and then eating it. The good stuff gets left behind. Digital music is a failure. Gotta have the disc, the vinyl (!) and the liner notes. Always the liner notes, which on cd's are a bit truncated for my taste. I miss the days of vinyl album liner notes and artwork (Dang, I'm old!). Well, MorningGlory is dead, long live MorningGlory. So sorry to see you go. Sorry I didn't do a better job of supporting you while you were here. Happy trails....

BTW: The corporate store sheen that is glossing over State street and the personality of this town is depressing.

FanFiction said...

I remember at the end of the '90s we were forced to put out a bunch of Jeff Bridges CDs at the front counter. Everyone who worked there was all "WTF" even before "WTF" existed. As it turned out, we never sold any of those, and ended up with more than we started with when people traded them in. Also Stan wasn't too keen on selling any new fangled "black" music.

or maybe it was in 2000.

Anonymous said...

Losing Morninglory is just so sad. I remember Morninglory first opening on State in '90; It was a big deal for a local boy to go Main Street from a little store founded in I.V. in the 60's. But he made it, 18 more years, in the middle of Santa Barbara, to keep going when others could'nt keep their doors open. I hope people remember how he brought them their own culture in song. People are going to be shocked when they find out this store is actually closing. Morninglory, thanks for the memories you gave me, over the years.

Anonymous said...

Visits to Morninglory brought on a state of euphoria to me; I love me some obscure electronica & 80's business. Morninglory's used section was mighty; its new section lined with semi-obscure goodness. I live in Ventura, so for now I at least have Salzer's, but every trip to State meant a trip to Morninglory. Coming from a person who lives to browse record stores, this news kills off a little bit of my soul.

Anonymous said...

Morninglory... you will be missed!! I loved to browse through your store and before I knew it I had a stack of CD's I could barely balance. For a music lover it was a true experience. I moved to Santa Barbara about 5 years ago right after highschool and I remember walking up and down state and discovering you guys. I loved how much history the street held, all the old shops. Slowly but surely I've watch them all disapear. Italian greek deli!! How do we keep losing SB's treasures? Morninglory staff - thank you for the experience we'll keep the soul of music alive in our hearts.

Anonymous said...

I was driving down through Santa Barbara this evening and decided to pull over to have a quick run-through of their used CDs and was totally shocked and saddened to see all those bright red signs screaming out a closing sale. I half thought that maybe the store was relocating or renovating or some such craziness, but alas it was really closing. I have to admit I have seen this coming with the loss of the IV store, the loss of Rhino Records in West LA, etc. Every store (save Saltzers in Ventura) we used to buy music from across the southland for our DJ business and to just get us through college musically has now closed. This is totally crazy!

I can remember spending hours in those cramped old IV racks going over CD after CD after CD. Yes the "I'm way too cool to say that I actually like Elvis or Run-DMC or anyone else you ask me about" attitude so prevalent at with said establishments' employees was there, but the joy of stumbling over something or someone I had never heard of was well worth that. While I suppose this is just old guys getting older, something is different when you get a CD or song off of CD Baby or iTunes. My wife asked me the other day how I keep finding such good and (to her) unknown music. I told her I just hunt around. Morning Glory and such stores made it easy to hunt around. I guess I will have to cultivate new hunting grounds.

Thanks for helping expand my musical horizons from 1988 to 2008!

-Sean Anderson