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Additional Thoughts On The ear X-tacy Issue

November 19th, 2010 by jake · 20 Comments

I posted it here in response to this, but figure I should share it on the front page of the site:

No other business gets to beg the public for help when it needs an influx of cash. They build a product, prove it works and can grow and then they go out to secure funding if they don’t have family money. It’s how I did it. It’s how everyone does it.

And sometimes businesses fail.

My understanding is that John’s wife is a physician – so they’re not exactly living the slum life. He’s known around the world. If he’s really serious, he’ll find a way to work his connections to make this thing work. But it’s not gonna happen by begging the public for sympathy dollars.

What are your thoughts on the fat of ear X-tacy? So far, the discussion has been pretty great. The latest comments are rather interesting.

I’m sure this city can come up with some sort of solution. So dig in. Offer your ideas.

Just please stop sending me ridiculous emails telling me what a “right-wing hater” I am for “wanting ear X to fail” because that’s not the case. I just don’t feel sorry for a business – though I love it – when it doesn’t find ways to adapt to the marketplace.

Tags: Business · Hype · Music

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeff Gillenwater // Nov 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    It really boils down to what people value. Though I understand the point made earlier, ear X-tacy and iTunes are not at all the same thing as others have pointed out. The more people choose “convenience” over actual community engagement, the lesser a place to live this becomes. That, I think, says a lot more about the people making the choice than it does about Timmons or one particular store.

    ear X-stacy, like others, provides a mechanism/space/experience with which to develop and make use of social capital. Doing so is it’s primary business with music just being the social object around which it occurs. There would be no point in any of it if were reduced to just distributing a product, whether it’s shiny, round, and plastic or constructed entirely of digital 1s and 0s

    The question isn’t “How do we buy music?” It’s “How much do we value the type of social capital offered?” Given the state of financial capital in the world, I hope the answer is “a lot”.

  • 2 jake // Nov 19, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Yes. There’s a social and historic component of that particular business. But the core of any business is revenue. How does ear X-tacy generate revenue? By selling product.

    Why isn’t ear X-tacy making tons of money now? No one wants their product. It’s outdated.

    Technologies change. Things get more advanced. And ear X isn’t that unique. The entire music industry is in flux and attempting to adapt.

  • 3 Mark Stanton // Nov 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Addressing the comment in italics “No other business gets to beg the public for help when it needs an influx of cash” is simply not true. Any business can do this if they want to. It’s a choice that can either help, hinder or accomplish neither…..and Timmons has made his choice. In my opinion, it can’t hurt him but he’s likely preaching to the choir. I agree with Jeff’s assesment of what Ear-X represents and also with your thought that he ultimately must figure out some adjustments or face failure, which would be unfortunate. He should probably consult with Jim James, who is obviously interested and may have both financial and creative connections.

  • 4 Todd // Nov 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Isn’t he already going to get a big bump in sales with the holidays upon us? This begging seems to have weird timing.

  • 5 Steve Magruder // Nov 19, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Or maybe it’s perfect timing.

  • 6 tbrauch // Nov 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    It really boils down to what people value. Though I understand the point made earlier, ear X-tacy and iTunes are not at all the same thing as others have pointed out. The more people choose “convenience” over actual community engagement, the lesser a place to live this becomes.

    I do not, not at all, value driving Bardstown Rd, hunting 30 minutes for a parking space, hoping that I’m done shopping by 4:00pm so I don’t get a ticket when there’s no parking on Bardstown Rd, hunting through bins and bins of cd’s when I know exactly what I want to buy.

    I guess the differencebetween us is that I don’t see Ear-X-Tacy as a place to hang out. I go to a coffee shop or a bar for that. I view Ear-X-Tacy as a place to get music and there are a lot easier ways to get music.

  • 7 tbrauch // Nov 19, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    I thought about my comment of I don’t go to Ear-X-Tacy to hang out (though a lot of hipsters seemed to when it was in the Highlands). Some people seem to think this is the only company that has ever faced competition from the internet.

    Imagine a few years ago when Amazon.com first came about. Brick-and-mortar bookstores, like Borders, were in trouble. They reevaluated things. Now Borders have coffee shops inside of them.

    I don’t go to Borders if I know what book I want. It’s too much of a hassle. and they might not even have it. But when I go to Borders to meet someone for coffee, I often leave with a book.

  • 8 joBS // Nov 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    The first round of begging was ok, I got that one- But the second round was just a huge turnoff. Lets look back 20 years in the music industry. In the 80′s we were rocking tapes and vinyl still, and he sold….wait for it…… tapes and vinyl- the 90′s brought us these cool small records with great sound quality- he then adapted and sold CD’s too. But here we are in 2010, when music is downloaded and he’s still grasping to 80′s and 90′s trends. This didn’t happen overnight folks. It will be a sad day when it closes, but nothing lasts forever and people will forget about it 2 news cycles later. the end.

  • 9 Steve Magruder // Nov 19, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    tbrauch, have you ever considered asking an employee about a specific CD you’re searching for? Hunting through bins when you already know what you want sounds, well, inefficient.

  • 10 Jeff Gillenwater // Nov 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    One interesting aspect of all this:

    If Timmons looking straight into the camera and very directly saying he needs people to buy stuff to stay in business is begging or a turn off, then another business owner hiring a professional to create slick, impression-making but much less direct communication to essentially say the same thing is what?

  • 11 mhanka // Nov 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    When you’ve cut costs, relocated and rescaled your business, and still worry about staying afloat after making three desperate public pleas to stay in business, then the owner of ear X-tacy may need to rethink his business strategy because he’s operating under an antiquated business model. Ear X-tacy is more than a record store, but they need to think about ways to make money and stay relevant in the early 21st century music economy. Perhaps the owner took for granted his customers and clientele over the years, or perhaps patrons and non-paying customers took advantage of ear X-tacy’s location and appeal as the center and symbol of Louisville’s hip trendy urban culture, ultimately at the expense of their bottom line.

  • 12 Jeff Gillenwater // Nov 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Not really disagreeing, mhanka, but I think the community as a whole needs to look at that business model as well (in the case of ear X-tacy and many others) and consider whether or not losing it actually amounts to any sort of progress.

    Something bothering me is that many of the suggested changes have been based on doing business the same way as other companies. The way it stands, as a customer, I have options for doing music related business. The more ear X-tacys we lose, the fewer options, both in terms of sheer number of retailers and various business models I (we) will have.

    We’re getting to a point at which downloading music is becoming the only way to buy it. We have the technology and wherewithal to do it any number of ways but we’re literally choosing to not have choices.

    I think that’s regressive on several levels, not the least of which is that each new technological “improvement” has actually downgraded the sound quality of recorded music.

    BTW, calling them records isn’t old school. It’s accurate. What you are buying, regardless of distribution method, is a recording of a performance, i.e., a record of it.

  • 13 AceHat // Nov 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I regret that a local operator like Timmons is becoming overwhelmed by change. Change has effected many of us, progressive technology has cost many people to loose jobs, many times it’s not possible to change to the new “improved” model or way of doing business simply because not all have the same opportunity and resources available. To suggest that EarXtacy should recognize and become an “i-Tunes” is easier said then done. Right what’s those odds. That’s like saying that the corner hardware store should become Home Depot and shame on him cause he couldn’t or Didn’t?…..
    My heartfelt consideration for EarXtacy. John is a Great Guy and has been a great marketing genius to have lasted as long as he has!…Just think what would have happened sooner to his business if the city had decided fund competitors with FREE money and loans,publicity like they did to other local business people in our community.
    When peoples behavior changes due to convience, it hard to overcome that.Also with the state of the economic health, more people are concerned about eating & surviving then buying a possible non-essential like CD’s.

  • 14 jake // Nov 19, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    No one is suggesting ear X become the next iTunes. Just that the store adapt to what consumers want.

    There have been tons of suggestions on this site and elsewhere. I’m hopeful that John finds a way to sustain his business and to adapt to the present.

  • 15 Steve Magruder // Nov 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Also, comparing becoming the next iTunes (i.e., making updates to their online sales strategy and site) to becoming a big box hardware conglomerate is a very large apples-to-oranges comparison. The former needn’t require that much investment. Map out your strategy and hire a web programmer to get you there.

  • 16 KYGuy // Nov 20, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Jeff wrote- “each new technological “improvement” has actually downgraded the sound quality of recorded music. ”

    Yeah, that jump from wax cylinders to vinyl, to lasers sure made things sound like crap.

    I know the point you’re trying to make but the argument against digital audio is an tired one. Low bit rate mp3′s sound pretty bad. But today, higher BR recordings impress even golden eared purists in blind A-B comparison tests. Plus, with higher bandwidth available many are switching to high definition algorithms employing little or no compression.

    I’ll make the argument for you that because of iTunes and the earbuds, millions have never heard really high-quality recorded music. To that I would say the quality is getting better and better. Plus, the modern delivery methods have meant there is more music being heard today than ever before in history. If you love music, that’s a good thing.

  • 17 Crutnacker // Nov 22, 2010 at 10:53 am

    As a reformed record store junkie, the problem is that the record is dead. Those of us who grew up buying records,CDs, and tapes and enjoyed browsing the aisles for hours are mostly gone. Most people these days buy songs, not albums. There is no real love for the product itself. The geeks among us who loved the smell, look, liner notes and physical presence of a collection are gone. Or we don’t feel like traveling to the highlands to get our fix. I love Ear X.Tacy, but not enough to save it.

  • 18 Jeff Gillenwater // Nov 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    “There is no real love for the product itself.”

    Yep. We have been conditioned to continually accept less and less in return for the same or sometimes higher prices, not because of an industry focus on quality but because of a focus on cutting production costs, with the benefits of reduced costs or extra revenue more often hoarded than shared.

    As a phenomenon, that’s hardly contained to the music industry.

  • 19 tbrauch // Nov 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    “There is no real love for the product itself.”

    Last night, I tried to jog while hauling my Hi-Fi behind me so I could listen to music while I worked out. I only made it to the end of the block before I dropped it. Now I need to find a new place to get a record player before I go for a jog this afternoon.

  • 20 LouisvilleCyclist // Nov 23, 2010 at 10:12 am

    A little late to the party…

    Isn’t this “plea model” the same model used by Wikipedia? I’m not sure Ear-X-Tacy works on the same “user participation” model, but I can see how Timmons could try to make the “it’s more than a music store, it’s a community you should support” argument.

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