It turns out that Tower Records isn't just a part of Gen X's youthful memories. The retail company — still in the business of selling physical copies of CDs and vinyl records — has been big in Japan this whole time and is about to open its first U.S. branch since 2006.
The New York Times says the Nov. 4 opening of Tower Labs is intended as a site for "personal gatherings … similar to a backstage experience," but it will also sell limited editions of vinyl records and artist merchandise.
But David Brancaccio of public radio's Marketplace notes that Tower Records is far bigger than that. The current owner of the Tower Records brand is Japan-based NTT DoCoMo.
Patrick St. Michel, a freelance writer based in Tokyo, told Brancaccio that Tower Records stores are located all over the country, including a nine-story location in Tokyo's Shibuya neighborhood. Streaming services like Spotify were slower to emerge in Japan.
"And as a result, physical media, especially CDs have been the dominant mode of how people listen to music in the country, all the way until recently," St. Michel said.
Adding to that demand for recordings is a fan base eager to buy every special edition, remix or limited release, he said.
"Obviously, physical is the best way to hold on to that because you have ownership; there's no worries about it suddenly vanishing from the stream or a file being corrupted," he said.