Tower Records once was a retail music chain that started off in 1960 as an offshoot of founder Russ Solomon’s father’s drugstore in Sacramento, CA. It got its name from the drugstore that was named for the Tower Theater that they shared a building with. Solomon used the space his father let him borrow to start selling records. Eventually, interest blew up, and so did he.
Seven years after founding Tower Records, Solomon expanded to San Francisco, putting a store where a grocer used to be. From there, the chain continued to spread all across the country—he had stores across California as well as stores in notable cities such as Nashville, New York, Portland, and Seattle—and even internationally where he had stores in Canada and across Europe and Asia.
Tower Records was well known for staying on top of the industry and really providing for their incredibly loyal customer base. Their New York main store, specifically, was an incredible four story building that was best known for selling 1980s European new wave albums that weren’t yet popular in the United States alongside their more mainstream products. Their Nashville store, too, had a similar buzz in that it was a large expanse of store that broke off into a Tower Books store that was well known for midnight release parties for and music.
In 1995, Tower Records continued its expansion when it acquired and opened Tower.com making the enterprise one of the very first retailers to open an online storefront. It was this motion that skyrocketed Tower Records into the modern era and really boosted their consumer base. They were able to increase sales and outreach all over the globe, and it could be seen as the apex of the enterprise.
The Tower Records downward spiral started only a few years later. As a part of a settlement in 2002 with 41 states, Tower Records, alongside a few other known retail music corporations, was fined $3 million for overcharging CD prices. It was estimated that customers were charged an extra $500 million (up to $5 per album) between 1995 and 2000.
The record store chain filed for bankruptcy several times toward the end of their existence. The first time was in 2004 when the crippling debt from their massive expansions throughout the 1990s caught up with them as their profits began to dwindle thanks to the growing competition with chains like Walmart and Best Buy, along with the rising popularity of digital media merchandising. The second filing was only a couple of years later in 2006, and was made in order to facilitate a purchase of the company prior to the big holiday shopping season.
A mere month after Tower Records filed for bankruptcy for the second time, the Great American Group won an auction of the company’s assets and successfully liquidated the chain the day after. This subsequently closed all existing Tower Records locations for good by the December of the same year.
Tower Records today: Tower
Tower Records was such a powerhouse in the music and entertainment retail industry. They wanted to preserve the feel of a physical storefront with a seemingly endless catalog of goods to choose from, but that admirable goal was ultimately felled by the rising popularity of chain stores and digital media. They attempted to join the fray, but it was to no avail.
By dropping the “Records” from the name, and rebranding with a complete focus on digital goods and marketing will not only suit the modern age and the continued growth of technology, but it will also attract a new, young audience familiar with this growing world alongside the nostalgic fans and music lovers from Tower Records’ heyday.
As technology and the Internet continues to thrive, the reanimation of Tower Records as Tower will, too.
This assignment called for the resurrection of an old, dying, or dead brand into the modern market. We needed to find, research, and revive something that once was a vibrant, well-known brand that went out of business for one reason or another. The goal was to make the brand suitable to the current market and to create a brand style guide for the new company.
Other Tower logo iterations before the finals were selected: