When Amoeba Music opened in Hollywood nearly 15 years ago, the independent chain (which has two locations in the Bay Area) offered something we didn’t quite have before: a music emporium with a massive inventory and a corner record store vibe. With its nerdy clerks, labyrinthine aisles, and live shows, Amoeba quickly became an unofficial cultural landmark, drawing tourists and locals alike to rummage through its infinite options. Now Amoeba is an endangered species, one of the last of the large-scale music meccas. Tower Records reigned for 46 years until the retailer closed its U.S. stores in 2006 after filing for bankruptcy; neighborhood favorite Aron’s closed that same year. The Tower legacy is the subject of a new film, so it seemed like a good opportunity to check in with Amoeba co-owner Marc Weinstein on the well-being of his renowned business.
In 2001, it was the dawn of the digital music revolution and the twilight of Tower Records—an odd time to open a record store.
“We brought our show down from the Bay Area with the idea of creating a clubhouse for everyone who loved music and records. People have an incredible romance for a time when Tower ruled as a cultural institution. It was a place to meet, a lot like Amoeba is today.”
Thanks to an enthusiastic L.A. clientele, Amoeba’s Hollywood location is financially supporting the two Northern California operations.
“The Bay Area is techy. Everybody’s gone whole hog on having it all on their phone. L.A. continues to be a vibrant market. This is an industry town. I think historically people just connect with what that physical product really means—the lifetime of work—[more so] than in the Bay Area.”
Weinstein hopes to fund a music archive project. His plan is not just smoke. “We’ve been putting effort into getting a permit to sell cannabis in our Berkeley store—a collective that will directly fund our nonprofit for meaningful efforts, like digitizing music that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day.”
Just don’t expect a Tower-like documentary about Amoeba.
“We’ve been approached, but it’s hard to capture our store without ruining the moment.”