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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 2, 1999)
Sailing through the calls
of corporate Sirens
By Christopher Heine
By gripping on to everything it could, Homer’s survived the effects of
a corporate monsoon that intended to wipe the path clear in the early 1990s
for future conglomerate domination.
The Omaha-based music retail chain not only survived the era of big
money invasions, it is now flourishing.
However, not everyone in Lincoln has been so fortunate.
Project Import, Backstreet Records, Pickles and Twisters were washed
away by the price-slashing tactics of big business.
In fact, Recycled Sounds is the only current Lincoln music store that
But not everyone in Nebraska became victim to the trend of corporate
saturation in the music economy. —
Homer’s Music and Gifts did what everyone from hog > \
farmers to clothing stores needed to do earlier this \
decade - they got bigger.
With meteorological market savvy, Homer’s
expanded their company by buying out a huge por
tion of the Lincoln music retail market, and now is
Nebraska’s only locally owned chain. , r
In 1994, the franchise purchased
Lincoln’s two independent chains, Pickles
and Twisters, and bolstered a 15-store ros
ter with shops dotting the maps of the /r'
capital city and Omaha. /■
This bold annexation allowed Homer’s (
to compete with the national and multina
tional companies, such as Best Buy, Target,
Wal-Mart and Musicland; all of whom had begun
invigorating their commitments to selling
Many of these national outlets sent
shock waves throughout the independent
music industry by improving their selec
tions. Before the ’90s, places such as
Wal-Mart and Target only carried run
of-the-mill pop albums, but now they
offer volumes of jazz, obscure rock and
even high-brow classical selections.
Mike Fratt, vice-president of
Homer’s, said the deepening of his com
pany’s assets enabled the franchise to compete with incoming competi
“We saw a storm brewing and we knew it was going to be ugly.
“We said, ‘Let’s make one organization out of three and see if we can’t
weather the storm’ - and we did,” \v said.
Fratt said his company got a good deal in the buyout that changed
Lincoln’s music retail scene forever. The owners of Pickles
and Twisters came with ready-to-sell offers.
“Pickles was bankrupt and Twisters was owned
by an old buddy, so it just made sense to buy his
Please see MUSIC on 10
l / ill.
Store zeros in on indie bands
Owmr focuses on underground inventory availability
Senior staff writer
Tucked away in a tiny downtown
basement, Kevin Chasek deals his
assortment of indie records and com
His store, Zero Street Records, is a
one-man show dedicated to promoting
the underground music scene.
Chasek has owned Zero Street
Records, 120 N. 14th St., for almost a
year and a half. Before him, Garth
Johnson owned the store for three
During that time, the store has built
up a reputation via word of mouth for
its inventory of indie rock and punk
albums, selling most of its wares to
college and high school students.
“People know they can come here
and find things that are not widely dis
tributed on major labels,” Chasek said.
Chasek gets most of his inventory
from smaller distributors, occasionally
going to major labels for pertain things.
“Most of the distributors ‘deal
i - - -
with are almost mom and pop sorts of
things. I do it just to keep the indepen
dent music scene thriving,” Chasek
That’s the same reason people shop
at his store, he said. His clients are
more interested in the actual music
than saving a couple of dollars, he said.
Stores such as Zero Street Records
are dedicated to serving the bands who
record on indie labels, Chasek said.
Chasek said indie bands avoid
recording on major labels because they
don’t want their albums to be sold by
large corporate music stbres.
Indie bands dislike large corporate
music stores such as Best Buy, Chasek
said, because they thwart small, local
businesses. They also ignore the per
sonalities and needs of their customers.
“I don’t think (Best Buy) con
tributes to the local market at all except
for giving people cheap stuff and not
caring about the people who buy it,”
That’s not the case with Zero Street
Records, Chasek said.
“People know I care about what
happens with the underground music
scene,” Chasek said.
Though Chasek stressed the nega
tive impacts of a corporation store such
as Best Buy, he did not see much com
petition between his store and the
“Best Buy is so big that a fly like
me doesn’t matter in terms of their
sales,” Chasek said.
However, without a large corpora
tion store, Chasek said, Lincoln would
be more conducive to the growth of
local businesses. Consumer’s options
wouldn’t suffer because Homer’s
would still be here, Chasek said.
“If Best Buy can get it, Homer’s
can get it. If it’s not on a major label, I
can get it. You just have to have the
patience to wait long enough,” Chasek
But a store such as Best Buy is here
to stay, Chasek said. That’s a fact he has
learned to live with.
“I’m not bitter at all about the situ
ation,” Chasek said. “It’s just a reality. I
realize that I have nty niche to fulfill.
As long as I can do that, I’m happy.”
Used music stores offer
rare finds, collectibles
For the average consumer, making
music purchases is a relatively easy
task. But for serious music collectors,
finding that rare, out-of-print CD or
album can be hard work.
Stuart Kolnick, owner of Recycled
Sounds, and Travis Mills, manager of
Disc Go Round, both say used CD
stores are often the best option for
music obsessives and average con
“People ought to give used CD
stores a try,” Mills said. “Honestly, it’s
the same product in a big chain
store for a lot cheaper.”
Mills and a former college room
mate jumped into the Disc Go Round
franchise four years ago. Mills’ friend
is no longer involved, but Mills still
runs the store.
Kolnick worked in record stores
for years, including Dirt Cheap in
Omaha, before bringing Recycled
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There s no way
in hell Best Buy
will buy back
manager of Disc Go Round
Sounds to Lincoln about seven years
ago. His own experience collecting
records gave him the idea for his store.
“I collected lots and lots and lots of
stuff” he said. “I filled basements and
One might think the popularity of
chain stores in Lincoln would hurt
smaller businesses, but Kolnick and
Mills both say the big chain stores
aren’t really a worry. .
Please see USED oh 10
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