Sunday, July 1, 2007

Rest in Peace, Footlight Records

[PLEASE NOTE -- this post was originally uploaded on July 1, 2007. Since that time Footlight Records ended up not closing their Internet operations. On their website,, they just posted the following: We are proud to announce that Footlight Records will be relaunching on Friday, February 6, 2009 after being purchased by Bruce Yeko and Original Cast Records]

For weeks after the Tony Award ceremony, poorly performing shows shutter their doors and extinguish their glittering marquees. This year it seemed an unusually high number of Broadway productions ended their runs during this time. But there is one closing that is more heartbreaking than all the others combined. On July 4th Footlight Records, the quintessential record store for musical theater enthusiasts, will close its cyber-doors. Long a fixture in the East Village on 12th Street, then moving to Brooklyn, and finally becoming an Internet-only company, Footlight Records was THE place for aficionados of original cast recordings, especially rare and hard-to-find vinyl LPs.

A number of factors went into the decision by ownership. Astronomical rent increases, according to the store’s website, pushed the company further into debt. There was also the problem “that many smaller companies that produce cast recordings pre-sell their recordings at a discount price,” again as stated on their website. “This has probably cut into about 40% of our sales in cast CDs.” But maybe the most significant factor is the reality of today’s marketplace—more and more music is downloaded. CD sales are off which makes it harder for all types of record stores to keep their doors open. Even the giants are not immune. Look at Tower Records, once the mecca for the music buying public in New York City—gone!

Yet the seeds of Footlight’s demise began years ago and has affected all record stores with significant vinyl inventory. Simply, those outlets that traffic in used and/or virgin vinyl are a vanishing breed. Those of us that could think of nothing better to do than wile away the time browsing through racks and racks of undiscovered treasures are of a bygone era. There just aren’t enough of us to keep these places in business. Which is too bad. I have unearthed many original cast recordings in these environs, a number from musicals I had never heard of before which, for someone with over 800 cast recordings and other show-related music and CDs in their collection, is no small feat. For example, there was the little known Harold Rome show, “The Zulu and the Zayda” that appeared in a discount bin one day. Another time I found an odd duck—Jim “Gomer Pyle” Nabors singing songs from “Man of LaMancha,” perfect when I spotlight the cast album of the show and its many incarnations for one of my radio programs.

At Footlight Records—when they were a brick and mortar site--I spent countless hours rummaging through the used LPs and CDs. I marveled at the out-of-print and rare vinyl discs displayed on the walls. It truly was heaven…For the next few weeks the staff will be tying up loose ends. After that, the remaining stock will be on under the name Rest in Peace, Footlight Records.

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