Last Virgin Megastore closes its doors


So this is how it ends-- not in fire but in ice, not with a bang but with a whimper, a swinging third strike to end the game in loss.

After a decade and a half being the 500 pound elephant of the music retail world, after doing its best to be a lumbering behemoth in an age where only the pygmies survive, the final Virgin Megastore in North America rolled a stone before the entrance and left its desolate interior for good over the weekend.

The closing of a multi-billionaire's flagship franchise might not seem like anything to get too mopey about. But let's keep a couple things in mind: first, the Megastores where a pretty cool place to be. Floors upon floors of luminous listening posts that displayed an uncanny awareness of what was good and what was bad in the slushpile (this Gimme Noise correspondent heard Teaches of Peaches for the first time in the Chicago Virgin Megastore). Stores of obscure DVDs from every corner of the Earth. Piles and piles of raw consumer items virtually guranteed to make you cool.

Second, they're owned by Richard Branson. This guy wantonly bangs supermodels by the bushell and is trying to put every man, woman and child in space by 2011. In short, he's exactly the kind of weirdo you'd want having a few billion bucks and a giant music store.

If we plug in our logic centers, we ought shed no more tears over the last Megastore shutting out the lights than we ought for, say, the closing of a Walmart. And yet it feels different. This was music. And good music at that. Sold cheaply. By a cool CEO who appeared to have the spectre of principles guiding his hand.

And it bodes ominously for the music industry. The Virgin Megastore was a flying fortress. An ironclad dreadnaught of the music world, seemingly invulnerable, helmed by what we thought was an infinite stream of cash.

But when a business model gets outmoded, it gets outmoded. And while the indie record stores struggle as scurrying forest floor dwellers, the dinosaurs really are toppling.  So while the dust gathers, we'll just fondly recall walking out of the Chicago Megastore, clutching a copy of Daft Punk's Discovery in our hands.

Oh. And filling the space of the emptied Times Square Megastore? Forever 21. It is to barf, as the bard once said.