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In Marketplace

Disc Man's owner Dale Darling.

In Marketplace

Disc Man employee Valerie Olson sorts through CDs.

In Marketplace

The original Disc Man opened in 1997 on 60th and North Avenue.

Disc Man remains a major player in the local music store game


Here's a scary question: Is the local music store a dying breed?

For the 17-year-old running out of room on his hard drive as he downloads album after album from iTunes, the answer might be a very indifferent, "Yes." After all, he's got the Internet -- what does he need a physical store for, anyway?

But as a nine-year Milwaukee music store veteran and now owner of Disc Man, Dale Darling is not prepared to take "yes" for an answer.

Although he admits that business is slower than it was when the store opened in 1997, there's rarely a day when Disc Man, 6008 W. North Ave., isn't fluttering with customers -- whether they're flipping through the racks, headphoned and busting out dance moves at the listening stations, or just shooting the breeze with the staff.

"I've been here for nine years," says Darling. "Dale (Anderson, another employee) has been here nine years. Valerie (Olson, pictured above) has been here a really long time, too. We know our stuff, we know our regulars. It's a great place to work."

So great, in fact, that Darling decided to buy it from former owner Jim Peterson -- who previously owned and operated the now closed Mainstream Music. Since December 2004, Disc Man has been in the very capable hands of Darling, who, with one finger on the pulse of the industry and another flipping through music bins in search of yesterday's forgotten gems, is determined to keep Milwaukee's music store relevancy as solid as the rock lock.

The North Avenue location was the first Disc Man location to open in '97, with five more following in the next few years. Today, however, the original -- which Darling says was always the busiest -- is the only one that remains in business.

"I think people like coming here because we've got a lot of really old, rare stuff that you can't find on iTunes, or at the mall, or wherever," he says. "And if they don't see what they're looking for, I usually find it in a matter of days. I make special orders a priority because that means that people will trust me and will come back. I can usually find anything, but sometimes people want something that's been out of print for 20 years. I mean, there's a limit!"

Although Disc Man remains undeniably current and competitive -- a glance at the Red Hot Chili Peppers' latest, "Stadium Arcadium," reveals that Disc Man's price is cheaper than iTunes' -- Darling says that his biggest focus, the one that keeps his customers coming back, is stocking up on older, harder to find music.

"We're kind of like the opposite of a lot of other music stores. Instead of coming in for the new releases and then browsing around for the artist's earlier stuff, a lot of people just dive right into the used CDs too see what's 'new' because they know that we are constantly refreshing our inventory."

As the name implies, Disc Man carries mostly CDs -- over 15,000, actually -- and starts the bidding at $3.99 for used releases.

Another point of pride for the staff - what an independent, locally owned music store is all about -- is its ever-glowing spotlight on local artists. The "Milwaukee wall' -- a large portion of the store's east wall covered in releases from local artists -- is where customers can keep up to date with what their fellow Milwaukeeans are up to musically. Darling estimates that he carries close to 300 Brew City bands and artists.

And there's more than just CDs -- Disc Man is a used media hound's Mecca. The store also slings used DVDs -- which have recently acquired the purchasing status of books, that is, never buy 'em new -- video games, VHS tapes and an ever-nostalgic collection of cassette tapes, which, according to Darling, "actually sell."

"A lot of people also like to shop her because we are a Ticketmaster outlet, as well,' Darling adds.

So whether you're on the hunt for that Nirvana release you never got, summer concert tickets or just a plethora of random accessories -- stickers, T-shirts, incense -- Disc Man remains a major player in the game.

Disc Man's phone number is (414) 257-1100.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | June 2, 2006 at 7:24 p.m. (report)

b-real said: you never know what your getting on the internet, viruses and what not. with disc-man i know i'll get great service, and if they dont have it-they will get it for me. they have everything i need from dvds and playstation games to t-shirts and monster energy drinks. great prices great place.

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OMCreader | June 1, 2006 at 6:44 a.m. (report)

celeste said: I think Discman is doing a great job of fixing up the store. The new logo and signage is great. It really plays into the whole retro feel of the music store. Also, if you sign up on their mailing list you get postcards sent to your house for even more savings. Sometimes I get ones for as much as 50% off their used cds. You can't beat that. You can't always find everything on itunes. I was looking for a particular song and wanted to acquire it legally, but couldn't find it. Discman came to my rescue. I always get my tickets from Discman. The seats have always been great. Discman is also a big supporter of cycling in milwaukee. It's great to know small business owners like Dale want to be involved with their community.

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OMCreader | May 31, 2006 at 10:02 p.m. (report)

courtney said: i think we should all try to support local small stores as much as we can. sure the internet might be convienant, but do we want computers to completly take over, and everyone will be out of a job? if you're antisocial the internet is great, but sometimes it's good to get out and interact with people in and around your community!!

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OMCreader | May 31, 2006 at 9:52 p.m. (report)

Disc Man said: I'm Sorry That Tim from Tosa feels this Way. We do are best at cleaning up the mess if there is any. Please feel free if you have any concerns to talk to us personally and we will do our best to fix any problems that we might be causing.

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OMCreader | May 31, 2006 at 6:49 p.m. (report)

tim from tosa said: Yeah disc man is great, great if you want customers leaving garbage all over the street and the business NEVER cleans it up. Disc man has been nothing but a blight on the neighborhood in many Tosans eyes since they opened on North Ave. Part of running a responsible business is being neighborly, leaving garbage on the streets in front of your store is not neighborly.

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