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Amoeba Music puts out desperate call for help to survive coronavirus crisis

Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard.
Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The founders of Amoeba Music, the beloved California record store with three locations, have launched a GoFundMe campaign to stay afloat amid the coronavirus crisis.

The donation site had amassed $130,000 as of Wednesday afternoon to support the business, which was forced to shutter its locations in Hollywood, Berkeley and San Francisco due to the pandemic. The company is hoping customers and fans worldwide can chip in to the tune of $400,000.

“We have weathered many storms — [9/11], recessions, the Internet, downloading and streaming,” read the call for help from Amoeba co-founders Dave Prinz and Marc Weinstein. “But we don’t know that we can weather the COVID-19 storm.”

As nonessential businesses are required to remain closed indefinitely under California social distancing regulations, Amoeba has “no way to generate income,” according to the lengthy GoFundMe description. In late March, co-owner Jim Henderson told The Times that Amoeba was unable to pay its 200 salaried employees and has no work for its hourly clerks.

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Record retailers across L.A. worry that with stores shuttered, Record Store Day cancelled and no influx of used vinyl to buy and sell, business prospects are bleak.

“Our savings are running out, with bills and rent coming due, and with a primary commitment to our staff, who we are trying to keep as healthy and financially sound as possible,” the GoFundMe message added. “We’d like to reassure you that we’re doing everything we can to keep Amoeba going, and to position ourselves to play a vital role in what is for now a very uncertain future.”

The letter detailed some additional “means of support” Prinz and Weinstein are seeking, “including federal and local grants and loans” but stressed the importance of community assistance to keep the brand alive in the short-term.

“We know how much we’re all going to need Amoeba again, this oasis of music, where we can find each other once more ... So, we most humbly ask for your help,” the company wrote, noting that any monetary gifts will go toward compensating Amoeba’s staff of more than 400, as well as operations costs. “If you are in a position to help us, we would be incredibly grateful to receive that support.”

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So far, the campaign has raised nearly 33% of its $400,000 goal, with thousands of donors giving individual amounts ranging from $8 to $1,000.

Prior to the pandemic, Amoeba was gearing up to move Hollywood locations from its 31,000-square-foot Sunset Boulevard spot to a new space a few blocks away at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue. On March 18, the store finally secured a city permit to relocate after a years-long search for a new Los Angeles home.

“Other Music,” “Record Safari” and “Vinyl Nation” offer bittersweet reminders, in a time of coronavirus, of the emotional pull of record stores and vinyl.

“Without the physical manifestation of music, we are one electromagnetic storm away from having our culture wiped out. We will not let that happen. We are the keepers of that flame; as are you,” the GoFundMe page noted. “Though, we’re dark now, Amoeba is still there, waiting for the day when our doors can be opened again to welcome everyone back inside to celebrate the joy of what moves our souls the most: Music.

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“Until then, keep the faith. Listen to Louie and Billie (Holiday or Eilish), Miles and Coltrane, Thundercat and Bootsy, Sabbath and Zeppelin, the Stones and the Beatles, Hank and Patsy, Kanye and Cardi, Otis, Prince, Gram, Django, Amy, Tyler, Sun Ra, John Prine... whoever else moves you.”


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