What Happened to CD Clubs & Stores to Buy CDs?

I feel like I've lived under a rock for the past 2 years. I haven't bought much to add to my library in that time, and now I'm shocked.

There used to be BMG Music Club and Columbia Club. You could get most of the main Classical repertory from them, including box sets of symphonies, etc.

Now, it appears there is a BMG/Sony DVD Club that offers some CDs, but only a fraction of what was a few years ago.

For example, I couldn't find Bernstein's CBS or Solti's London Mahler cycles, except in the UK!

The site is pathetic. It is totally oriented around DVDs/movies, and searches will bring you to other websites, including Amazon.com.

What happened to all the releases of the huge and vast classical repertoire of budget, midprice, full price and sets that were so plentiful? Are they not even in print anymore?

Prices I found are higher than they were 5 years ago. I see basic 2 CD classical releases at prices like $39.95 for a DG Karajan Mahler 9th. Unbelievable.

I didn't even check the jazz repertoire to see what has happened there.

Would someone educate me in my naiveity?
Afficionados download these days, per song mind you, not entire CDs. Not only Tower Records closed down a few years ago. The entire market has changed completely. These days you buy music from your armchair. Here in Europe stores still exist and the supply is more plentiful, no small wonder you found what you wanted with the Brits. I myself buy only through E-bay these days, where the classical offering, new or used, is huge and fairly cheap compared to store prices. These have indeed risen, because producers as well as store owners try to cut their losses caused by the internet trade. LPs, the second hand market that is, on the other hand have become much cheaper compared to a few years ago. The demand for them has dropped, partly because digital, both soft- and hardware wise has become better and also because most of the younger generation is not particularly interested in classical music. Oddly enough this is not true for pre-recorded tapes.
Columbia House got bought by BMG, and the sites merged. I don't know how much less selection BMG has vs. earlier years - I have always used the site to "backfill" my collection, as they often have year-old "new releases" and remastered classic albums, and at good prices of course.

I don't listen to or collect classical, so I don't know what the landscape is for acquiring classical music. For rock, jazz, blues, etc., the stores are all gone, replaced by Amazon and the like. The selection is better than it ever was at even the best stores, you have a vast used market that drives the price way down, you can shop, easily, from your own home, and delivery is fast even if it's not instant like at a B&M shop.
My biggest problem with buying online is that you have to know something exists before buying. One of the true joys of shopping at Tower or other brick and mortar shops was discovering NEW stuff that was either just released OR that you weren't even aware existed. I've developed a whole new skill set when it comes to buying my tunes, and although I'm probably spending as much as ever, it ain't nowhere near as much fun!!!
Chazro, excellent point you make! Before, you would discover something in the stores, try it out by listening to it and buy it or not. That opportunity has gone completely. Instead , what I do, is meeting weekly with friends of similar interests and exchange news and ideas or try to follow developments online. If someone has better strategies, I'd be very keen to find out about it. It might even be worth a new thread....
The recording industry's greed caused this demise. If they had reduced prices instead of increasing them (after all, a CD costs 50 cents to make), as would have made sense after twenty years of manufacturing this medium, places like Tower and others would have continued to exist and make money.

Prices went the opposite way. For a number of years, full line CDs were $14.99. There was a time when EMI, I believe, reduced full line prices to $12.99. The problem was that the other labels didn't want to follow suit. After that, we slowly saw a decline in CD sales, and then a price increase upward, where full line at Tower were $16.99 to $18.99.

Tower used to have great sales: $11.99-$12.99 for full line, $8.99-$9.99 for mid line, $5.99-$6.99 for budget line. This spurred sales, and people bought and bought. But, for the greedy labels, this wasn't good enough, so, over time, these sales became less frequent. Tower would have a January storewide sale where everything was on sale, even imports and small labels that never went on sale.

Like every aspect of our great economy/society, it's all disintegrating and nobody gives a damn.
Good comments here. While I agree that I miss the store brousing to uncover new music, I have found that "discovery process" has been replaced with websites like Rapsody, CD Baby, Yourmusic.com and Amazon to where I can customize a search and it is as effective as my days of combing the stores (that are now gone). I still visit our local Barnes & Noble once a month to scan the CD inventory, I typically find at least one new artist to investigate. I just can't keep up with all the new (good) stuff out there.
I guess I'm lucky to livei in Austin. We still have a wealth of stores to choose from. World-famous Waterloo Records & Video, End Of An Ear(ex 33 1/3 guys), Cheapo, Backspin, Half-Price Book Store, Antone's, CD Warehouse...and I still buy tons of stuff online. Sometimes the used deals on Amazon are insane. Great prices! I totally admit to still driving down the street to Waterloo and Cheapo and htting the "recently arrived" cd's and vinyl.
Another good place for brousing new music is the All Music Guide site, all reviews and bio's are link so you can run off on tangents forever! They have a newsletter subscription as well, for weekly new release news.
BMG Music Club is still around and worth checking out. They are at www.bmgmusic.com
yourmusic.com is owned by BMG I believe. I've been a member there for over a year. The selection is very similiar to BMG. CD's cost 6.99 total, shipping included (!) but the hook is you have to buy 1 CD a month.
For (nearly) FREE CDs check out http://www.swapacd.com/index.php . You post CDs (originals only) you are willing to mail to members and ones you wish to get.