The HMV board announced today that it is calling in administrators and will most likely become the latest high street casualty. I’ve mentioned many times before on this site about my love of HMV and the ability to purchase hit films for less than a fiver, and I’ll be sad to see it go. I remember HMV being something really special. When I was given a CD as a present and it still had that black security sticker on it, I felt like a million pounds. This album had come from HMV!
I believe it survived where stores like Zavvi and Virgin Megastores didn’t because it offered something more than they did. It was a record store first and foremost whilst they became media outlets. It’s a subtle difference but it kept the chain afloat. That was until it started copying their business model. It seemed to lose its spark. It became just another high street store and I believe it failed because it abandoned the values that made it so great years ago. I also feel that these changes weren’t as a result of capitalist greed but capitalist survival, making its demise all the more disappointing. I don’t think I’m sad because it’s going – visiting HMV has become less and less of an enjoyable experience. No, I think I’m sad because it couldn’t survive at what it was good at.
As more and more media content is available through online stores such as amazon and play.com; download stores such as iTunes, amazon and the XBox and PS3 stores; and streaming services such as spotify((never understood how it’s survived for so long)), love film and netflix; HMV’s own effort was poor. It was never nice buying anything from the HMV website, it just felt clunky and awkward. One of the massive pluses of HMV was the ability to browse its shops, something that NO website has been able to recreate, and something that HMV needed to do and perhaps still so if they are going to survive as an online presence.
Hopefully this could spark a surge in artists become more independent. I like each and every artist who makes their music available to download straight from them (usually via a site like bandcamp) but these are few and far between. I know it’s difficult for someone to go well and truly independent. The backing of a record label provides a certain level of security and it’s probably easier to advance to the higher tiers of music fame and fortune with them.
For example when Biffy Clyro release their new album I’m going to have to buy it from iTunes or Amazon1, which will have bought the stock at a fixed price and added a mark up. Of that stock price a large percentage will go to the label to cover costs of recording space and time, pressing and printing etc. but a fair amount will line the pockets of the guys in charge. If I where to buy the album for a tenner how much would the band get? I don’t know, there’s probably plenty of blogs that do, but my point is that if I were to buy the album from the band for a tenner they would get a tenner. They could use it to cover things such as recording space and time (and the rest) and keep a nicer tider sum for themselves. To me that just makes more sense.
However one thing about this whole debacle is rather interesting. HMV sought help, through funding, from record labels and film studios who refused. For me this is a really odd choice, because surely this sets a precedent that they won’t help companies that sell their product. What would the film industry do if2 cinemas start to collapse? Because they don’t make a great deal from DVD sales. Surely this is the clearest form of ‘biting the hand that feeds you’. Refusing to help a company that sells your product – it’s just odd. I really don’t know what this could mean. Could be nothing. Probably will be nothing.
One thing that is for sure is that retail is going online. There are hundreds and thousands of empty space on high streets that either aren’t being taken or are being converted to crappy £1 shops that have limited shelf life and are solely for a company to sell off its storage space3. I can only hope that these empty shells of buildings can be knocked down and replaced by nice things such as parks or libraries or museums. But then that’s probably another idea that makes too much sense and just not enough money.