Wednesday, January 16, 2013

the death of hmv......

hi there

well, if we are honest, the world really does not need one more word written about the apparent demise of the hmv music stores in the UK. mountains of text are spread far and wide across the internet about it and in truth everything that could be said probably has been said.

for the more regular readers who know me outside of the internet, however, there would be something amiss if i didn't comment on this, for my love of hmv is a thing on record. at least, i suppose, it was.

to begin with, the hmv is not quite dead yet. it's in administration and it looks rather bleak, but there's a lot of interest in saving the stores. whereas i doubt the UK Government will step in directly, for they did not with other retail stores like Woolworths, it is unlikely that they will be able to sustain the loss of some 5,000 jobs without criticism. there will be some more on this later, but their closure of the "jersey tax loophole", which allowed certain online stores to drastically undercut hmv's on the shelf price, was recently closed. if it had been closed a fair few years ago then who knows, it might have helped both hmv and other stores. that said, hmv to a degree benefitted from that nice little tax arrangement.

music and film producers will certainly have an interest in seeing hmv survive too. the sale of physical CDs and DVDs still, if only by a year-on-year decreasing margin, exceed "digital" sales. this makes the industry happy as the profits are higher, and you would have to imagine that Mr Warner Bros and Mr Sony would like to keep that flow of income.

pictures make this blog pretty, so a break if you will to show my most beloved hmv. this is the store where it originally was in Middlesbrough in 1985, before it moved to bigger premises inside the Cleveland Centre at some point duing the 90s.

the store you see above, fact fans, was opened by no less than Brian "Nasher" Nash and Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes To Hollywood!

since the picture takes us that way, let us tackle the nostalgia outbreak around hmv. in the 80s, for me and music lovers of my age, it was the place to be on a Saturday morning. i would head into town on the bus with my money from doing a paper round and get either the latest vibes or a "classic" record that i'd heard about and wanted to get.

the place was always buzzing, regularly packed to capacity. a few of my school mates would be in there, which was always good to see.

i can only imagine it carried on like the above all the way to the early 2000s, whether in the original store or the fancy new one. but then things changed a good deal. what's being blamed, the big change, is the internet.

apparently, according to "the industry", the internet has either killed or is busy killing the music industry. whether it is illegal downloads or legal but substantially cheaper than CDs or records downloads, the industry is being killed. the industry states that it is losing billions and cannot survive. this view is an interesting one, and one they have expressed before. 30 odd years ago, as it happens, only then it was about blank cassettes and home taping. if you run a search on my blog you will find a post about a 1982 edition of Rolling Stone magazine with an article along those lines.

the internet has possibly damaged the exisiting business model for the record industry, but to say it has killed or is killing it is pure nonsense. failure to adapt is the fault, as i will discuss. i mean, they were all too keen to adapt to CD, were they not, but not to tapes or the internet. go figure.

this idea that the internet killed physical music sales is pure nonsense. yes, sure, there's a large amount of people that simply loved the idea of getting music for free off a computer. an even larger amount, the music lovers and perhaps most importantly the record collector.

if you take it as a given that those who switched to "all free, all the time music" are the same who would have just taped the charts off the radio or records off friends, then there's the likes of me and many that i know who love their collection. for example, i've tried to obtain every David Bowie release there has been. is it at all likely that i would all of a sudden say "well, here's all the David Bowie releases up until 2001 here in this cabinet". the rest i just keep on this memory stick here, although some are on this CD-R i have scribbled Bowie on"?

we then get to the argument that online stores such as amazon have undercut the prices of discs and the like to such an extent that hmv cannot compete. partially true. they probably could not compete on a price basis, but they can trump that with the experience.

the record labels are as much as fault here as hmv or any store. when was the last time you can think of that a fuss was made over an album release? the last "midnight launch" i can recall of an album was Be Here Now by Oasis. yes, that long ago. it seems that album releases are not celebrated now as they were once before. the record industry seems to have just assumed that no one is bothered and thus neither are they.

hmv did try to take business online, yet made a mess out of it. they could have been the single dominant force in worldwide sales online, but for some reason (possibly greed) they threw that away. how so? well, up to 6 or so years ago, ordering off hmv was excellent. to courier a package anywhere in the world they charged £15.00, and delivery was usually with 3-4 days. i then used to, every 2 - 3 months, put in an order of well over £100, getting the releases i wanted. then for some reason they opted to change their supplier for shipping, and all of a sudden the courier fee went up to £37.50 per item! that was, sadly, myself and hmv finished.

the could of course have retained the business of me and many others if they had used the infamous "Jersey tax loophole" properly. whereas places like amazon remove the VAT amount for overseas orders, hmv, despite shipping from Jersey, never did. i am not qualified enough to say if this was ethical or not, but i leave you to draw a conclusion.

around the time of the release of their horrid No Line On The Horizon album, Pope Bono of U2 declared that "only teenage girls and really, really honest people still pay for music". this is either untrue, or speaks of many, many honest people in the world. the lack of products to buy - and i am hearing of how some branches of hmv carried more Dr Dre endorsed headphones at £200 a go than they did albums - and a lack of motivating or inspiring people to discover the love and joy of a record store strike me as more to blame than anything done on the internet.

i really do hope, out of a sense of nostalgia perhaps, that hmv is somehow saved. things like the recent surprise David Bowie release should have people flocking to the record stores for the shared experience, not rushing to a computer to download and then muse about it on forums or blogs like this.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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