Finding A New Groove: Why We Won’t Miss HMV As Much As We Think
It has recently been announced that HMV is set to enter administration and that around 4000 jobs are at risk. There seems to be ringing inevitability about the chain’s demise; in fact, we’ve all really been predicting its downfall for a while now. Ever since Fopp shut down six years ago, followed swiftly by Woolworths there was always a niggling thought that HMV would be one of next victims of the changing attitudes of customers.
While job losses are always a terrible consequence of business closures, HMV was always one of those strange shops where you sometimes wondered how it still managed to make money; sometimes I even wondered if anyone really bought anything there anymore. It seemed HMV began to become less and less necessary, with shoppers visiting simply because of tradition: it was what you went to in between visiting a coffee shop and going home. In fact, a typical trip ended up consisting of a quick flick through the ‘2 for £10’ offer and a hurried circuit of the shop before finding your mate you’d left back at the alarmingly expansive ‘Musical DVDs’ selection and motioning for the door.
HMV was what you did because you always have. At best, the function HMV ended up performing was either reminding you what to listen to on Spotify, or buy from Amazon later, at a cheaper price. It is always sad to see a musical institution close but the closure of HMV is just another consequence of a change in musical trends.
The ‘Amazon-effect’ is certainly a factor in the demise of the record shop, but by no means the main factor. In 2012 overall album sales dropped by 11%, with physical album sales dropping 20%. Streaming services like Spotify and Deezer are now becoming the common way of listening to music. Rather than fighting this, it should be embraced. Online music streaming services, particularly Spotify, are excellent: you can listen to a vast array of music wherever you are which increases how often you listen to music and the amount of music available to listen to. This is great for your personal musical knowledge and opens up so many more musical possibilities. The days of a bearded record shop owner recommending you music are over. Spotify did not cause this, for when was the last time you asked a HMV staff member for a recommendation? Spotify is helping by suggest other music you may like. I appreciate music streaming services are hardly embarking on a musical crusade, but if they provide a good service, you’d be mad not to use them.
Many have commented on the fact that artists receive less money because of these streaming services, and this may well be true, however, due to the ‘related artists’ feature (which links you to similar music) this results in the discovery of more artists and more music which then increases the chances of fans, subsequently increasing the chances of watching these bands live (unless of course they are dead, in which case I doubt they’re too fussed about their personal finances). And if it’s a case of streaming or illegally downloading, I wonder which the artists would prefer.
From the decline of vinyl to, what I would argue is a bigger loss, the end of one of the greatest musical traditions, (not to mention methods of accessing new music), Top of the Pops, musical trends, particularly the format which they are available in, are pretty viscous. In the same way vinyl disappeared from mainstream production, so soon will CDs leaving us in the situation where record companies may soon become redundant. We may see a return to a situation, much like that of around fifty years ago, where bands make more money from touring than from album sales. The intermediate stage is increased ticket pricing, but that will only exist as long as the idiots who pay ridiculous prices exist. Its supply and demand, if people stopped paying, companies will realise. Besides, you don’t need to see Madonna at £100+ a pop.. Tell her to stuff it until she sorts her prices out.
The world of music is changing, again, and there is always a saddening aspect of leaving part of it behind; however this really isn’t the end of music; we have the internet now – it’s all out there, do your own research! So instead, plug your headphones in, download the entire David Bowie back catalogue, find yourself a nice quiet corner, and you’ll still get to enjoy music just as much as anyone ever has. You can watch Madge on YouTube; I won’t tell if you won’t.