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Thursday, 6 January 2011

HMV: bye bye

Should we care if HMV is closing down shops?

Hmm. Lemme think a minute. Well, on the one hand I can give a pat personal answer. Roughly, I couldn't care less. I haven't crossed the threshold of one of these garishly kitted-out emporia of merch in years. Crank that Killers tune up on the shop system, Dan!

But, OK, you could - if you so wished - walk into a HMV store in (say) Hereford and (probably!) walk out smugly clutching your Waaves or David Cronenberg's Wife CD. And this, I have to admit, is not entirely a bad thing. I speak as a non-purchaser of music, but as someone who ... er, likes it.

Then again, how much does HMV really do to support music? If all we're talking about is the pile-'em-high flogging of CDs, t-shirts and other musical merchandise, then I'd say we hardly need a big high street supermarket-style shop to do it when we've got the internet to sell stuff (mind you, the Jersey VAT loophole arrangement exploited by online retailers looks suspiciously squalid). If, though, a record shop is offering something the internet can't, then their higher prices and tawdry commercialism might be forgivable. Surely they should long ago have cottoned onto this and established a solid reputation for regularly hosting in-store gigs from half-decent bands - not glorified PAs from star acts. (Yeah, I was at that insultingly short Adam Ant lunchtime drop-in at the Coventry store in 1981. It was rubbish).

Now they've had a poor Christmas sales-wise HMV's chief exec is talking about doing more in this area but I've got my doubts. My own scanning of available gigs in London in the last few years suggests that the mighty HMV business empire could hardly ever muster an in-store in the capital worth the name (I recall a goodish one by Hefner in the early 2000s, but not much else). Whereas a tiny outfit like the Pure Groove record store managed to put on (often excellent) events every other week for a couple of years (why have they apparently discontinued them by the way?)

I should declare an interest. In the mid-1980s I worked for three years at HMV and did my fair share of loading Go West and Bryan Adams LPs onto the display racks. My old boss once told me that the philosophy of HMV was "to make it like a supermarket". Well, I never did like listening to his master's voice and I managed to get out of there with my love of music still intact. Just about. HMV: bye bye.

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