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Saturday Deluxe / 29 December 2018

HMV – The Dream Is Over

Dury out on new HMV in Oxford St


The news about HMV is grim and the strength of feeling on this issue is obvious by the number of comments on yesterday’s post.

It’s a difficult area to analyse properly because emotion and nostalgia muddy the waters somewhat. The truth is, HMV is a bit like an old flame who you once loved dearly but have long since moved on from. If we do lose HMV from the high street, I will be remembering the good times – for me the 1980s and 1990s – and they really are just memories, with not even a faded photo as evidence of all those hundreds (probably thousands) of visits.

I very rarely go into an HMV these days for a number of reasons:

  • There isn’t one anywhere near me. I have to journey half an hour or so and pay £5 to travel there via public transport
  • With a busy family and work life I do much of my music browsing online, often in the evening (perhaps sitting in front of the TV). This is the convenience factor. Obviously, if you see something you like it’s oh-so-easy to click and purchase.
  • While the music section of HMV has definitely improved in recent years, the overall shopping experience isn’t great. DVDs and Blu-ray still take up the ‘premium’ shop floor space, with music relegated to the back/upstairs.
  • The ‘surprise’ factor has disappeared. For anyone looking for interesting product beyond the charts or 2-for-£10 type sales, with so much information available online and everyone plugged into artists’ social media channels, the likelihood is that you already know about that limited edition coloured vinyl, or the new box set.


Having said all of that, I will almost always pop in to an HMV if I’m in the vicinity. Even if the CDs in the racks are all largely familiar, there’s still a pleasure in walking up and down an artist ‘A-Z’ section and seeing actual, not virtual, product.

There’s lots of talk about HMV not being able to compete with internet pricing, but funnily enough, for me, price isn’t necessarily the big driver from HMV stores to online. For example, I bought the deluxe CD edition of Elvis Costello‘s new album in HMV a while back. I think it was £12.99. If I had taken my iPhone out and seen it for £11.99 on Amazon, I would still have bought it from HMV because, well ‘I’m here and I have it in my hand, I can play it when I get home.’

And this brings us to the economics of the situation. Why should in-store HMV try to price match online Amazon? The HMV website probably should, but I would argue in-store doesn’t need to. What’s wrong with a small premium, in return for the customer experience of being in the shop, having staff to ask questions to, and being able to take home the product there and then? If a CD is £9.99 online then £10.99 in-store doesn’t sound so bad. Are consumers really that price sensitive these days? Also, anything under £20 on the HMV website requires paying for postage, which often isn’t factored in.

The counter argument is that HMV shouldn’t have two different prices for the same product online and in-store. I say, why not? As with my experience with Costello, if you have gone to the trouble to be in the shop in the first place and you have something you want to buy in your hands, then half the battle is won, surely?

Such debate is perhaps irrelevant, because HMV is in the unenviable situation of selling two physical products that, thanks to technological innovation, can now be delivered via streaming. I refer of course to CDs and DVD/Blu-ray. As the CD market started to decline in a post Napster era of iTunes and more recently Spotify, HMV saw DVD as a way to keep the income and the profits coming in. Multi-season box sets of Breaking Bad, The Office, Only Fools And Horses, Friends, Dexter and many more would literally be stacked up on the shop floor and sell for the £40-50 mark (maybe more). That market has been decimated very quickly, by the likes of Netflix, Now TV and iPlayer and has fallen over 30 percent in the last year, alone.

HMV apparently sat back and failed to see the threat of digital to CDs, and they’ve effectively done the same again, with DVD and Blu-ray. Where was the planning to ensure history didn’t repeat itself? Is there anything that could have been done?

In reality, HMV was probably always doomed. The business model has remained broadly the same, while the world changed around them. People who still love CDs, vinyl and physical product should be their saviour, but there are simply not enough of them – and they are not visiting HMV shops, probably for similar reasons to the ones I listed above. And even much of that group don’t consider music a luxury product – something they will pay a premium for – so the margins enjoyed in other retail sectors like electronics, fashion, jewellery, and the like, simply don’t exist. The very casual CD buyer may well be picking up his or her copy of The Greatest Showman in Sainsbury’s while doing the weekly shop and then those who aren’t bothered about owning the physical product use Spotify or download (legally or otherwise). HMV can only derive income from the first of those three and for that reason the HMV website might still survive, even if the shops disappear from the high street.

But let’s get real. The days of ‘Last Christmas’ selling a million copies at around a £1 per seven-inch single are long gone. Think of the money that was made. That’s a million pounds of income for the industry from ONE SEVEN-INCH SINGLE. This was the same year that ‘Two Tribes’ was number one for nine weeks, selling a similar amount of 12-inch singles at £2.99 each. Massive sales, generating enormous income, funding gigantic mega-stores. Those sales have gone, the income with it, but we expect the mega-stores with their enormous rents and fixed costs to survive?

The dream is probably over for HMV but our passion for music endures. Smaller independent shops and online options (both big and small) will remain and hopefully thrive. For now, I remember my old flame, who lived in Oxford Street, very fondly.

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186 Comments

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Bob predton

Interesting points from all angles. Thing is, HMV got more wrong than right. Many times artists offerings were just the greatest hits or popular releases. I recently went in to my local HMV and looked for a CD pn my wishlist. I knew it was £9.99 at Amazon. HMV ofered it for £14.99. Now a pound, as you say Paul, I would have bought it. But not a fiver.
As for pricing, don’t know if this is relevant. I had a record shop in the early 80’s. Paul Young’s No Parlez cost me £4.19 including vat to buy in. Boots the chemist was selling it for £3.99. So sales of the popular releases were going from the independent record stores and going to chains. I couldn’t exist just on back catalogue. So we have few independent stores. And hats off and a big salute for the ones surviving.

Laurence

Out here in Australia music and DVD retailer JB Hi Fi do it smarter. They still sell CDs DVDS and vinyl to draw people in but it’s quite clearly a loss leader. They make their dough on computers, mobile phones, laptops and white goods. A much cannier business model and one that appears to be sustaining itself. Still a shame to see HMV go but there’s always FOPP.

Julian

The BBC reported the figures for sales of physical product. CD sales fell 23 % in 2018 and vinyl sales have flattened out ( up 1.6%).

Daryl

I’m 36, and when i was 14, my Dad took me to see The Rolling Stones at Wembley. Right then and there I fell in love with that band and decided to embark on the (what at that point, seemed like a) mammoth task of completing their discography on CD. The very next day I started by buying the current single (I Go Wild) in Woolworths. Over the following months (even years), I continued visiting the local record/second-hand record shops armed with my pocket money – looking desperately for the cheapest price I could find. I would visit HMV, Our Price, Woolworths, Trumps, Music Box, Virgin Megastore and some local independent stores such as Sounds Familiar in Romford.
The idea of physical product has stayed with me over the years, but I suspect that I am the last of that generation. Nowadays kids want everything NOW. Even a short bus trip into the nearest town to buy a DVD seems like an eternity to someone who is used to tapping their phone screen twice and having the same film streamed directly into their hand.

Unfortunately for HMV, even those who want to have the entire discography of a band in physical product, can get them far cheaper now online. If for example I was starting my Stones collection now, I could probably get the lot on ebay today for a fraction of the price I paid 20 years ago, and have the whole lot delivered to my door by the end of next week to boot.

I wish HMV weren’t finished as I still use them a lot. But then I also wish that they had lowered their prices a bit. I know not everyone is on a tight budget, but I am one of those who is – it’s why I shop in Lidl and not Waitrose.
Also, don’t HMV own FOPP? Can’t they just turn them all into FOPPs?

Paul Taylor

I’m 55 and have never embraced downloading or streaming. It doesn’t suit me for how I prefer to collect or listen to my music. Physical product every time for me; mostly vinyl but sometimes find CD is the better option.
I’ve heard that Spotify is supposedly useful to ‘try before you buy’ but YouTube can be just as helpful

Luke Ballinger

I agree completely: physical music always wins with me, too. I’ve never taken to downloading and I’ve never even bothered streaming. Having just recently turned 40, I’ve always had enthusiasm for music from the 1960s and ’70s (before I was born), where the packaging was just as important as the music contained within. I generally buy CDs (the 2-CD reissue of Paul McCartney & Wings’ RED ROSE SPEEDWAY being the most recent, as a Christmas present), but on occasion I like to get a vinyl reissue of an album which may be a particular favourite of mine (such as The Beatles’ ABBEY ROAD and Pink Floyd’s WISH YOU WERE HERE, both of which have been reissued beautifully on vinyl in recent years).

As I said, I have never streamed music and I’ve not downloaded any individual songs in months now (never have I downloaded an entire album) – there’s nothing tangible to look at and it’s a big turn-off for me to not have any kind of physical contact with the music. Buying a physical album means that you’ve paid for it the once and it’s yours to keep and cherish – this is hugely important both in and of itself when you’re a music-lover and collector.

It’s a shame about HMV. I have to admit, however, that I tend to buy from Amazon these days or even straight from the label (Real Gone Music is a case in point here; they’re a bit pricey but they ship from the States really quick and so far I’ve had my CDs within a week). Generally, there’s just much better range when shopping online which HMV can’t hope to match with high street stores, so my regular pilgrimages to Oxford Street stopped some years ago, I’m afraid. It would be nice, though, if HMV could maintain some kind of online presence without having the overheads of expensive-to-run shops to worry about.

I would also question, though, the observation that tastes in how we consume music are changing: fundamentally this is certainly true but, frankly, I just don’t think young people are really that interested in music like they once were. They certainly don’t revere rock bands like they did in the days of Led Zepp or the Floyd, while many solo artists these days seem to be admired more for their looks and fashion sense rather than the quality of their music (now I really am sounding like an old fogey!). But as has been said, the days of the million-selling single are long gone, and I do wonder how many “copies” of a download really are sold these days in comparison with the massive vinyl sales of the past. The sales achieved by the likes of, say, The Beatles back in the ’60s or ABBA in the ’70s are never going to be matched by the artists of today, and furthermore I don’t think contemporary popular music will have the longevity of what has gone before. This is compounded by the fact that the advent of consuming purely digital music has somehow made it all so disposable: just hit Delete and that pesky Ed Sheeran song is gone. And as for the coveted Christmas Number One spot nowadays – who cares?

auteur55

Sometimes CD is the ONLY option because the title is not on Vinyl or cost’s a fortune. One reason why I hope CD sticks around.

Frank Otero

Always saddens me to hear another record store has disappeared. This was such an important part of my life growing up. Still I wish there was a time where I could be excited to visit a store anticipating what might be there. I suppose every generation has problems like this. So I try to keep it in perspective.

El Nino

The stores vary so much – I like Maidstone but Canterbury is not so good. I’ll miss them when they go. I’ve always found browsing the racks relaxing and there is nothing else near me.
FOPP is another matter – I don’t have one near me but on a visit to Cambridge last year I came out with a couple of bags of books and CDs. The selection was excellent and that in a small shop. FOPP felt like a proper music shop. HMV tries to cover too many bases.

JuzzyB

Agreed. Viva Fopp Cambridge! They cover a lot of non-mainstream and back catalogue stuff, but the offers on chart CDs and Blu-Rays are also there if you want them. As you say, they don’t need massive floor space to do this.
HMV needs to make a lot of its shops smaller and more interesting.

SimonP

Just did my bit and spent 60 odd quid in HMV Bath. Got the new Suede album for a fiver, a couple of others for a similar price and some 4K Blu-ray films…

Cris

Thank you for the article and for the very well expressed reasoning Paul.
I think the main point that explains the crisis is the very expensive rents for megastores vs low income as compared to the Eighties.
Couldn’ t the management have thought of a stripped down version of HMV with a chain of more numerous, albeit much smaller, shops maybe?
Even so, here’ s my small homage to the fond memory, as you rightly say.

1977, eight years old, first time in London from Italy with my parents. My first plane travel EVER. They/We most probably bought Abba’ Greatest Hits in the Trocadero HMV (of course I was totally unaware, but if tradition is tradition and it was the same one I found there in the 80s/90s/00s, then HMV it really was…
Summer 1983: my second time, and the first of numerous returns: the Japanese 7″s… New Year’ s Eve 1984: packs and packs of 12″s… And all the following New Years until 1987, always with my parents patiently waiting for me outside or wandering around the shop or helping me browse for ages… Thank you so much for your Love and Patience, you magnificent Mum and Dad.
Summer of 1985, with a group of friends: the gigantic “Born in the USA” manifesto taking up all the floors in Oxford Street… And so on for 24 visits to London along the years.
November 2010: I am so sorry Dad for letting you go back alone to the hotel in Trafalgar Square because I had to have the last browse in HMV Trocadero at 10 in the evening… For me it was just “Walk down this road with the Theatres and turn left and you ‘ ll be there”, but unfotunately you missed it and had to ask a policewoman for help without speaking English… I hope you have forgiven me and are laughing about it now.
Last time (but hoping there will be another) November 2016, enthusiastically seeing the old 1960s sign above the doors, and buying a quite expensive The Coral album and a few DVD series…
Here’ s to you HMV: a million thanks for being my “land of milk and plenty” and my first stop when in London for all my life, and for being another memory connecting me with my Parents.

Chris Squires

Having read every post below I would suggest that if HMV had a half decent management structure, a visionary or two and owners who wanted it to succeed rather than bleeding it dry it could be doing quite well. With owners of the calibre of, oooh I don’t know, just owners with vision and belief like Steve Jobs who didn’t worry about plastic toys and headphones, didn’t get sidetracked by DVD and Blu-Ray and just became a music store. The go-to place instead of going down the Woolworths route of selling anything and everything.

J

Paul
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
I think you covered all the bases with this post. Well done.

I don’t know anything about HMV but I googled images just to get a basic idea & was completely shocked that the photos show heaps of Blu rays. WHAT?? I have not bought a physical Blu Ray in at least 13 years and find this offering obtuse @ best. I have a few friends that buy physical video so they get extras, cut scenes, etc. but this is the exception, not the rule.

I think the many are not prepared for the video options that lie in wait. Ex nihilo formations (NEWTV run by run by Meg Whitman of all people) live app-based TV (MovieBox), a la carte programming, IP delivery (DIRECTV NOW), skinny bundles (Sling) & many other video-based conduits. For years the BBC has been tinkering with moving from linear streams to object based streams that can reach and any & all devices in an attempt to stay relevant (which will not work). Every dog has his day. This includes Amazon, Netflix & so forth. The only thing they think about is their demise. Revolution & /or evolution is the rule for video
J

SimonP

It wasn’t even possible to buy a movie on Blu-ray 13 years ago, so no one else was buying them then either!

MichaelK

Lots of interesting comments and attitudes. Thanks for that. Clearly there are big changes going on in the ‘marketplace.’ Whatever, I wonder, happened to the marketplace in the centre of town? Buying music used to be a kind of ritual for many people linke to a cult of youth movement. Owning the physical artifacts themselves was important in itself and showed other people what one was interested in. I know a guy who became interested in a girl, fell in love with her and married her, initially because he found a rare Bob Dylan bootleg in her collection and thought, she must be… the one! Years later he discovered that she didn’t even know she had the lp, someone else had just left it behind by mistake after a party!

This is just to illustrate how our desires, dreams and emotions are, or used to be, deeply mixed up with music. Music used to be really, really, important in postwar youth culture and a central part of their identity, for three or four decades. Now there is so much else competing for peoples’ attention and their money. Bob Dylan was a kind of guru for millions of white, middle-class people in the western world, similar to Shakespeare’s role in defining one’s identity. All that kind of thing seems to have changed. Art is no longer… Art, the way it used to be, and, therefore, not as important and signifies less in peoples’ lives and relationships.

Rock music, for example, seems to have become the new, or old, Jazz music. A form loved and appreciated by an enthusiastic minority, but of less importance to the great mass of consumers. The amazing revival of vinyl seems to underline this change.

Music simply doesn’t appear to be as important in young peoples’ lives as it once was. The Beatles career shows this. They went on an incredible musical adventure, quest and journey and we all, to a greater and lesser degree, went along with them. The leap, progression from ‘I want to hold your hand’ to ‘Strawberry Fields forever’, meant something close to profound, for millions of people, worldwide. A cultural education that was shared. It’s doubtful that’ll ever happen again in pop music because times and people have changed. The Greeks of Athens are no longer the way the Greeks of ancient Athens used to be.

So, it’s not just about changes in the marketplace and the rise of Amazon, all that’s complex enough, but it’s also about how our artistic and cultural world is changing at the same time around us. Much of this is worrying and unfortunate. We appear to be becoming less linked to physical things in society and the virtual is taking over more and more, replacing the ‘real world’ with something else.

Nick J

Disney Mike, I have no idea where you get your .01% figure from, but I don’t agree. Please can you explain its origin?

HMV has shown that it can not only take on the online retailer regarding physical media, but beat them. And the simple reason why people might buy an album over access to millions and millions of songs a month is we wouldn’t have time to play millions and millions of songs. In a lifetime, let alone a month. Because the average song is maybe three minutes or so, we can replay that over and over, in a way you couldn’t with a favourite film, so we’ll form an attachment to it that excludes listening to millions and millions of other songs. It’s just how we are with our music. And it’s why suggesting we’d abandon treasured albums in favour of millions of tracks we don’t know is so spurious.

RetroPopBoy

Your response comes from someone spoilt for choice. My local HMV the ONLY record shop where I live. If HMV goes, I’ll have no choice but Amazon.

Also, don’t forget that HMV have been issuing rather nice exclusive editions, which I’ll miss if it goes.

FROM MARS

If you love someone, set them free.. or possibly not.

The Virgin/HMV/Tower/Soho run was a blast. Since then, no downloads/streams/orders from warehouse giants.. everything is no more than a phone call/e-mail to the good men at a store in west london. Which doesn’t prelude a stroll to FOPP or HMV most Fridays after work, where something can be added to the shelf.

Is it a luxury, spending more instore. It won’t be when it’s gone.

Otto

I hate how “content” (movies, music and games) are nothing more than that nowadays.
There was a time I bought Twilight DVD’s (not not the vampire thing). These DVD’s where full of all the latest games, all neatly hacked and ready to install. I never felt a connection to any of these games. I got bored quickly and in an instant I deleted it and went on to the next. Now I buy games and stick with it and love them.

The same with music. U used to buy an album after being in love with 1 or 2 of the singles. I never wanted to listen to the rest in the record store but went home an hated half of it. But the other half I loved and skipping a song wasn’t something you did and during a week or month the record grow on me and the songs I hated ended up the once I loved the most.
I invested in a record player a few years ago and I love it.

When Twin Peaks first aired I was taken by the music, the visuals and the story. A week long the discussions at school where about what the hell was going on. And I prepared myself with black coffee and cherry pie (both I don’t care for) and soaked up the next episode. I recently tried Netflix (3 months for free with PlayStation Plus) and didn’t like it and canceled it.

Music is the soundtrack of my life because I took the time to listen to it, really listen. The album cover is the image of the first time I kissed a girl, that vacation at the beach, that year at school that was amazing, the moment I lost a loved one. The same goes for movies and games for me and I’m glad it’s back.

Andrew Bar

HMV will be the start of the sad and slow decline of the high street. Within 20 years everything will be online only.

Paul Murphy

I look forward to getting an online haircut…

Klaus

Don’t need one as my wife cuts my hair :)

John Ireland

Another take on the HMV situation that is worth a read.
As Paul says, it was likely doomed from the start.

http://voxboxmusic.co.uk/2018/12/the-hmv-money-go-round/

Chris Squires

If that article is to be taken at face value then it looks as though Hilco and the whole HMV operation has a touch of the (Sir Philip) Green’s. Buy it, strip it, let it die whilst plonking millions elsewhere.
Such an inglorious end to a much loved brand. The shame of it all is that it is entirely legal.

Music was always meant to be the fall-guy.
Fair play Paul, you had always said that once you strip away the romance of the name “HMV” and drill down to Hilco it was no better than Amazon.

SimonH

Thanks, very interesting.
Appalling but unsurprising.

Mr Martin J Power

It is funny in a bleak way as HMV go on doing the same old things in the same old way. They have to have some sort of USP and it just is not thete.

If they concentrated on what they are good at – When they do special education vinyl for vinyl week etc they are super popular if they created a niche element to it they may come back but currently difficult to see how.

I don’t agree that they should have separate pricing as people are price savvy and will go for value/price etc – is that not part of the reason we all love SDE? Yes to celebrate the community of music but also a deal. Come on if you could buy the Hendrix box for £100 in HMV or £90 at Amazon we would not go with Amazon even though in many ways they are the great Satan. In some ways this is self defeating as without competition surely Amazon will adjust prices upwards – ultimately a shame but inevitable

Chris Bennett

Sadly the handful of HMV stores we had here in Hong Kong all closed down a couple of days before Christmas because of the sky-high rents here. They first opened up here 25 years ago. I’ll certainly miss browsing the stores. They had in recent years started selling second-hand vinyl and audio equipment which was a great addition to the usual new vinyl, CD’s, DVD’s etc.

-SG-

Well in Berkely, Amoeba closed the Jazz and Classical wing last year to open up a pot dispensary in order to keep the business viable, meanwhile Amoeba Hollywood sold their land and are there for the duration of their lease and then… perhaps longer, but who knows, I speculate after something like $34 million dollars paid, the owner will raise the cost substantially and the fabled record collector’s mecca will shutter the loacation.
Like before the last recession, businesses like HMV began to fold under economic pressure from rising cost and rent, and now, again these things are happening. The dip in discretionary spending is the canary in the coal mine….

EK

-SG-, so sad to hear about Amoeba’s decline. I visited the Berkeley store multiple times a week when I lived there over a decade ago. Good times indeed.

I have warmed a bit (if that’s the right word) to the new online reality. My weekly ritual is now to check in with all of my bookmarked reissue specialists: Rhino, Cherry Red, Demon/Edsel, Real Gone, Light in the Attic, Omnivore, Soul Jazz, Sundazed, a few others. These labels aren’t going away, as they have managed profits via the vinyl resurgence and keeping inventory limited to 1000-5000 (or so) press runs.

-SG-

Right, and the only real way to get the limited material now is online, the distribution channels make it virtually impossible financially for a store. I imagine your collection has become more specific due to your online ritual, but the surprise element is lost. In the day places like Amoeba were great, they still are, but it is different, things are priced globally, barcodes are scanned etc, collectors sell online, the haul one could amass in one visit, has definitely tempered by waning supply, not just at Amoeba, but in general by people frequenting stores less items produced, no unique promos etc. Online is great, you can find anything for a price, if it exists, but there really is nothing like going through a freshly laid stack of vinyl, cd’s etc and finding a treasure for a couple of dollars. But on the flipside I am not 22 anymore and spending a saturday going from record shop to record shop is simply not a reality I could get away with anymore, so the online thing does help to keep the dream alive.

Albert

Vibes Records in Bury was the best record shop in the world…

HMV was also good in its prime. I remember they had a massive 12′ singles offer in 1985. Every 12′ for £2.49 each. I came out with about half a dozen New Order, four OMD, and the first three FGTH singles in their various 12′ versions. Good days…

And streaming is crap….

Zongadude

In answer to Jeremy:
Don’t know about Rough Trade, but FNAC stores (in France) are also on a bad path. There have been rumours of either closing the shops, or at least closing the music (cds and Lps) and movies (dvds and Blurays) sections.
I wouldn’t be surprised if in less than one year the dream will be over for FNAC stores too. :(

smorrissey

What about Fnac spain? do you believe it will face the same destiny?

Nemo

never heard about this news. I think it’s actually fake they open new stores…

Michael Sloanes

I love HMV and only buy physical media maybe they should just stick to music but the thing that bugs me the most being a collector is half the stuff on the shop floor re Boxsets especially are dumped on the shelves/floor dented damaged all the Kate Bush cd Boxsets were dented/damaged in one store I recently visited and those horrible security tags with the wire that cuts into the boxes or the wraparound sticky tape that leaves your CD’s and vinyl covered in glue half the vinyl covers are damaged.Sad that they have to do this as I know so much stuff is stolen. I hope they survive but it’s not looking good I don’t want to buy everything on Amazon as their packaging is rubbish and if they get the Monopoly prices will rise.

Louis

so far, I don’t think so. The spanish fnac store is always full of people. but who knows!

Alan

I have to wonder how long physical entertainment product – which this blog celebrates – will survive if HMV goes. I don’t see supermarkets stocking CDs for much longer. It should be remembered that EMI once owned HMV (and their predesessor The Gramophone Company before them), so if the record companies don’t rescue it now, they are effectively saying “the physical format is dead”. It’s surely in their interests to save it. We might gloat that it’s an old friend we no longer see, but that old friend might have had a lot more power than we realised. If we really don’t care if it survives – and I was quite surprised to read Paul effectively saying he didn’t – then we might lose far more than a shop we apparently no longer bother with.

Disney Mike

If HMV goes, it won’t affect the market for physical media more than .01%. The physical formats do not rely on a single brick-and-morter retailer for their worldwide sales. Almost all sales of physical media are from online retailers.

There is only one factor in the decline of physical media — streaming services. Why would people pay money for an album, when for the same cost they can have access to millions and millions of songs for a month? It’s just the way of the world now.

Julian Hancock

In the UK it was reported, as recently as October I think, that HMV sold more physical music than Amazon. I didn’t get the impression that most of these sales were generated by their website.

Dr Volume

Disney Mike where did you see that .01 % figure? According to a Guardian article yesterday some labels are reporting that certain releases have only been pressed on CD to satisfy orders from HMV. The loss of the chain will take a big chunk out of the music industry as a whole, certainly in the UK. How much of that will be replaced by online sales I’m not sure …unless something can be salvaged from HMV or something else emerges in the high street to pick up music retail (streaming hasn’t killed it off yet). Maybe Boots can start selling records again!

RJS

“It should be remembered that EMI once owned HMV (and their predesessor The Gramophone Company before them), so if the record companies don’t rescue it now, they are effectively saying “the physical format is dead”.”

Why would the record companies rescue a failing business? Also worth remembering that no one is going to pump money into a failing company purely for the sentimental reasons you suggest!

Chris Squires

Alan, I don’t think ANYONE here is gloating about the demise of HMV. The overall tone seems to be one of sad acceptance. Even those who say they mostly / exclusively use Amazon intimate that they wish it were not so. But economics and lifestyle dictate that Amazon is the better retailer as it gives the customer more of what they need and most of what they want. If only they paid a decent amount of tax they would have even more bases covered.

Paul Deards

HMV could do well if they operated on a level playing field, but the cards are stacked against them. Physical stores are treated much worse for tax than online sites (how much did Amazon pay in corporation tax in 2017? About £5m, based on Uk sales of about £10bn), and the streaming services are running at a loss in order to kill off competition (has any music streaming site made a profit yet?).

Fascinating to see how this develops. If we lose music on the high street then just watch the Amazon and streaming prices soar.

Nick J

I work on the outskirts of Leeds, so visit HMV’s city centre store there at least twice a week. I was in there again over the weekend, chatting to the staff, and they were as friendly as always, and trying to remain optimistic. I cannot imagine how it must feel, just after Christmas, wondering if you’re about to lose your job, but hopefully the majority of stores will survive.

Anyway, I can understand a lot of the comments that HMV shot themselves in the foot backing film & TV over music – but only from the benefit of hindsight. When they came out of administration in 2013 the music industry was already suffering thanks to downloads (legal and illegal) whereas film & TV largely wasn’t. Of course they were going to focus on that; it would have been madness to do otherwise. But in the Leeds store at least the music section is still huge. As for pricing, I haven’t seen a single new album in over two years that was cheaper on Amazon than in HMV on the day of release. I’ve seen a lot that were more expensive on Amazon, and I’ve witnessed a few that should be classified as daylight robbery on there – but not with HMV. Certainly Amazon has its place, and it has been great for the hard-to-find imports, etc, but for new material I’ll always go to a shop first, ideally HMV. Aside from anything else, I’ve lost count of the times online purchases come through in less than perfect condition; in a shop, I get to pick and choose.

So it’s HMV first for me, and I’ll continue spending my money there until their last day of trading – which I dearly hope is a long way off.

Pádraig Collins

On the previous thread, someone spoke about picking something up in HMV, then checking their phone and seeing it was much cheaper on Amazon. But sometimes it went the other way too. I was in Fopp and saw a Big Star box set for a reasonable price, but had it on order from Amazon. I checked on my phone and saw that Amazon had not yet processed the order, so I cancelled it and bought it in Fopp. It was a couple of pounds more expensive, but I wanted to take it home there and then and was happy to pay a couple of quid more to be able to do so.

Paul Murphy

Possibly you mean my post about them not price-matching John Lennon ‘Rock & Roll’? The differential on that was £4.99 on Amazon that day, £6.99 in HMV Yeovil, that’s tickling a 30% top-up margin. On bigger ticket items a couple of pounds is more absorbable, but as someone above said, try finding stuff in HMV that doesn’t have either dents in it, or doesn’t come with the guaranteed-to-remove-your-laminate security tag. And as I mentioned in a post Paul chose not to use yesterday, it looks – from the state of the stores – that nobody in the top offices at HMV has ever thought to sound out from music fans as to what would be viable product. If they did, they didn’t listen! The days you had the luxury of presenting your stores as a fait accompli are the shadows of time now. I remember casually asking the manager of HMV Yeovil if he could get me Japanese Blu-Spec CDs in and he looked at me like I was talking Martian through a scuba tube, he’d never heard of them. “They’re mini-LP style” I ventured. “Vinyl’s over there” he nodded, and continued to build the north face of the Complete Poirot Collection Eiger.

Curt Selak

I saw the remark about it being quite easy to click-and-purchase (though I took note of the ones further along observing that one pound isn’t too great a difference) and ought to point out that within the Chicago city limits, there are not any shops surviving that trade in compact discs as shops had done in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, not even in malls. (The branches of Reckless and I think it’s Disc Replay have some new releases on compact disc; the primary shop, Rolling Stone, is just on the other side of Chicago’s border, at least an hour by bus from downtown). Going by what I saw over the last 25 or so years (I’m 52), in order to enjoy any chance of riding things out the shops would have had to be keen to acknowledge that the audio technologies (D/A converters, etc) had matured dramatically since CDs had been introduced and the persons operating the shops would have had to be willing to learn how the computer can best be used to capitalize on the cumulative effect of music having been reissued on CD for years on end or particularly of having been issued after being newly discovered. (One of the things that a shop that closed elsewhere in the United States had in the end to show for what during the late twentieth century had proved something of a gilded era owing to the high retail price of the compact discs was a collection of handwritten logs on which the employees had recorded their customers’ perceived shortcomings day in and day out). That having been said, it is nonetheless quite important to ask oneself if a future in ordering compact discs from home is really all it might seem from today’s standpoint given the ability of at least some of the online retailers to realize short-term business goals through potentially underselling, and otherwise undercutting, competitors who are locally oriented and have usually been around for considerably longer. I understand your remarks mostly mean HMV, but if you weren’t aware up until this point that in Chicago compact discs are well and truly all gone away where the high street is concerned, practically everyone living here who had become accustomed to the physical media in some way obviously is!

Ralph

I’m not sure FOPP should be held up as such a shining beacon. It was built up from its Glasgow market stall beginnings with an aggressive price war policy with the aim of closing down its competitors. Gordon Montgomery overreached himself when he took on the redundant Music Zone chain and his last ditch efforts to hard sell FOPP vouchers to customers knowing he was about to go under were shameful as was his dumping the staff without their final month’s salary.
These days FOPP differs little from HMV in pricing and it’s range of stock is not as comprehensive as it used to be. I do like the book section though.

Graeme Mason

I spend up to £140 on CD’ s or vinyl every month on average….more if I can sell my old junk on eBay (I call it ‘re investing) and I can say…..apart from record store day when I bought 3 vinyls all of my purchases have been online. So out of approx £1700 per annum I spent about £70 to £80 in a physical store……Times my story by how many are like me out there and that’s how the HMV story has unfolded…

poptones

Agreed about HMV failing to adjust to web competition. There’s a lot of talk about the impossibility for HMV to compete with an online store like Amazon with millions of CDs and vinyls but they waited too long to offer the click and collect option for an online order and they partnered with HubBox only last summer. According to a study conducted by PostNord in 2017, 56% of online shoppers rated delivery choice as the most important factor when deciding whether to make a purchase from an online retailer. Failing to adjust early to customers online habits is just one example of HMV’s blunders.

Derek

I’ll be sorry to see HMV go if that’s what happens. I’ll admit I can rarely be bothered to go into town centres nowadays, but on those rare occasions I’ll pop into HMV, but nowadays I hardly buy anything- not interested in DVD boxsets and struggle to find CDs I’d like to own. If Duran Duran, ABBA or Depeche Mode would release Beatles style boxsets I’d be happy to buy them from somewhere like an HMV- unfortunately none of them can be bothered to do so

When I do buy physical product its invariably from the artist own website ( or Amazon) not HMV.

Gareth Pugh

Thinking about it (and someone made this point on the original thread of a couple of days ago) for a certain kind of music buyer – and I guess this pretty much includes me – the kind who largely follows a repertoire of favourite artists like my dad follows the fortunes of three football teams (sport being his thing, music was always mine) more than buys brand new music or seeks out much in the way of new bands these days… a lot of my spend over the past 4-5 years has gone to D2C models. Case in point – Erasure have released 3 new studio albums in the past 5 years (plus a live one and an orchestral one). In all cases, I bought these from their official webstore because they offered fan-friendly exclusive editions with either more premium packaging, extra exclusive music content, came bundled with other merchandise that appealed (art prints etc), or combinations of all three. Ditto the last decade’s worth of Howard Jones items. Then there was the PSBs pop-up store for Super – being in London, I visited that. Sure, Amazon didn’t get my quid on any of those occasions, but nor did HMV sadly. It wasn’t a case of who was the best value for money (or cheapest – not, technically, the same thing) but who offered me the best added-value for a band or artist I love and collect. Ironically, I had probably spent more with HMV this year (collecting DM back catalogue vinyl albums, the 4 x Kate Bush boxes because they had a good deal and package better than Amazon) than any in the past decade and they were starting to get into exclusives (including a nice OMD one last Summer) but maybe it was too little too late. To be fair, this ‘die hard long term fan’ mentality is not and probably ought not to be HMV’s main focus, but it’s probably where it lost more of my spend than it might have.

JuzzyB

A lot of slagging here, but I love going into my local HMV and Fopp, and I think the prices are pretty good. New albums on CD usually turn up in the 2 for £15 offer just a few weeks later (instore and online), so I tend to grab them then. Getting the pure points and saving up for store discount would always push my purchase to them rather than Amazon. I will be gutted if Fopp goes especially, as much for the books as the music. It will put the kibosh on my Saturdays out, having a few pints and buying a stack of CDs, Blu-Rays and PBs. I will just be extra pissed with no merch to bring home :(

Darren

My nearest shopping centre, Bromley, has a fantastic branch of Head records I ntil 18 months ago, great stock, brilliant vinyl section, good selection of unusual box sets. I never failed to come out of there without a hole in my bank balance.

What happened…HMV moved into the Head unit from the High Street and got them kicked out and closed down.

Now they occupy the site with their bland offerings.

So not much sympathy from me apart from for the staff.

Pádraig Collins

Darren, I loved that Head branch too and went there every time I visited my sister in Bromley. I got so much great stuff there over the years. Do you remember when it was originally in the old Virgin store on the same floor (which is now a clothes shop)? It was huge.

Ejner

Our big music & films stores here in Denmark went down and out years ago. I could spent hours in there looking around. But all of them is gone, expect a few small independent vinyl stores. So I had to learn to buy online, if I still wanted my music and films. And I do still prefer physical media. I haven’t come around to all that streaming stuff….yet. So welcome to the online-only club.

Mike Thorn

Ejner – There is a nice little Beer and Vinyl shop in Odense – though possibly only second hand, in my brief visit to Odense and on a Friday afternoon I found it to be very popular.

Richard K

Happy to say HMV (although under totally different ownership I’m sure) seems to be doing a bit better in Japan again after opening a fair few shops specializing in second hand vinyl.

DaveM

Paul, your appraisal of HMV is spot on. The thing that saddens me the most is the potential loss of jobs. I still regularly use HMV and can say that the staff and shops in Doncaster, York, Leeds and Castleford are excellent. They always get new releases on the day and are well stocked, especially Leeds.
I fear the high street will become full of shabby chic cafes, where you pay through the nose for brunch (everything comes with avocado), have one craft beer and sit at a rickety old school desk whilst some vinyl crackles in the background.
If HMV goes, the future for me will be sitting in the bored husband’s chair in White Stuff (while it lasts).

Foxee

We have two very large HMV stores in South Wales – Swansea and Cardiff – and they are always very busy and have brilliant ranges of stock. The vinyl sections are always the most popular and the amount of choice is superb. We really cherish their presence on the high street and personally I would shop there before buying online any time. I know many others who say the same. I have to say I don’t recognise much of the comment and sentiment in this thread – perhaps it’s a regional thing – and I genuinely think many people are being far too negative, penny pinching, and really forgetting about quality (streaming? please!) and the pleasure of shopping. We really need to get out and support the high street instead of living in a lonely and isolated world of social media and internet shopping. We should all get up off our arses and get back into shops and reclaim the socialising and pleasure of the physical retail world. People need to shake themselves out of this pathetic virtual world of digital files and thin air – what on earth has happened to the pleasure of holding product in your hands, pouring over the beautiful artwork of an album sleeve, putting a record on and watching it spin on the player????

HMV is a staple of the high street and we should do everything we can to keep it there. However, I think HMV should get back to being a music store first and foremost, concentrate on the booming vinyl market and start to move away from the steadily declining CD market. I think they should dump the DVD format entirely, stick to Blu-ray and 4k, and probably slim down on their other product lines too.

If we let this happen to HMV, before too long there will be no more Waterstones or WHSmith because everyone will be reading Kindles and tablets. Imagine that? What a sad depressing world it would be.

Kevin Galliford

Very well said Foxee! I’m not into records as we used to call them but I love it when an Artist I love releases abCD issue that they gone to a lot of trouble to make it special for the fans. That is where the desirable purchases I want to make are, not just a boring jewel case issue.

Michael

Have to agree there. Still a CD buyer but few things frustrate me more and often stop me buying when something I really want is released in that basic jewel case. Makes me nervy as I start to wonder, will this eventually be expanded? Give me a digipak or gatefold any day. Something more deluxe-ish about them. Probably why I’m so pleased with the Kate Bush reissues.

Pádraig Collins

Well said.

Bookshops will survive as they’ve made a recovery over the past year. People are buying more physical books and fewer download books. I bought a handful of download books, but got zero pleasure from them. In fact, it was a waste of money as I only read two of them.

I have a bone to pick with Paul, though, in saying the surprise factor is lost from record shops. Well, maybe Paul gets media releases about every new release, but I don’t. I always find something I wasn’t aware of in record shops, especially local Australian releases I would never have come across if the record or CD wasn’t right there in front of me in Red Eye. Even in HMV, when I’m in London, always has something that make me go “Wow, I’ve got to have that”. And Rough Trade is always full of music I didn’t know about. Fopp too, but to a lesser extent.

Matthew McKinnon

Well, I miss the superstore on Oxford Street. It was good for a browse on the way home from work – and occasionally a purchase. And it was, back in the day, pretty well stocked so if you had a voucher to spend and were prepared to go digging, you could find something interesting.

But that’s it really. The smaller shops are a nightmare: the bare minimum stock, hideous prices, terrible layout.

As one of apparently a handful of people who still buy ALL their music, buying online – whether from Amazon or from Bleep or Boomkat – is a far far better method. That’s why these shops are dead now. They’re just not as good a service. So I don’t mourn them that much.

Tony O

The download issue has obviously affected a lot of stores who closed down but I feel they could have had it turn into a positive.
I remember speaking to my dad about 15 years ago and telling him that one day we would not go into a music store and buy cd’s and records but we would go in with our own personal pen drives, walk up to the counter, ask for the latest shakin stevens or some other cracking album, pay the money and plug the pen drive into the til, the music would then be in your possession and you would go home.
Now whilst i was not completely correct in my ‘dream’ I always thought that a shop like HMV would have developed listening booths with a similar pen drive experience, it would make the experience of buying music more than sitting in your kitchen, eating your cornflakes and downloading the new Ed sheeran lp, it would, in a way, have gone retro with modern music.
I will always thank HMV for the day i was walking round the oxford street store and they played a song that I loved but did not know, I asked the cashier what it was, she spoke to the manager to find out and I bought suzanne vega’s latest album which started years of enjoyment with that artist.
I know we all have these stories but I feel that with the right management direction these stores could have been thriving rather than just surviving.

Breed7

Actually, downloading is the format that is REALLY dead. Downloading isn’t what is killing physical media; streaming is what is doing that. Until recently, each of the major formats has enjoyed about 25-35 years of dominance (78 RPM, vinyl, CD), but the “download” era only lasted about a decade as the dominant format. Streaming moved in to kill the download several years ago. Pretty soon you won’t be able to purchase downloads from Apple or Amazon, as they’ll want you to use their streaming services exclusively.

Matthew McKinnon

Streaming is the same as listening to the radio was for most people in the 70s and 80s. Those people don’t care especially about ownership.
Downloads will continue, and definitely through Amazon at least – because there will still be the other people who want to buy a product (even if it’s only a file) and will pay for it. So there will be money to be made for smaller etailers, which as a result Amazon will still pursue.

StevieB

I have two HMV stores and a FOPP within 30 minutes of where I live. HMV should have gone down the FOPP model… smaller more ‘independent’ style stores and stock set up in ‘trendy’ ‘student’ or ‘city centre entertainment’ areas.

Instead they stuck with large stores in their traditional stalking grounds, high streets and shopping centres. The lesson that befell Virgin, Tower Records and all the rest unheeded.

The amount of times I continued to GO IN to an HMV and come out with nothing (unlike FOPP) because the stock was SO uninspiring.

I worked in a fair few record shops including HMV back in the heyday. The chance to have bespoke shops for music buyers seems to have been lost. I’m also lucky enough to have a couple of second hand record shops nearby.

Pricing was an issue for HMV. Yesterday they were selling the 2013 (?) remaster of the Beatles White Album for £49.99, while the 2018 is selling for £39.99. Online you can get the latter for £34.99.
A fiver is a significant difference for a lot of people.

RIP HMV… so many mistakes too many to forgive. Hope my 200,000 pure points I’m unable to redeem buy you a lovely wreath.

Guy

I agree that they should have downsized to smaller stores. Virgin and HMV were like that before they opened superstores in the early 80s. They missed the boat when they reorganized five years ago and delayed getting into the online business – especially for international orders which Amazon service well. People WILL seek out physical stores…just not in their millions.

SimonH

Good article in the Observer today by Barbara Ellen (once a music journalist) supportive of cd and vinyl and scathing about the music as a freebie culture we now inhabit including the effect this having on the quality of new music. I won’t post a link, buy the physical paper:)
To those saying why didn’t HMV do this and that etc. Yes I’m sure there were management failures, but really I wonder whether anything could realistically have been done, if feels like an unstoppable change. For example, remember top spec websites need substantial investment to create them, I doubt that was there.

RJS

But like most bricks and mortar shops and indeed the music industry, they never viewed the Internet as either an opportunity to exploit or a threat. It was just a head in sand carry on as normal approach.

Matthew McKinnon

Yeah, but that’s armchair thinking, after the fact. The internet and the normalizing of piracy took absolutely everyone by surprise. HMV couldn’t have seen it coming any more than anyone else.

SimonH

First bought online from HMV around 2000 I think.
Let’s be honest the best website in the world probably wouldn’t have saved the physical shops.
I shall miss them if this is the end and feel quite sad about the whole thing. Here in Bristol FOPP and HMV are decent shops with a good selection. For example I bought the Berlin Blondes reissue on the day of release in HMV, pretty obscure I’d say.
In the end I’ll be forced online and eventually we’ll all only have the second hand market to buy from.
I’ve made my choice and have no plans to use streaming or downloads, each to their own but it’s just not for me.

Nigel

I bought my first online purchase from HMV.co.uk in 2002. Admittedly, that was three years after my first online purchases from Streetsonline (owned by Woolworths), Play or Amazon. Look at all the online retailers that have left us …

The HMV website had significantly cheaper prices compared to their stores (at the time) as they were posted from Guernsey. The changes to VAT for low cost purchases took it’s toll. HMV, like others also offered free post on all orders. It’s now on purchases of over £10, whereas Amazon is £20 for music.

It’s clear that there are many varied opinions why HMV are in their current situation and what they could/should have done to avert this. Let’s face it, like football programmes, there is a shrinking market for physical media. The internet has had a profound affect on walks of life. I’m sure that many of my (younger) colleagues could just press a button on their iPhones instead of eating and drinking they would!

SimonH

Yes but no one was really thinking about investing in websites then we’re they??

Dean

You had a huge HMV on one end of Oxford Street, and an equally huge Virgin at the other. With Sister Ray in Berwick Street (still there, everyone should go), it was a two day event to look at everything.

HMV have diversified into things that aren’t music – books, clothing, electronics, movies…. it was at that point they became lesser of a business, imo. To accommodate this, and cut costs, that stripped back the stock, and suddenly you weren’t surprised by “finds” any more. Knowledgeable staff filtered away.

And then there is the one thing they can’t change – people will do anything to save a £1. Online is cheaper, and we all know why this is so. People want that £1 in their pocket. As HMV filled with every more crazy “3 for a hotdog” promotions, it began to feel more like a marketplace that a prestige store.

It’s sad to see that place I once knew go. It’s not sad to see the modern day store go (except for the people losing their jobs, of course, for which it’s tragic).

I buy 3-4-5 CD’s each and every week (or thereabouts), but never see a need to go to HMV. I know they won’t have what I want in stock anyway (I’m not buying pop/rock for the most part, and certainly not chart). I have no interest in Vinyl. So HMV just isn’t offering what I want. It’s a shame, but once I’ve gone to my local HMV, fought through racks and racks of movies, books, and tat – only to find a shrunken, desolate CD collection….. well, buying online is an easy choice.

John Barleycorn

Paul says about paying a £1 extra for a CD instore compared to online… surely it should be the incentive to sell it for £1 less than the online store? I am probably dreaming… but in the past, when I did check the HMV site, I found it very frustrating to be charged more, sometimes £3-£5 more instore than compared to the HMV website. It’s a match now on the rare occasions I do check it. Let’s not forget that Amazon free delivery only kicks in @ £20 so a single purchase below that incurs a £1.26 charge (? I think). HMV is free over £10.

Up here in the north west I can think of 4 cities that have significantly downsized their HMV stores in the last couple of years: Liverpool, Manchester (Trafford Centre & city centre), Preston and Chester. And drastically so. Those were pointers to the trend…

IMHO, and from my perceptions visiting those stores, vinyl sections always seem to have the most people in them, followed by CDs, thirdly DVDs/Blu Rays and tech last (has anyone actually seen anyone buy any of those low grade turntables or portable speakers in HMV? I haven’t).

I haven’t bought a standard film/telly DVD in years and only buy music documentaries/concerts on Blu Ray (pretty niche I admit). I do buy CDs in HMV after a good browse but even I can see I am a dying breed judged by the drop off in CD sales and lack of queues instore even at Christmas.

HMV’s stores follow a pattern of navigating thru the DVD boxsets of The Two Ronnies, Only Fools & Horses, Porridge et al. Surely everyone who wants these has bought them already!! Put the music front and centre and make that their priority with the rest at the back and downsize again if need be. I think that’s the only way to go.

Mike the Fish

Yes, that was a bad policy when they charged less online (due to the then Channel Island VAT loophole?) as it was actually disappointing to get an HMV voucher knowing I was locked in to more expensive store prices. A key event that drove me to amazon who I actually try to avoid now was when I was looking for a DVD and was willing to paya pretty normal £12 or so for it. HMV price: £19.99. That seemed ridiculous. Amazon were selling the same thing for £4.99. HMV’s prices did improve significantly, at least in my area, when indie era Fopp had two shops nearby. Post Hilco takeover prices were very good, postage online was free for orders a tenner and over. Click and collect became a thing – great if you worked in town. They haven’t been helped by the record industry though with poor quality control and plain poor quality with what seems like a lot of new vinyl and whoever down the chain (distribution, label?) thought the Beatles vinyl prices should be increased by absurd amounts (£34.99 for a single album, anybody?) could perhaps do with a different job. I miss HMV (mine’s already gone) and liked that they got behind vinyl fairly quickly and quite competitively, but I didn’t spend regularly enough there to keep them afloat and as poor quality reissue after poor quality reissue comes out I’m less likely to buy new.

Todd

I don’t count cause my visits are VERY special – but i had a great time a t=year ago when I was there …..

Mr P

This might b the reason too:
(I’m being sarcastic when I say “might”)
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/vulture-fund-hilco-capital-took-48m-from-ailing-hmv-88dnf37qs

peter chrisp

Paul although i am in Australia hope you and family have a great New Year & thanks too for the regular updates. I find with Amazon US their postage to Australia was pretty expensive while their UK counterpart is pretty cheap and on all occasions i would receive a discount automatically. And whether we like it or not with so many stores & independents went down the tube & there are many reasons written above and well thought out comments, i hate to say & which one has survived & thriving Amazon. And look at their CEO Jeff Bozo net worth $118 Billion & counting? Judging by the way they “look” after their staff i guess that’s yet another reason they have survived.

Mike the Fish

Wow, yes I remember you picking me up on that, Paul. Mind you, I’ve not seen any articles about how HMV staff have been treated in general but it clearly isn’t as black and white as I would have liked to believe.

Graham

There’s three separate issues here.

1. The expense of operating on the high street. Rates are still calculated on a notional “rentable value”, which in some places is based on “replace this with housing” to calculate the value, making rates in the SE and other areas ludicrous. Rents are, on the whole, pure greed from the landlords, and likely to crash soon, now that even the restaurant industry cannot afford them.

2. The rise of online. The death of the High Street was, for me, signalled when I found out you can sell shoes online. Footwear is the ultimate in “customer service” retail. If that can move online, the whole High Street is doomed.

3. HMV itself. In the last 20 years, I’ve visited HMVs regularly, though less so over the last five as the nearest one closed. I’ve increasingly rarely bought anything, and that mainly DVDs. These days, most of my spend is through Burning Shed. They carry more that I’m interested in than HMV do, and far less that I’m not interested in. Conceivably HMV could compete with online on the product they do carry, but they can’t possibly compete with the array of specialist online retailers who carry stock that HMV cannot.

I can’t see this as a sign of the death of physical music. That’s already moved on beyond the mega-store.

Phil Cohen

Burning Shed has its own shortcomings: Shipping charges that are higher than Amazon, and they charge your credit card immediately upon ordering (Amazon doesn’t charge until dispatch). Still, I may have to go to Burning Shed (or to the website of Cherry Red music) to obtain future releases on the Esoteric label, thanks to Amazon.co.uk’s recent ban on allowing U.S.A. customers to order upcoming Esoteric label CD’s.

Kevin

I like Burning Shed for a couple of reasons: they pack really well and they have excellent customer service. Most of the things that are U.K. releases don’t cost much more than Amazon.com and I don’t have to return five damaged copies to get a decent one. Plus, supporting a well run small business is way better than giving a behemoth like Amazon my money.

Kevin Clingham

Hi Paul, Thanks for the article and stirring (sometimes) interesting debate. It does seem that the shop/search/discovery experience that we music lovers enjoy is diminishing by the week. While I appreciate you have an international audience is there any consideration given to publishing a list of CD/Vinyl fairs across the UK.

I’m a subscriber to the Record Fairs News letter (recordfairsuk.co.uk) and receive a weekly email about up and coming fairs usually for the following weekend. Could also be helpful for visitors to the UK to know what’s happening and where.

A little bit more publicity for our passion wouldn’t go amiss.

Jeremy

Is Rough Trade in receivership? Is FNAC in receivership? Is Amoeba in receivership? So why is HMV in receivership? It’s got to be a major management failure. The only hope I see is that someone now buys the HMV name and logo and reinvents it as a more serious, more specialized, more dedicated music store. Start with one good store in London and work from there. Pretend it’s 1921. It’s called reinventing the wheel.