It’s easy to dismiss the news about HMV as just another high-street casualty of the digital revolution. After all, digital is where it’s at now and they should have seen it coming. Why should consumers struggle to browse in shops when they can do so in the comfort of their own homes?
But the truth is, record shops are different. For millions of people they’re a passion, a pastime and a social activity that consumes our lives in a way that can’t be replaced. And HMV was the mother of all record shops.
The Internet has enabled us to hear and learn about new bands and experience whole genres of music that we may never have previously been exposed to. And long may that continue. But it’s picking our pockets of the physical experience and all of the benefits that accompany it; those stolen moments spent filtering through rack upon rack of albums, spontaneous bursts of fanatic conversation with fellow enthusiasts or stumbling across that unrelated gem that’s been put back in the wrong place.
And what of the music industry? The faltering giant, crippled by illegal downloads and competitive supermarket prices, which is struggling to convince music fans of the value of their product. For them, a well-crafted physical offering, presented in a shop where human interaction could encourage much more than just ‘people who bought this also bought…’, might persuade fans that their money is worth parting with.
Thankfully, it seems that we might not be the only ones who feel this way. As of yesterday, restructuring experts Hilco, saviours of HMV Canada, appear to have come to the rescue. The move comes with the backing of an industry group of music labels including Universal Music and Sony, as well as an audible sigh of relief from the powers that be at HMV.
So to all of those grieving music fans out there we say chin up; there’s genuine hope for a future of rubbing shoulders with hairy metal fans while you seek out that Doris Day box set! Long live the record shop!