Well. The news has finally sunk that another record shop has called time, only this time it’s one of the longest serving and culturally ingrained bastions of music. Granted, it’s not one us staff or readers here probably frequent that often, given that our taste is somewhat more wilfully obscure than what they offer but it is certainly one we have been in at some point though, and love it or hate it…their sale often throws up some surprising bargains.
They had it coming obviously. The writing had been on the wall from the moment they dismissed the internet as a passing fad and refused the chance to work with Apple at the dawn of the iPod. Stubbornly sticking to a business model which became instantly obsolete with the advent of MP3s they still manage to account for 40% of physical music sales. Think about that for a minute…40%...that’s nearly half the Adele albums sold last year…that is a LOT.
Embattled against a growing online presence where Amazon rule roost (and don’t pay tax – Ed.), HMV failed to deliver on what could have been their saving grace by joining in the digital revolution. Being pretty much the only place apart from supermarkets where you could buy CDs on the high street, they could have expanded on their brand through innovative digital sales. What did they do? They offered HMV points…possibly the most useless gimmick ever.
Anyway, that’s all past and has been well documented in recent days, we need to look to the future. What happens now for those of us who still buy physical products? You could argue that your local independent record store will see an increase in traffic (however when Tower Records in the US collapsed independents saw almost no uplift) but somehow I can’t see the general demographic of youngsters flocking to these shops. That 40% of sales has got to go somewhere and while a portion of it will go to the supermarkets to get their Michael Bublé, it looks like Amazon has won the war.
Amongst all this doom and gloom, a little grain of light at the end of tunnel has come to my attention. Whilst talking to my local independent retailer, he mentioned that his shop has seen a steady influx of youngsters venturing in to buy vinyl…this ‘new’ trendy format. What was it they were buying? You may think it was the new Jack White album but the majority of sales were by artists such as The Beatles and The Stones. It seems a generational impact is being seen where our kids are raiding our record collections, wanting to build collections of their own and going to independents to do it.
What I hope we will see is the development of such places to the point where they become synonymous with the local area again. Much as we have returned to a desire to buy local produce, record stores will become more regional and focus on the music the surrounding area likes. This may sound odd but in conversation with another record shop owner, he told me that the death knell in the first place was record companies telling stores what to sell. The upshot was piles of unsold Luther Vandross albums in the grimy, industrial towns of North Wales…see what I’m getting at?
I’m going to leave this argument /discussion now as I want you to carry on the conversation…if you have read this and have something to add, then feel free to start typing. My point of view is built on what I know from my area (North Wales), what is it like for you? Do you have a record shop left? Will you go digital? How do you see the future?
If you're keen to support your local independent, you can find your local one here.