(Picture Credit - London Evening Standard)
For as long as I can remember, there's always been a HMV nearby to stroll into and buy your CDs. HMV, to me at least as a young child was (and still is) this gorgeous technological emporium of headphones, vinyls, games consoles and plenty more besides. Seeing it be threatened with closure once again brings this innate sadness as I, much like a myriad of people, spent many a time looking through their expansive collection of CDs, searching for something new from the artists I loved then and still do today.
HMV has been a cultural mainstay in Britain since the 1930s with its production of television and radio sets. The retail side began to expand during the 1960s and within six years of 1966, HMV had established themselves as Britain’s leading music retailer. Their competition with the newly opened Our Price in 1972 and Virgin Megastores in 1976 was short-lived as HMV overtook Our Price in terms of popularity and threatened Virgin’s existence through opening a chain of newer and larger shops. The Oxford Street flagship moved and reopened in 1986 with HMV claiming it to be the largest record shop in the world at the time. The ceremony was attended by the likes of Bob Geldof of Boomtown Rats fame and driving force behind both Band Aid and Live Aid. By the nineties, HMV had 320 branches and had opened the USA's largest music store in 1990 in New York City.
HMV, as a firm, stocked pretty much everything any technology enthusiast could ask for. It was a case of if you asked for it, HMV would be sure to deliver. Since my primary interest was CDs, nearly all of my physical music collection stems from them. This includes prized possessions of all of the Fish-era Marillion LPs and all of the Coldplay albums that reside on a rack in my office. They hold a lot of sentimental value, so to see the place from which the music was purchased end up closing would be an absolute travesty. The HMV in Milton Keynes has certainly downsized in recent years and that acts as a prime example. What was once two floors of media magnificence has since been transformed into a darker, smaller arrangement that doesn't carry the same feeling of attraction that the former one had. Stores around them have been and gone, but HMV has always remained - it's been a mainstay of that particular shopping centre.
The death of major high-street retailers is something that people will have to come to terms with and losing one of those staples of the high-street is detrimental to its survivability. House Of Fraser has been bought out by Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley who has since changed the focus of the chain dramatically and if someone decides to take over HMV, I just hope that the same thing won't happen. You'd be left with the dying embers of the media retail sector and the dark monster of administration which has taken the likes of Woolworths and Maplin in recent years and surely we can’t have it consuming yet another high-street icon. Since KPMG have come onto the scene to help HMV out, hopefully their actions can guarantee safety for a little while longer.
With the rise of downloading music and streaming through new mediums such as Spotify and Deezer, the act of listening to music through tangible means such as CDs, vinyls or even cassettes is a rapidly decreasing one. It was recently revealed that sales of CDs in the past year were just 32 million units and this figure has dropped by 9.6 million year-on-year. Since 2008, sales have decreased by around one hundred million. The past few years have also seen the resurgence of vinyl records, albeit at a much inflated rate from their prices around thirty years ago. With this meteoric rise of retro, there comes a certain pleasure that is mixed in with owning the vinyl itself. It's not just about the music, but also the art that comes on the front cover and if it's a gatefold sleeve, the artwork that comes on the inside; moreover, you may get a lyric sheet in a booklet, along with added pieces that are contained in the sleeve. Personally, for Christmas, I acquired the Arctic Monkeys' new album on vinyl which is more of an art piece than something to listen to. The rise of the sales of vinyl is not just because they are being played more, but also because that people are displaying them, framing them and cherishing the fantastic artwork designs. That feeling of appreciation is greatly lost with digital forms of music and the pleasure that is derived from buying your own CD or vinyl can be taken away in an instant if HMV do eventually go bust.
Overall, to lose HMV would be pretty heart-breaking as it could lead to the further demise of high-street retail and lead to it all going online. The feeling of knowing that you own an edition of an album on physical means is not one that is replicated through a digital download or a low resolution image on Windows Media Player; it is something specific to the CD and with the rise of streaming, that feeling could be lost with it. What greater pleasure is there than walking into your local media emporium and walking out with the thing you want, able to play it immediately, read the cover, admire the artwork, all without delivery charges and on the same day you actually want it?
In short, the loss of HMV would be dreadful for the safety of the high-street and to lose it could possibly change town centres forever.