HMV – changing or breaking the record?

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By John Millington

“Turn and face the strain-  cha cha changes” said the legendary David Bowie.

I used to stick that record (cassette tape) on to cope with teenage angst and to help me face new challenges.

But I am afraid the soothing tones of Bowie cannot help me cope with HMV going into administration or the fact I am nearly 30.

Yes, technically some shops may survive but forgive me for not being optimistic when vulture sorry “venture” capitalists and private equity firms circle in to pick the bones of a once strong brand.

With Jessops falling prey to the forces of the market this month too, following Comet, Game and Clinton Cards demise, iconic brands are beginning to desert the high street.

Consumer and industry experts are divided over the reasons why HMV has hit the buffers.

Some say it is the cheap and easy availability of online music. Others say it was a case of “you snooze you lose” with HMV management’s failure to adapt to changing consumer trends quickly enough.

And many friends have understandably hinted that HMV is tasting some karma; They squeezed the smaller independent record stores with their monopoly might and now it is their turn to feel the heat.

So why do I feel a sense of loss for a big brand shop?

There are two reasons – nostalgia and the fate of the HMV workers.

I don’t like shopping – in fact I loathe it. But when it comes to CD’s and DVD’s there is something therapeutic and sociable about going into a store and having a good nose around.

You never knew what you would find. I never had much of an idea of what I wanted. I just knew I was in the mood for a CD or DVD.

My education and subsequent love of Chinese action films started in HMV 8 years ago when I went for a lucky dip after watching “Hero” at the Uni cinema.

I didn’t “Google” anything. I just every so often would walk in, browse the foreign sections, read the blurb on the back and talk to the knowledgeable staff.

But the way we listen to music and watch films has changed. People don’t stick a CD on and listen to an album.

You now go on Spotify or I-Tunes to get the most mainstream versions of the most mainstream music.
And you can easily get hold of movies via the net, both legally and illegally.

BBC6 Music’s Steve Lamacq hit the nail on the head yesterday when he paid tribute to the 4,000 plus HMV staff who now face an uncertain future.

Industry experts expect supermarkets and smaller independent retailers to pick up the slack in terms of stock and custom.

But most HMV staff will not get a similar job again.

I for one will miss that unpredicatablity to my limited consuming and will be spending as much of my lunchtimes in Wolverhampton’s HMV store this week.

Industrial heartlands like  my hometown have lost their heavy industry and the types of workers that populated them.

Are we now just 20 years later set to call time on the cool music experts that populate our music stores?

I don’t want to face that change.

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