Tuesday, January 15, 2013
HMV RIP - Dog days are over...
I so wanted to be wrong about this one but - as everyone now knows - HMV has bit the dust. I actually knew it was game over on Saturday when I went in to the Bull Ring branch in Birmingham and they had a sudden 'blue cross' 25% off sale. Black cross would've been a better call. The whole place had the same feel that engulfed Zavvi as they went to the wall, with bargain hunters cruising the carcass looking for musical scraps.
Hindsight is a great thing but HMV should have seriously downsized a decade ago, built up a decent e-platform and kept a few high profile specialist shops that focussed purely on music. Trying to survive by flogging over priced 'technology' (the very stuff that was killing HMV) was frankly suicidal. Anyway, that's all ancient history, as is a retailer that's been with us for nearly 100 years.
No one knows what impact the loss of HMV will have on music. No one. I have a horrible, horrible feeling though that, far from being a glorious liberation of control from 'the man', with the loss of all the national and the vast majority of independent music retailers, the medium sized record labels, the music magazines and even the seemingly middle of the road TV music shows like Top Of The Pops, what we're now left with is a music scene that's partially at the mercy of the 'masses' (see Gangnam Style) and partly controlled by a handful of huge media giants (individuals like Cowell and labels like Universal). Great music will, of course, continue to be made but without discerning and high profile 'taste makers' (and HMV certainly helped people discover new music) how the hell will it ever get heard? Internet buzz is great but the internet is controlled by the masses and the masses don't always have the best taste do they (again see Gangnam Style)? I don't have any answers by the way. My best prediction is that the majority of music that the majority of people will be exposed to will increasingly be as bland and inoffensive as possible, designed to appeal to the mass market. Some might say that this has always been the case but would The Sex Pistols, Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Cure, hell...even though I'm not a fan...Oasis, break through these days? I guess the point I'm trying to get to is that in the old days there were just a few 'channels' for people to discover new music and some decent people out there (step forward John Peel and Tony Wilson for instance) to help light the way so that, in amongst the bullshit some really good stuff got though. Now, whilst there are billions of 'channels', I reckon most people still want to plug in mainstream TV and Radio and that, in the main, plays utter, utter crap. Yes, that's the point...I think...we've lost our taste makers. Anyway, only time will tell if I'm being overly pessimistic, I really hope I am, for all our sakes.
PS: Most of all my thoughts are with HMV's 4000 employees, their many suppliers (some of whom will probably also go the wall as a result) and any poor bastard with a gift voucher left over from Christmas.