Judging by the news that digital sales of music, films and games have now hit £1billion it seems that pretty much everyone’s now downloading their music so it’s hardly surprising that the one remaining national high street music retailer, HMV, seems to have turned its back on the thing it was any good at. In a desperate attempt to stay afloat a large percentage of its floor space in its main Birmingham store’s now depressingly taken up with ‘technology’, with most of the rest of the floor occupied by games and DVDs. Look hard enough and you might just find some tunes. If you’re lucky. Surely they’re missing a trick though? Granted most of the stores will, sadly, inevitably have to close this year (they owe more money than Bernie Madoff) but if they would just get back to what they’re know for...hello...MUSIC...then maybe there’s still a future for what was once a glorious brand (cue a rousing chorus of Land Of Hope and Glory, the raising of the Union Jack and the wobbling of stiff upper lips).
Here’s a business plan...stock the classics (Beatles, Stones, Sabbath...Steps etc)...people will always want to buy this stuff, carry some new flavours of the month, have a small section of cooler hipster stuff and some collectable vinyl (new and used) plus a little memorabilia. Hold a few in store events each month (acoustic gigs/signings etc) and voila...surely that would still be a viable business? I really shouldn’t care if HMV goes tits up, but I do. Having spent many, many hours in HMV stores (not to mention Virgin and the many independents that have now pretty much all disappeared) I still have a lingering soft spot for the place. Sure music doesn’t have to be carried via a physical product anymore but if we lose HMV altogether we’ll be losing a lot more than just another retailer, we'll be losing a big piece of our musical and cultural heritage.
Call me a luddite but a physical ‘thing’ will always be better than a ruddy computer file. You can hug it, sniff it, squeeze it, stick it on a shelf and gaze lovingly at it. It’s got personality, history and magic (I’m still in awe of how records work...yes I know the theory but still, it’s magical...yes, I’m a simple soul). Listening to music on vinyl demands your attention. You can’t just stick it on and expect it to play happily in the background whilst you do something else. Like a new born it’ll need changing every 30 minutes or so. Despite the sceptics vinyl really does sound richer and warmer than digital versions. If all you ever do is listen to an iPod then you’re simply not hearing what many artists originally wanted you to hear. Still not convinced? Okay then, let’s talk dosh. Buy wisely and you’ve got a much better investment than sticking your moolah in the bank these days (record collectors are nuts when it comes to paying for some of this stuff), not difficult given that banks don’t pay interest any more. Last of all buying music is like sex. You can do it at home on your own (well, sort of...er...if you get my drift) but it’s a lot more enjoyable with a little company (oh good grief that sounds like I’m into dogging...). So if you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution that’s worth keeping dust off or buy yourself a turntable, go out to a record store and buy a record or two and make the whole process of buying and listening to music just that a little bit special again.
PS: Any accusations that this whole post's just a flimsy excuse to post a camp Olivia Newton John video will be hotly denied...