Friday, March 8, 2013

HMV is gone. It's a changing world

My shop is virtually dead. Yes my favourite shop in the whole wide world is close to being gone, dead, deceased no more. HMV is no more. You may have read about this in the papers.

Since the first time I came to the UK way back in 1985 with my mother and sister, HMV was a part of the visit, a very important part. In those days I used to buy Long Playing Records - LP’s, remember those beautiful things? A large 12 inch square package with beautiful illustrations and a shiny black vinyl disc inside. Removing the disc from its protective sleeve, holding it by the edge and ensuring you did not place your fingers on the playing surface, putting it down on your turntable or record player, the crackle of the needle on the edge before it engaged the groove are all descriptions of a bygone era. How much I loved those LP’s. Then LP’s were gone to be replaced by CD’s with their small 4 inch jewel cases.

In those days you could go to HMV or Virgin or even the brash American Tower Records to buy your music. Slowly with the passage of time, Virgin went down the tubes and then it was Tower Records. HMV survived till a couple of years ago when the first signs of trouble became apparent and their flagship store on Oxford Street shut down. Then, suddenly just after Christmas 2012 HMV went bankrupt. It had simply no more money to run and was put into administration.

That was a bad time. Jessop a chain of shops selling cameras and photographic equipment also shut down. If this was not enough Blockbuster the video rental stores also went into administration.

Sitting in Mumbai I wondered where I could buy my music from. India is a wasteland as far as western music is concerned. It’s just that infernal Bollywood and worse. Amazon UK is horribly expensive. Amazon USA? How would the goods reach me? I was a sad man. Very sad. I am not a believer in the Lo Fi sound of Ipods and downloaded music, it’s a classic CD player, pre amplifier, power amplifier and big sounding JBL speakers set up for me. Music is to be played loud, disturbing everyone in earshot.  No IPod no I Tunes rubbish for me.

The day after we reached London, I went to the HMV store which was open. The receivers of the company have decided to keep stores open and consolidate the stocks. The stocks are being liquidated. I could not help taking a photo. It was just so sad to see the signs. Please do shed a tear for this.

I went in to the store and it was sad to see the state inside. 50% of the racks are empty stripped bare. A much depleted display of CD’s and no staff. It’s like walking into a ghost store. Very sad. I found a few CD’s and bought them. I asked if I could get a VAT refund and was told that this was not possible anymore. I was also told that the tens of thousands of people who had bought HMV gift coupons over Christmas, initially were told that the coupons were worthless. Now they say that the coupons will be honoured. But the question is that how can anybody redeem the coupons if there is no stock in the store? The online sales have also been discontinued. How unfair things can be? Stock is being liquidated and the suppliers are being paid off.  Thousands of jobs lost.

But I end with a question. I believe that only 25% of music sales are online. Assuming that is true there is a huge market for actual music CDs. Where are these sold? Is it just generic Top Twenty type stuff being sold at large supermarkets at cut price or miscellaneous stores that sell books, games and trinkets for the children? I am afraid I do not have the answer.

It is indeed very sad.

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