HMV is the UK’s primary and leading retailer of music that’s gone through a huge amount of changes over the past few years after their administration in 2013. I think it, as a business, says a lot about the way the music business works nowadays and the progression (or fight) between physical and digital music.
Everyone seemed to go a bit crazy when it was announced In January 2013 that HMV had gone into administration, simply because they do seem to stand for physical music, and seeing them go out of business would be a clear victory for iTunes, Spotify and the like, and a maybe upsetting defeat for the more traditional ways of selling music.
Hilco UK bought them out soon after this and a lot of their business strategy started to change. They closed down their e-commerce (which has recently reopened) because it couldn’t compete with sites like Amazon and was essentially a fun way of flushing money down the toilet. They changed hmv.com into more of a blog format with interviews, reviews and news. Later on, HMV Digital became another competitor in the world of downloaded music. Their loyalty programme has been developed and is based on collecting points that you can redeem on signed merch of people who’ve come in for signings or shows at HMV 363, their flagship store on London's Oxford Street, priority access to these events, and then smaller things like entering competitions.
I was able to see all these changes first-hand thanks to the lovely people at HMV who took me on for work experience, but I think I noticed more of the changes in music in a broader sense when I was working in my local store for a few months not so long ago. During the time that I worked there, the vinyl section tripled in size during a refurbishment. They started a chart for records, separate from the ordinary CD one. A couple of weeks ago they started selling Crosley record players when they don’t even sell CD players there. You get a lot of people who were really interested in music buying records there and I’d love chatting with them about new releases and albums I recommend. The atmosphere in the store has changed, especially in Milton Keynes where there are literally zero record stores that I know of, so a whole new audience has been lured in. In my store, the whole vibe is so nice, with people that take genuine interest in a huge range of music and I think going in and having a little browse and maybe a chat with someone there is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
It’s quite surreal to think that these giant discs, which are most definitely not the easiest things to store, or even, arguably, producers of the greatest sound, are gaining so much more attention in mainstream retailers like HMV or Urban Outfitters. I’ve asked myself why I love records and I don’t really know the answer, but there’s a certain novelty of pulling out a new record, putting it on and listening to the crackle before it starts. I kinda think that this craze, and it's position of high importance in the eyes of one of the world's biggest music retailers, could possibly die out in a few more years and HMV is going to have to rely more on its digital side to lead the way, but for now, it seems like they’re heading in the right direction. It’s quite interesting to see how HMV have progressed because it reflects quite accurately on where the music industry has headed as a whole. The people most satisfied with physical copies of albums are buying vinyl, the creme de la creme of physical copies, whilst those who are not interested are happy to just listen alone on Spotify or iTunes, and avoid the compact disc middle ground.
(written by isobel moloney)