As sad as it is to see 40 HMV stores being closed nationwide, I can’t help but feel the musical institution once embodied by those three letters faded away a long time ago. Here’s why…
Time passed me by as I gently swayed in time to a long since forgotten Dusty Springfield tune. Had I been anywhere else, I may have felt a tad silly, but here, surrounded by fellow music lovers, I was cocooned by a feeling of mutual respect and appreciation. Was I in HMV? No; I was in a charity music shop.
These stores, playing on Nostalgia, allow for haphazard non-organization of their vinyl. They want to let you flick, to find that forgotten gem, that guilty pleasure. They don’t shove a chart board in front of you, as overbearing as it is futile. With a gramophone in the corner, and a roughly assembled archive of magazines, it truly is a taste of the past, and a great platform for musical debate.
This is where HMV can stand to learn a lesson. It’s perhaps an indicator of the slump its stores find themselves in that even traditionalists are looking elsewhere for musical gratification. It seems unless you actually like the shallow, artificial beats that Radio One label as “world-beating”, a trip to HMV is a wasted venture.
For real music fans, the ones who dedicate time to listen to a whole album, to let the combination of songs tell a story, choice in the high street has become a huge issue. Albums are no longer symphonies; in the age of the sound-byte it’s as if all we can handle are singles, and in most cases there is precious little to say about them.
Believe it or not, this isn’t an exercise in musical snobbery. I still want to buy CDs from HMV. They just don’t seem to want to sell them to me…
Take one of my favourite bands; Sister Hazel. Thanks to my housemate, I find myself entranced by their songs, as sweet as they are well-constructed. I can’t fault their output rates, either; they must release an album a year at worst. Can I buy these albums in my local HMV? Nope. Instead I have to go online. It’s as if the high-ups are trying to marginalize music that isn’t quite a smash hit. As for vinyls…the only plastic I can buy in HMV is an iTunes top-up card. It simply has to change.
I’m not suggesting we each tear down a DVD shelf next time we pop in to HMV. I’m suggesting that they move their focus back to music. Of all genres. Who are they to decide what we want to listen to? One of the best things about music is finding a new band, or a new sound, but how can we do that when we’re all being force-fed the same monotonous success stories?
So, HMV, take some advice from an out-of-place member of the ‘iGeneration’: Go back to your roots, bring back the music, the flicking through shelf-upon-shelf of vinyl, cassettes and CDs. Bring back the real music fans, let them sit and argue about Bon Jovi and A-HA from open ‘til close. When you’ve done that, come and find me; I’ll be in the charity shop.