HMV closes doors on my geeky teenage dreams
So amid lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth - mainly by middle-aged men wearing tatty t-shirts proclaiming their allegiance to obscure 90s bands - HMV has gone into administration.
The last high street music retailer, the iconic pink and grey Mecca of the musical, the youth club of a generation for whom a trip to town on a Saturday would not be complete without flicking through the racks and racks of CDs looks like it is disappearing from our retail landscape.
In my day, cool kids would gather round the “World Music” section, trying to outvie each other with the most obscure facts about trombonists from Senegal (Blame Andy Kershaw for that). Goths would darkly gather around the Nick Cave selection, wearing badges of bands that sounded more like medical complaints. Even common or garden pop kids would flock to open doors under the neon lettering to buy up a true fan’s worth of manufactured music merchandise.
It was, quite simply, the place to go as a teenager and the number one ranking in plastic bags suitable for taking to school.
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Only those with a very hard heart would shrug off the passing of HMV, not least because of the 4,000+ staff who now face a jobless future in times were employment is hard to find.
But while it seems easy to explain away the demise of HMV – cue much venting about faceless Amazon by men in aforementioned pavement t-shirts – there is surely more to HMV’s problems than the Internet.
For one, the big bosses that apparently allowed HMV to get into £176m of debt before acknowledging defeat may want to re-examine their ability with a calculator.
But those self-same bosses may want to also take a little step back from their gripes and grimaces and acknowledge that someone, somewhere must have made some very bad decisions.
For while it is true that the rising number of downloads shows no signs of abating, and why should it?, there are still enough of the groups listed above who want to own a physical piece of evidence of their fan-dom, who want to line shelves with alphabetized CDS, invite friends round to sit on bean bags and nod along to hidden tracks and rare German imports. And there is nothing these people like better than to gather with fellow-minded individuals and ask assistants loudly for singers that immediately establishes their street-cred to anyone in the near vicinity. Given the choice, these people would prefer to still go to their geeky gathering place and talk to humans rather than click a few buttons.
Instead of just sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping everyone would pretend you could not get CDs delivered to your door for free, why didn’t HMV try and make it into a booming, tactile paradise, where buying your much-loved music was a pleasure which a sterile, soul-less website could not compete with?
Let us not forget HMV was also a major stockist of all the DVD box sets that nestled under almost every Christmas tree in the land this year? Whether it is every episode of Sharpe for your granddad or the first season of Homeland for your husband, people are still prepared to fork out on programmes they can actually get for free if it means they can indulge in the modern marathon method of TV watching.
The sad fact is that clothes, cosmetics, furniture, almost any retailer is up against most of the issues that saw HMV go under. But while it is clear the high street must fight back, it is those who are not prepared to put on their knuckle dusters who are going to lose the battle first.