Tuesday, 15 January 2013

HMV - the end of an era

I don’t think the impact of just how rapidly the world is changing hit me until today.

The realisation came with the news HMV is to close its doors, the latest in a string of casualties which have littered the high street since the credit crunch hit four years ago.

It's not just the latest to fall as shopping centres and precincts fill with empty and boarded up kiosks, but  one of the biggest.

And although we could blame one of the severest recessions in history for our crumbling high streets, it’s not just tighter budgets and a lack of  cash which is sending these iconic chains to the scrap heap.

Certainly in the case of HMV, one of the catalysts for its demise is that people don’t go into shops anymore, they buy everything online.

Many people  shop on their PC and iPads rather than actually dragging themselves out of the house and into a real shop.

And  it’s only now that the true, devastating impact of this growing cyber dependence is beginning to emerge.

When I was a child I used to love a trip to Oxford Street,  and I have to say the highlight was rummaging around Virgin Megastores and HMV.

The rows of videos (before the days of DVD) and racks of vinyl records and picture discs would keep me occupied for hours.

I would browse each floor, rifling through records, films, tour programmes, books, t-shirts and  bits of memorabilia which you couldn’t get anywhere else.

This was in the days before the internet, and there was no way of even getting a look at your favourite artist’s new album without physically going into the shop and handling it.

I would wait until Melody Maker or NME came out to see what Madonna’s latest offering had on the album sleeve, but there was nothing like finding it on the shelf in the shop and actually seeing it before going home with it inside a shiny plastic bag.

There was even the thrill when I was told it was not yet in stock of going back to finally get my hands on a copy the next week.

The task of getting that picture disc, DVD or record could take two weeks of effort – but it was so worth it in the end.

Those days are soon to be over – HMV will close its doors for the very last time if the administrators don’t find another buyer.

I am guilty of being seduced by the music download culture, and yes I buy DVDs from Amazon but only when they seem to be unavailable elsewhere.

The only reason I don’t buy physical CDs is it's so much cheaper to just download the one or two songs I like on iTunes rather than forking out £10 for a CD.

But I still love the thrill of browsing the film sections in record shops and coming away with an armful of £3 bargains.

And if HMV has failed to weather the cyber storm, what chance do less mighty outlets like Waterstones or W H Smiths have? And what else is there left to do on Oxford Street?

It really is a sad day, and the end of an era for anyone, like me, who grew up in the 80s and relied on music megastores to keep our record collections up to date.

I have charted my favourite singers’ careers through the shelves of  Oxford Street’s HMV and Virgin.

In 1990, when Madonna released her Royal Box CD/DVD boxset, I was first in the queue when HMV opened the doors.

It was also after a trip to HMV that I caught my first glimpse of her 1992 controversial Sex book – everywhere else had sold out.

And any fan will know that a bit of polite crawling around a store worker can bag you the plinth they display CDs on – a real treasure for anyone who collects pop memorabilia.

What a grim world we face if the only joy we have is clicking on a mouse and waiting for our purchases to be delivered to the door.

Yes it is more convenient, but nothing beats the joy of coming home after a shopping trip laden down with bags filled with goodies.

RIP HMV –   it was good while it lasted.

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