A few words on His Master’s Voice.
Many have commented on HMV and their falling into administration. And there is a lot of sense to be spoken on the matter. I, alas, am a misty-eyed romantic, but a bigger question niggles.
To start, I have been a huge HMV fan for as long as I can remember. Southend-on-Sea has been very fortunate to have stores in the town for nearly three decades. Much of my physical music, TV and film collection has come from their stores. In 2003 I even worked for them, albeit for a summer whilst a student. It was the one job I regret leaving. I did it too soon, through haste. It was a brilliant job, serving me well in understanding the benefits of dealing with customers directly, as well as learning about products and systems properly. It was an honour to wear the black and pink, however short, and the beauty of working there was how it brought like-minded people together – to shop, to work and to enthuse. My thoughts, like so many, are with those on the brink of losing their jobs. My former colleagues no less.
When the company I now work at won the business to host and manage their Corporate website I pre-assigned myself to be the daily contact immediately, such was my kinship. The site was gorgeous, and reflected at the time (circa 2009) a strong business that was well-rooted in popular British culture.
Yes, the writing was on the wall many years ago when supermarkets started to sell the latest releases as loss-leaders. And the explosion of digital has transformed the consumption landscape forever. But HMV wasn’t a general store, like Woolworths (or its lesser rival TJ Hughes, by example). It was a specialist business. It dealt in intangibles: social media channels yesterday were all alive with the same sentiment of the pleasure derived from going into a store on a Monday morning and buying that latest release you wanted. And physically holding it, embracing it. Some today have referred to stores as being social hubs, and in the case of HMV that was very true. More so than other retailers.
Perhaps they got too greedy with expansion. And perhaps they were too slow to adopt to the digital revolution. But others have done the same and got away with it. There are many ways to bring a company down to its knees. But one like HMV should not die. And while many of us lament its potential demise, we have contributed to the problem whether it’s through downloading illegally or buying from Tesco or iTunes. A lot who cry sadness today, are infact crying crocodile tears.
The brand, Nipper and much of its tangible history may yet live on through other means. And their collapse may be the turning point in the construct of the economic downturn as alluded to by the BBC’s Robert Peston.
But our high streets (along with the sudden, and equally tragic collapse of Jessops last week) are unravelling before us. Press and politicians lament rows of charity shops and bookies filling our town and city centres. Yet they are as hypocritical as those buying online as they Tweet faux outrage.
We are lead to believe that the experience offered by the likes of Amazon is progress. If this is progress, I don’t care for it much. If anything, today begs the question – when will digital operators begin to show responsibility to the communities they serve in the same way HMV did?