End of an era for High Street music

HMV in Bank Hey Street, Blackpool.  Jobs have been put at risk as high street retailer HMV appoints administrators.
HMV in Bank Hey Street, Blackpool. Jobs have been put at risk as high street retailer HMV appoints administrators.
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DOWNLOADING music and films at the click of a button has revolutionised the way people access entertainment.

Saving time and money seems to be high on the list of everyone’s priorities these days, but this has come at a price for one of Britain’s most recognisable retailers.

When it first opened its doors to the public on London’s Oxford Street in 1921, His Master’s Voice (HMV) gave shoppers the chance to buy or sample all of the latest chart hits.

Row upon row of vinyl greeted customers who wanted to get their hands on their favourite artist’s songs.

As the decades rolled by, HMV’s symbolic logo of a dog listening to a wind-up gramophone – taken from an 1899 painting by Francis Barraud – became a familiar sight on every high street.

But much like the other loved and respected shops that graced our town and city centres for decades, HMV has failed to shake off fierce competition from the internet, which has left the iconic store floundering and in administration.

While those in charge try to find a buyer, 4,350 jobs are at risk – between 15 and 20 at Blackpool’s Bank Hey Street store.

But is the high street store’s demise all down to the accessibility and ease of the internet?

The straightforward answer is yes, but people working in the industry say they did not see HMV show any sign of competing with the unstoppable internet machine.

Barry Mills, manager of Rimmers Music, on Devonshire Road, Blackpool, said: “It’s not surprising because I don’t think they moved with the times.

“It’s not necessarily down to piracy either. People can get the songs they want at a cheaper price and immediately elsewhere, and HMV doesn’t offer that.

“There’s no need to have a shop that big when you can go on your phone and download what you want for 60p.”

The company’s troubles began in 2007 when it first announced it was failing to turn 
business around.

A brief flirtation with selling the latest technology and books has not dragged it out of the mire and the rise of Apple’s iTunes store, where one song can be downloaded instead of buying whole album, has dated the store’s services.

John Robb, 51, a music journalist from Fleetwood, says HMV was never able to compete with the internet because it was not in a position to.

He added: “It’s always a shame when a chain goes down because a lot of people lose their jobs, but as a company it has never been that proactive.

“We have swapped one chain for another with HMV and iTunes and the way it’s going, there’s going to be no record shops left on the high street.

“It has been around for a long time and people don’t buy CDs now, they go to Amazon or iTunes.

“You can’t hang on to the past forever 
and, for me personally, I like independent music shops, so as long as they are still going, that’s a victory.”

Andy Mudd, 44, owner of The Music Factory Recording Studio on Sycamore Trading Estate, South Shore, says there was a sense of inevitability about the administrators being called in when the chain’s 239 stores started to compete with the internet.

He added: “I’ve always been a fan of HMV but I only every buy from them at Christmas and that’s what everyone else does.

“Nobody is buying albums anymore and piracy doesn’t help.

“Some people would rather buy a copy DVD from the back of a van instead of paying for quality.

“That has had a massive impact and I’ve never been a fan of it.”

HMV’s administrators Deloitte immediately put plans in place to save money and prevented people from using vouchers.

But Blackpool shoppers say they have already made up their mind about where to find the songs they like.

Shop assistant Danny Marr, 20, of Barclay Avenue, Marton, said: “Going online is cheaper and easier and HMV hasn’t been able to compete with that.

“It’s the end of an era but the sign of the internet’s domination.”

Others were less accepting of HMV’s demise.

Phyllis Hayhurst, 63, of Bloomfield Road, Blackpool, added: “I’ll miss it because everything is in one place and I don’t like going online.”

Unfortunately for some, entertainment at the click of a button really does seem to be 
the future.