When HMV went into administration last 12 months ago, the future for one of Britain’s most well-known music stores looked bleak.
Fortunately 2,500 jobs and 130 HMV stores – including the one on Bank Hey Street in Blackpool – were saved when a buyer came forward.
And the best news of all is that it has led to something really rather good.
Now the individual stores are largely free of central control they can, within reason, do what they like – and Neil Carpenter, boss at the Blackpool branch, is taking advantage.
A man determined to make the place a success, he has come up with all sorts of ideas to boost trade, including putting on live acts in-store, concentrating on shining the spotlight on local artists.
It has been a huge success and has led to a big boost in the number of people using the store.
“There is so much local talent is out there and around the time of the Switch-On, I asked on Twitter for people who might want to play in store,” explained Neil.
“Local acts like Last Breath, Nancy Langton and Jess Harwood all answered yes within hours.
“John Robb and Goldblade were happy to play when Rebellion was on and it drew a massive punk crowd.
“We had DJs and singer Louise Spiteri playing all day to promote Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club at the Empress just before Christmas. It was the Saturday Strictly was at the Tower and it was one of our busiest days in ages.
“We felt part of a really exciting day in Blackpool, there was a real buzz in and around the shop, and that’s something I want to build on.”
It wasn’t always the way.
“Before HMV went into administration we had a large head office department who dealt with any in store events, and more often than not they would say no to requests from us, due to cost or larger stores in bigger cities being given priority,” explained Neil.
“But since we were taken over, the head office support is much reduced and that has meant a lot more autonomy for us when we have ideas.
“Blackpool is unique and throughout the summer season we are just another attraction fighting for people’s spending money.
“But all businesses benefit from attracting more people to the town, so it’s about working together with The Grand, The Tower, Winter Gardens – as we do – and help promote each other.
“If we have live bands in store for free, that should attract people into the town, and word spreads, and they come back when they have albums out.”
It’s a well known fact that although there are some wonderful artists and bands in Blackpool, the music scene isn’t as strong as it should be.
But with the Blue Room back in business and HMV firmly behind local music, Neil hopes that will change.
“So many of our staff and customers travel to see live music in other cities, but Blackpool has venues of all shapes and sizes and we have the opportunity to have a real scene and to attract artists here rather than them looking elsewhere,” he added.
“With the Blue Room re-opened there is chance to really push on.
“It is disappointing sometimes when we don’t have huge numbers turn up when we are laying on live, quality acts for nothing.
“It makes us want to shake Blackpool and make people realise what they have.
“The idea is to build these sessions so people know there will be something going on every week, and it could be rock or country or folk or hip hop or DJ’s.
“We are fully aware that anyone can download or stream music from the comfort of their bedroom, but you can’t download that live experience.”
It’s hard to disagree. Live sessions coming up at HMV include hotly-tipped local band Belvadere and country singer Jess Roberts.
Get yourself there, and to the Blue Room, and to anywhere else where there’s local music – you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality on your own doorstep.