Sunday, 20 January 2013

Further thoughts on music buying/HMV

Here's a genuine overheard person on a mobile phone - the location was a little secondhand book shop:

'I'm in a book shop'
'I'm old school - I still buy CDs!'

My heart sank. And I just felt the really strong urge that I am not of these times. It was someone not that much younger than me. Something like that makes me feel so sad - it's so odd and alien to me that buying any kind of physical music product can be seen as, what, kitsch? A stylistic choice? Or just plain old fashioned.

I enjoyed Stuart Braithwaite's addition to the great HMV debate, recently.

He has a good point about extremely low pricing making CDs seem disposable when once they were £15. I remember paying £15.99 for CD albums that weren't even new release, and I remember cassette albums in their last days in the album charts being £15.99 too, which is pretty shocking to look back on. The in between always seems fair to me - and a lot of independent record shops have got that right, eg new releases at anywhere between £8.99 and £12.99.

And the below is too true to:

'As a trusted brand, HMV could quite easily have used its position to establish digital music sales far earlier and far better than it did. Filling its shop floors with iPods was surely an act of cutting one’s own throat, and I had a discussion with someone working in Waterstones recently who felt the same way about its stores selling ­Kindles.'

It will be interesting to see what changes get made to the stock/store policies should a buyer take over HMV.

It's incredibly hard for me to comment or get my head around any potential for there to be a next generation who expect all their music free and therefore for music buying to end totally, as I don't know anyone that feels that way, and the most hardcore music fans I know all adore and use record shops in towns and cities - they also tend to see the urgent need to support bands direct, buying albums and t-shirts at gigs so the band get the money direct, and so on. The thought occurs that new music is so much more ubiquitous now than when I was a teenager, there is almost no escape, and TV shows and advertising in particular have gone indie soundtrack in a way that baffles me that would not baffle those growing up now - a song by Clinic in a Weetabix advert is still beyond comprehension to me! Music seems to mean much less in many ways, too - it is fashion, it is commodity more than ever.

I was recently excited to visit a new shop in the provincial town I grew up in, which specialised in band t-shirts (I'd harboured dreams about opening up a record shop there, selling albums and merchandise, as I didn't think just albums would be a success, in such a shopping-centre-driven place). Then I realised the horror that it was all in the name of fashion - it was all stuff that is worn more as a logo of cool/identity than fervent music fandom - a Ramones t-shirt now can sit alongside a Jack Wills one, it is just a style choice. I'm not the first music fan to find themselves seeing band t-shirts in trendy high street stores, and to see people wearing them in the street, and find myself wondering if they even own albums by this band. I once had a flatmate who worked for a major record company but whom owned about 20 CDs, and I once saw on her packing list for a festival trip - 'Rolling Stones tee'. There wasn't a Rolling Stones record in the house, and no other reference to them to be seen/heard from her either. And there is huge peril there that that's a big part of how music has come to seem disposable to people...

On a brighter note, the staff at HMV Curzon Cinema seemed positive about the cinema remaining functional, due to the part ownership by Curzon - which is such a relief. Had some drinks there and celebrated. Also, bought a few items in the actual HMV store.

I leave the mini free versions of this 'zine in there regularly, but I do wonder who is picking it up, and I do wonder if there are that many 'old school'(!) music fans out there that are bothered about/interested in such a thing as a printed music fanzine anymore. Unless it becomes fashionable via an article in the mainstream press and is generally seen as some hip current phenomenon, it does seem to be a niche/dying art for a perhaps soon-to-be-lost generation - and it makes me very reluctantly... twee.

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