His master has taken his last breath today, as HMV follows companies such as Game, Clintons Cards, and JJB Sports into administration. After a previous debt bailout from its sponsors in January 2011, HMV could not get the £300 million needed to pay off its gargantuan bank debts and fund a business re-model. Whilst some herald the event as the rebirth of independent and boutique record shops, many are worried about the coming darkness of the monster, Amazon.com.
HMV is a brand that has almost become an institution in young peoples’ lives; I myself remember being allowed to wander in HMV on the obligatory weekend high-street shop to look at the new releases from my favourite artists at the time: Britney Spears, S Club 7 and Pink. From the innocent nature of dancing to S Club 7’s ‘Don’t Stop Movin’’, HMV cradled and nurtured my growing interest in alternative artists, allowing me access at first to My Chemical Romance’s ‘The Black Parade’, and then further to the back catalogue of Metallica albums and far beyond. It was always very easy, and more so enjoyable to spend well up to an hour walking round the aisles of HMV, being mesmerised by the collage of album covers, finding new hidden gems and hoarding them like a magpie, even if your jaw ended up dropping when you reached the till. If you attempted that on Amazon, you’d leave after 25 minutes with sore eyes.
Amazon has always been HMV’s nemesis, providing free delivery, slightly cheaper prices, and even instantaneous download of music. The latter has arguably hit HMV hardest, with the ever-rounding waistlines of the UK shoppers meaning sitting at home has become more appealing than going on a treasure hunt in the high-street. Customer service was always a strength for HMV; their knowledge astounding young teenagers and aiding naïve parents alike. It was always amusing to see the neon punks moon-stomping to the aptly chosen Ghost Town just before they closed on a Saturday. In recent years it became many peoples favourite place (apart from the Apple Store) to muck about on the latest touchscreen tablets and e-readers, and purchase the plethora of Angry Birds merchandise.
Even recently, the sales and promotions in HMV gave me the chance to listen to artists that I wasn’t too sure of at a cheaper price; more often than not I ended up returning to buy the rest of the bands’ catalogue. Despite the growth in non-physical sales, a section of the population are still interested in buying physical copies of ground-breaking albums, and I can with good authority say that all of my favourite albums have been bought from HMV. Each purchase of a CD causes a great anticipation with me; the CD sitting wrapper safely in two layers of plastic until that first listen, not letting yourself skip as song so as to enjoy the album as a whole. As vinyl was precious and retro ten years ago, CD’s now exist as a statement of sentimentality; putting in the effort to go out and buy a CD is a privilege saved for people’s favourite bands.
This lack of personal experience is where Amazon falls short; it is far too efficient and unexciting, despite their lame attempts to link music by previous buyers’ history. HMV was the bane of independent record shops in decades gone by, and despite the little cheers from the likes of Banquet Records, the loss of HMV is the loss of my warmest feelings and most enjoyable times had towards music.