HMV going into administration was inevitable. Over the past few days I’ve seen a bunch of people online talking about how much of a shame it is and posting their #hmvmemories. There’s a huge store where I live in Glasgow in a prime city centre location. The very few times I’ve been in there over the past year or two it’s felt like a tomb. No doubt someone will buy it, but unless they drastically change what they do, it will just be delaying the inevitable.
Here’s why I go to the high street, I’m not including supermarkets or corner shops in this:
1 – I absolutely need something NOW. Usually a last minute gift.
2 – I want to test something out or try something on.
3 – Exploring the city. Checking out the people, looking for something new.
Number 1 and 2 I still do, but regarding the stuff HMV sell I don’t need to. Everything is digital, and it is BETTER that way and will not change.
Number 3 I do very rarely, because in most high streets there's nothing to see. Looking through all the #hmvmemories stuff on twitter, a lot of people are lamenting the loss of HMV, claiming that it was the place where they first discovered X band who changed their life. I can sympathise.
I grew up in a relatively small town in South Wales. Despite being serviced with some great indie record shops in addition to the high street, there was still a lot of stuff I couldn’t get. A trip to a big city with a big record shop was a big deal. They had all that stuff that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Usually you’d go with a pal, so they’d be pointing out stuff to you too. It was an exciting social experience. All of that happens still, but it’s online and it’s better.
I do think there is still a place in the highstreet for a shop like HMV though, but by trying to replicate the online models it will already have failed.
Here’s what I think. The growth of online has been a huge blow to the high street and has no doubt been a factor in the fall of HMV, BUT it has also led to an explosion of creativity and new talent. There are more bands, artists, t-shirt designers, dress makers and every kind of artisan worker than ever before. The tools and the knowledge are readily available. Every city in the country will have its own collection of makers and creators, really good ones too, the issue is exposure.
So why not convert these dusty cathedrals to old media into something new? Why not take an HMV, a huge complex in the centre of a city, and use it as a constantly updating showcase for the absolute best that the city has to offer.
Essentially a big market with stalls and tables and wall space available to rent at realistic prices. Give local creators, makers and designers a chance to showcase themselves. Stalls for jewellery makers, demo pods for indie game developers, racks and displays for local dress makers made by local cabinet designers. Allow artists and photographers to display their work on the walls, allow local filmmakers to screen their films. Keeping the old HMV ethos alive, they could showcase local bands, give them a chance to play some songs and set up a merch table and have links to their website.
To use one particular case study based on Glasgow: http://getaroundglasgow.spreadshirt.co.uk/shop/designs
These are brilliant t shirts that will mean nothing to anyone outside of Glasgow. I imagine the notion of setting up a shop on a highstreet wouldn’t even cross their mind. The rent would be astronomical and they wouldn’t make enough money. How about instead they can book a table at a huge megastore in the middle of the city. Maybe rent it for a month. Give them a chance to raise their profile, show off their wares and make a bit of money.
This would reintroduce the social aspect of the high street too. It would give people a reason to explore and discover and as a bonus it would help local businesses flourish and make the high street something that sits at the heart of the city.
It would also make visits to other cities more exciting, because every one would have its own unique features, and give you a much broader sense of the place rather than just another huge warehouse filled with DVDs you’ve already seen that only cost £5!
His Master’s voice doesn’t work anymore. The image of the dog staring amazed at the disembodied voice coming from the gramophone. Everyone has their own voice now, and their own way of projecting it. It’s not one voice shouting to many it’s a conversation, and it should be public.