As someone who seemed to spend their young life rushing to music shops to buy first-day-of-release LPs and then dashing home clutching the huge cardboard cover in my hot sticky mitts, I’ve never really got over the thrill of record shop browsing. Even though I now buy virtually all my music on-line either as a download or, more usually, as a CD I can hold in my still warm hand, the lure of the high street shop remains strong.
So it was with a degree of sadness that I turned up at HMV near Bond Street tube the other week only to be met with a paper notice sellotaped to the wall saying, ‘This store will close on 5 March’. I have to admit that the news wasn’t a complete surprise. The store had had that aura of an old unkempt dog shuffling around waiting to die for some time. The Virgin Store at the other end of Oxford Street had had the same feel about it before it handed over to the short-lived Zavvi some years before.
There is something unbearably distressing about the death throes of a music store. Where it was once vibrant and relevant, it just becomes scruffier and scruffier, gives up trying to stay on top of new releases, has endless bargain bins and descends downmarket into the sale of T-shirts and tacky tourist items rather than proper music which then gets shoved to the upper/lower floors like some unwanted embarrassment.
But mixed in amongst the sadness is a little annoyance. HMV have really had it coming. Their pricing policy has had a head-in-the-sand quality about it ever since the rise of Amazon and their ilk, years ago. Even with their closing down notice on the wall and a pervading ‘everything must go’ feel about the place their ‘sale’ items were still more expensive than on-line sellers. It just beggars belief. As intimated above, I have long since given up buying anything from HMV because their prices are way too high. Surely in their time of closure they could give some of us old hands a few bargains? But no.
OK, I understand that shops with overheads cannot compete with on-line sellers but the premium HMV is asking for instant access is just too high. Another example: In a desire to get my browsing fix, I subsequently visited the HMV in the basement of Selfridges Department Store and noted to my utter amazement that the Star Trek Original Series 1 remastered DVD set I bought for £12.50 from Amazon was being offered at £50. I mean, FIFTY QUID! Perhaps Selfridge’s customers don’t care about this sort of money, but I do.
In my more uncharitable moments, I think that HMV deserves to die.