Whatever the eventual future of HMV, you can’t help feeling that it brought a whole load of trouble down on itself. I have sat on the sidelines and watched with mounting frustration as the monolith that is HMV first, put all the independents out of business and then having achieved a monopoly position, it slowly but surely cocked it up big time. For example:
Stock – there was a time back in the dim and distant past when the London Oxford Street flagship HMV store sold music above all else and stocked virtually everything. No matter what I went in to buy, there it was, nestling in the racks. As a compulsive buyer of music for over 40 years, I am in a group of consumers that doesn’t only buy in the mainstream, we look at the fringes both past and present. HMV catered for my gang, but not now. Its stock has contracted massively and the space has been turned over to the attempted sale of gadgets and T-shirts. No-one has been persuaded that HMV is the number one stop for Gadgets and T-shirts hence it has both alienated my gang, its original core consumer and failed to lure any new ones with extended stock lines.
Price – This really bugs me. I am prepared to accept that there is a premium to be paid for the benefit of leaving the store there and then with your purchase rather than waiting days for the post to arrive. But not double (or treble) the on-line price. HMV has been massively overpriced for years – even its ‘sale’ items are above on-line prices, for heaven’s sake. Also, I am not prepared under any circumstances to pay £10 (or above) for 40+ year old albums. Don’t tell me they are ‘re-mastered’ and therefore cost more. Re-mastering should be done as a matter of course when the CD is first released. LPs were RIAA encoded to make best use of the width of the vinyl groove and the potential length of a disc. Similarly, why shouldn’t the master-tapes be properly prepared to make best use of the CD medium on day 1? Not 30 years later.
And another thing: there is no pricing consistency. I found a 10cc album (‘How Dare You’) the other day at a reasonable £4, yet ‘The Original Soundtrack’ was in the racks at £10. Same label and release date so what’s the difference? It drives me potty. The heart-breaking irony is: despite the pricing and convenience of the internet, I would still buy from HMV if only it sorted out its stock, chucked out all the gadgets, remainder books, T-shirts and other paraphernalia and priced things sensibly and consistently. In other words; became a music store.