HMdVd…or, Music Retail Is Dead

Alrighty.  I realize I’m treading into territory best covered by folks like Bob Lefsetz, and also if my friends at school read this they’ll smack their heads and say “Roo…shaddup!”  But, I feel this has to be said.

Music Retail is Dead.

  • Tower Records – Dead
  • Sam the Record Man – Dead
  • Music World – Dead
  • Virgin – Did they even get started?
  • HMV…is next…

When I say HMV is next I don’t mean that they’re going out of business…no more than I’d say Barnes and Noble, Chapters, or any other Amazon.com-like physical retail store is going out of business.  Music retail at HMV…that’s dead.

HMV used to be a catalogue store.  Especially the flagship at 333 Yonge: ONE OF EVERY CD!  And that was pretty accurate.  I found the most recent Wooden Stars CD there two years ago, an obscure Lightning Seeds album, and pretty much every other eclectic album I’ve ever purchased.

…I walked into an HMV that had no New Release section…well, it did, but for DVDs.  No Chart.  No wall of CDs.  Music has been replaced by books, DVDs, calendars, iPod accessories and t-shirts.  If you want to see how hard hit the RECORD industry is, check out HMV.

The problem, as we’ve been told time and time again at school, is that people get the RECORD industry and the MUSIC industry confused.  CDs aren’t selling.  That doesn’t mean the industry isn’t stronger than it’s ever been…it’s just finding new ways to make money.

…which means that a clever musician will find ways to put more money into their pocket, rather than taking massive ‘loans’ from major labels (cleverly disguised as an advance) to be paid back penny by penny with the tiny profits made from each album sold.  You don’t even need a physical CD anymore, and if you WANT one why not make them to order?  Or put it on a USB stick along with your entire catalogue?

I give my music away for free on Bandcamp.  I used to sell CDs back in 2004-05 for $5-10 a copy, but what’s the point?  When I figure out a decent way to make money off my music, I’ll do it.

And that’s the crux.  Apart from the Taylor Swifts, the urban artists, and the country acts it’s going to take clever planning to exchange music for cash.  Live performance is still good.  Merchandise.

My prediction?  Micro-payments may save the day.  Subscription services where you’ll get the latest track or album from an artist sent directly to you…that’s kinda neat too.  Apps…no one’s really grabbed any media attention by trying to cash in on passing music to fans through a mobile app.

And these are just the ideas EVERYONE in music school talks about on a regular basis.  Imagine what the truly clever people are saying!

His Master’s Voice (HMV) used to represent music on disk, the image of a little dog looking into a Gramophone recognizing his dead master’s voice being played on a disk.  Kinda telling, isn’t it, when you look at it that way…all that’s left is three letters, a dead master, and loyal dogs listening to something that’s long gone.

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