The demise of HMV has been greeted with many portents of doom and has been lauded as the last musical outlet left on the high street. HMV has been mourned as a loss to the music industry as who will now promote the next big thing in music in the United Kingdom? The harbingers of doom however have failed to mention that it has been some time since HMV contributed anything towards the well being of creative new artists, other than to grant them some shelf space on their very limited range of music that leaned towards the generic top sellers and not towards the innovative or fresh. Indeed the collection of music available in-store at HMV had increasingly begun to look like the contents of the music cubbyhole in Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons. Perhaps then it is no surprise that the label that began life so gloriously by setting the music world on fire with such acts as Manfred Mann, Elvis Presley and Morrissey should crash and burn in flames at the feet of a generic sales strategy in a time of public financial restraint. What is even more remarkable is the impression that this is the last store on the high street where you can browse music and buy without waiting for the post. There are a whole army of independant record shops out there that would love to fill this gap with a more personalised and specialist style. What they need is interest from the public, help from the government, freedom from financially restrictive business rates and ridiculous rentals for high street properties. Local government and private landlords need to support not only this kind of business but a larger cross section to avoid their buildings being empty and profit free and also to prevent the rise of the ghost town where even the charity shops run for the hills. The advent of the digital age is still being greeted with much hysteria and whilst there is no disputing that piracy is taking it’s toll on the music industry they too must face the burden of responsibility and hold their hands up. The influence of British music has wained over the years culminating in the ever present USA taking more and more of a market share whilst countries from Scandanavia now provide a huge slice of innovation. The online presence of music distributors and small outlets should be embraced and heralded as the dawn of a new age for creative talent and not viewed as some musical armageddon. Artists should embrace the talent of their local online representatives who can help to put them on the map and the freedom the web brings. Online providers should provide artists with the means for promoting themselves and their music but they should be selective and only promote those they have a passion for and enough interest in to invest considerable time and energy in. Money should be made by having shares in the end sales rather than upfront monetary commitment whilst developing enough connections to maintain the cash investment needed and the ability to record, create and promote.
We believe in the future of music. Dream of the day when that high street store where you browse provides you not only with CD copies of music, but Vinyl, MP3s, Music DVD’s, Sheet Music, Music related literature, musical instruments, contacts to musical instrument tutors, visits by tutors and local musicians and the means to play back your music on whatever format you desire. Add to that the magical final ingredient of knowledgable staff who embrace the whole philosophy of music and just maybe this isn’t only my imagination but also the start of a revolution on the high street.
Bury the dinosaurs with respect and embrace the future. Don McLean sang about the day the music died and it is the responsibility of all of us, but particularly those who already have an interest in the field to make sure that that day never happens.