I wasn’t sure why at first but, like many, I found the news that HMV is going into administration rather disconcerting. Like democracy or public transport, it’s doesn’t always work and sometimes it’s frustrating, but we need it.
I’m not a diehard customer – probably buying from there only a handful of times a year – and have played my part in contributing to its demise by replacing my once frequent purchases with a Spotify account and Amazon. But, as I’ve written this piece, and got caught up in it, the thought of a high street without a single place to buy music or film has become increasingly depressing.
The closure of the four-floor Birmingham store last year is already proof enough for me that the loss of HMV would be keenly felt. While it wasn’t my local store, it was the biggest one nearby, and the best. I spent hundreds of hours in there, buying, searching or just killing time browsing. And I have missed it since.
As great as independent music shops are, for most of the country they are too few and far between to play a big part in the filling the potential void left by HMV. And for film lovers, there are no such shops at all.
Sharing in the nostalgia that many have expressed (via #HMVmemories), HMV played a key part in the early development of my music obsession, and in my teen years as a whole. I have undoubtedly more vivid memories of HMV purchases than of any from other shops. While that may make me rather sad, it is true nonetheless.
Unfortunately, this announcement could be the final step in a trend that has seen Virgin Megastores, Fopp, Zavvi and more wiped from our high streets over the last decade, and, if that isn’t worrying enough, we may soon find ourselves in a time where music and film can only be immediately bought in supermarkets.
I doubt today’s teens will similarly reminisce about hours spent in Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s music sections, or even remember the process of clicking a few buttons to buy their first ever album. As Reverend Lovejoy's wife would say, WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!
The truth is, as much as sleek web design and recommendations from other users are great, they are no substitution for browsing in a store filled with physical and wondrous products. not to mention actual human beings you can even share a conversation with about what you're buying. That is worth paying a little extra for.
I hope that a buyer is found and that as many stores as possible stay open and that staff can keep their jobs. But I also hope we all appreciate HMV more. While sales may be down, no one ever questions the popularity of music or film as a whole, and they deserves their place on our high streets.
If this national institution can be saved, I for one will remember the thought of it no longer being there, and will try to act accordingly. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.