No high street closure – bar the once-giant Allders in my Croydon hometown – has touched me in the way HMV’s demise has. Many still love the stores, but for most it’s nostalgia. If Woolworths was our pick ‘n’ mix childhoods, HMV was our coming of age: browsing, exploring, flirting in the aisles as we expressed nascent independent taste in the first way we could.
Oh, the excitement of Virgin opening in Croydon, getting off the bus a mile early to pay homage after school at Our Price, and Saturdays in Beano’s, the hallowed second-hand store. The first trips to the West End’s HMV and Virgin Megastore were thrilling; standing at listening stations in the days before you could sample tracks.
But businesses cannot live on nostalgia unless they are in the nostalgia business. They can’t keep asking the same question, expecting a different response. Look at Jessops, or newspapers. HMV, like others, and in league with record companies, milked captive consumers for years, charging outrageous sums when CDs and DVDs came along, forcing us to buy our entire collections all over again.
Suddenly given a digital choice, we no longer had to pay £15 for an album of fillers, or schlepp around seedy stores that had lost their theatre. Our children do not trade in our nostalgia. From Apple to play.com, digital rivals ate HMV’s lunch as HMV had with independents. The lack of response from its management teams was shameful.
Now, there are 4,000 jobs at risk, most filled by staff who can still find you the album by “thingy with the funny voice”. I hope HMV will survive as a physical presence; for their sake, for music’s and for the vital shared social experience.