Last Friday, I went into the HMV Store on Oxford Street. They were throwing a sale in which most of their CDs and DVDs had 25 per cent off.
In the past, such a move would have been announced via a television campaign and the opening day would have drawn enthusiasts from all over the capital. This time the sale had been arranged to produce enough cash to meet HMV's covenants with the banks. The shop wasn't full. I came out with CD versions of two old favourites for £3 each, not enough to put food on anyone's table.
When I worked there in the mid-70s the queues for the tills stretched to the back of the shop. In the 80s and 90s, when CDs could be sold for more than £10, they were even longer. This was a time when the only thing that people under 30 really wanted was recorded music.
They still like the music. Sales of single downloads are healthy. What they no longer care about are the vessels in which that music is carried. Vessels were HMV's business.
The record companies have tried to prop HMV up. They know that once their product is no longer tangible it doesn't have the same magic. You have to go around the corner to the Apple Store on Regent Street to find a retail operation which works on people the way the music megastores once did.
Virgin, Our Price and others disappeared years ago. HMV thought that Last Man Standing on the High Street could make a business. It appears not. Some other record shops may survive but they'll be small boutiquey ones. They won't be places thousands flock to on release day for The Beatles or Beyonce.
It's a great shame for the people whose jobs may be at stake. It's also a shame for the rest of us. A download's all very well, but it's not magic. Record shops were magic.