The Heart of the High Street: Why We Still Need HMV

Nipper, the brand mascot is seen as shoppers pass by the original branch of the HMV chain of music retailers on December 28, 2018 in London, England. The company has gone into...

Physical media retailers HMV appear to be in trouble once again.

The chain is facing administration for the second time in six years, which means that over 120 stores may heartbreakingly close. Years back, the news that stores were set to close didn’t really take anyone by surprise; downloading and streaming had threatened to eclipse physical formats for some time. Fortunately, HMV was saved by British international company Hilco Capital, keeping stores open and heads high.

For lovers and collectors of physical media, news of continuing trade was delightful. However, we all knew that it wouldn’t last forever. Streaming giants Netflix were rapidly broadening their popularity, and their passion for bringing potential audiences original content has made their subscriptions a necessity for fans of film and television. This year they have clearly been trying to target cinephiles, distributing new films from filmmakers like Alfonso Cuarón, Duncan Jones, Jeremy Saulnier, Gareth Evans, and even the great Orson Welles. Those who still spend their hard-earned money at HMV have likely been persuaded into streaming with the allure of such content, as not to miss out on new projects from exciting current directors.

Streaming is the present and future it seems; Amazon Video, Spotify, Netflix, Apple music… they have become televisions, sound systems, home comforts that we carry around with us wherever we go, all facilitated by ever-advancing smartphones. Although almost all households have access to at least one of these streaming services, there are still many of us who go out of our way to go to HMV, rather than ordering all of our goods online. There is something special about going into a huge store full of physical media - full of opportunity, energy, thrills. Going out of your way to find something and holding it in your hands makes you more invested in the product, and creates a relationship between you and the film or record even before you’ve consumed it. This experience is so sadly fading. 

Shoppers pass by the original branch of the HMV chain of music retailers on December 28, 2018 in London, England. The company has gone into administration for the second time in six years,...Shoppers pass by the original branch of the HMV chain of music retailers on December 28, 2018 in London, England. The company has gone into administration for the second time in six years,...

Walking around a HMV store, surrounded by your passion, is a special thing many now take for granted. You are literally surrounded by albums, films, television series, books, that may just one day be your favourite, and thanks to multi-buy deals, you are encouraged to take a chance on them. Sales have been declining for some time now, and it appears that even the resurgence of vinyl has failed to secure the retailers a future. There is of course a chance the chain can be saved, but with the rise of instant consumption, hopes are increasingly pessimistic.

A high-street without HMV is a depressing image. For fans of media, it has long been a place of happiness; a lot of our favourite films and records were bought there, and these are precious memories, memories we would love to continue making. If HMV vanishes, the potential for an emerging youth culture to find love in film and music vanishes with it. Although streaming certainly has its benefits, physical media will always feel more personal.

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