hmvThe news that HMV is struggling again and on the brink of collapse is sad for any true music fan.

As much as we are deeply versed in the tradition of the independent shop and lucky to be served by such great emporiums as Piccadilly in Manchester, Action in Preston and Probe in Liverpool – the teetering of HMV fills us with no joy.

Music is a broad pallet and the indie shops do a wonderful job but there are whole rafts of music they simply can’t cater for like pop or metal or hip-hop that make HMV’s role so crucial. One day you may be in love with Ulver and the next day Marilyn Manson and the next Aphex Twin and the next LIINES and the next an Abba compilation and few shops can handle that much diversity!

Only a music snob would cheer the demise of the chain. In the past few years it’s been a powerful backbone for the music scene – having that chain of shops up and down the country was a vital vessel for our culture – a magical palace of releases filling the shelves in towns where a small specialist shop could not survive and they often came armed with a great knowledgeable staff like the Blackpool HMV who have been wonderful to my band the Membranes over the years – stocking us up front in the shop, making sure the rest of the chain had our album and even promoted a great gig for us at the top of Blackpool tower with an irrespirable enthusiasm,

Walking into these shops could be a thing of the past but we will miss that mix of music culture blaring at us and the majesty of space of huge shops full of the myriad of sounds and styles that made up pop culture. Also it’s about the ecosystem, the more shops in a town then the more people learn to love and pay for music.  For many people HMV shops were where generations learned their love of music before going on their own idiosyncratic journeys, these were the shops were in those aforementioned far-flung towns that were the lifeblood and the only space where you could even by this stuff and the mainstream records they stocked were as much loved as the underground as there is no snobbery involved in a true love of music.

Of course most modern music is gearing towards streaming but we hope HMV find a new model to survive – there are 2200 staff that need looking after and also a mighty goodwill from punters and musicians whose musical fix was maintained over the years by the chain.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. There goes the album cover design. It was that square of art that first got your attention when thumbing through the latest releases. All going the same way as A1B2 and the porky prime cut. Gibson out of business.. Fender next? Kids will stay rooted to their Xboxes and never yearn to pick up a guitar and learn those few simple chords that set the ideas in motion.. Whatever next?

  2. I remember when ‘Virgin Records’ filled that role (remember them?) in the 80s. That was long before the days before Richard Branson was established as a massive dick splash. They disappeared and were replaced by HMV in my home town who did a fine job for two decades before retail became online. A sad loss…

  3. 100% Correct John, Hmv have supported my label particularly well in Scotland and we are lucky to have a distribution license and access to every Hmv AND Fopp who want to stock our artists.More than that we have had valuable support in the shape of in-stores for most of our artists, support has been great from management right thru virtually all of the knowledgable and helpful staff . Anyone who thinks there’s no choice but chart, clearly hasn’t been in one recently . The Guardian article I just read was inaccurate and quite frankly really shoddy. I could rejoice in the death of the UK Mainstream Newspapers, which let’s face it are in far bigger danger of going out of business thanks to some of the utter garbage the construe as fact in their pish articles.

  4. Hmmm. The credibility of this op-ed was undermined in the very first sentence when John invoked the ‘no true Scot’ argument.

    Must try harder.

  5. Absolutely excellent article and we’ll put John.

    The thing every one is missing however is hmv sell more media than the rest.
    What’s destroying them just like the same as toys r us , Maplin,Woolworths is the complete and unfair competition and tax rolled over by the large American giants .this isn’t a just a music issue it’s a political one.

    Why are we allowing tax dodging warehouse company’s to destroy are heritage? Hmv is the absolute symbol of Britain as much as the NHS is linked to British values.

    Why are we allowing a institution to be decimated by unfair unjust and immoral tax practice?

    That’s the real question .

  6. HMV is a good store and I by mister of my cds from there I think it should cary on music on line some you have to pay a monthly subscription for and it’s not like a cd


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