A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of taking my 5 year old daughter to the CD shop to buy her first ever CD; I’d been looking forward this rite of passage ever since she was born. She wanted to buy an Olly Murs album and although my husband was less than enthusiastic about her choice, we decided to make it a family trip. When I was about the same age, my Dad took me to the record bar in Boots, Margate to buy first ever single. It was “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder and I still have it. I have lots of happy memories of going record shopping with my Dad; buying Wham and the Greatest Hits of the year cassettes and LPs. However my daughter’s trip was short lived: we walked into HMV and the first thing she asked was “why are some of the shelves empty?” I had to explain to her that HMV was closing down and that there are no more large CD chains in this country. It made me sad that this will be her first and probably last trip to buy a CD; something that she should be able to do all the time.
The enormity of the shop closure didn’t seem to faze and her and as soon as she found the CD she wanted she was happy. This got me thinking about how the industry has changed and how new ways of working of developed. I do feel that the current phase of buying everything on the internet has robbed us of some tangible life events, such as buying our first album. The town I live in lost its HMV over a year ago; oh the irony of being a musician and living in a town where there are no CD shops!
The electronic market has robbed us of the ability to go and browse in a music shop. One of my friends still goes to London at the weekend to spend some quality time browsing the aisles and finding new artists. I really miss doing the same! I’d spend hours choosing CDs based on the genre and artwork alone. I would have never of heard of some artists without taking a risk on unknown music and buying their albums. I’ve also discovered new artists through having discussions with fellow shoppers. Could we lose some of our community by purchasing everything on line?
So how have things changed? Are there advantages? Remember the days of the listening pod at the back of the music shop? The internet has become a giant listening pod for new music; you just need to know where to find it. My friends and I try to recommend new music to each other as often as possible; I always check out iTunes free “Single of the Week”. People no longer buy stacks of CDs in the way that they used to, they tend use sites like Spotify to stream free music or pay the monthly subscription for longer listening hours. There has been a change in the way that people feel about supporting acts; fans often want to make a difference to the artist’s career and be involved in some of the background activities such as promotion, making a video, or helping to put together a tour. Many artists have moved towards asking fans to pledge money towards a particular campaign rather than just asking them to buy a CD. Fans feel they’ve helped and have some ownership in the artist’s work. Crowd-funding sites have sprung up across the internet and a newspaper recently dubbed the phenomenon as “Be Your Own Dragon”, referring to the BBC Dragon’s Den programme. I’ve also recently moved into the area of crowd-funding; I released a campaign to help me promote Christian music through making a music video (you can find it at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/helensandersonwhite/helen-sanderson-whites-new-promotional-push ).
Some small music chains have survived: Rough Trade has always prided itself on supporting independent artists. They deliberately set out to be different and host new artist evenings where the acts do a short performance; they’re bringing back intimate, live performance. And curiously, Fopp are still going despite being owned by the same group as HMV! There are also independent shops across the country that have fought to stay open, so do pop in and say “hello” they always love to talk about music! People are tired of the bland, corporate store and want something more personal and home-grown. Is it time to “reclaim” our music community and bring back live music and an interest in the arts through independent stores? Although this may be the last time my daughter goes to HMV, she may well get her first trip to a new kind of independent, arts-supporting music store in the future…