The End of an Era

HMV Meant a Lot to Music Fans for Ages – But Things Have Changed

As the company faces closure for the second time in six years, we hear from people about their memories of the British high street mainstay.

by Georgia Evans
09 January 2019, 12:00pm

An HMV store after the first closure announcement in 2013 (© Copyright Hugh Venables via Geograph)

You might have a sense of déjà-vu. Last December, tucked in with the Brexit bickering, jungle crownings and overeating, news broke that HMV had gone into administration. If you felt like you’d heard that one before, you weren’t wrong. In early 2013, the company confirmed debts of over £347 million and went into administration for a first time. However, public support soon followed with #HMVmemories trending on Twitter before it was bought and saved in April 2013. Now history is repeating itself, but the market is even more competitive than it was six years ago, with streams and their digital-equivalent sales dominating the industry. In a world where you can download, stream, and buy physical music instantly, it’s worth considering the role HMV has to play as a music retailer. So we spoke to a few of you to find out if you think HMV is worth saving again, and what it ever meant to you.

“I can't say I would miss it – WHSmith probably sells CDs, they sell everything”

It's a tough market that we're in now, with the rise of streaming services and online music databases. I think HMV probably should be saved because they’re so iconic, but the fact they've been in the news for years, talking about shutting down, I don't know if they deserve to be saved or if it's feasible. Something’s obviously going wrong. It just proves what has been the case for the past few years, though: people aren't buying music anymore, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just how the industry has evolved. I also think the country has bigger things to worry about than a shop closing, if you know what I mean. But I can't say I would miss it; its closure wouldn't affect my life much at all. WHSmith probably sells CDs – they sell everything. — Magnus, 20, musician

“It’s a shame, but everybody grows up and moves on – which is what has happened”

Teenage me would like to say it’s worth saving, but in reality I think it’s not. As great as HMV is for a shopping experience, people treasure money more and know they can get it cheaper online. It was a stand-out shop for music, the place to go and will always be remembered. I think it’s a British institution and I have great memories of it, not just buying music, but DVDs and going to signings. It’s a shame but everybody grows up and moves on, which is what has happened. HMV have had a good thing and that’s how they should be remembered. They should go out with dignity. I think it has played a role in helping us grow up, teaching us new things and feeding our creativity. But it’s more of a want that we’ve outgrown and adapted. — Lauren, 23, writer

“I just think our generation wants everything faster and immediately available, but for music lovers it’s quite a heavy loss”

I think it’s absolutely worth saving to be honest: it’s a nice place to go and shop. It’s not my go-to anymore but it’s a good place to get stuff all in one go. When I was younger, and I was going through my rocky-indie phase, I bought all my posters from there to decorate my room and because online shopping wasn’t as big as it is, I remember going in with my dad and rifling through them all. I also used to get band T-shirts there as well, because gigs would sell out and shipping would be expensive. Yeah, I’ve got fond memories of going into HMV, it was sick. I just think our generation wants everything faster and immediately available, but for music lovers it’s quite a heavy loss. — Danny, 24, consultant

“I think people definitely want it, but if you’re asking do we need it, the answer is probably no”

I would say HMV is worth saving, not only because it’s a key part of the music industry but also because its unique; it’s the only chain of its kind. It’s sad that it’s disappearing, because I think it has touched so many different people in so many different ways. I think people definitely want it, but if you’re asking do we need it, the answer is probably no. It could all be accessed online and through devices but having the physical option is so important, and it’s a shame that generations ahead of us won’t be able to experience what we have. It’s different seeing the music in the flesh, and easier to browse than from a device, you don’t need to ‘search’ for it in technological terms. In a store like HMV it’s in front of your eyes, so you can find new music without even meaning to. I think it is a huge turning point. It’s the biggest symbol of the fact that music, like so many other industries, is becoming more digital. I think if we take a step back and look at what’s really happening to the nation’s high streets, it’s a huge shame that so many retailers are closing down. Also it’s a scary concept: if HMV can’t survive, how will small independent music stores? — Victoria, 19, student

“No one really messes about there anymore, not even on the music docks, which is a shame”

I think memories are made at HMV and looking for music there. But now, you’ll go in, ask a member of staff where a certain genre is – because of course they have to move them around every two weeks – buy whatever it is you’re looking for, and leave. No one really messes about there anymore, not even on the music docks, which is a shame. I think HMV will always be remembered as a store that existed while the majority of the population made the transition from physical to digital. Watching that change, and the evolution that took place in its store was a great thing to witness. The increase in technology products on offer, the promotion of chart music and films, and other formats such as the introduction of Blu-Ray – and how could we forgot those very hipster biographies on Kurt Cobain which every young adult had to own? The way online shopping is heading, and the way Black Friday, Christmas, and other major annual events have been in recent years, I really don’t think it will be missed that much. To my knowledge, there’s nothing you can get from HMV that you can’t find elsewhere, unless you’re after a certain exclusive release or some old-school Skullcandy earphones. — Shaman, 24, NHS admin staff

“We don’t really have to spare an hour to go out and buy music if we know we can do it in two minutes”

Personally I don’t think it’s worth saving. Its time has been and gone, and technology has moved on. The only reason I reckon people would want it to stay is because of the memories of going out and buying physical albums, but now we have online shopping and streaming platforms. Nobody relies on HMV anymore, but I remember buying my first ever album from there with a voucher that my sister gave me. It was so exciting. I had one around the corner from my house and I remember being in there all the time, just browsing and listening to music. Now we can do that in our living room with our friends, and enjoy that experience just as much. To be honest, the development of technology has made our generation very lazy. We don’t really have to spare an hour to go out and buy music if we know we can do it in two minutes. It’s sad to say HMV is not needed anymore, but the entertainment industry changes every single day. If a company cannot understand or keep up with that, then it will get left behind. — Aisha, 24, student

You can find Georgia on Twitter.