Sunday, 30 December 2018
Between 1994 and probably until 2004, I must have spent a high percentage of my lunchtime's visiting HMV on Sauchiehall Street. My first job in Glasgow was along at Charing Cross so I'd skip along at lunchtime to browse and buy. I then moved to 301 St Vincent Street to work in the huge Abbey National building and befriended a couple of other music nuts and Monday lunchtimes would see us religiously head to HMV to check the latest releases.
At the height of Britpop I'd be buying 2 or 3 releases a week, often singles due to the sheer volume being released at that time and also due to the cheap pricing. 7-inch singles tended to be 99p in the first week of release to get a chart position. I even picked up very limited 7-inch vinyl by the likes of Elastica who pressed 500 or 1,000 of some of their first singles. Bargain!
The 90's was the era of the CD and for £1.99 you could pick up a 3 or 4 track CD single/EP. B-sides meant something, Oasis had gems like The Masterplan, Fade Away and Rockin' Chair on them, other bands used it to experiment or play covers.
I don't recall buying many vinyl albums from HMV. I tended to buy them from Missing Records on Oswald Street or when they moved to larger premises on Washington Street. I don't know why, Missing always just felt like more of a vinyl store for me. Although I did buy a lot of 7-inches from HMV.
And it was always HMV for me. Tower Records was an occasional treat, usually after a few drinks in town killing time before a train back to my home town of Carluke, but it was too expensive. And I never really spent much time in Virgin. HMV was conveniently placed close to my work and it just became the place I went to for music.
I still have all my CD's. I must have spent thousands and thousands of pounds on them, so even though they are pretty worthless (in monetary terms), I refuse to throw them out due to the memories and the fact that I spent so much time with them and money on them.
It must have been years since I set foot in an HMV, let alone buy something. In 2004 I changed careers to start working in the voluntary sector and moved out to work at Maggie's first Glasgow centre at the old Western Infirmary, near the foot of Byres Road. So I wasn't in the city centre that much, I tended to head up to FOPP in Byres Road for releases and around that time I really started buying a lot of older vinyl second hand. I didn't fall in love with as many new bands so I really didn't have a reason to visit HMV.
FOPP were also selling back catalogues of artists like Neil Young for £5 a CD album. They quickly became my record/CD shop of choice for a while.
There would still be the odd venture into the Sauchiehall Street store but then along came the likes of Monorail where you could browse, discover, buy and then grab a beer and/or lunch.
The world was changing and I was older. Where I once religiously bought the music weeklies Melody Maker and NME, listened to the Evening Session and Peel and bought things on the strength of a written review, I was now digging more into Uncut and Mojo magazine and discovering older music, also record shops like Mixed Up Records on Otago Lane - a cracking record shop with a fine selection of second hand records.
I never got into file sharing or Napster. Firstly, they were illegal, secondly, the music world seemed to be against it. I was on the side of the musicians.
So much was changing, along came MySpace and all of a sudden artists seemed fine to have their music out there for everyone to stream and download for free. It helped to break artists like Lily Allen and the Artic Monkeys, but people were still buying physical copies.
I moved out to work in Springburn, so I was in the city centre even less. That was in 2011 and I think I must have rarely set foot in HMV since then. The days of walking up a few lunchtimes a week were long gone, now my record shop of choice was Monorail and I went through a long period of visiting a couple of Monday's a month after work before playing five-a-sides.
My friends and I used to (half) joke that it was impossible to visit Monorail without buying something. I would rarely visit without spending a minimum of £30 on CD's, vinyl or the occasional ticket.
iTunes came along, Spotify, Amazon, Discogs, Bandcamp .... there were more ways than ever to discover and own music. And I haven't even mentioned Ebay! I went through a big Ebay phase, tracking down records I couldn't find in shops.
In some ways the ease of which you could consume music hurt me. A record collection and a knowledge of music really meant something. And I had invested in it! Vinyl, cd's, bootlegs, imports, magazines, books, videos .... now someone could stream, illegally download and view on YouTube. They could read about an artists history, reviews, setlists, access press releases ...
That ease was one of the reasons I refused to explore Spotify for a long, long time. I stuck with iTunes and downloaded legally, I still bought CD's and vinyl on a monthly basis and supported artists by attending countless concerts and buying merchandise at their shows.
Then Spotify, which had been kind of illegal for a while, became legal. I thought I would check it out although I was extremely late to the party. And ... to my horror ... I really fell in love with it.
Now if I am reading a book, let's take Meet Me In The Bathroom, a book about the New York scene from 2001-2011. I can check out a song or artist that is mentioned immediately. My thrill back in the day of FOPP selling back catalogues for a fiver an album was now replaced with the fact I could check out entire back catalogues any time I wanted!
Spotify, for me, is user friendly and for £10 a month I have more music at my fingertips than the teenage me could ever have even dreamed of. A friend and I used to wish we could work at Missing Records and access all their music all day long at work, or even just buy the store. Now I had access to even more music than Missing could ever have held.
I've always loved making mixtapes or cd's and giving them to family and friends. Now I can share mixtapes (playlists) with the world! Speaking of which, I hope you have checked my regular Never Ending Mixtape playlist on Spotify which I add to and blog about monthly.
I do still buy the odd CD and record, but nowhere close to the volume I once did. My peak vinyl/CD buying years were a long time ago. Now, with two kids and a busy job, it is a treat to actually get time to go to a record store. Whereas once upon a time visiting HMV was convenient for me, then FOPP and then Monorail, now it is convenient for me to stream. I'm guilty as charged! Some months I don't buy any physical releases at all, it's my £10 a month for Spotify that keeps me in music.
But enough about me, enough about my history with record shops and buying or listening habits.
HMV looks like it is going to close for good. God bless HMV and all who have sailed in her and God bless the 2,200 staff currently sailing who are set to lose their jobs.
I hope it can revive itself to keep going, but it's not looking good. It's great that vinyl sales continue to rise, but CD and DVD sales are not enough to keep HMV in its prime retail space locations open, nor is their move into the headphone, speakers, t-shirts and accessories market.
Many have shared memories about HMV online, but, very sadly memories are not enough to keep their stores open and relevant. Maybe a knight, or knights, in shining armour will appear and refresh this once great brand to keep it going. But, for me, the competition is simply too fierce and it looks like it will be R.I.P HMV.