Is Music Browsing A Thing Of The Past?

Is Music Browsing A Thing Of The Past?

HMV, one of the most established names in the world of music sales, announced yesterday that it was going into administration. The latest big name to hit the rocks in a bad month for retail, this was easily the most established and recognisable of them to fall.

While it may have come as a shock to many, it really shouldn’t have. For years HMV have been struggling to keep themselves afloat, selling off their assets and cutting back on their variety of stock in order to stay out of trouble.

Over the last few years, the music shop as a concept has had a rough ride of it. Virgin Megastore, a colossal name in the world of music and for years one of the giants in New York’s Time Square no longer operate in the UK and the US, with stores only open in France (which are hitting trouble now) and the Middle East.  Zavvi, the company that bought the sites, failed and have since gone purely digital too.

Not only the UK has suffered this fate, with the famous Tower Records having gone bust in 2006.

It’s the rise of the digital music store that has plunged a dagger into the heart of high-street retail. Purely legal downloads have for years outnumbered the sale of physical music, so what impact did illegal downloading have too?

A change in format is also a massive factor, as not only the musical world, but the whole of entertainment is moving away from physical media and heading in a more digital direction. The CD player has been replaced with the MP3 player. Stereos have been ditched in exchange for docks.

All of this has one big winner. Apple.

When was the last time you saw someone wielding a non-iPod MP3 player? The sheer scale of market domination the device has gathered has meant that iTunes, the only way to get music on or off one of the players, has now got a massive amount of power.

iTunes has become a massive player when it comes to music sales, accounting for nearly all the music downloads in the UK and easily the biggest  music retailer out there. For good reason too, the range of product is incredible, the prices are low and you music is with you within seconds, all while taking absolutely zero effort and not making you leave the comfort of your house.

The real disaster here though is that now there are no major brick-and-mortar retailers dedicated to media. There may be a couple of smaller chains like That’s Entertainment, but they were never on the same level as a HMV.

It’s not just music lovers that will suffer, as there are also no high-street retailers dedicated to the world of movies either. Sure, supermarkets will still sell both, but outside of a small selection of chart toppers, you’ll be lucky to find what you want.

While independent and vintage shops will continue to survive, the continual niche of vinyl lovers will make sure of that, they will be caught in a cycle of nostalgia that means they’re not really the solution to this new problem.

With that, that the era of browsing really is gone. Have you ever browsed for music online? No, it’s a focused, singular activity that’s simply just a process to go through rather than an enjoyable activity.

HMV, and the rest of its high-street brethren, were always fighting a hard, hard battle against online retailers who were able to use sneaky locationing to wiggle their way through tax laws and undercut the brick-and-mortar retailers that simple couldn’t lower their prices any more.

HMV won’t be the last high-street name to meet this fate though according to some, including Dan Wagner, CEO and Chairman of mPowa and Powa Technologies, a company behind the online and mobile retail platforms for some of the leading high street names saying “Many more retailers could succumb to a similar fate because of the cumulative effect of poor sales throughout the year.

“Retailers have to stay ahead of the game and have an effective online and offline strategy in place if they are to survive in this new technology-focused era.”

It will be a sad day when you can no longer nip out to the shops and pick up a physical copy of a record, but it looks like for the mainstream music world, that might be sooner rather than later. It’s something we’re going to miss.


What’s your reaction to the news of HMV? Let us know in the comments section below.

FemaleFirst Cameron Smith

by for
find me on and follow me on

Tagged in