Independent Record Store: Dying Breed Or Fabric Of The Music Industry

Established in 1921 on the iconic Oxford Street, HMV is a music retail chain with worldwide appeal and fame.

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Ultimate Guitar
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From a despairing unadulterated audio experience seeker to you.

Established in 1921 on the iconic Oxford Street, HMV is a music retail chain with worldwide appeal and fame. The chain operates as far as Hong Kong and Singapore, owns a number of music venues, and has begun to mount a challenge to Apple's dominant online presence. It's popular, but is HMV killing music?

Ewen Duncan, the friendly and knowledgeable owner of Europa Music, an independent music retailer in Stirling, Scotland had this to say:

Well, supermarkets and HMV, who are to blame for an awful lot of things, they are now so streamlined, [with regards to] their product lines that how many artists now have the chance to be heard in those shops? None. Whereas the independent shops have people who have got knowledge and are open to new music coming into our shops and being able to play to people and also to, you know, spread the word.

Walking into Europa Music, I got the impression of a place infused with a passion for music. I didn't find the Metal genre to include both Iron Maiden and Blink 182 albums; the merchandise has an authentic, retro feel, and the vinyl, held at the back of the shop, is vast and abundant. It's apparent that independent retailers have struggled over the years, with more than a fair share closing down. But can all of the closures be attributed to the HMV Group's market dominance? Whilst the chain might be expected to bear a sizeable chunk of blame, it's not apparent that it's a truism. For instance, the Independent recently reported a calamitous slump in sales, a fact that serves as an ample reminder to HMV about the volatility of the music industry and economy as a whole.

HMV is often accused of lacking personality by hardcore record collectors. The chain's adjustment to growing market pressures, such as the popularity of digital media in the shape of iTunes means that it can no longer accommodate to record collectors in the way it used to. So the final thought here is that perhaps HMV is actually a contributing factor the continued existence of the independent music retailer. The chain's recent diversification, which includes a fashion line, is perhaps the best example of why independent record stores such as Europa Music continue to exist in an increasingly commercial industry. HMV does supply a lot of the UK's music needs, but there are just some desires it won't cater for. One just feels that retailers such as Europa Music really are the fabric of the music industry.

What are your opinions on the debate between chains such as HMV and independents such as Europa Music? Do you have a favourite music retailer? Best comments to feature next time.

My favourite comments from my last blog include:

dweb23 : this article robbed me of 2 minutes ill never get back

RDSElite: WTF, worst article I ever read here, just plain awful.

Axe_Burner: This article really isn't even much of an article. It reads like something someone would post in the comments section of an article. Come on UG, give us some real articles here!

Mike_Atherton: I don't say this often but the writer of this article sounds like a complete T***!

...and finally one of my two positive bits of feedback:

khakiapple: if this was an original article by someone writing for UG and not just some editorial scraped from another site...

I WANT MORE OF IT!!! UG needs more stuff like this, not random news posts that I always skip past.

Hats off to the author.

Thanks for your comments, positive or negative!

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of this author or Ultimate-Guitar.com.

By Sam Agini

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49 comments sorted by best / new / date

    BrianApocalypse
    Good article Sam. I think that independent record shops have actually been doing a lot better in the last couple of years compared to five or six years ago. It's a small market, but there are some hardcore listeners out there.
    FearOfTheDuck
    The other problem i have with HMV is that its so overpriced, up to 15 for a CD? No thanks. Virgin Megastores, which turned into Zavvi was a great place for music, it had massive sections for each genre. But that closed down. So i only get new music from Play.com. There is a really nice record store where i live in Brighton called Wax Factor; second hand vinyl, books and CD's plus a caf. Great atomsphere
    littlebigjames
    The closest actual music shop around where I live is FYE, so most of my music purchases are from there, but I LOVE the feel of an Independent shop. People know what their talking about and they seem friendlier and more personal. Plus that's a good way to meet alot of local Musicians.
    Prisoner5
    I guess the advantage to living in Berkeley, CA, is that you only get pseudo-independent stores.
    Mr_Cbone93
    i am exactly who this article is against. I buy almost exclusively popular bands. The bad part is I am a majority of people. New bands need to keep up with this by putting themselves out there harder and taking some risks. trying to find a good band to tour with and trying to get airplay. If they get airplay, they will sell albums
    catastrofx617
    Loony Tunes in Boston, Mass. I'm only 17, but my dad introduced me to Loony's a few years ago, and I have to say its my favorite store in Boston. Plus, with its proximity to Berklee College of Music, I think it will forever have at least a steady stream of business.
    The Shroom420
    The closest record store to me was an FYE that was 40 minutes away, and that just closed down So now it's either buying online, or Wal-Mart. I think I'll go with buying online
    demise32
    People are like HMV is horrible. I've never even heard of them, so why should I care? On a side note, Landlocked in Bloomington, Indiana is epic. It is probably the only independent store that I've been to that had a copy of Frank Zappa's Apostrophe NOT on the waiting list, but on the shelf. It made me happy. Even though I didn't get it, I'm pretty sure that the next time I go there, I'll see some more great albums.
    Opethanized
    I just recently moved and I'm hoping to find some local independent shops. Before that though, I had no choice but to order online (Amazon and The End Records) as I lived in a very small community. But I always have insisted on having hard copies of my music. I've only downloaded 3-4 records ever, but only because that was the only format in which they were available, and I paid for them.
    amurrica
    I feel like it's possible that independent record stores will make a comeback in the coming years. Record companies are realizing that vinyl is making a comeback and, not only that, vinyl will be one way for them to start making 27912793123 dollars off of.... It's pretty difficult to download vinyl from a torrent site... So the demand for records will go up and people will start collecting, and with that, people will go to their local stores again and expect the great service that they offer and they'll get it. The only problem is, in my experience, that I think this will all come too late. Already the majority of the local stores in my area have closed and I feel that if this holds true in other places, big chains will just pick up the business. Moral of the story? Support your local record store and buy vinyl, the sound quality is worth it!
    demonomania
    i used to buy records from hmv, but lately, i've stopped because the prices have become to high. Around 2 years ago, you could find many cds with a 2/10$ sticker on them. I bought a bunch of these. Then, the prices started to get higher, 2/15, 2/20 and 2/30. Now i see mostly 2/40$ at my local hmv, and rarely, 2/50$! It's outrageous, in the long run, it would be more feasible to charge lower prices, and get more customers, and eventually, make more profit (which is what they really want). But, that's also a generalization. I've talked to many employees who have a passion for music, and really enjoy working there, so not everyone is in it for the money...
    The Knox
    I've always made it a point to try to go to an independent record store. I've not yet.
    GodzillaDeth
    now cd's are f'n 2/30 bucks!? a month ago i saw the same cd for 8 bucks but they put the fukcin 2/30 bucks maybe thats why people dont by cd's anymore
    EpsilonJSTC
    I don't think that independent record stores are going to die out completely, but they'll surely go down in number. Support your local stores.
    mckenna64
    GodzillaDeth wrote: now cd's are f'n 2/30 bucks!? a month ago i saw the same cd for 8 bucks but they put the fukcin 2/30 bucks maybe thats why people dont by cd's anymore
    how much is an album on itunes in the US? in the uk i think they are 7.99 which is about the same you'll pay for a hard copy cd... in which case i really don't see the point in downloading off itunes paying the same price for a low quality file and nothing to hold. i guess people who download single songs might find it worthwhile, but personally i only buy albums so i usually go vinyl.
    CydoniaKnight95
    interesting article.. although i live in the united arab emirates so i havent really seen an HMV i lol'd at the quotes from articles
    dweb23
    hehe one of the negative comments sam posted in the article from his last blog was mine... this however I liked, interesting article. HMV is the only music store I have where I live, and if I want something they dont have ill go online to buy it.
    Burgery
    mckenna64 wrote: shreducator wrote: I swear, if I have to keep closing these advertisements, just so I can read an article, I'm leaving this site for good. what you require is firefox and the ad block plus add on. it will sort out all your needs you'll never see an ad or pop up again. it also blocks youtube ads before videos play.
    Or just Google Chrome.
    ss311
    dweb23 wrote: hehe one of the negative comments sam posted in the article from his last blog was mine... this however I liked, interesting article. HMV is the only music store I have where I live, and if I want something they dont have ill go online to buy it.
    Hey, fair play though. That's how it should be! If you don't like an article, then say so! That's why the comments section is here
    col50
    I actually like HMV . They have good selection of music, great prices and the staff is usually very helpful to me. Oh and there's no Iron Maiden and Blink 182 albums in the metal section.
    Night_Lights
    Real Groovy is a successful independent megastore (by New Zealand standards) that sells lots of independent, second hand, vinyl as well as hard to find books, comics, etc. Have 3 stores nationwide I think. Love that place.
    Savage Animal
    With mediafire and an abundance of music blogs, I no longer need the music store. I can be the critic/listener in less than 5 minutes after I find out about a band I think I'll enjoy. And despite the nostalgia, there's no need to save a failing business model. That's the whole point of capitalism, right?
    mckenna64
    shreducator wrote: I swear, if I have to keep closing these advertisements, just so I can read an article, I'm leaving this site for good.
    what you require is firefox and the ad block plus add on. it will sort out all your needs you'll never see an ad or pop up again. it also blocks youtube ads before videos play. i need to start going to my local stores again, amazon + ebay has taken me away from them.
    the_hoodster
    The closest independent record shop to me is about 50 minutes drive away so HMV is my main choice when I'm out and about looking to buy an album. The majority of my music purchases are made over Play.com, Amazon or Ebay simply because there's a larger amount of CD's and it's a lot more efficient!
    ParasiticTwins
    I love my local store (Beatniks), they constantly stock the stuff i want. I enjoy the whole CD hunting experience though, but maybe that's just me.
    mckenna64
    with vinyl making a small comeback, independent stores are doing a bit better. i think online has killed most of it, it's all about convenience now. independent stores are definitely special though, they tend to be knowledgeable and value their consumers.
    mckenna64
    Nameless742 wrote: PURCHASE MUSIC? LOL
    Metallica and Gene Simmons do not approve.
    Sid McCall
    Technically this is an opinion-editorial and isn't really front-page news. Regardless, props to HMV (who I've never heard of, as I'm from the US) for adapting to the times and keeping the industry alive.
    BreatheOver
    This is barely touching the surface on this ordeal. I work at a record store and hear/see this kind of related stuff everyday. We used to be independent but then got bought out by the company that owns FYE. It kind of sucks. Vinyl is a dieing industry and culture, which is quite a shame. On another note, if this kind of article interests you, watch "I Need That Record" it's a documentary about record stores fading across America and the modern scope on the music industry.
    CAGEDtheory
    i wish i had a place like this,only music store i have are some very illegal stores filled with copys of cds some bozo burned useing his computer,and a FYE which i dont care for.its all pop and rap music.ther "rock" section sucks....
    shreducator
    I swear, if I have to keep closing these advertisements, just so I can read an article, I'm leaving this site for good. On another note, great article---minus the adverts---we have two independent record stores right here where I live. One is all new and unused cds, dvds, and swag. The other is mostly used cds, dvds, records, games, and books. They're both awesome, but I love the used shop. For one thing, I can buy good, old, rare vinyls there for a very reasonable price. For 2, they have a lot of cds, dvds, and books that I can't find around here. Without the independent music stores, my life would suck!!
    ¡wavves!
    Local stores are the shit, i never buy from any major store... music isn't just music, its a culture and local stores nurture that culture. What fun is music if you cant discuss it with people??? or ask for suggestions and what not?
    Shread_6009
    i have 2 things to say 1) i went to a future shop a few months back, they had removed all but the new releases, best seller and disney sections. HMV, at least the one i go to, still has some decent selection. 2) at HMV, i found a Jesu EP i was looking for. 4 songs. 25 minutes. 18.99$ so this article makes a valid point, these stores are screwing up the industry (though at least HMV still has some variety, if not as much as before)
    RyoujokuNoAme
    Well, all I have in my town is HMV, so I'm not going to bad mouth them. In fact, they do sell a huge variety of music. Granted, we did at some point have independent stores in the past, but before they closed they became so expensive they kind of had to close, because no one was going to pay that much.
    mckenna64
    one thing hmv is doing right is they have their vinyl pretty reasonably priced. like the new down live album is on 3 180g lps... which for a uk release usually means about 30 (iron maiden double picture disc which suck cost 24.99!), but it's only 10.99. only a couple pound more than the cd + you get the cd included in the package. similarly i just ordered the new bad religion vinyl 8.99 with free cd... decent pricing. their dvds, blurays and cds don't match online prices sometimes though.
    dougcls
    I always am going to support indie retailers. I go to Bionic Records in Cali all the time. However, that does not mean I don't support stores like Best Buy. I feel that American society is lazy now and won't go out and buy cds anymore. Its to easy to buy it on iTunes. However, they don't realize that thats screwing with the bands, who will make nothing. Its also screwing the industry because nobody will buy cds now. However the other side to that is that music is at a big low right now. Its all really bad pop,rap and indie bands out there that have no passion behind what they are singing. Its all songs made in the studio, or bands selling out to sign to a big label.
    Offworld92
    These stores don't survive in America. I hate it. In the past 3 years, every music store that sells CD's has closed in my town, probably because I'm the only person here who actually buys CD's and doesn't just download. I hate it here now.
    Amuro Jay
    Personally, I love being able to hold a record in my hands and say that I've contributed to an artist. I recently started collecting vinyl too.
    Lion_Slicer
    I've never heard of HMV... and I couldn't even tell you where the closest independent record store is to me. But I do frequent Best Buy and FYE... FYE can be unreasonably expensive, but on occasion can be surprising. For example, I found Hacride's latest album there for under $10, and the cashier actually recognized the name and we spent a few minutes talking about some awesome obscure music. My Best Buy has shit nowadays though because over the years I've literally bought everything worth buying from them. I don't know the corporate structure of these places, but it seems to me like franchising could produce the best of both worlds... corporate resources with local, personal ownership so they can stock what they want. It would be like Europa and HMV joining forces to benefit the consumer. I don't think these soulless corporate types would be cool enough for that though.
    eetfuk58
    I work in Fat Cats in Boone NC, and Grimeys in Nashville TN. Both are wonderful record stores. In my personal collection alone i have 20,000 records counting 45s.
    CaptainDan748
    I am from North Dakota, and the music store selection is very slim here. I mostly buy online, but when I get the chance I support the local shops, such as Budget Music in Minot. There is just something great about looking at a CD and buying it the same day and hunting.
    Razgriz_101
    hmv's the only record shop left since zavvi and sleeves shut (which happened when i was 5) so im limited in my cd buying power sometimes...least i have the net now *shrugs*..and glasgows' just up the road on the train.