The day was inevitable once someone figured out how to digitize music, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. HMV, Canada’s last remaining national record store chain is closing its doors.
At a time when it seems the majority of people download their music (and frequently without paying), it is not surprising that a retailer dedicated to the physical product was unable to survive. I had hoped there was enough demand to sustain HMV, that it wouldn’t follow Sam the Record Man and others into the history books, but deep down I knew that was a futile hope.
I have a fondness for record stores. Music has been a huge part of my life, and buying new music has always been a delightful ritual. Especially when I was able to shop at a store outside my local area where different music and bargains could be found.
When I was in my late teens I would visit Toronto once or twice a year, and would spend an afternoon at Sam the Record Man’s flagship store on Yonge Street. Five floors of recorded bliss. I think the most I ever bought there in one visit was 30 albums, all from the bargain bin at a dollar each. Vinyl of course – there were no other formats back then.
I had a friend who suffered a home disaster and his record collection was destroyed. Since he was insured, he got to replace it. He drove to Toronto, and Sam’s set aside a cash register just for him. It was a large collection.
I haven’t bought as much in recent years. Once I got married I had other priorities for my money. (Before I was married a sizeable portion of my income went to new music. As a radio disc jockey there were free albums, but not everything I wanted.) I gave away several thousand vinyl albums a few years ago and am these days in the process of culling my compact disc collection. Mind you, I’ll still probably keep about a thousand discs I don’t want to part with.
I haven’t bought as much at HMV in recent years. That is their fault. It used to be I would walk past the store on my way to work. Then the outlet moved down the block, and my visits became more intentional, less spontaneous. When that location closed, I didn’t bother. I preferred to shop at the independent store down the street if I was going to have to walk that far. Nowadays I am more likely to order my CDS online. Or to just stick with the music I have. But I usually dodn’t bother – it is not like I need new music!
I worked for a year in an independent record shop when my wife and I were first married. She had gone back to school and I needed a job. (It’s a long story, I had planned on being the one in school that year, but things changed.) I was in my favorite store buying a new record, and I was offered the job of managing it. I needed work, and it seemed like a perfect fit. I had fun, but even then I could see keeping such a store going was a struggle.
So I am not surprised that HMV which has tried to branch out into movies and giftware, wasn’t able to sustain itself. It will be missed though, at least by us older folks.