The news of HMV going into administration this week probably comes as no surprise to many of us. The music giant had been struggling for a while in a world where consumers want their music / film / TV instantly, downloaded by the track / episode and from the comfort of their own homes. Staunch critics will argue that HMV didn’t move with the times and deserve their fate and I think many of us would struggle to disagree. For me though, the news this week is sad – HMV represented the last of the big record shops. Something very British and something many of us have fond memories of.
Sometimes, it feels like the music industry is stuck in a better time. A time where consumers would walk to the record shop on a Saturday, pop on the headphones at the listening station and decide which album to buy. A time where you’d run home, put the album on repeat and record it onto tape so you could listen to it on your walkman. Just me circa 1992? Thought so…
I’d be surprised if anyone under the age of 21 has memories similar to the above – quite simply, HMV broke one of the fundamental rules of sales – LISTEN to your consumer. If the people buying your products and service want to buy it in a different way / different form – you react… Imagine working in a business that doesn’t use email, clings to the memo, keeps their filing cabinets in good order and loves to send a fax. In their minds, everyone loves the written word, it’s retro, everyone has used it before – why not continue? What if this business started losing clients as a result? Would it continue? The analogy is a ridiculous one and exaggerated intentionally to prove the point.
What can we learn from HMV then aside from listening to consumers? I think the above point illustrates a fundamental problem with the way traditional music retailers operate – they’ve just not moved with the times. From taking legal action against their own consumers for downloading music illegally to investing in failing live music venues, the opportunity to reach large audiences in the “Social Era” has been largely ignored. A similar pattern can be seen in film through Blockbuster’s demise (announced yesterday). The demand for music has only grown; the thing that has changed is the way we want to consume it. Online retailers and streaming services like iTunes, Amazon and Spotify have embraced newer platforms and are reaping the rewards.
Music has always been a universally shared passion, so demand for it is never going to change. However, we’re not at home watching Top of the Pops on a Friday evening anymore – we’re consuming music in a whole host of different ways with more opportunities to see hear / new artists than ever before and that should be embraced.
Selling music should be easy, just let it sell itself!
By Oli Richards on January 17th, 2013