Thursday, January 17, 2013

Knock once for no

Soon you may have to hold a séance to raise the ghost of the British Recorded Music Industry. Once so proud and like Britannia ruling over the waves it now seems that we’ve very much run aground, we’ve hit the rocks and on the shoreline or promenade we can find no shops.

There was always due to be a knock-on effect from the collapse of HMV, an aftershock if you like. As yet we do not know the full extent of it but as the well-respected Martin Elbourne points out here, it will not be pretty.

As he suggests many small distributors could lose out on outstanding invoices, never to be paid. Major labels too had taken a risk in order to prop up the ailing retailer. Some will survive but there are dark days ahead.

It’s easy to criticize HMV for not moving with the times, failing to embrace the digital age or whatever, but you probably have to remember that they were starting on the ‘back foot’. They already had huge investments in bricks and mortar, in being the showroom for the record industry. As they were so reliant upon the latter they also adopted the same initial stance on downloads as the major labels and thus were too late to the party anyway.

Perhaps iTunes is the only store in town, having the hardware in so many people’s hands has certainly played to their strengths and they’ve used that strength to manipulate the labels into their modus operandi – as flawed as it often is. Similarly Amazon has proved the scourge of bookshops and electronic retailers as well as being the cheapest supplier of CDs.

ITunes and Amazon are the behemoths; having established themselves early and decisively they seem to be the automatic choice for all consumers. To a large extent they’re also now in a monopoly position which cannot be good news – for anyone.

The HMV brand may well return in a substantially reduced capacity, the industry certainly needs it; there’s still a question mark over the consumers though.

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