How will Doug Putman bring HMV back from the dead?
Whilst many in the industry still refuse to accept it, be that through ignorance or nostalgia, we live in the age of music streaming. Music is no longer the physical, tangible commodity it once was, and the plummeting physical sales of the last 10-15 years tell a thousand words.
In fact, CD sales have nosedived by around 80% over the last decade, whilst streaming revenues grew by an impressive 41.1% last year alone. In this new digital economy, what imaginable purpose could a high-street retail chain selling primarily physical music possibly serve?
Yesterday morning HMV was saved from administration, for the 2nd time in just 6 years, by Canadian entrepreneur and Sunrise Records owner Doug Putman. The deal will see 100 stores around the UK remain open, whilst the remaining 27 stores will close permanently (including the iconic Oxford Street branch).
“We are delighted to acquire the most iconic music and entertainment business in the UK and add nearly 1,500 employees to our growing team,” Putman told Music Week. “By catering to music and entertainment lovers, we are incredibly excited about the opportunity to engage customers with a diverse range of physical format content.”
“We know the physical media business is here to stay and we greatly appreciate all the support from the suppliers, landlords, employees and most importantly our customers.”
For now at least, this high-street icon lives on. This news does, however, beg us to ask the question, why won't HMV die? Is society simply too nostalgic for the modes of consumption that HMV used to represent? Or are there viable revenue streams left untapped that Doug Putman is about to exploit? We had a think...
3 ways that Putman could put HMV’s needle back on the groove:
1. The Vinyl Revival 2.0
In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday Morning, Putman highlighted the revived Vinyl market as a key part of HMV’s strategy moving forward. This, in essence, will result in a much larger and more varied selection of Vinyl in stores, something that could spark a second wave of the late 00’s ‘Vinyl Revival’ (although we’re not holding our breath yet). At the very least, expect to see a few more hipsters digging through the crates at your local store, if it hasn’t already closed (sorry).
2. More Merch
As with music sales, HMV faces stiff competition from online distributors when it comes to selling merch. However, housing a unique selection of TV, Film and Music merchandise under one roof might just prove essential in making up for the revenue lost to digital downloads and streaming. Although it has to be said, it’ll take a significant amount of Star Wars t-shirt sales to do that.
3. Supporting the Local Community
In the various interviews following this acquisition, Putman has constantly referenced themes of community, localism and the renewed importance of this ethos in the future of HMV.
Undeniably, one of the great casualties of the digital revolution has been the loss of local music scenes and their migration online. However, if, and that’s a massive if, HMV stores can engage and support their local music scene effectively in the future, we might see small communities of musicians and fans begin to interact with each other in a meaningful way yet again. Who knows, maybe Merseybeat will make a comeback.
Whether Doug Putman’s attempts to forge a financially viable future for HMV will pay off or not, only time will tell. However, a successful HMV can only be a good thing for the industry as a whole, even if it is full of Sci-Fi ephemera.
For now at least, and still, HMV lives on.
Image source: The Guardian