The recent demise of the HMV retail chain has been a well publicised dramatisation of the Amazon.co.uk behemoth taking yet another high street victim. From the scenes of dismay as customers, whose gift cards were no longer accepted, took to venting their anger on staff to the Twitter hijacking of soon to be sacked head office staff damning the 'mass-execution of loyal employees'. It appeared as though the end was nigh for the music and entertainment staple.
A multi million pound 'new deal' will now ensure the chain continues to decorate our high streets. The question still remains: even after the loss making fat has been cut from the HMV cash cow, what can HMV do to get people back in store and what does this mean for the resurgent indie record shop?
It may well be time for the high street giant to learn a lesson from its independent counterparts.
Banquet Records in Kingston-upon Thames is just one of those shops that has managed to endure. Boasting the motto 'more than your local record shop' Banquet has proven that a small independent record store, run by people who love music, can still actually exist today. A brief history of Banquet Records takes you back to the year 2004 when a failing Banquet Records was taken over by two friends, John Tolley and Mike Smith, who managed to transform the business in to a widely renowned and respected staple of the local music community.
In its 8 year life Banquet has played host, through it's instore shows, signings, club nights and gigs, to several rising and established stars. From Frank Turner to The Vaccines, from pop superstars Ed Sheeran and Example to the punk rock of Gallows and rap of Professor Green. The array of artists and the diversity of the music they sell has allowed Banquet Records to live on and live up to it's tagline, the service Banquet provides is most definitely, more than your local record store.
Banquet managed to adapt to the changing high street environment finding new ways to get new people across the threshold of the store and in turn attracted people from all corners of the music world, be it drum'n'bass heads, the trendiest indie rockers or just plain pop fans, to experience the rich world of the record store. The shop single handedly ignited a vinyl romance in me, a young adult of the digital age.
The HMV chain never attempted to change its service from that which was more readily available online. If HMV had adapted and offered a service that the consumer could only experience in an HMV store... in person... in real life, it might've been the key to sustaining a high street business. The HMV venture in 2009 to the 'live space' was intended to give 'HMV customers the opportunity to as never before experience live music with HMV'. The venues held events, people went to the shows but in the face of a rapidly growing download market at no point did these people have to go to an HMV store and buy a record.
Whilst Banquet owner John Tolley, spoke of the difficulties of competing with the "favourable terms" HMV got from suppliers, John is undoubtedly fearful of the consequences of such a large part of the U.K. record industry closing its doors.
The immediate fear is that some labels just don't bother to put out physical releases anymore, thinking that people no longer want them.
We NEED record labels like Wichita, XL, Sub Pop, Matador, Bella Union, and Rough Trade Records (the label) to not only want to put out physical music, but to find it financially worthwhile to do so. God knows how the majors will react to this.
In true independent fighting spirit Banquet Records is looking forwards as ever to a bright and creative, albeit different future. The promise of an environment in which the market leader is no longer given an unfair advantage, where the customer is a friend rather than a revenue stream and the struggling indie can thrive and grow.
The sense of community at Banquet Records is impossible to shake, from Banquet's scheme, amazingly, to accept once useless HMV gift cards for a 50% discount, to the feeling you get just walking in to a store with a rich history illustrated through the poster clad walls.
If there is, in the near future, an HMV shaped hole left on the high streets of Britain, I'm optimistic that a new age of independent record stores could reignite local music communities nationwide. Lets embrace the change.