You know, the last time I went into HMV in London was about three weeks ago. I walked right past the music section as the featured list of chart music was unsurprisingly predictable. I then proceeded to walk past the extremely large gaming section where kids clamoured in long queues to test drive the latest Playstation games for a mere ten minutes. I then spent about half an hour shopping in their merchandising section and noticed that the nice in-store stage they built was covered up by One Direction merchandise and various other pop culture offerings, again ignoring the archaic piles of CDs that adorned a quarter section of the store. The concept of browsing for CDs seems so exhausting to me, especially since I know EXACTLY what type of music I like and there is no serious “new electronic pop” section in HMV, only the expansive “Pop/Rock” section that just bundles everything together in alphabetic order.
So, it comes as no surprise to me this morning to hear the HMV is going into administration. Although I am sad that the last high street music retailer going bust, one could only predict it for one simple reason…
HMV’s loyalty program sucked. I still have that hot pink card thingy I bought a few years ago which supposedly got me rewards whenever I presented it at the till. Problem was, I never could find anything I wanted to buy at HMV nor did they offer any rewards that I ever felt like striving for. So in the end, they took my money for so-called “rewards” but never engaged me enough to actually use it. Fail. What about offering points for Foursquare and Facebook check-ins? What about encouraging people to come to showcases and offering bonus points for buying the performing artist’s physical cd? No loyalty program equates to no loyalty.
Food and drink. Everyone else seems to get this but the fledgling retail music store. Basic human needs like food and drink will be required until we die. Why not cash in on it? You’ve got a whole strip of trendy nightclubs and pubs that promote live music in Shoreditch that seem to be doing fine off of alcohol, food and coffee sales. Why didn’t HMV bring in MORE artists to showcase and sell their wares and in return, HMV can then sell consumables just like every other crap, sweaty music venue?! In HMV’s largest Oxford Street store, you couldn’t get a drink or beverage there to save your life. Whenever I went to see someone perform at HMV forum, it’s a FIGHT to get to the concession stand on sold-out events, so why bother? You just lost a sale HMV. I think one time they ran a Costa coffee chain in one of them, but it’s so unmemorable I can’t even visualize it. Come to think of it, I have a much better mental image of Marks And Spencer’s cafe on Oxford Street than I do of HMV’s…oh wait I remember, HMV’s cafe was downstairs in the old store which is now a giant Primark…
Their products sucked. The last thing I bought at HMV was a He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe t-shirt if that says anything. OK, it’s all supposed to be about MUSIC discovery right? We already know that iTunes and Amazon came in and took over digital music sales, so if you think you can compete with something as instantly rewarding, low cost and evolutionary, then you got a REAL problem unless you EVOLVE. Last year, I spent about over 200 pounds inventing my own space-saving CD storage system that saved me 95% more space when I put all my physical CDs in an plastic sleeve, removing them from their wasteful plastic casing. Why isn’t there something at HMV offering the same innovative service? I would have paid. What about a CD recycling service in exchange for physical product or maybe some dosh? Just because Music Magpie is doing that doesn’t mean HMV couldn’t do it better in the massive brick and mortar properties they held. What about digital conversion stations? Model it after Apple’s genius bar. Offer a cool, hip solution to people’s physical storage problems, not just selling them more physical shit that takes up massive amounts of space.
Where’s the LIVE MUSIC? I’m gonna PREACH this again. On any given day, there should have been a new artist on the very nice stages HMV built in-store who was showcasing. I repeat, EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY. The artists could sell their physical CDs and promote their digital products whilst performing to the general public and making connections that will result in loyal fan and consumer relationships. Whenever I browsed the upcoming live performances in London online, never was there any information about “who is going to showcase at HMV this week” – I always found about these things by word-of-mouth. The last showcase I went to inside an HMV was for NKOTB and that was a fucking mess. I also watched a Sugababes performance from a far which was way OVER capacity too. But what about new artists like Zedd and Colette Carr? What about established artists with medium-sized fan bases like Patrick Wolf and Dev? What about established artists with loyal fanbases like Darren Hayes and Sam Sparro. Those are the artists that should be gracing your in-store stages on a regular basis! When they reach the point of superstardom, let the O2 Arena take over. It will be less mess, less stress and HMV would be held in high regards of building up those fan bases for the artists to reach that level. There wasn’t enough investment in live in-store performance at HMV because their idea of big sales was big artists and running big venues. I can guarantee though that all those tweens that took so much space and caused havoc in HMV to get 5 seconds with Harry Styles spent less money than those of us in the older demographic with a disposable income would have spent on seeing a quality new artist showcase in a “civilized” performance environment. If you think the older demographic doesn’t spend money, you’re wrong. It’s because you don’t empower us too and you aren’t focused on reaching us.
Literally, I could go on and on about this subject. I’m very passionate about it. I would love to design the perfect modern MUSIC store. A sort of “Chuck E Cheese” for adult music loving adults and teens. HMV, why are you acting so surprised that no one wants to give you 30 million for a dying retail music model? You won’t evolve unless you prove that you can improve your product offering, distribution chains and really look at really what music consumers with money want and need.
The last time I went into an HMV, I left so frustrated, HMV wasn’t for me anymore. It used to be the place where I could find solace and joy in discovering something new, where I took a risk on buying a new artist’s cd. But now, I get my information online and I buy my music online. Should your stores actually offered something different, innovative and cashed in and improved on what the shitty independent venues are already doing, then maybe I would have remained a customer and you wouldn’t have to be closing up shop.
Oh yeah, and I’m available for consulting if anyone wants to hire me to develop the next big music store venture…there’s a million more ideas where the above came from…call my ideas lofty, but don’t short-sell what real music consumers want. Sponge Bob t-shirts aren’t it.