Friday, 18 January 2013

The End of the Beginning

Originally posted on the Reckless New Media website.

The news this week that HMV has gone in to administration has sparked much debate as to whether high street music shops have really gone in to terminal decline. The internet has been it's principle destroyer, having helped to popularise the MP3 format and also allow online shops such as and Amazon to massively undercut them through of combination of having fewer overheads and a rather laissez faire attitude to paying tax.

It's certainly a difficult time for the high street chains, with Jessops and Blockbuster having also gone under this week, and it does beg the question as to what they might be able to do about it all. Or even if it matters, I suppose. Musicians have been moving away from HMV's business model for years, with Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails (amongst many others) having been experimenting with selling their music independently of record labels for a long while. Indeed, sites like Bandcamp and PledgeMusic have made it dubious as to what the 'old' system even has to offer.

Something that does spring to mind are the parallels between this stage of the development of the internet and the very earliest era of computer programming, which equally displaced a lot of the old ways of life and brought about massive change in both industry, and even the way that society worked (although not to universal approval). This might sound a bit hyperbolic, but if what's happening now is even half as influential as that era then we are in for a prolonged period of very drastic change in the way that world works - although what that change is would be anyone's guess.

Unfortunately, all of that is scant conciliation to the poor folk who work for HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster. To paraphrase Mark Renton in Trainspotting, it's easy to be philosophical when someone else is losing their job.

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