Corey Mwamba


thoughts that spiralled from HMV

I'm going to wean myself from there soon—I mean, I have the capability to do the same thing on my own site—and in fact, a wider number of people can respond on my site than on any of the other "social" networks—so.

Anyway, HMV has called in the administrators. To most that means eventual closure, but it doesn't always translate to that. But in Derby, it would mean a fair bit.

As far as I can remember, Derby still only has one independent record shop: BPM. We have two chain stores: HMV and... um... That's Entertainment. Now, the indie shop doesn't sell the music I'd buy. And neither does That's Entertainment.

So I'm really hoping the people in HMV at Derby are okay. Lots of people losing their jobs is not really something to crow about. I was gutted when the Virgin shop shut down too. And MVC. All three chains had better jazz/world collections than the indies did.

For buying physical things, I like browsing in shops. The internet just doesn't cut it for me unless I know what I want, or unless someone recommends something to me. Although that happens in great indie shops, it can/does/did happen in the larger stores. The Virgin shop had two very knowledgeable guys [one of them was Mark Miller, who was in the Symbiosis Ensemble] who liked and listened to the music. MVC didn't but it had range.

HMV does, but the jazz section has been squeezed by marketability. If it goes, then I'll be left with the Internet. Or not shopping in Derby for music at all. Nottingham has Fopp; and a dedicated [and fantastic] jazz record shop with erratic opening times. At only 30 minutes on a bus, it's an easy choice. But should it be one a music buyer HAS to make? The ecology of shops in Derby is screwed, just screwed.

Sites now try to compensate for the physical behaviour that's being lost. They all do. But it just isn't the same. And the on-line experience is being homogenised into supporters/followers/fans/"likers". Not just people who buy and love music.

I feel people are forgetting the value of doing that kind of thing in a physical sense. It might be easier to buy on-line: but even with recommendations, our tastes are being arbitrated. The idea of discovery [for me] is still stronger in a shop. More specifically, the idea of autonomous discovery.

Instead of stumbling upon things like you do in the library or at the record shop, there are lists, best-seller recommendations, wish-lists, collections. Anything to drive taste in a certain direction.

I don't think these are bad things: but I think it is happening and the way these things are used is important. Some people will not care about that and I won't [and don't aim to] convince them otherwise. But it's something I feel.

Maybe we're reducing our language to the elements that are necessary for saleable communication: Facebook is now using the word "follow", like Twitter; Bandcamp has fan pages, like MySpace did. The narrowing of the field is embedded.

Take these three ideas:

These three sentences could be applied to at least three large on-line entities and make perfect sense in context to them. But if someone said them to you in the street to describe you, how would you feel?

I'm not thinking some weird conspiracy theory here: but the way we treat ourselves is evolving, even in something like trade. I think as a species we have had a lot of practice at trading the physical. This is new ground. Games like FreeCiv use knowledge exchange/bartering, but now we have monetised even superficial preferences. Who foresaw that?

comments (1)


15th Jan 2013 | 12:58pm

I was a very late adopter of the download as opposed to physical purchases and I massively miss having the physical objects, especially the sleeves and inserts. However, it came at a convenient time for me as I had acquired hundreds of cassettes, hundreds of records and hundreds of CDs and that was never popular at home as I had a family by then. Also I found that I desired to have them but some of them I have rarely played (not that that's any different with downloads).

An interesting difference for me is that in my record shop days choosing music was rarely a communal thing—I followed my own obscure and bizarre tastes and trwls for information on record sleeves and in magazines. I don't remember customers ever talking to each other in record shops though they talked to the people that worked there. The online thing is much more communal: lists, recommendations, social media ... and I like that, especially discovering the unfamiliar.

I do feel sorry for young people though who won't get to amass record collections & pore over sleeve notes, and spend years trying to discover who played piano on this and this record because that's pretty much gone. Mostly you can click a key now and find so much information. That's interesting...very good to have information at your fingertips but you miss the great 'detective' hunts where you made connections between different labels, credits, bands etc.

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