Sunday, 27 January 2013

HMV is dead - Part 2

Looking forward in all of this news of doom and gloom, the challenge for me as a blogger and music fan is to try and talk about something that someone else in the world hasn't pointed out about the demise of HMV and sadly, this isn't easy. So perhaps I will go out on a limb and and suggest that smaller specialist outlets will actually weather the storm rather well. According to commenters I have seen on websites, HMV used to be able to use their buying power to identify high selling lines and products in local music stores and undercut them significantly - perhaps now that HMV will be taking a more conservative approach with their new owners having to undoubtedly take on a different approach, the smaller fish in the pond will be able to take advantage of the vacuum.

And speaking of alternative options, there are plenty of those around. Specialist and indie record shops are just about hanging on in there and some of the better ones I go to are a stone's throw from HMV's flagship store. Here are some suggestions for London-based music fans to thumb through the racks.

A familiar haunt on the Berwick street scene (and even features on the Oasis album cover What's The Story?), Sister Ray Is a low-ceilinged place that sells vinyl and CDs; nothing else. Genres are varied, but with a bias leaning more to rock and indie together with lots of older, back catalog material. While you might not be able to find everything you want or all of the latest releases, it's a good place to start or if you were looking for older, more obscure releases. If you were looking for grime, hip-hop and rap however, this is better served by other outlets.

Placed conveniently next to a Yo-Sushi and Bodeans meat house on Poland Street, you can actually see the shutters of HMV on Oxford street from outside. Inside, they have built up a reputation for stocking the best in house and electronic music and they boast a great vinyl selection so it's no surprise to see DJs in there regularly. This is complimented by their changing range of CD albums, compilations and mixes covering everything from avant-garde electronica to bassy dubstep. Even better, they have knowledgeable staff, proper listening posts and occasionally the venue (together with its downstairs basement) play host to DJs and parties too.

A bit further down from Sister Ray is a narrow shop piled high with vinyl and CDs and organised into as many genres as you can imagine. Based on a buy/sell/trade stock acquisition method, the stock on offer might be unpredictable and in varying states of quality but the upshot of this is a great shop for browsing through and finding a bargain amongst the racks. Clientele seem to be a bit more diverse here as well.

If you thought that reckless records was disorganised you clearly haven't stepped foot in a Music and Video exchange. Again, a varied selection of bits and pieces depending on what stock they have got their hands on, but the real plus point for me is the great selection of back catalog albums that are often punted out for a pound a piece - the one in Berwick street literally has a bargain basement full of albums like this and a regular search through can herald some great finds - most of which can be had for just a pound a pop. Another decent outlet in the chain can be found a Notting Hill Gate, close to the tube station, if you are in that part of the world.

The Grauniad seem to have beaten me to some of these recommendations as well: