HMVs closure is highly visible hurt for a supposedly healing economy. There's has already been a lot of eulogies written for HMV. Not in the last 24 hours, but in the last four years. Indeed there has already more than enough ink dedicated to its funeral. There's been enough sermons, enough doomsday zealots preaching about the effect it will have on musicians and the recording industry at large (an industry Britain is supposed to be a world leader). And I'm sure there's going to be a number of articles and evening news voxpops with the staff. Anticipating these things, here's my bargain bin opinion, my broken CD jewel case, my last-year's-X Factor runner up, my fourth single of a ropey album effort.
I know the feeling of being made redundant by a music retailer. Music Zone, a bon prix, 'two for £10' music and film chain, started in Stockport, that expanded rapidly at the turn of the century. Before going into administration moments into January 2007. We found out because it was reported in the Daily Telegraph that morning. We didn't have a copy, but word got around as stores called each other. The manager arrived in on his day off to comfort us. But by that point we had opened some remote control Mario Kart toys and were sat on the counter racing them around the shop. We had thrown in the towel. And so were administered our final dressing down. Before handing over a fiver for the car.
My redundancy package couldn't have come sooner as I was making inroads into music journalism. Fortunately everyone is aware of what is happening to this industry. There will be no need for administrators for us. No article in the Telegraph. No trips abroad, no leaving drinks at the press officer's expense. Just people getting their day jobs done, a process involving a lot of (unpaid published) chatter about Neil Young.
I have a lot of empathy for the HMV employees who are this morning staring redundancy in the face. Although I have less sympathy for them. They could have seen this coming way before the recession. Maybe despite all the headphones and the iPod docks they were living the dream. They were spending their days talking about music, listening to music, selling music. They were on the shop floor of a seductive, albeit waning industry. It could be that, like me, any chat of financial difficulty was just white noise from an area manager. We know top management were playing it down, prioritising the share price. They were still doing it last week. With the announcement of a 25% sale, a spokesperson told the BBC, "It's what retailers do at this time of year, and any other interpretation is just the usual media speculation." That they stuck it out, in part, reminds me of how much I enjoyed my time in music retail. I find sympathy in that for them the end there was less, "This is pretty cushty," and more, "What else can I do? Get a job at Comet?" They're walking into a horrendous jobs market. Many of them 16-25 years old, joining their friends on ineffective back to work programs and botched government schemes.
George Osbourne isn't to blame for the failure of HMV. There are far more culpable candidates than our Chancellor. However, unlike when I found myself without a job in January 2007, the employees of HMV have been trapped in a bind. Unable to jump ship, to transfer their experience to other outlets, due to a shrinking retail sector. They have been stuck on a sinking ship for years, and during that time not one lifeboat has been sent for them. The chancellor has stood there and watched them drown. Over 4,000 people soon to be engulfed by unemployment. Right now, Over 4 years into a recession and the healing hurts more than ever. Remember Labour's short window after the crash that grew our Economy (which the Conservatives took credit for). If the economy was my health, I'd be calling for a new consultant.
To the chancellor this is a fresh wound. Another high profile addition to the unemployed register. He knows it will have a knock on effect that will mean fewer jobs in the music industry, fewer paid musicians, fewer press officers and fewer product managers. Fewer van drivers and fewer warehouse managers. I hope he takes a moment to pause from talking to spin doctors about how this is going to affect him. It's not his fault, it never is. I pray he look beyond these figures and question whether his supposed confidence better resembles arrogance.
Words by Samuel Breen