My first answer is: I hope not or this blog is a big waste of time.
There is much discussion in the media about the decline in sales of physical music and therefore the death of the record shop. In recent years it’s tended to be around Christmas that news outlets trot out the “record sales plummet” stories. However this is now getting more and more regular as this Telegraph article published at the end of the summer shows.
In my previous article about HMV, I discussed how they are changing their business
model. They are now pushing technology, DVD, blu-ray and mobile products.
That is all fair, but it seems far too reactionary. They ditched vinyl sales two years ago when they thought it was finally dead. Now we have seen a ‘vinyl revival’.
In this article, I do not attempt to find out if they are dying out or not. Instead I have tried to find out the story of music sales from the perspectives of those who buy and sell.
This recent article explains how digital sales and streaming are beginning to over take physical sales. As it points out, spending on CDs and vinyl are expected to decline by £241m year-on-year. In comparison, spending on digital downloads has increased to £5.5bn in 2012.
However, these hard statistics can seem a bit bland. I decided to ask people on Facebook and Twitter about their buying preferences. I asked: where do you buy your music from?
I have also been to some stores to find out where people like to buy their music:
A varied response to this question. What it shows is that there isn’t one simple move towards any trend. Online buying and downloading are popular, but the high street shop still has a place in people’s habits.
A lot of this depends on price. There is an “if it’s cheaper online” mentality that we hear much of. From my research with this blog, I have noticed that independent stores tend to charge a couple of pounds more than their commercial counterparts.
What the record shops say
Spillers Records is probably the most known and respected record shop in Cardiff. It has been open since 1894 and claims to be the oldest record shop in the world. As a logical conclusion they are probably best placed to speculate on the changes in music buying. Ashli Todd is the manager of Spillers Records:
Another popular and long lasting record shop is Kellys Records. Manager Alan Parkins had some interesting thoughts about the future of record stores. He thinks Kellys has a very long future:
It is interesting to hear them talk about the way they see their stores progressing. There is a lot of uncertainty out there about where music sales are going. As I remarked at the start of this article, HMV are reactionary in their approach to what they sell in their stores.
It is an ironic fact that vinyl seems to be the saving grace of most independent stores.
For a general view of the state of independent stores, this article has some good observations.
Which Physical Format?
We hear a lot in the press about the decline in CD and the rise of vinyl records. This graph from Google Trends shows which of the two have been most searched in recent years:
This graph is interesting because it does not show the huge rise in vinyl discussion as one would expect.
This blog post has a fascinating insight in to the projected sales of CD and vinyl. What we can gain from it is that there seems to be a myth around vinyl sales. If they are to be the savior of record shops then sales will have to pick up at a much higher rate than they are currently.
And the answer is?
If you listen to popular consensus, the high street is doomed. As a result, record shops will go too. This is sped up by the increase in digital downloading and online retail.
From talking to music fans, shop owners and people who like to buy music there is a different wisdom. Commercial chains like MVC and Virgin Megastore have fallen by the way side. It looks like HMV may go the same way. As I stated at the top of the article, it is changing its business model.
Independent stores like Spillers and Kellys still very much have a place in our towns and cities. They cater for a different kind of shopper. Somebody who has an interest in record stores and a deep passion for retaining them.