Tonight we learnt that HMV, a mainstay of the UK high street has gone into administration. I am not someone who usually takes an interest in business, and I try as much as possible to steer clear of economics, because I know very little on the subject. This one has actually filled me with sorrow and raised my blood pressure in the process.
I am sad partly because it means I cannot just browse the shelves and pick up a CD, DVD or video game on a whim anymore. Remember that feeling you used to get after buying something new and the anguish of having to wait half an hour before you could get home, rip off the cellophane, get a whiff of that ‘new thing’ smell and stick in in the appropriate device? The next generation will never have that if HMV goes under.
Whilst I recognise that HMV led to the downfall of the independent record store, the fact that it is now on the brink itself represents a far bigger tragedy. The internet has finally succeeded in ruining music. In recent years, the lack of interest in physical copies of records has helped destroy the concept of the ‘album’. This has been enforced by the internet’s constant reminder that music should come in 3 minute, instantly downloaded, 79p (or free if you know where to look), streaming, easily digestible chunks. People only release albums so that they can later re-release it with 3 extra tracks tacked on the back of it, each featuring Nicki Minaj, Kanye West or Skrillex remixes. We live in a world obsessed with fast food, and whoever calls the shots in the music business has decided that music needs to go the way of the hamburger. When was the last time somebody released a concept album, or an album that contained 4 tracks, each clocking in at ten minutes long? If you did that now iTunes would laugh at you all the way to the bank as they paid you about 90p.
The internet was the death knell for the record store, where people could discover something new or something old and obscure without having it forced down their throats. I understand that HMV didn’t exactly help, but the fall of HMV marks the end of the final stand of the high street record store, and that is a very sad thing indeed. The internet is the only option.
We are now hapless to the designs of Apple, Amazon and the other faceless online conglomerates. Before you accuse me of being anti-capitalist or anti-consumerist; I have no qualms with these companies making money. I have a problem with the way they devalue art. People forget that music is an art form. Commercialisation of music has got progressively worse since the 1950s, but we’ve always had the option of ignoring the promotions thrust before our eyes of who they want us to buy, and just picking up a record and saying ‘cool, only David Byrne would think of putting that on an album cover’.
Of course, people still have a choice. Independent artists actually have a lot more exposure due to things like Soundcloud and Youtube. There is potential there. The problem is, the executives know this too. That’s why they’ve bought out these sites.That’s why the biggest videos on there are childish showers of faecal matter like ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Baby’ by the iTunes poster-child, Justin Bieber. They’ve found ways to manipulate everything.
I love pop music. I’m not afraid to say that I am a sucker for a catchy hook as much as the next person. I don’t only own albums of one genre or one era, or only listen to music that failed to reach the top 40. There has always been commercial pop music. But now, it is not even written for the passion of music. It is written purely as a means to an end; the almighty dollar. It speaks volumes that the biggest paid ‘musician’ of 2012 was Dr Dre. How did he make his money? I don’t remember him finally dropping the follow-up to ‘2001’. He made his money by endorsing headphones. Where is the real music? It’s out there, but it’s becoming harder and harder to find.
Sure, we have social media for people to use to promote their bands but all the internet has really done is make it easy to steal people’s work. Why should artists bust a gut to make a great piece of music when it just gets put on a torrent site somewhere or buried under all the crap that Apple wants us to buy?
People may call me old-fashioned, but it is no coincidence that album and single sales have deteriorated rapidly since the advent of the online music retailer. The online music retailer that only cares to line its own pockets, rather than promote or pay the artist. Tonight, the music industry was dealt a massive blow. I don’t propose to know the solution, but somebody is going to have to rethink the way music is distributed digitally if we are ever going to restore some pride to the lost art of music.
I’m off to smell some vinyl.
Today (or rather yesterday by the time this will be posted) was a sad day. I was informed that Andy Williams had passed away. This news will simply pass many people by. I already received the response ‘Andy Who?’ when discussing the subject earlier on. But I am genuinely saddened by the news – I felt it necessary to post a tribute.
Most people will be familiar with the timeless classic that is ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ but won’t even know that it is Williams crooning. Some will hum merrily along to ‘Music to Watch Girls By’ blissfully unaware of the artist. Likewise at Christmas everyone knows ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ but do not realise that it is arguably Williams who sang the most popular version of that festive song. Then of course there are great songs such as ‘Born Free’ and ‘The Impossible Dream’ which you will probably remember from a Honda advert a few years ago.
My personal favourite is what is considered to be his signature song. ‘Moon River’, despite never being released as a single (something that should change in the immediate future really) is perhaps the song he will be remembered by. Written by Johnny Mercer, Williams was asked to sing it at the 1962 Oscars and it became a formidable part of his legacy. From a personal standpoint, the song is my ‘go-to’ shower song, and I sing it all the time. Such a delicious melody. Driven by Williams’ velvet vocal style, it has became a staple for karaoke singers and easy listeners everywhere.
Williams has had a profound influence on singers throughout the subsequent eras that he lived through and will continue to do so. His death at 84 from bladder cancer is not only sad news for his friends, family and his fans but it also serves as a reminder that they simply don’t make ’em like that anymore. So Mr Williams – here’s to you. May you serve as an eternal reminder that your style will always be cool. Always.
When I next kick back with a glass of rosé or some Disaronno and lemonade and I want some Easy Listening, or when I next sing ‘Moon River’ in the shower, I know I will smile and say ‘thank you’.
I am writing this letter to congratulate you on your ingenuity. Nobody has made more money from stupid people than you. As the perennial misanthrope I salute this act. However, I do have one query.
Can you give us a bit of a break? Go on a holiday or something. For an extended period of time. It’s all well and good that you are making people part with their cash to buy ridiculous things like Cher Lloyd’s singles but you have accidentally created a culture of morons. Everywhere I go everyone looks like they are auditioning to be in One Direction; wearing checkered shirts and chinos. It actually makes me feel a little bit sick.
Do we really need X Factor every year? I know that the masses will probably forget what to do if you don’t spoon-feed them instructions, but is that really a bad thing? Or maybe as a man who seems driven to be omnipresent the solution could be to use your power for good. As a reality TV pioneer, maybe you could do ‘Nonentities from Shows Past Get Fed to the Lions’. I’d consider staying in for that. As soon as some gargantuan feline starts chewing on Jedward I’d even be inclined to text ‘COCOZZA’ to 83322.
Oh and one more thing. Can we quit making a mockery of the Christmas number one? Your offering is never very good, and it also forces hipster idiots to promote old songs that have nothing to do with Christmas to the top spot. I know that the soldiers’ wives choir did it this year, but that was pretty awful too. People will do anything if this national sentiment involved. Anyway I digress. Just leave it alone, or we might fall out.
Keep up the good work, just try and keep it on the lo-down please. I’m tired of having to tell idiots that their opinions are invalid.
Daniel J. Whitell
PS – if you could hook me up with Cheryl I’d be willing to live with another series of X Factor. Just one, though.