Friday, February 25, 2011

The End of the Music Store

Winnipeg never really had the competitive next door music stores like Toronto did.

The retreat of the music store happened even before the advent of downloading. I worked at A&A Records at Madison Square during school in 1988. By 1993, the national chain collapsed. At the time, the company's demise could hardly be blamed on the Internet, Walmart (which entered Canada in 1994) or any of the factors facing today's music stores.

It is with sadness that CD Plus has announced that they are closing their last Manitoba stores. The company has existed in one form or another since 1962 in Winnipeg and was headquartered here.

Aside from the mall-based HMV stores and some specialized regional music stores, the days of the music chain are gone. The acceleration to online downloading has spelled the demise of the brick and mortar stores.

I can remember for a time from the very late 1980s into the 1990s when HMV and Musiplex on Portage along with A&B Music created for a time the sense of excitement that Toronto had with Sam's and A&A Records.

The music industry has been under siege for a long while now. In some cases, it is hard to have sympathy since people felt thoroughly gouged when CDs came out and they industry charged over $20 for those looking to update their library. It is easy to see why many figured the industry could go to hell when the Internet made it possible to download for free.

However, everywhere the industry and way of doing things gets more complicated. The Internet Service Providers are looking to charge heavily for those who download. Apple Computer with their Apps store is making subscription services for music even more expensive.

One wonders if the Internet will make it worthwhile to go a store again. However, if all access points to the Internet are going to be cash cows for cable and telephone companies, the stores might not be able to use the technology to allow for people to download in stores without paying just as much. At some point, as some experts have indicated, there may be a case for taking certain gatekeepers to various world-wide monopolies commissions.

For decades, the music store has been a gathering place for people, especially the young. The mall might be a lot of things but if bookstores and music places continue to disappear even there, many will stop going. We have already seen for the downtown that a lot of the compelling reasons for going such as music stores and bookstores have slowly disappeared (although some used book stores have helped ensure that culture hasn't completely disappeared).

So, here is a tip of the hat to Sam's, the Record Baron, A&A Records, CD Plus, Mother's and all the others that have fallen.

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Riverman said...

There are plenty of independent used music stores where you can dig through their inventory, leave a number so they can call you when something comes in, or order anything new you wish. A good example is Planet of Sound on Henderson.

Colin Corneau said...

If you're looking for a sense of community, or something unique or serendipitous at a chain location...don't hold your breath.

Those qualities are now firmly in the used market. The culture's evolving and those are the places that people will go to in order to escape being a consumer, be it books or music or almost anything.

RM said...

My last visit to HMV, and the customer service I received ended with me leaving and going to Future Shop to make my purchase. If you want to be a dedicated cd/dvd store, you'd better have the service to keep my business. Pricing at HMV was 30% higher... and no help.

John Dobbin said...

Riverman: I agree that independents still make going to the music store worthwhile.

However, we have lost a few of those in the last while as well.

Just heard that Chapter is losing it music business as well.

Colin: I was really comparing how Toronto had competing music store side by side. It was an exciting time. Winnipeg had a little bit of that in the late 1980s/1990s but the stores were still a bit too far apart.

HMV is only good when you find stuff on sale.