Geography Compass

Spatialities and Physicality of the Music Industry

By Catherine Waite

The announcement last week that the music retailer HMV had been placed into administration stimulated many debates and asked many questions about contemporary society.

In the words of the BBC the potential loss of HMV would leave a “social gap” on the high street, as one of the few remaining stores where people, stereotypically men, could go to take refuge and browse.

The British media also considered the views of those artists who make up the music industry and were traditionally reliant on retailers such as HMV to make a living. Were the chain to disappear from the high street then given the sparse locations of independent music specialists it would leave many towns without a dedicated music store, a situation that was lamented by the band ‘Everything, Everything’ as well as many other artists.

Beyond the obvious spatial changes to the high streets the closure of HMV would have near enough signalled the physical end of the music industry. Already a significant amount of music is downloaded both legally and illegally from the internet, and the loss of HMV would have left only shops such as Asda and Tesco selling any CDs in most towns.

Whilst it has now been announced that HMV has been saved from closure, the debates and issues that have been raised over the last week about the end of the physicality of the music industry, are important considerations as society becomes increasingly dependent on the internet. As this continues, and it is hard to see an alternative pathway, it is likely that it is not only the music industry that may lose its physicality.

From this case study example of HMV and the music industry it is clear that many of the key issues are geographical in nature. Research into the production and consumption of music has been the focus of a number of recent studies published in Geography Compass and Area. Similarly the changes to the urban landscape, impacts of the financial crisis and social change are all key research topics in geography. This diverse range of research subjects and current affairs can all be seen to be brought together by geography.

books_iconBrandellero, A.M.C. and Pfeffer, K. 2011 Multiple and shifting geographies of world music production Area 43:4 495-505

books_iconJazeel, T. 2005 The world is sound? Geography, musicology and British-Asian soundscapes Area 37:3 233-241

books_iconWatson, A., Hoyler, M. and Mager, C. 2009 Spaces and Networks of Musical Creativity in the City Geography Compass 3:2 856-878

60-world2BBC News HMV leaves social gap in High Street 15th January 2013

60-world2BBC News HMV: Restructuring specialist Hilco takes control of retailer 22nd January 2013

60-world2BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat Everything Everything say the era of the CD could be over 18th January 2013

60-world2BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat Stars’ view on HMV calling in the administrators 15th January 2013

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