Tunes of change

The days of cassettes, VCRs and mini-discs are long gone, but I bet many of us — even the younger generations — remember when these entertainment vehicles were the hottest things around.


Kelly Clarke

Published: Fri 15 Feb 2013, 8:36 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 4:20 AM

But with today’s technology-savvy generation firmly accelerating towards the next ‘big thing’, the shelf life of the latest ‘must haves’ seems to expire prematurely, and it’s only 
a matter of time before the iPhone becomes an archaic brick collecting dust in the bottom draw.

As a 27-year-old, I fondly remember my first cassette purchase. Hanson’s MMMBop — a classic at the time — and a love I begrudgingly admit to 15 years later. But why the reminiscent look back? Just weeks ago, I heard on the airwaves that HMV — a popular music label — had closed its doors to the public in the Republic of Ireland after failing to trade its way out of financial difficulty. Like most businesses that have suffered severe economical thrashing, the administrators have been called in and the news has set off a wave of warm memories of such places.


The industry is committed to supplying music in whichever format consumers want, physical or digital, but IFPI’s expectation is that the digital proportion of the industry’s revenues will continue to grow year on year.

IFPI is an organisation that represents the interests of the recording industry worldwide. According to Laura Childs,Communications & Market Research Executive, IFPI, the industry’s revenues from digital channels have grown from almost nothing to more than US$5 billion in under 10 years. Childs expects that this market will continue to grow, noting that in South Korea and the US, the majority of industry revenues come from digital channels.

In reference to the consumers need for something physical in hand, Childs says many consumers still want to purchase music in CD format, whether it be as a gift or to build on a collection displayed in their home. “The 
industry is committed to supplying music in whichever format consumers want, physical or digital, but IFPI’s expectation is that the digital proportion of the industry’s revenues will continue to grow year on year,” she says.

With news that a potential buyer has stepped forward to save HMV, Childs says, “We hope (it) is able to restructure the business and maintain its presence on the high street, providing consumers with an opportunity to purchase music in a physical format if they want.”

The news struck a chord with me that I wasn’t quite expecting. It was hardly a state of mourning, but sadness did consume (in some part) and a question lingered in my mind: Does this mean the beginning of the end for record stores?

My despondency was shared (and opposed) when I raised the question if people still bought CDs: “No way. Who does anymore? It’s all about downloading nowadays,” was the reaction of one. “I do. I can’t always find the artists I’m looking for online; that’s when record shops come in handy,” said another.

As a music lover, rummaging around the thousands of CDs at a record store is a form of escapism for me. Despite the Internet being dubbed — somewhat unorthodoxically — one of the new ‘wonders of the world’, the spontaneity of coming across old favourites, or even new finds at a record store, in my opinion, beats any computer-generated search. Forgive the romanticised scene setting, but that heart-stopping moment and adrenaline rush you get on finding that elusive record is up there with the stomach-churning, butterfly moment when you fall in love.

With the digital age firmly in the front seat, is it only a matter of time 
before everything is accessed at a click of a button? The web, albeit convenient at times, doesn’t have the depth of character that the real McCoy does. 
Every scratch and scuff tells a story and evokes fond memories of a journey through time. An element not quite within reach when it’s floating around in cyberspace.

Don’t get me wrong. Technology has its advantages; without it, I’d be reverting to quill and ink to write this piece, but let’s not wipe out our past. From skinny jeans to the quiff and Dallas to the Vespa, nostalgia seems to hold a firm place in society. So, I’m confident all is not lost for the beloved CD.

A fact which champions this? The vinyl. A resilient old-timer that has managed to stay put for decades. Whether slowly spinning on your dad’s record player, or scratching out on a DJ’s decks, the subtle-reinvention of vinyl over the years has kept the traditionalist traditional and turned the young retro, ultimately proving its 
staying power. HMV’s demise has undoubtedly set off a tsunami that will see the eventual fade out of multinational record stores, but the consensus among most is that the independents will continue to strive and cater to the musical needs of its dedicated followers.

So, as the battle ensues between the two, it seems once again that the small, yet strong component, wins the day. On the outside, digital dominates, but as a generation which has seen many a change over the years, evocative flashbacks and forward thinking trendsetters often keep the past in the present. So, although we may be saying farewell to a nearly century-old music giant (HMV), passion, tradition and fashion are firm advocates that will surely keep the record store/CD alive, even if only to the minority. After all, vintage rocks.

More news from