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Careful what you wish for

By Ciara Quinn

MY heart sank a bit last week when I heard that HMV had gone into administration only three weeks into 2013.

Casualties on our high streets have been nothing new since this unending recession continues to claim business after business, from the independents to the chains, and last week’s announcement that a business that has been going for 90 years had called in the administrators was a blow to its 4,500 workers – as well as to music and film consumers, of which I am one.

Many of HMV’s rivals had fallen by the wayside over the years: Golden Discs, Our Price and Virgin Megastore have all left us, but HMV continued to trade, welcoming all ages through its impressive double doors. Belfast’s flagship HMV is like a three-storey sanctuary for harangued husbands, partners and those interested in or who have a passion for music and film.

Like any good bookshop you could easily go and spend hours looking at DVDs, CDs, books, t-shirts and video games. The first CD single I bought was Boyz II Men’s croonfest End of the Road in 1993; the last was the latest Calvin Harris album, and that was only three weeks ago. Both came from HMV.

Back in my student days there was always a simple, effective plan to follow. Student loan in, then off to HMV and Gap to kit out our ears and bodies in hoodies and t-shirts, all the while listening to the latest CDs – Stereophonics and Radiohead were a must – along with those all important text books, of course.

Looking at the bigger picture (and I know I’m going to sound like an old fart here), will there be anywhere left for our young people to head to on a Saturday? Back in the day it was the In Shops (gone but not forgotten) for their unbelievable, never-seen-the-like-of-it-before food court, Fresh Garbage and Abacus Beads where many failed attempts were made to fashion my own jewellery line. The only place left for young people to converge is the City Hall and even that is out of bounds at the minute due to scores of loyalists protestors descending for a weekly catch-up every Saturday afternoon.

People want their music fast and the trend is that no-one wants to buy albums anymore – just singles. Gone are the days when you’d fork out £13 or 14 for the latest album – a new song can be downloaded in less than two minutes for 99p. Or people choose to buy their music and games from the big supermarkets or swap-shops such as CEX.

Downloading music is all well and good and it saves a journey and the effort that goes into visiting a music store. Some of the craic of actually going in, having a good snoop around and going to the till to make your purchase is becoming a thing of the past, unless it’s fast food, fast coffee or guaranteed next day delivery. What’s next? The demise of our bookshops?

We all say we want convenience, but at what cost?

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