What Losing HMV Will Mean for Canadian Music: 10 Things to Consider [With UPDATES]

Now that HMV Canada has been forced into receivership, I’ve been thinking about how drastically this will affect the Canadian music industry landscape. Hell, a better phrase would be “damage the Canadian music scene.” Even if you havent shopped at HMV for years, this is going to affect you as a music fan.Here’s what to expect as the 102-store chain winds down towards the end on April 30.

Here’s what to expect as the 102-store chain winds down towards the end on April 30.

1.Taking 102 stores out of the marketplace is going to freak out the recording industry. That’s a huge chunk of their distribution and retail network for their physical product, with some estimates saying that the chain was responsible for selling 25% of all CDs sold in the country. Doing a little math, that could mean as much as 2.5 million units a year. Wow.

With so many fewer places to buy CDs, we’re going to see sales of physical music drop drastically over the next few months. And please, urban people, get outside your bubble. While you may have other shopping options, there are plenty of HMVs in smaller centres where they were one of the few places that sold music. Some places only have their HMV store. This is also going to hurt DVD sales, too.

2. Fewer places to buy CDs should mean a greater adoption rate for streaming. Watch for those numbers to tick up sharply as the sales figures for physical product crater. Still, pause to think about people who are unable to afford big data charges. For them, it can still be cheaper to buy CDs, especially since HMV sold a lot of product for less than 10 bucks.

3. Artists and labels will have to rethink the whole idea of physical product, too. If there are fewer places to sell stuff, artists will have to evaluate the trouble and expense of creating physical music media. This is especially important for artists who are popular only available in Canada. HMV was an important outlet for selling music that was only big in this country. What if, for example, the Northern Pikes wanted to reissue one of their albums as a special edition. Without HMV, the number of units they could move would be severely limited. Another thought: Canada-centric box sets. Most were sold through HMV. Without them–well, you see the problem. Artists will have to further consider direct-to-fan offerings, rather than place stuff in stores.

4. How much money does HMV owe its music suppliers for their current inventory? You can bet that the accounting departments at all the labels are scrambling to get paid on any accounts receivable. (I do know, however, that after Sam the Record Man went down, new arrangements were made with retailers to protect their P&Ls.)

5. Independent record stores will have to adjust to this new reality. Theoretically, they should benefit greatly from the departure of a big competitor from the marketplace. But what form will those adjustments take? And will record labels extend extra love and attention their way now that the biggest music chain in the country is gone? Or will the demise of HMV just force them further away from physical product and deeper into streaming? Whatever the case, this is the death knell for the big box music retailer. Other chains still exist–Sunrise, Archambault, London Drugs, Best Buy, Wal-Mart–but none was a big as HMV when it came to being a pure music player.

Here’s a thought: Might a big independent retailer like Rough Trade or Amoeba move in with one or two stores?

6. What about the real estate HMV will leave behind? While most stores are in malls–mall operators are used to tenants moving in and out–what will become of the superstore at 333 Yonge Street in Toronto?

7. What will this do to the price of physical music media? HMV could afford to sell CDs relatively cheaply thanks to their volume purchasing and the fact that prices were subsidized by the high-margin merchandise they also sold in their stores. Will CD and vinyl prices go up?

8. This could be a blow to the new vinyl pressing plants coming online. HMV sold a lot of vinyl. Will their disappearance hurt demand?

9.  Time to bulk up on physical music purchases. There will be plenty of deals to be had as all HMVs enter their “all stock must go” phase. Sale prices start at 30% off. Signs are up already. Watch for discounts to increase as we get closer to April 30.

10. Where are we going to get our Walking Dead merch now? Just sayin’.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

13 thoughts on “What Losing HMV Will Mean for Canadian Music: 10 Things to Consider [With UPDATES]

  • January 28, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Alan, on behalf of your friends at HMV, thank you for your support over the years. It’s the end of an era for certain, but it was a great journey for many of us! We should all support our local indie record shops and never (ever) stop the discovering of new music. Mad love buddy! Saundra xo

  • January 28, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    As much as I may sound like the cold-hearted bastard in the room, the loss of HMV won’t bother me in the slightest. Its been at least 2 years since i was in any store buying product, and that was buying my great aunt a Andre Reui DVD.

    I’m clearly not alone in that frequency, but it’s super shitty for the folks that are losing their jobs and the vendors who are owed money. This really should not be a surprise to no one, this has been coming for decade…

  • January 28, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I won’t miss HMV personally. In the past few years, what little physical music I bought was bought from independents. I’m now solely buy vinyl physically for stuff I really like. Everything else is streamed or maybe the odd digital download.

  • January 28, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    I’m crushed by the loss of HMV. I’m still one of those that prefers to buy physical music vs downloading or streaming. I appreciate the art work, I read the liner notes. Until recently, I made regular trips to the HMV near my office. I made purchases there monthly, only stopping recently due to a broken ankle and mobility issues. The local shops here don’t carry nearly as many cd’s they’re all heavy on vinyl (which is great for me as well, but sometimes I just want a cd) and the more obscure artists I listen to are impossible to get at the smaller shops. Big box stores cater too much to top 40. It’s unfortunate that I’m going to have to shift a lot of my shopping to Amazon. It’s just not the same as walking through rows of discs, flipping through to see what I can discover. Hopefully something new will pop up in its stead.

  • January 28, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Couldn’t care less.

    Every band I love, I have their website bookmarked in my browser, and have 100% up to date status on their releases , which I can instantly download or order via courier-delivery to my front days in mere days.

    I’d rather focus on the actual recordings and have them in bulk on my devices.

    Today’s music industry is ALL about songwriting quality because we can instantly preview a song’s quality and get attached to the actual music. The artist either writes a brilliant piece of music or they don’t, and we as the consumer have immediate power to find and purchase the best of the best.

    If you are a band put everything you have into learning how to WRITE… everything else will quickly become secondary.

  • Pingback: A Journal of Musical ThingsHere's HMV's Official Statement About Going Out of Business - A Journal of Musical Things

  • January 29, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    While I’m sad for all the employees soon to be out of work, HMV was a glorified toy and DVD store. Shopping for music, I head to any of the many independent record stores. Although, I do live in Toronto, so I understand I have more access. Go out and spend your money on the little guys. Or go to shows and buy records at the merch table (usually the cheapest way, and ensures the band makes the money themselves). This is not the end of anything except a poor retailer who was out of touch for too long.

  • January 29, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    I’m one of the rare folks that enjoyed new CD day. I love physical media and would look for new releases each week. That exercise of browsing the shelves, finding things I didn’t know was out, discovering things I wasn’t aware of in listening pods, are all my favourite things. I lamented the loss of rental movies too, but understood that it would carry on as it always did online through streaming services. My first thought was that this would be very much the same. A sign of the times.

    But this is bigger than that. It’s not just “meh, I’ve been streaming for years anyway.” It’s an entire distribution channel that’s gone. If you’ve listened to a Canadian band in the last 20 years, this should matter. There are dozens of bands relevant today that got their start because they were featured at HMV. How does a Canadian band like the Hip, or Change of Heart get attention in today’s music scene – where Canadian exposure is dominated by the American entertainment industry?

    If you’ve shopped at an independent in the last 20 years, this should matter. The independents can’t cover the gap, and frankly, if the interest in physical media goes away, their business goes away too. HMV was a reminder to the Canadian industry that they still had to produce physical stuff. Many people shopped at HMV because they couldn’t pick out an independent shop to save their lives, or refused to go back because the store is only inviting for the <1% of people that know of independent bands. What happens when they start buying iTunes gift cards for gifts instead of physical media?

    Some of the readers here have clearly said this won't affect them. They had given up on HMV long ago. I suspect they don't fully understand how this will affect them yet.

  • January 29, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Funny, I just met up with the friend I did most of my HMV shopping with today. She was the one who told me they were closing.

    In trying to remember the last time we went in there. I’m pretty sure it was when I got some DVDs for my birthday — two Aprils ago.

    I love music, don’t trust streaming to always have the content I want, but have been burned by physical discs failing — and Murphy’s Law means it’s always the nigh-irreplaceable ones. So I buy, download, and back up audio files. Yeah I miss the cover art and the liner notes but I don’t miss worrying about where to store everything.

    I don’t like hearing HMV is going to close because it means more jobs gone, but I have to admit I won’t miss them as a music buyer.

  • January 30, 2017 at 9:45 am

    “Other chains still exist–Sunrise, Archambault, London Drugs, Best Buy, Wal-Mart–but none was a big as HMV when it came to being a pure music player.”

    Best Buy got out of the CD game entirely last summer, so they are about as big a music player as HMV will be May 1.

    • January 30, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Right. Scratch them. And their DVD section is negligible.

  • January 30, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Small correction – sale prices are “up to 30% off” right now. I was in an HMV store on Sunday, and everything was discounted by a minimum of 10% – but not very much to be had at 30%.

  • Pingback: A Journal of Musical ThingsSunrise Records is Going to Scoop Up 70 Vacant HMV Locations - A Journal of Musical Things

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.