In which we consider Chuka Umunna

Music and film suppliers, who want to see HMV survive as internet retailers erode their margins, have been crucial to keeping HMV afloat.

Mmm, yes, I can understand that. Old way of doing business would indeed prefer not to have their rent claiming ability wiped out by new technology.

Chuka Umunna, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, called HMV a “national institution” and described last night’s news as “deeply worrying”.

Yeah, it is deeply worrying that consumers will no longer see producers\’ margins being protected.

At some point someone\’s going to have to break it to our Little Chuka. The point of this whole economy game is the consumer, not the producer.

54 comments on “In which we consider Chuka Umunna

  1. Last time I remember something being referred to as ‘a national institution’ it was over the sad death of Jimmy Savile.

  2. Well, seems pretty obvious that music producers don’t want iTunes controlling 90% of the distribution of their product.

    If that involves subsidising the current existing competition then so be it.

  3. I don’t mind music producers propping up HMV if they want to. I just don’t want the taxpayer propping them up.

  4. At some point someone’s going to have to break it to our Little Chuka. The point of this whole economy game is the consumer, not the producer.

    What about consumers who want the option of actually going into a shop to buy CDs, DVDs etc. and wants more choice than you get in Tesco? How is this good for them?

  5. @Andrew adams

    Why do you want to go into a shop to buy CDs and DVDs. It’s not like you have to try them on ? And if you want to listen to them before buying you can do that on Amazon.

  6. Frederick,

    Maybe I might like to browse? Maybe I want to have something today and not wait for it to turn up in the post? Also, there are actually people without internet access.

  7. Emil,

    There always seem to be plenty of people in my local HMV. Presumably not enough not keep it in business but nevertheless a non trivial number of people who will presumably be inconvenienced by not having that option in future.
    I thought consumer choice was supposed to be a good thing? If HMV closes down consumers will have less choice. Maybe nothing can be done to prevent it but that doesn’t mean we can’t regret it is happening.

  8. They may well be browsing and buggering off to buy on Amazon. In which case they evidently don’t value the browsing sufficiently to pay for it…

    Consumer choice is a good thing, but if they choose not to pay for an increasingly outmoded retail system, so be it.

  9. Andrew Adams – consumer choice means the choice of consumers shaping the market. That’s what’s happening. It doesn’t mean people subsidising the choices of those consumers whose preferences are in a minority to the extent that their preferred suppliers are not viable.

  10. I thought consumer choice was supposed to be a good thing?

    Indeed it is. And if consumers choose not to buy at HMV then HMV should be allowed to shut down.

    Maybe nothing can be done to prevent it but that doesn’t mean we can’t regret it is happening.

    Well, you could have bought more there? Regret it? I don’t really.

  11. The costs of having a shop are greater than using the net. But those costs are artificially inflated by the scum of the state.

    It would be interesting if an economist could factor out all the state added costs (somewhat difficult since the customers have less spending money because of the states antics–how to calculate that?) and be able to determine which troubled businesses would still be in trouble without political thieving–which are truly victims of technological change.

  12. @Andrew Adams: put your money where your mouth is then. When HMV closes in your town, open a nice little independent record shop, you know the sort, with resident scrawny lads in tight jeans and quirky girls in black makeup. According to you there’s a good demand for its services. You should make a good living, no?

  13. SE,

    Indeed it is. And if consumers choose not to buy at HMV then HMV should be allowed to shut down.

    But some consumers do choose to shop there – HMV’s sales are not zero. Those people will no longer have the choice to do so, nor in many cases (and this is more important) will they have an alternative if they want to buy CDs, DVDs etc on the high street.

  14. Andrew

    it’s fair enough to mourn the loss of something you liked, even if an insufficient number of other people also liked it enough to keep it in business. Are you doing anything other then expressing regret (I mean are you saying “something should be done” about it?)

    Tim,

    it’s possible the music industry is an instance where consumers might care about producer margins. For example, suppose that technology makes it impossible to monetize music, so making a living as a musician becomes impossible, and the supply of music falls to consumers’ cost. This is an extreme case – I don’t suppose things are that bad, in fact I suspect there are other ways for musicians to make money that side-step record companies and retailers. If so, all to the good. I merely mean to point to the potential existence of situations in which protecting producer margins might matter to consumers.

  15. Jim,

    I have not said anywhere that I think there would be sufficient demand to sustain a high street record shop in my area. It is quite likely there is not.
    My point is that there is still a non-trivial number of people, including me, who would still like this alternative and it is perfectly legitimate for us to regret the fact that we will no longer have it.

  16. Luis,

    No, I’m not sure anything can actually be done about it. Maybe HMV’s suppliers will see the value of having an outlet on the high street for their products and come to an arrangement which will allow it to stay in business but I’m not advocating government support or anything like that.

  17. “If HMV closes down consumers will have less choice”.

    In what way will you have less choice? You can still get anything that you could find at HMV without problems.

    What you have lost is convenience, certainly not choice.

  18. In defence of Umunna (and you won’t hear me say that very often), looking at the link, he could be viewed as expressing regret for the fate of the several thousand employees whose jobs are at risk rather than the concept of a High street retailer per se. I agree he is a particularly shocking exemplar of how New Labour was the most catastrophic political movement in British history, but On this occasion he may deserve the benefit of the doubt!

  19. What Andrew is bemoaning here is that he (and some others) can’t do because the people whose purchasing choices supported activity X in the past aren’t/won’t fund it anymore.

    It’s the cry of the perpetually aggrieved middle classes. Why aren’t here more indy films, arts cinemas, non-chain coffee shops, artisan bakeries, cool public art etc…

    It usually results in the traditional wail of “Something must be done”, which translates as “If you won’t spend your money like we think you should, we’ll take it off you and spend it properly”, which – come to think of it – is pretty much the slogan of bien pensant socialism.

    SAVE THE FLINT AXE-HEAD INDUSTRY!

  20. monoi,

    But surely consumer choice can be about being able to choose between alternative providers of a product or service, where factors such as convenience may be important in themselves, rather than just the range of products and services which are available.

  21. ***SHOULD READ****

    What Andrew is bemoaning here is that he (and some others) can’t do because the people whose purchasing choices supported activity X in the past aren’t/won’t fund it anymore.

    It’s the cry of the perpetually aggrieved middle classes. Why aren’t here more indy films, arts cinemas, non-chain coffee shops, artisan bakeries, cool public art etc…

    It usually results in the traditional wail of “Something must be done”, which translates as “If you won’t spend your money like we think you should, we’ll take it off you and spend it properly”, which – come to think of it – is pretty much the slogan of bien pensant socialism.

    SAVE THE FLINT AXE-HEAD INDUSTRY!

  22. ***Sorry. Blog software stripped out text.

    What Andrew is bemoaning here is that he (and some others) can’t do Activity X because the people whose purchasing choices supported activity X in the past aren’t/won’t fund it anymore.

    It’s the cry of the perpetually aggrieved middle classes. Why aren’t here more indy films, arts cinemas, non-chain coffee shops, artisan bakeries, cool public art etc…

    It usually results in the traditional wail of “Something must be done”, which translates as “If you won’t spend your money like we think you should, we’ll take it off you and spend it properly”, which – come to think of it – is pretty much the slogan of bien pensant socialism.

    SAVE THE FLINT AXE-HEAD INDUSTRY!

  23. “What Andrew is bemoaning here is that he (and some others) can’t do because the people whose purchasing choices supported activity X in the past aren’t/won’t fund it anymore.

    It’s the cry of the perpetually aggrieved middle classes. ”

    oh bollocks. What about, for example, people who live in neighbourhoods that have been gentrified and have found their pubs converted into poncy gastro pubs and greasy spoon cafes converted in the River Cottage canteen.

    there are all sorts of people who find things they like no longer available because of changing market mores. The middle classes are probably more used to seeing things move in their direction (i.e. more artisan bakeries appearing) than seeing things they like disappearing.

  24. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t LVCR shut down nearly a year ago in part to save HMV? What happened to that? Richard Murphy, help me! You’re my only hope!

  25. It’s funny what people consider to be “an institution”. HMV on the High Street in most towns is something that happened in the last 20-25 years, and no-one ever has fond memories of HMV in the way that people have fond memories of Spinadisc in Northampton or Spillers in Cardiff. They were bland, anonymous, soulless CD/DVD/game supermarkets.

  26. Anybody else find it amusing that it’s ‘Stuck Record’ who is repeating the same stuff over and over?

  27. andrew adams // Jan 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Maybe HMV’s suppliers will see the value of having an outlet on the high street for their products and come to an arrangement which will allow it to stay in business ….

    Perhaps they [the music industry] could take a leaf out of Apple’s book and use these stores more as a marketing and advertising strategy than as individual profit centers? But given the diversity and competitiveness in the music industry I don’t think that’s going to happen.

    Anyway, aren’t chain’s a the work of the divil?

  28. Oxonymous. No one more so than me. That’ll teach me not to drop an html bracket into my text.

    Luis

    Middle or working class is irrelevant.

    The question is: Is there enough ‘browsing’ trade to support a HMV on every high street?

    Is their customers money no good? In our wicked capitalist economy is there no businessman desperate or savvy enough to want their money?

    We’ll find out.

    Downloads are killing CD sales just like CDs killed the record shop, except – hey, they didn’t. Someone saw there was a hole in the market, people with money to spend and there are now loads of small indy records shops. Hurrah! But there are no large high street chains selling vinyl on every high street.

    It’s over. Like blacksmiths and steam engines and beaver hunting and percussion caps. The world has moved on and customers like the new stuff. (Just like in my trade, reference publishing, where the internet has trashed the business).

    What are the alternatives? Will/should/can Chukka lobby Govt to nationalise the HMV shops so that they can stay open for the dwindling few that want to ‘browse’.

  29. confused stuck record

    “Middle or working class is irrelevant.”

    yes, that’s what I think.

    You’re the one who thinks that bemoaning the loss of a retail you like is the “cry of the perpetually aggrieved middle classes”

    Andrew has said he’s not asking the government to support HMV, he’s just said he’ll be sorry if HMV disappears.

  30. Does seem like UK record shops in general have missed the boat a bit.

    If you go to the Bairro Alto in Lisbon, Portugal they adopted a new model ages ago, where basically you have one shop/boutique selling hip stuff together. So they will sell vinyl, CD’s, clothes, spray cans and skate boards. They were even combing record shops with a cafe/bars, and hairdressers with clothes shops.

  31. Actually its not just the underground shops, the Portugese version of HMV is a shop called FNAC, that also sells books, stereos, cameras and art products.

    HMV had a shit model, thats what happens

  32. “My point is that there is still a non-trivial number of people, including me, who would still like this alternative and it is perfectly legitimate for us to regret the fact that we will no longer have it.”

    And I’d like a big shop selling nothing but a huge range of cricket bats and cricket kit just down the road from me. Preferably with a nice indoor net attached so I could try out the bat out first. Is it legitimate for me to regret that the free market system won’t provide that for me? Or is it me being totally selfish to assume that someone else should spend large amounts of their money to provide a loss making service for a handful of people?

    And you could have your record store if you were prepared to pay for it. I expect if you and all those other like minded people were prepared to pay £10-15 per CD, and made just as many purchases as before, then a local record store would thrive.

  33. There probably is demand for HMV stuff, just not in the quantities that allow them to have huge expensive shops on the high street. If they downsided earlier they might have survived longer.

  34. Luis.

    Thanks, but I’m not confused.
    “You’re the one who thinks that bemoaning the loss of a retail you like is the “cry of the perpetually aggrieved middle classes”

    Nope. I think this particular instance is an example of middle class bemoaning. Others you mention (greasy spoons, pubs) are working class examples. There are upper class examples like opera.

    They’re all wrong.

    My comment about nationalisation was to illustrate the inane Chukka’s ‘National Institution claptrap. A classic ‘something must be done’. What exactly are we supposed to do with businesses that have been superseded by technology or societal desire?

    Answer: Nothing. The public have voted with their money.

  35. And I’d like a big shop selling nothing but a huge range of cricket bats and cricket kit just down the road from me. Preferably with a nice indoor net attached so I could try out the bat out first. Is it legitimate for me to regret that the free market system won’t provide that for me?

    Yes, of course it is.

    Or is it me being totally selfish to assume that someone else should spend large amounts of their money to provide a loss making service for a handful of people?

    Strawman. You can regret the fact that the free market system can’t provide a service you want without thinking you are entitled to have someone provide it at a loss.

  36. Stuck-Record

    I think this particular instance is an example of middle class bemoaning.

    Really? The clientel of my local HMV doesn’t seem particularly “middle class” to me.

    They’re all wrong.

    Why? Why is it illegitmate to regret the fact that a particular product or service that one previously valued is no longer available?

  37. Andrew.

    “Why is it illegitmate to regret the fact that a particular product or service that one previously valued is no longer available?”

    Because (in the instances mentioned above) you’re bemoaning the failure of others to subsidise the things you want in the world.

    This just in illustrates the pointlessness of Umma’s showboating.
    “Two-faced Chuka Umunna told Jo Coburn that he had visited an HMV store over Christmas, but when pressed on what he had bought, replied:

    “Er…I actually didn’t buy anything.”

  38. Stuck-Record,

    Because (in the instances mentioned above) you’re bemoaning the failure of others to subsidise the things you want in the world.

    You seem to be attributing things to me I haven’t said. I mean I’m all in favour of indy films, arts cinemas, non-chain coffee shops, artisan bakeries, cool public art etc… but then working in Central London I have access to those things anyway. But I have not said that anyone should subsidise them (although I would make a case for public subsidy of the arts, which happens anyway). Nor have I said that “something should be done” about HMV, in fact I have explicitly said otherwise.

  39. a a

    If it’s any consolation I understood what you meant, everyone else just seems to be looking to start the equivalent of a fight in an empty room.
    I feel much the same way about the small ironmongers shops that used to exist. I lived in a village in Wiltshire for a while in the seventies and there was a brilliant one of those, you could buy absolutely anything you needed, in the quantities you wanted. I expect it’s long gone and everyone has to traipse round the nearest B&Q until they realise they only sell kitchen units. I fully understand why this has happened, I have no wish for a National Ironmongery Service, free at the point of use and I’m not middle class. I still wish we had those small ironmongers though, if that’s OK with the market warriors.

  40. I lived in a village in Wiltshire for a while in the seventies and there was a brilliant one of those, you could buy absolutely anything you needed, in the quantities you wanted.

    I still have one in the village and I buy lots of stuff there. It’s a short walk rather than a medium car journey and you can buy in less than boxes of 50. For some things, it is actually cheaper. Unfortunately, the old gent who ran it has been ill so has retired. It is under new management and we’ll see whether it continues or not.

    Judging by the appallingly parked white vans outside it at 8am many mornings, they’re getting some business.

  41. Sorry, Andrew. I have confused Chukka (and the usual culprit’s) ‘something must be done’ with your regret that HMV is going.

    I stand by my comments regarding elements of our society’s inability to accept change.

  42. “It’s funny what people consider to be “an institution”. HMV on the High Street in most towns is something that happened in the last 20-25 years”
    And some of the older ones amongst us can remember when the arrival of the big, high street record chains was being deplored as unfair competition for the ‘institution’ of the small, independent record shops.
    And so it goes.

    Few of the commentators above, particularly Mr Ecks #12, have drawn attention to one of the factors affecting retailing. The burden on businesses presumes there’s money available that often simply isn’t there. If there’s not profit to pay taxes, meet regulation needs then businesses aren’t viable. The playing field’s not level but it’s the system causing the slope, not the industries.

  43. Another fucking socialist who wants to push the peasants further down the ladder.

    And knowing Chucker, he’d regard it as so 20th century to go into a store and buy a CD.

  44. HMV was badly managed for years. These guys just didn’t see what was coming.

    A bit like Waterstone’s, who actually fulfilled for Amazon in the latter’s early days, thinking that they had the better end of the deal and the Internet would never work.

    Plenty of people still making the same error, amazingly, which helps with investment decisions.

  45. Andrew, thanks for the link.

    “The three greatest threats to HMV are, online retailers, downloadable music and supermarkets discounting loss leader product.”

    Says it all really. They didn’t take the advice and so bye-bye to them. Onwards and upwards.

  46. Luis Enrique – “oh bollocks. What about, for example, people who live in neighbourhoods that have been gentrified and have found their pubs converted into poncy gastro pubs and greasy spoon cafes converted in the River Cottage canteen.”

    What about them? Working class neighbourhoods have been gutted in recent times. The smoking ban is killing Working Men’s clubs. All the pubs are going upmarket. But the working class tends not to whine and they do not have a school friend who is now a producer at the BBC and wants to make a TV special about it all. It is the middle class that gets more attention for their whines than anyone else.

    28 Tim Almond – “It’s funny what people consider to be “an institution”. HMV on the High Street in most towns is something that happened in the last 20-25 years”

    I think I have largely managed to miss HMV. I have been in. I have even bought something once or twice, but I am clearly not the sort of customer they want (you know, old and unpierced). So back when I did buy more music, HMV was not even a blip on the horizon.

    Which I guess is the point – this is mainly about middle aged men preserving their teen years. I was too old by the time they came along. I don’t give a damn. The things I did love have long since been swallowed up by chains like HMV. Let them collapse.

  47. They did. And now both HMV and play.com are gone. Tax justice is a very efficient business destroyer, it seems.

  48. Actually its not just the underground shops, the Portugese version of HMV is a shop called FNAC…

    They have them in France, they seem a lot better than HMV.

  49. Poor little Chukka. Nowhere left to buy his vinyl. Did you hear him say that? He did say that! Pretentious tit.

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