The Soundhouse Guitar and Record Shop sales manager Justin Shadows stocks some vinyl in the stores racks Friday. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Red Deer’s indie music shops hope to benefit from HMV’s closure

The future is murky as technological change, illegal downloads cut into sales

Red Deer’s independent music stores are hoping to expand their customer base after the closure of HMV.

Davin Kemshead, co-owner of The Soundhouse, said he hopes to buy up some of HMV’s stock of vinyl albums to increase the selection in his shop in downtown Red Deer.

Since the Canadian chain retailer HMV made “zero profit” on CD sales after being undercut by Amazon, HMV had been trying to get into the vinyl market, which Kemshead feels was cramping his sales.

He’s hoping HMV customers will rediscover The Soundhouse and other local indie stores when the large financially-strapped retailer disappears from Bower Place Mall by April 30.

“We won’t get into DVDs or Blu-rays, or video games or many new CDs. Our focus is purely vinyl” — along with some electric guitar sales and some used cassettes, he added. Cassette tapes, like vinyls, are making a comeback because of nostalgia — and because people like make their own mixed tapes.

Kemshead acknowledges the entire music business is in a state of flux. Song downloads are overtaking CD sales, yet many customers still want a tangible, versus virtual, product. (He noted vinyl albums are usually sold with an MP3 download to give customers both options.)

All local music retailers are being affected by technological changes, as well as the poor economy caused by a slump in Alberta’s oil industry. But music piracy is also rampant, said Dwight Hickey, manager of The Game Shop, which sells new vinyls, as well as used CDs, DVDs, cassettes and games.

Hickey has heard customers in his store openly discussing illegally downloading music and films.“People are not ashamed of it,” he said — even though it’s stealing from artists, costing local businesses, and reducing the need for retail jobs in the community.

His shop on Little Gaetz went from having a staff of 10 to operating with one manager and an assistant. “It’s not a reliable business now at all, and it used to be so good,” added Hickey, who hasn’t yet decided how to position his store after HMV’s demise.

“Possibly we can increase our stock… We’ll have to see what people want, and then try to give it to them.”

Mike Dore, co-manager of Games Music, also in downtown Red Deer, estimates sales have dropped by 30 per cent because of the economic slump, downloads and piracy.

His store, which sells used DVDs, CDs and some limited-edition sets, is also getting into nostalgic products like records, Nintendo and Xbox-One games, old movies and TV shows, because that’s where the demand is.

Dore feels it will take time to assess what effect HMV’s closure will have, and how to meet local consumer needs.

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