Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: The merits of Monkeys

It's always delightful to hear from Gennaro Castaldo - HMV's spokesperson seems to be quieter these days, but we'd imagine as his employers are having a lean time of it he's having to help out down in the stock room at the moment.

Still, the release of a new Arctic Monkeys record is something of an occasion, so he's popped up in a wire piece with his explanation of those first-day sales:

HMV's Gennaro Castaldo said: `"It was always going to be next to impossible to match or beat the phenomenal first day sales of Whatever People Say I Am... but coming this close is a fantastic result which underlines the band's status as the UK's number one rock act.

"People are buying this album not because of the media hype, but because it's had great reviews and they can't wait to hear it.

"Favourite Worst Nightmare is easily the fastest selling album of the year to date.

"If sales continue at this pace, they should certainly top the quarter million mark, which would not only give the band a sure-fire number one, but leave them well-placed to claim the biggest album of 2007."

We're not entirely sure we could be as confident as Castaldo in distinguishing between "media hype" and "great reviews", but we love the apparent suggestion that people are buying it specifically because of the reviews - "Yeah, I wasn't going to bother but the warm words of the Daily Telegraph have convinced me..."

Actually, we thought the reviews were a little less enthusiastic than last time around, although there was something of the sense of "am I meant to pretend to like this a lot, or are we meant to be slowly distancing ourselves in case its a flop?" in more than one of the reviews we've read.

Meanwhile, The Guardian hoofed up to HMV's Sheffield outpost, which had opened at midnight to sell the album. Gennaro seemed to be too busy to offer the official line on this one:
HMV management was as expectant yesterday as the fans queueing outside its Sheffield store: "[This album] is great news for the industry as a whole, but for specialist retailers it's key," said Mel Armstrong, the chain's music manager. "It's generally a given that indie-type bands tend to sell proportionately more across specialist chains and independent shops, because you have fans who want to enjoy the whole process of buying it, rather than just downloading from the internet."

Yes, we do think Mel was suggesting that HMV sees itself as a "specialist and independent" type retailer, although anyone who's set foot in an HMV in the last five years would be hard pushed to see any sort of specialisation in music sales.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

O HMV hater. You have twisted the words of the man from HMV. I think HMV sees itself as a "specialist chain" not a "specialist and independent" and they would be justified in thinking that as they sell other music than just the rock & pop things that you seem to be interested in.

Anonymous said...

"you have fans who want to enjoy the whole process of buying it, rather than just downloading from the internet."

Album 1: success due to the power of the internet

Album 2: success not due to the power of the internet.

Square that circle, Gennaro ;)

simon h b said...

Anonymous: "A specialist chain" that, erm, doesn't specialise in music? Wouldn't you be a little alarmed if you went for an eye op at a specialist's and discovered your doctor was cramming you in between a couple of ingrown toenails and a tonsilectomy?

The guy who ran Northwich's Omega chain said that there's no logical reason why record shops should sell computer games - "it's not like they were selling Monopoly in the 1980s" - and when you go into HMV these days, it's only a collection of kids clothes and a pick and mix stall away from turning into Woolworths. I'd love to see more music from places other than middle-class America and Britain on HMV shelves; the trouble is, there are so many films, video games and other bits and pieces there isn't any room for specialist music.

Anonymous said...

I suppose it depends what you think specialist music is and where you live. Larger HMV stores have whole floors that include World, Classical, Folk, Country, Blues and so on, which to my mind is the "specialist" music that you wont find in Woolworths or Tesco in any depth. Smaller stores can't stock the range because not enough people buy it. Even for the larger stores the real specialist music does not constitute a large amount of the stores turnover. If places like HMV dissapear there is unlikely to be anyone stepping in to take their place in the high street selling such a range.

Anonymous said...

I suppose it depends what you think specialist music is and where you live. Larger HMV stores have whole floors that include World, Classical, Folk, Country, Blues and so on, which to my mind is the "specialist" music that you wont find in Woolworths or Tesco in any depth. Smaller stores can't stock the range because not enough people buy it. Even for the larger stores the real specialist music does not constitute a large amount of the stores turnover. If places like HMV dissapear there is unlikely to be anyone stepping in to take their place in the high street selling such a range.

Schmeals said...

If places like HMV disappear, then good riddance. Reading and Oxford (my local towns) have HMV and Virgin stores which are horrible - playstations and slightyly-out-of date technology, a meagre selection of CDS, bored staff, nasty customers, a sub pret-a-manger decor that looks like the nightclub in Terminator reimagined by a half-blind chimp. Fopp is the only place where I buy CDs when I don't go on Amazon. Fopp's range is easily better than HMV and Virgin imho.

Anonymous said...

oh sorry, this is obviously a young person's place. Silly me for commenting.

simon h b said...

Anonymous:

I think we've been talking at cross purposes - I'm not talking about HMV's claims to be a retailer of "specialist" music (a term I hate, suggesting that liking, say, stuff from Burkina Faso or orchestral is akin to having a fetish - "want something a bit specialist, do we sir, something a bit baroque?", I'm talking about HMV's claims to specialise in any music at all. As Schemals says, most HMVs now are like some sort of Mad Max environment dedicated to flogging DVDs and games, with music tucked into the spaces, and then usually treated as a marked down commodity to be sold in bulk. Some large towns might have a corner which holds a meagre collection of what HMV treats as "specialist", but the stores don't really cater for that market at all. I'd suggest the reason why "not enough people buy it" is because most people who want to buy opera records aren't going to wade through the dark, noisy area given over to Crushfighter II to get to a poorly-stocked 'jazz, world, classical, soundtracks etc' corner.

HMV is a mass-market entertainment chain. It has no claims to specialise in music at all.

Fopp is a usual example of how it should be done - there's a serenity about the place which makes browsing a pleasant experience - music as a passion rather than as a product.

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