Monday, January 05, 2009

Gennaro Castaldo watch: Computers will save us all

It's easy to poke fun at Gennaro Castaldo's willingness to offer quotes on anything vaguely entertainment-related to any media outlet at any time of the day or night (and, indeed, I'm just about to), but it's fair to point out that you never came across a Zavvi spokesperson keeping their company's ungainly name in front of consumers. Sure, the free advertising might not have helped with the not-got-any-stock problem, but it might have meant that a year after the name change, newspapers still needed to put "the old Virgin Megastores" in brackets every time they mentioned them.

Anyway, it's with an eye on the troubles up the road that Castaldo has assured Sunday Mail readers that HMV will still be cluttering up the streets with box sets and ungainly cut-outs for years to come. It's another outing for the plans to make HMV some sort of digital hub:

You'll still find a comprehensive range of music, films and home entertainment.

"But we'll now introduce social hubs where you can access your favourite music sites or MP3 kiosks to download new songs.

"Using chip-and-pin technology you can listen to virtually every bit of music that is digitally available.

"If you like it you can keep it and the cost will vary between 59p and 79p a track."

Hang about... you're offering people the chance to go into a store, fire up the websites they usually use at home and then preview the songs before handing over fifty nine pence for them - using 'chip and pin technology' (i.e. a debit card?)

Why would you not... you know... stay at home and do the same thing?
Many young people download at home but we don't want them to be a lost generation.

Actually, the last time I went into an HMV I was the only person in there older than the next Doctor Who. But never mind that: they're at home downloading, you know they're downloading at home, so what would be the point of trudging into town to download the same tracks at exactly the same price?
"We'd like them to come into our stores and treat them as more of a social space to hang out."

Let's not recast this as a slightly ominous take on 'hey kids, why not come and use ole' Uncle Pete's house as a hangout? You can use the pool, if you like. Or maybe get a shower. Just don't tell your parents, right? A secret between us, yeah?" Let's not do that at all.

Instead, let's pretend we're HMV shareholders, and that we've just come to accept that the advantage of music going digital is that the overheads are at least a lot lower because you don't have to have expensive, physical stores for people to congregate in, offsetting the lower unit price.

And now let's pretend we're HMV shareholders being told that we're going to run some sort of youth club in expensive, physical stores which are selling music downloads for the same price they're being sold online.

Did you see visions of your retirement pot vanishing?

Still, for the kids, it's a brilliant offer - you can hang out with all of your mates, just like in a pub or a burger bar, only without the seats or food or drinks. While listening to the tracks you could have bought if you'd met with your mate in your bedroom. Except, of course, if you'd met in your bedroom you could have found exciting ways to give each other chlamydia - so perhaps that's HMV's big hope: their new stores will be a kind of guard against STDs by ensuring you at least get no further than heavy petting. Gennaro Castaldo himself might be on hand to blow a whistle if young hands sneak too far away from the chip-and-pin technology.


Anonymous said...

gennaro even granted me an interview during my university years, for an article about gnarles barkley going to number one digitally. he is a human quote machine.

Anonymous said...

Shhh! Don't put HMV off the idea, let's see where they go with this. Could be a hoot. Right now, Gennaro's probably researching his new role as Special Envoy to the Nation's Youth by skimming through hard-hitting teen dramas like Skins and Summer Holiday. In a few months they'll come up with a toe-curling 'Sunny D'-style nickname for the store which young hip cats will instantly take to using ("Yo dudes! Let's all hang ten at The H!", they'll say). It'll be just like a kicking youthclub!

And I'm sure the shareholders won't be so worried when they find out that those occasional 59p download purchases will be accompanieded by sales of 20p cups of Rola-Cola. Well worth clearing out all those boring old racks of CDs to make way for wipe-clean sofas.

Spence said...

Making music-buying into a social experience is all well and good, but surely these digital kiosks will be headphone affairs (otherwise you won't be able to hear your potential purchases over whatever crap they're pumping out over the PA)? Not so social then.

And will the songs be downloaded direct to your iPod etc? I know from bitter experience what happens when trying to sync or upload a song from a machine other than the PC with my primary music library on it (i.e. it wipes it, depending on how it's set up). Potential disasters await...

Still, looking forward to trying not to trip over da kids when trying to locate the CD aisles.

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