Breaking: Multiple Consumers Found Browsing, Buying CDs In Crowded Urban Area…

The music industry is trying to solve a riddle: which fans want which stuff, and how do we sell it to them?  But that could be ignoring consumers that still want to purchase plain ol’ CDs, even though they also download and maybe stream.  Which introduces another question: is the downward spiral in physical being partly fueled by a simple lack of supply?


We bring you to this HMV on the busy Yonge Street in Toronto, which is right in the middle of Canadian Music Week.  This was a very non-peak time of around 10:30 am on a Thursday, yet we found consumers happily browsing, listening, and yes, buying CDs, music DVDs, and related merchandise.

Here are some ordinary Canadian consumers browsing the stacks.  We even noticed sales clerks helping customers find what they were looking for.



This woman, who happily posed for us, is a classical music fan with a stack of jazz CDs in her hand.  She told us that she also downloads, but CDs also work just fine for her (that’s at least $50 worth of recordings in her hand).


And, here’s your money shot: a guy actually buying a CD.



Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in Toronto.

28 Responses

  1. Jaded Industry Dude
    Jaded Industry Dude

    Although this article is super cute and all, in the heart of Hollywood, arguably the tourist capital of the world (I think?), Tower Records was unable to keep their doors open even after multiple attempts to keep people interested in music. I can’t really think of any place busier than Hollywood and Highland in California. Especially with tourist money.

  2. wallow-T

    Ah, now you have touched memories near and dear to me. I visited Toronto regularly from about 1979-1995. Yonge Street and environs were one of the best-stocked music retail neighborhoods around. The mothership for the Sam The Record Man chain was incredible, the biggest music store in Canada, a rabbit warren you could get lost in with stock from around the world, in all genres. And there were fistfuls of great indie stores nearby.
    By the mid-2000s the writing was on the wall: on my last visit to Toronto, Sam’s was having a bankruptcy clearance and most of the indie shops were gone.
    HMV Canada is owned by restructuring/liquidation specialist Hilco UK. From Hilco UK’s own website about HMV Canada:
    “The business has been re-energised and is making excellent progress in extending its life span in a declining market.”

  3. LondonMusicMapp

    No more than three buyers in shot at any time….
    HMV is a boring store. They cannot compete on range, price or convenience with Amazon.

  4. Jim

    Is the downward spiral in physical being partly fueled by a simple lack of supply?

    Yes. Without question or hesitation, yes. I cannot buy what I cannot find. The biggest frustration is the fact that most “independent” music sellers sell the same garbage as big box stores: latest releases and greatest hits. No back catalogs, no essentials, little in terms of imports and collectibles.
    I travel hundreds of miles every weekend, visiting used and independent music stores throughout the midwest/Great Lakes region, and this is how things are.
    Want me to shop at your store? How about stocking what I want to buy?

    • wallow-T

      Jim is apparently a neighbor of mine 🙂 and I don’t know how he justifies the cost of travelling hundreds of miles for record store tourism. As I have written before, the nearest full-service, all-genre record stores to me are 45 and 75 miles away, and gas costs alone make those trips cost $15-$25 plus the time, so I don’t do it any more unless I have another reason to visit those towns.
      What comes first, supply or demand? It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. A few years before Borders crashed, little birdies told me that music was Borders’ slowest selling product category. Also, review the stories leading up to the final Tower Records crash, where the labels were offering Tower absurdly easy terms just to keep the stores open, and even then Tower could not keep up with payments.
      Customers can’t buy what isn’t stocked, but no retailer stays in business stocking products which aren’t selling enough to cover costs. Once the downward spiral starts, in a field like music or books or DVDs where the stores want to carry a broad range of catalog, it appears unstoppable.
      For the classic big record store like the HMV pictured here, the big box stores (WalMart, BestBuy) are going to eat their lunch on the top sellers, and Amazon is a much better model for selling mid-tier and long-tail stuff. It costs too much — both for the retailer and for the label — to put onesies and twosies in stores across the continent, and hope the discs get purchased, and the supply chain gets paid.

  5. sigh

    Wish it were true. But 3 or four customers in a 3 storey high shop ain’t good. Also, it’s mostly dvds….
    And as the other poster said, Sam the Record Man, Tower, and a couple large indie stores have all closed around the same location. And it’s right around the corner from a large college/university, the target market.
    Future Shop next door, selling smartphones, etc., is always jammed with people though, morning to night.
    That particular store used to be my hangout — listen to new music, talking to the workers… would spend hours at HMV… but even I haven’t been there in 5 or 6 years. (I buy music, never download, but I have gone mp3.)

  6. >>>>

    On the 15/18 CD I wnated to acquire as such in the last two years, only 3 or 4 of them were available: mainstream stuff is always available (Gaga, getta, BEP) but the non chart stuff is rarely there (well, i did find Ultravox’s Brillant, at last some distributors did a good job – and a few month later, they managed to chart Vienna as nr 1, 30 years after its release in 1981 when it topped nr2).

    There are a lot of people who want to buy CD – and according to the picture they look like people from the pre-mp3 age – but the products are not there (I wanted to get all live dvd of pink floyd for example… big classic, but not available anymore).

  7. lifer

    Perhaps you could find a journalist to tell us how many customers were in the store that day cuz, if these pictures represent busy, HMV must be living overhead free.

  8. hippydog

    The downward spiral is not just the fault of piracy..
    a lot of hard work went into making people detest CD’s..
    First the big box chain stores moved in (a la the walmart mentality) that destroyed the ability for smaller record stores to compete..
    Then Amazon moved in. Stuff wasnt that much cheaper but made it up in convenience (I dont know about others but I hated having to drive 30 mins to HMV and then dealing with ‘clerks’ who had no clue about anything)
    It didnt help that many CD prices were $20 (in Canada) and contained mostly ‘fluff’ and if a ‘single’ of the song was available it cost $10 to $15..
    Compilation CD’s? in many cases were horrible.
    Then music became available online.. But no.. Labels couldnt take advantage, they had invested to much in the money cow of CD’s.. Lose that HUGE profit margin? not going to happen.. So they fought it.
    and consumers went around them..
    only thing that stoped everyone from jumping off the cliff is Apple came up with a product that EVERYONE wanted. and even then the labels were still fighting for the CD’s..
    so ya.. of course piracy helped kill the CD big box stores.. but the road to the cliff was well paved by idiots who didnt care that the consumer wasnt happy..


  9. Wake up
    Wake up

    The guy in the last photo is probably a musician that is buying his own CD. When you can listen online to every song you can imagine for free, why pay for outdated CDs? Recorded music is free. Almost everybody on our planet downloads and streams music for free. Artists can no longer make money from their recordings. Get over it as soon as possible, and try to find other ways to make a living (shows, T-shirts, etc etc).

    • You are the problem
      You are the problem

      If i’m to become a T-shirt salesman, why the hell would i even bother with the music? That doesn’t even make sense. As for touring, that is a loss as well. YOU ‘wake-up’ and support the art you enjoy, or you’ll find yourself hard pressed to find anything you enjoy in the future…


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