It’s the End of Music World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

Normally I stay away from puns and/or cultural references in headlines, but here the Great Big Sea reference (I know R.E.M. originally recorded the song, shut up) makes perfect sense. Music World has called it a day after new owners placed the company under bankruptcy protection. Music World was almost immediately put up on blocks after many years of losses ($9.2 million on sales of $80.6 million last year, according to the Globe and Mail.) Music World was the last Canadian-owned national music retailer.

“What does this have to do with Film School Rejects,” no one’s asking? Like many North American music retailers, Music World was hemorrhaging money and had diversified into areas like videos/DVDs in recent years in an effort to stop the bleeding. Reasons for Music World’s demise could have been predicted by anyone – the Internet, megalomarts, mail-order, generalist music stores like Tower Records going bankrupt, iTunes. Music World did a half-hearted job at trying to compete against lower prices, digital downloading and smaller overhead, and the market kicked its ass for that.

The moment I realized Music World – most music chains in general, really – were not long for this world was in the late 1990s. If I wanted to buy a DVD, anything was a better option than Music World. I frequent Giant Tiger, Liquidation World and other discount chains (even Zellers) to wade through the Monster Garage and Trading Spaces best-ofs in search of interesting finds. There’s no pretense in buying Three…Extremes or Punishment Park for $4.99 – the titles aren’t selling, fit into a niche market and/or are the end result of a company liquidating its inventory for some reason. Going through the crap to find something good is half the fun.

As for music, that’s where Music World priced itself right out of the market. Even considering Music World gets its titles through distributors, the prices remained the same for years – it isn’t rare to go into a store like that and be put off by prices of $15-$30 for non-sale items. HMV at least saw the writing on the wall, diversifying into the video game sector and lowering its prices to stay competitive. Pawn shops and used CD stores are better options as far as price goes since they don’t pretend to be more than they are. Local independent music stores have an ambience and personality chains like Music World can’t ever match, and there’s the appeal of mail-order and the Internet. Even Future Shop has better deals.

I’m amazed Music World held out for thirty-seven years. Some news outlets are inferring that Music World’s closure (at the very least, downsizing) signals the end of the generalist music retailer in Canada. I do feel sorry for the employees affected by the closure of Music World, but music chains in general died for me the day I became a bargain hunter.

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