HMV signs first artist to new label


Music retailer HMV is moving from selling records to, once again, releasing them following the signing of British artist India Arkin to its 1921 Records imprint.

Arkin, from Newcastle in the North East of England, is the first artist to be signed by the retail giant to its new vinyl-only label. The release of his album will coincide with national scrapbook day which takes place on October 15.

Arkin has released five singles so far, her first release of 2021. She is relatively unknown, with her tracks streaming in the thousands on Spotify where she has just 178 monthly listeners.

HMV will be looking to see if its brand can significantly raise its profile. She will also be keen to demonstrate that she supports real grassroots artists.

It’s actually an extension of its “live and local initiative” launched three years ago. “In 2019, HMV opened its doors to unsigned artists, inviting them to perform at their local HMV, with the option of having their CDs and vinyl stocked in store as well,” says the company on its website.

HMV plans to sign a handful of acts — the company suggests two or three a year — for record releases through 1921 Records. This comes after British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s creation of his own compilation label in 2017.

“HMV has not been associated with new releases since the early 1990s, when the brand was used on a handful of recordings by former Smiths frontman Morrissey”, Remarks The Guardian.

The HMV label (for His Master’s Voice and dating from 1901), in fact predates the first HMV store in London, which opened in 1921. In the 1960s, the HMV label focused on classics, but in the 1980s it was replaced by EMI Classics, the classical branch of its then-owner EMI.

HMV owner Doug Putman said of the new initiative: “Streaming algorithms mean it’s hard for new artists to have their voices heard, so we’re giving them the opportunity to get their albums in our stores, where music fans can experience them for themselves. ”

The company has been through turbulent times since the early 2000s, when global record sales began to decline as digital began to shake up a business that had previously been built around the physical product.

As part of its expansion and diversification plan in the face of declining record sales, HMV acquired MAMA Groupwhich owned UK music venues and had an artist management arm, in 2009. This was a relatively short-lived deal as it sold MAMA Group in 2012.

With business conditions gradually deteriorating over the following years, HMV collapsed in administration in 2018 (this is the second time in six years).

A lifeline came in 2019 when Putman’s Sunrise Records acquired it and was looking to revive his fortune.

On its centenary in 2021, HMV was looking to lock in its rebirth with the opening of new stores United Kingdom. The shift to disc publishing can be read as an extension of that.

Vinyl is a growing part of the recording industry, but it remains relatively niche in terms of overall revenue compared to streaming. Trade body of British record labels BPI reports that in 2021, the record industry revenue in the UK was £1.26 billion. Of that, £837.2m ($913m) came from streaming (audio subscription, video streaming and ad-supported). Vinyl generated £115.9m ($126m), or around 9% of the business.

HMV managed to outlast high street competitors like Woolworths, Our Price and Virgin Megastore, but did not benefit from the spotlight that Record Store Day shines more and more on independent retailers.

Releasing records through its own label will not in itself guarantee HMV’s future, but is part of a slow repositioning of the company.


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