I was sad to read today that FOPP, the high street music chain for geeky types, has called in the administrators.
Like King Arthur in his final battle, FOPP mounted an admirable but ultimately unsuccessful last stand against the relentless invasion of mp3s, peer-to-peer file sharing, iTunes, mp3 blogs and digital music in general.
While HMV and Virgin have tried to keep people coming to their physical stores by focusing on the customer experience, FOPP focused on its stock. Its decision to stock more obscure, more indie-ish albums, art-house DVDs and intellectual books carved it a niche as the high street music store for more cerebral, older customers.
Its policy of selling back catalogues of indie, hip-hop, dance and electronica artistes for a fiver each seemed like a stroke of genius - I can't be the only one who eagerly bought back all the albums I loved in my teens and early 20s but had subsequently lost.
As recently as May 15 this year, the Financial Times [subscription required] ran a profile of FOPP, lauding its strategy of marketing to discerning (and, apparently, male) thirtysomethings.
But you don't have to have read The Long Tail to know that FOPP was fighting a losing battle. Recorded music is just data, and data is incomparably easier and cheaper to distribute and buy over the internet. iTunes and its ilk don't need to pay for premises, shelf space or counter staff, and they can stock as many titles as they like. Even Amazon, which still sells physical CDs, can afford to stock many more titles in its warehouse than FOPP could ever afford to do in its stores.
They say no medium kills the one before it, but that's wishful thinking as far as music retailing is concerned. Today's Times also notes that HMV has reported a 73% decline in profits, and it can't be long before it and Virgin Megastore are both consigned to high street history.
For people like me who grew up thinking of record shops almost as pilgrimage destinations, it's a sad day indeed.
tags: fopp | hmv