HMV plan to join the digital music market with a new app and redesigned website

Six months after being rescued from administration, high-street chain HMV is going on the attack in the digital music landscape with a new iOS and Android app.

The big reason HMV failed in the first place was that it was too slow to capitalise on its brand-power in the online space, allowing the likes of Amazon, iTunes and Spotify to usurp its position as the ‘go-to’ place for media. Now the brand is looking to fight back with an app that lets users instantly download tracks using sound and image recognition software.

To take on established apps like Shazam and Soundhound as the first step in a digital strategy is smart from HMV, as their brand has much better reach – but ultimately how successful the app is will depend on just how simple it is to use and how competitively priced the downloads are.

As well as working on the app, HMV will launch a new ecommerce website next week which will have mobile traffic at the heart of its design. Speaking to the BBC about the new digital strategy, HMV’s head of Digital James Coughlan said:

We want to create a two-way channel for the youth so they can actually see what going into an HMV store can give them, but also relate to what they know well – the digital world. If you do redeem something digitally you can then redeem something which you can only get exclusively in an HMV store.

How’s that for patronising? Who are ‘the youth’ exactly!?

Similar to the BBC’s recently announced Playlister app, HMV’s plans smack of a big brand desperately trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of a digital strategy because they’ve been left behind by more nimble, creative and forward-thinking companies. HMV’s chairman Paul McGowan admitted as much in a recent NME blog post, saying:

HMV got left behind in the digital revolution and didn’t have a digital presence for too long. We need to quickly get HMV up to speed, and will be announcing a relaunch of our digital side within the next month, so that people can buy from us in the way they want.

The problem I see with HMV and the BBC’s new ‘digital strategies’ is that they’re too concerned with providing a service that consumers want. Focus groups can only get you so far, after all. Consumers didn’t know they wanted iPods and iTunes and then streaming services like Spotify until they were laid on a plate for them. What the likes of HMV should be doing is creating new digital markets by leveraging their brand power towards new, exciting and creative services that redefine consumers’ relationship with buying music online – not just basic rip-offs with their name on it.

That’s just my opinion though. What do you think? Is HMV on the right track or should they be looking to do something a bit more interesting? Join the discussion in the comments below…

Post Author: Luke Glassford

All-Noise was founded in 2010 with just one simple aim – to highlight and celebrate ‘proper music’, made by real people with real musical inspirations.