Musicís voice

For years, the iconic image of a dog listening intently to a gramophone symbolised music itself. But in truth, His Master's Voice ó originally the name of the painting on which the trademark was based ó had been fading for a long time. The slow decline of HMV in India, its native United Kingdom, and across the world, has not quite been a surprise. Time and new technologies have wrought too many changes for that. Still, the news that the HMV group has gone into administration or, in other words, declared bankruptcy, would have saddened music lovers across the country and outside, for whom the HMV label meant quality, and difficult-to-find recordings of artists as varied as Ella Fitzgerald, Morrissey and Ustad Vilayat Khan.

In reality, the HMV brand had ceased to be a proper record label decades ago, when parent company EMI stopped releasing new music under that name. In 1998, the trademark was formally transferred to form a separate company that continues to exist, for a little longer, as a high street retail chain, one that occupies a special place on the British landscape. In India, since 1985, the HMV brand has been kept alive by the RPG group, under licence from EMI, partly because it enjoys immense brand recognition and loyalty in the country.

The demise of HMV, then, is another chapter in the story of how the internet has transformed businesses. HMV is merely the latest to fall victim to online retail, after having failed to update its business model to cope with the fast-changing demands of a new market. It isn't the first brick-and-mortar store to be done in by the internet ó see Woolworths, for example ó and, in all probability, it won't be the last.

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