Before Napster and a plethora of file-sharing programs, along with some tech product called the iPod, forever changed the way we consume music, the music industry was almost an impenetrable and unstoppable money-making force. To get the albums you want, you'd have to leave the house and make a trip to the nearest music store. There was Gramophone, Tower Records, Sembawang Music Store, CD Rama (which is still around, by the way) and of course, HMV.
Even if there was that one annoyingly catchy single you kept hearing on radio, you could either get a CD single or you'd be forced to buy the whole album just for that one song. Of course, there were ways people pirated music pre-Internet. It was just more of a hassle then.
God knows how many Chumbawamba albums there are in Cash Converters because of this song.
Yes, it was a great time for label owners and brick-and-mortar stores who could change your decision to buy an album with just a sticker — whether it was printed with "IMPORTED" in a big bold font or, with a little hope, "30% off".
Buying music in physical formats is part of a music-loving culture that hopefully won't ever die and looking at the following video, we can only hope that stores this big may just return — although that would be more of a pipe dream than anything.
This video was taken all the way back in 1998 and it presents a wholly different picture from what we have now, even if it's one that a lot of us can still remember: a flourishing establishment crowded with people browsing through countless rows of CDs — whether if it were fangirls snatching every last Backstreet Boys album, curious students sampling all the new arrivals or middle-aged adults patiently probing through the jazz section.
Take note how the background music changes frequently as the unnamed chronicler, who only goes by the YouTube username of sirpatrickspens, journeys his way through the different sections of each level. You could also find a huge variety of movies on VHS and Laserdisc, previous issues of Smash Hits, extensive boxsets. There were even in-house DJs, as seen briefly at 2:56 in the video. Many hours were happily spent (not wasted) just poring through the massive rock/pop sections.
HMV at The Heeren enjoyed years of success as a premier music store, competing against similar businesses like Tower Records, which also boasted an impressive amount of space in its outlets at Pacific Plaza and Suntec City. Sadly, it folded in 2006, along with Gramophone, Sembawang Music and most of HMV's outlets. Its flagship store in The Heeren closed in 2009.
While we may now not enjoy the vast spaces that shops like HMV or Tower Records afforded at that time, we still have a handful of thriving record shops that deserve our patronage, whenever we have the time and money to spare. Support your local record shops!
Check out our guide to record shops in Singapore to get your vinyl and CD fix. HMV currently remains in business at Marina Square.