Shielded by vinyl: Halifax independent music stores not worried about HMV shutdown

With 102 HMV stores about to close across Canada, some independent music stores in Halifax say they won't be making significant changes to the product they carry.

'They sell very different products. Our focus is very heavy on vinyl,' says owner of Taz Records

The latest report from Boarder City Media, a company that tracks music sales in Canada, shows vinyl sales grew by more than 50 per cent from 2015 to 2016. (m./Flickr)

It's the same old song for Jimmy Donnelly. The owner of Taz Records in downtown Halifax has lived through the loss of an HMV store before.

Just a few years ago, one shut down just a few blocks away on Spring Garden Road. With its final 102 stores in Canada set to close by the end of April, Donnelly said he's not expecting big changes in his store.

"They sell very different products. Our focus is very heavy on vinyl. We still do a lot of business in CDs as well, but not necessarily the type of things you'll find at HMV," he said.

Donnelly has expanded his business in recent years, opening two new locations in Bedford and Dartmouth, but says his recent success has more to do with the growing popularity of vinyl records than the diminishing competition of HMV.

The latest report from Boarder City Media, a company that tracks music sales in Canada, shows vinyl sales grew by more than 50 per cent from 2015 to 2016. Vinyl and streaming audio are now the only two growing segments of the music sales business.

Jimmy Donnelly, the owner of Taz Records in Halifax, has opened two new stores over the past few years. (Blair Sanderson/CBC)

The owner of Halifax's Obsolete Records agrees that HMV's departure won't mean much for his business. Ian Fraser says occasionally HMV staff would direct customers to his store if they didn't have what they were looking for, but he figures those shoppers will find him just as easily when HMV is gone.

Over the years, HMV started selling more music and movie-related merchandise. Fraser says he's not planning on filling that void. 

"I would never start ordering more things in the store just to get that market. What I have is what I have. It works well and I don't want to alienate people," he said.

Have we seen this movie before?

Fraser says he's confident independent record stores won't go the same way as movie rental stores have. When Blockbuster video closed in Canada, it gave consumers one less reason to own DVD players and some believe that hastened the demise of video rental stores.

However, Fraser says the business models have subtle but important differences.

"I don't think there's a nostalgia for a DVD that there is for a record. If you did grow up with it, it was VHS and even that was not a great format," he said.

Ian Fraser, owner of Obsolete Records, says he doesn't expect a boost in business when HMV closes. (Blair Sanderson/CBC)

Donnelly at Taz Records agrees, the appetite for vinyl shows no signs of slowing down. He estimates about 70 per cent of his sales are records, not CDs.

He points to the number of artists filling his shelves with reissued vinyl copies of their albums, singling out records by Sloan, Hootie and the Blowfish and Tupac Shakur.

"What a time to be alive when you can see three different classics all together," said Donnelly.