By Hans Ebert

Yesterday, popular record store HMV announced that it’s closing its doors in Hong Kong after being here for over 25 years.

A girl working behind the bar of a hotel lounge mentioned the news. In her late Twenties and early Thirties, she was talking about how her only store in Hong Kong to purchase music as a physical product- the CD- had gone. How streaming music and creating a Spotify Playlist was not for her. How there was just something “not real” about “this music”.

That was interesting to hear. The term “this music”.

Though still very much real music, at least to her- and very possibly many more- simply streaming more and more music reduces music to something watered down. Music is somehow robbed of its emotional quotient. There’s no need to make it a collectible. Make it part of your record collection.

Remember having and adding to your record collection? The bragging rights involved in finding a real collector’s item?

Hong Kong used to have a hole in the wall called Rock Gallery. Maybe it’s still there. It’s where us collectors went whenever they’d call to say they had some new bootlegs in- always, the Beatles, their solo recordings including the rarest of demos on a label called Yellow Dog. Working with EMI Music at the time that supposedly owned the Beatles catalogue, it made no sense. Still, the tail of the Yellow Dog wagged the corporate tale.

There were never released recordings by Queen, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Dylan, Kinks- and each for HK$180. I’d leave with at least HK$4,000 worth of CDs. Still have them. Never play them. But own them. Might even be the only person who does.

There are the books. Merchandise. Autographs. Photographs. It was about being a music fan. Still is. The problem is the difficulty in being able to share all this good stuff with like-minded people. There are so few. Seeing how to work together to have all this great music heard again. Appreciated. And to inspire a new generation enough to realise just how much music out there is simply not good enough.

Sure, that’s a pretty subjective thing to say because music that touches you is something very personal. But surely this has to do with how much music you’ve heard? Music appreciation is a hobby that consumes you in one of the most pure ways. It’s a life’s work.

Thank Gawd, there’s YouTube. There exists so many different musical journeys there. But you need to know what trains to take. Which carriages to enter. It’s like love. Unless being hit with real love with great immediacy, it’s about the pot luck of online dating. More love me, Tinder. More confusion. More journeys going nowhere.

Where do these lead? Perhaps, companionship. For a short time. But never to a love match with a song like “Moon River” or Boz Scaggs’ “We’re All Alone”.

There are so many professional musicians. Extremely good singers, guitarists etc. But having to be professional and make a living, their musical knowledge is often batting zero. There’s no originality. Just continue to copy and copy and copy for gigs to pay the rent or try and produce something believing it to be “original” because “this is what kids are listening to today”.

What did Dylan say? Don’t follow leaders and watch your parking meters. Add, Don’t Follow Trends. Do and you’re just another copycat in the wall.

Sadly, thinking like this comes from oldsters trying to stay in the game. Most have never been in the game. Most have zero A&R skills. Where are the hits?

They’re usually found hustling with virtual offices which they dearly want people to believe are real- who cares?- or on that weird place called “social media” where anyone can be whoever they want and create their own bios and profiles.

They’ve been everywhere and nowhere. Google image has taken so many to so many places. Been to Bora Bora? Sure. Look at the view from my resort suite. Ever met Hendrix? Sure. Played with him. Photoshop has helped so many. Just check out Instagram.

There are the Wikipedia Wisdom people. A waste of time. They bring nothing to the table. Only bunkum. And, more and more, these opportunists show up selling a pocketful of mumbles that are tried to pass off as promises.

By now, however, some are seeing right through their schemes. These are online and offline scammers. And they’re in every business.

The online world has provided them with that passport to travel with no license needed for verification.

The online genie probably cannot be captured and put back in the bottle. But when it comes to music and becoming mentors and inspiring those not so desperate as to just accept anything and everything in case something sticks, there remain some invaluable tangibles.

To make these happen, however, it means being a Nike slogan.

More than anything, it means being extremely careful who’s allowed in. Nothing to bring to the table except grabbing another free ride on the gravy train? Uh uh. Try the next window. This one’s closed for business. There’s business to be done. And not just for those who speak and write in English. Music is universal. It speaks to us in many languages. Just listen to music pioneers like Kyu Sakamoto and Freddie Aguilar. And those who had the vision to believe in their songs. The songs. It’s always the songs.

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