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Virtual logs out real music store Curtains for Park Street landmark

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  • Published 13.06.13

“Meet me at Music World.”

Those five words will soon be history as the landmark music-and-movies store on Park Street downs shutters next month after losing the battle to online downloads, streaming and piracy.

“Music World has for the last 16 years been India’s premier music and home video retail chain. However, in the last few years the onset of digitisation of music and shift in consumer preferences towards music and video downloads has rendered the business model unviable. We are therefore exiting this business,” said Sanjay Gupta, corporate head, marketing, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group.

The onslaught of digital downloads and streaming has hit the store where it hurts in the last couple of years. Even in 2008-09, the 3,800sq ft address was the best-performing outlet in the chain. In March 2011, Music World had 39 stores across India but one year later it was down to seven, all in Bengal.

By June 2013, the Park Street Music World was the last one standing.

“Retail is all about scale, which was missing here since we just have one store now. The medium of delivery of music has changed. There has been a shift to digital format from the physical CDs and DVDs,” added Sanjay Gupta.

Since Suchitra Mitra inaugurated the store on March 30, 2000, the Park Street address next to Flurys has played host to the likes of Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor and Preity Zinta, provided a CD-DVD platform for all major Tollywood films, and been the favoured meeting point on Park Street for friends and family.

Sources said all 18 employees working at the Park Street store will be absorbed in some other section of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. At the peak of their business, Music World had nearly 100 standalone stores and shop-in-shops called Unplugged. Last year, Music World Retail Ltd was merged with Spencer’s Retail Ltd. In 2011-12, Music World posted a loss of over Rs 25 crore.

The RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group is yet to take a call on whether to give up the rented Park Street property. There is a buzz that the group may open its all-day cafe chain Au Bon Pain there but Gupta said nothing had been formalised.

What has been formalised is the end of Music World.

“The compact disc technology is reaching the end of its cycle. The CD player and even the iPod are being replaced by multimedia terminals like the smartphone or the tablet while the hi-fi system is being replaced by docking stations that are affordable, less bulky and delivering acceptable sound,” said Achille Forler, the managing director of Universal Music Publishing.

More than the big labels, the Calcutta-based music companies will reel under the MW blow. “There has been a substantial slide in the sale of CDs in the past one year, and it has become worse in the past six months. If this trend prevails, music in the physical format will soon become obsolete,” said Mahua Lahiri, director of Asha Audio Company.

“Music World was one of the major outlets we depended on. We really don’t know what to do now,” she added.

Asha Audio Company earned around Rs 25 lakh from digital revenue last year.

Ask any music addict on the Net and for every mention of good ol’ Music World he or she will hurl back names like Soundcloud, MySpace and iTunes. “Music World shutting down is very sad but inevitable. It’s a logical step to the way music is evolving. Technology in music has gone through several heartbreaks and this is just one more,” said singer-composer Neel Adhikari.

At the ongoing Apple developers meet (WWDC) in San Francisco, iRadio is being discussed while at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles all eyes are on Xbox One, set to become the home’s music-cum-movies centrepiece. And if music streaming options like Deezer and Spotify launch in India, it’s doomsday downloads as well.

Already, the online download model is slipping in India. Flipkart closed its online download service Flyte about 10 days back. “We have realised that the music downloads business in India will not reach scale unless several problem areas such as music piracy and easy micro-payments are solved in great depth,” was the official word from Flipkart.

Musicians in Calcutta, for whom the Park Street Music World was more than just a music store, reacted straight from the heart. “I am sad,” said rockstar Rupam Islam. Singer-cum-composer Anupam Roy was “shattered” and percussionist Bickram Ghosh and guitarist Amyt Datta found the news “shocking”.

For the Rupams and Anupams and Bickrams and Amyts, the only hope is that Calcutta becomes London, fast. HMV's flagship store on Oxford Street, London, was on the verge of closing down in February but a deal with restructuring specialist Hilco has given it a fresh lease of life.

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