Will a ‘Ban’ on Long Hair, Tattoos and Piercings Help the Ailing Music Retailer HMV?

Picture: "Amanda's Tattoos", Bridget from Seattle (CC)

“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde

It seems UK music store HMV has gotten itself into a bit of bother with a controversial new dress policy that has restrictions on long hair and tattoos. Its core demographic of long-haired tattoo-wearing teenagers have inevitably been annoyed.

The story was first reported in The Sun newspaper:

HMV warns anyone ignoring the policy will be disciplined. Until recently the chain owned some of Britain’s best known rock venues such as London’s Hammersmith Apollo. Many top stars — like tattooed Ed Sheeran and Professor Green, and long-haired Jack White of The White Stripes — would be ruled out of an HMV job because of their appearance.

One worker said: “We’ve got new management. It’s ridiculous and discrimination.” HMV insisted it wanted staff to express their personalities but had to balance this with customer expectations.

Today HMV have claimed the stories about them have been ‘somewhat sensationalised’ and have issued an extensive, unusual response to the controversey. In short it appears that they are not about to admit a mistake or revise the offensive policy:

Kerrang Radio reports:

In a lengthy response to the widespread backlash, the company claims that the media reports were “misleading” and that they have “absolutely no issues with more discreet tattoos and piercings.”It did, however, repeat its controversial demands that “extensive body art” must be covered up – something that’s still likely to enrage many.

They also apologised to those who “remain disappointed with our approach” but maintained “an engaging environment in which colleagues will be happy to work and customers may be happy to visit” is their top priority.

[My emphasis The entire rambling statement is reprinted on the Kerrang Radio website here.]

It is possible that the marketing department are currently congratulating themselves on all the ‘free publicity’. The famous Oscar Wilde quote probably isn’t far from their minds. It’s ironic that poor old Oscar’s suggestion that ‘all publicity was good’ came rather undone for him. In fact you could argue that negative publicity did in fact ultimately kill him when, partly as a result of gossip surrounding his ‘outrageous’ lifestyle, he was jailed for being a homosexual. After this he was forced to leave the UK, as a result of the bad publicity surrounding his name. Three years later it was during this shameful exile that he died an untimely and incredibly tragic death.

Nick Margerrison.

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  • alizardx

    Anyone who owns stock in that retailer should unload now, even if you have to take a paper loss, better to sell while you can still get something for it. Anyone who works there, get serious about looking for a new job.

    “Until recently the chain owned some of Britain’s best known rock venues such as London’s Hammersmith Apollo.” Music companies unload assets like that driven by short-term profit priorities (bad management) or because really bad management screwed the pooch and it was do that or go under immediately.

    When a lifestyle products retail chain goes out of its way to tell its customers “We are NOT like you, WE have corporate values which are superior to yours!”… we’re into Steve Jobs level hubris minus a reality distortion field.

  • InfvoCuernos

    Contrary to what that douche bag with the laser will try to tell you, tattoos are here to stay. It amazes me that all these businesses that are going the way of the dinosaur always try to knock tattoos. Then again, the music industry has always been out of touch with reality.

  • Hadrian999

    the only brick and mortar music stores i see any more cater to small niches and counter culture, seems like this would hurt with that demographic

    • alizardx

      The ones run by smart and lucky people in the right places that also sell on the Net will probably be the only ones anybody sees a few years from now.l The needs of the mass market people who can’t tell the difference between 128K MP3 quailty and CD/high-bandwidth MP3 will be satisfied by iTunes and Amazon and mass-market streaming services and CD racks at big boxes.

    • UnAmericanIdol

      Are you kidding POP rules the world in sales and trust me i hate POP. People listen to crap these days and let American Idol tell them what is good.

  • 1plakat

    Stores like this are still around? To me if a band is on a major label and they are not academically acclaimed master musicians who play conservative cemented styles like jazz there is no way they are getting my money. Inept vampires don’t deserve to be on a MAJOR label because they happen to trip on some trendy easy to play sound. If indie bands are using corporate retailers to move their product, they are doing it wrong. If I were these guys I would turn into a clothing retailer that gave free music recordings with purchases in the form of CDs, downloads, or local usb stick transfers right at the store, instead of trying to sell impossibly hard to protect intellectual property that is not even in a lossless format like flac which gives all the information from the recordings and not something compressed. Music is a marketing tool in industry in these here modern times and if not used in industry, its just a art form and will stay that way, as it should be from the looks of it. Musicians need to learn how to invest their money from shows in they want to make money while being idle, record sales are a thing of the past but art is about creativity, so its time to kill the dinosaurs and to move on to being birds who are free.

    • alizardx

      Explain that to Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) who just signed up with a major label after several years of DIY marketing, Though hopefully, he got terms that will ensure that the label will lose money that’ll go straight into his bank account. Musicians will do what they perceive as best for them. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for everybody and the digital music scene is going to stay in flux for the next few years.

      Not to say that your solution for companies that are in music retail is necessarily a bad one. Perhaps Hot Topics needs competition. Or perhaps Hot Topics should start offering free indie music downloads via wireless LAN downloads to smartphones.

      • Guest

        Trent is washed up as hell and Nine Inch Nails has cult following they do not need much marketing, the money is for better production which is at the core of his music the suits are gambling on hits or planning to make some cash from stable projected earnings of his previous work, making money out of contracts in small amounts is all they can do now and it is something for nothing (old money) so there is no loss to them only win. From what I know it takes a while to know whats best and most people make mistakes out of hubris. I’m not saying that its a solution, I am saying that its going to come to this. Technology has changed everything and courts cant go around arresting everyone. I am an aspiring musician, I’ve come to terms with how the industry is going to change and I am fine with it, it just means i’ll have to do extra work between performing and practice as an audio engineer helping other bands who have not gained technical know how record demos for the right price, so they can get a following by distributing their sound, not to make money off the recording themselves, unless those recording attract donations, which if they are good enough from my experience they attract tons of supporters but with charm instead of placing them under the iron fist. Just my point of view, either way ill be rocking till I’m 6 feet under. Coming to terms with reality is the mark of a self actualized individual and most big timers while successful in their business due to various factors have not reached such a high level in human development, by far and this development also includes impeccable morals.

        • 1plakat

          ^I like the way this guy thinks

      • 1plakat

        Trent is washed up as hell and Nine Inch Nails has cult following they do not need much marketing, the money is for better production which is at the core of his music the suits are gambling on hits or planning to make some cash from stable projected earnings of his previous work, making money out of contracts in small amounts is all they can do now and it is something for nothing (old money) so there is no loss to them only win. From what I know it takes a while to know whats best and most people make mistakes out of hubris. I’m not saying that its a solution, I am saying that its going to come to this. Technology has changed everything and courts cant go around arresting everyone. I am an aspiring musician, I’ve come to terms with how the industry is going to change and I am fine with it, it just means i’ll have to do extra work between performing and practice as an audio engineer helping other bands who have not gained technical know how record demos for the right price, so they can get a following by distributing their sound, not to make money off the recording themselves, unless those recording attract donations, which if they are good enough from my experience they attract tons of supporters but with charm instead of placing them under the iron fist. Just my point of view, either way ill be rocking till I’m 6 feet under. Coming to terms with reality is the mark of a self actualized individual and most big timers while successful in their business due to various factors have not reached such a high level in human development, by far and this development also includes impeccable morals. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/60/Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg/450px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg.png

        • alizardx

          The creative people who can find their audiences via the Net and through touring, the people who add value to their work will do well in the future of music. The parasites will die off. Self-actualization is extraneous in this context. “Sanity is overrated”. However, dealing ethically in this context will be necessary because in this wired/wireless world, the bad actors will get outed and nobody will be willing to deal with them because the major labels they’re connected to got broken up for spare parts, mainly for the value of their catalogues.

          I don’t think we have any substantial areas of difference about the shape of music to come.

          • 1plakat

            I agree with your view on how things are going to shape up, I just get outraged by all the scum bags, I wish I didn’t have such a strong reaction on this topic. I think self actualization is relevant in all aspects of human life, especially music, but we can agree to disagree, from what I find one aspect is at the core of the problem with another aspect of life, in this case business. If sanity is overrated than my whole life has no meaning, because I strive to stay humble, serene, gentle, “inner peace” its not easy but its a constant goal that adds meaning to an average life as mine. All the best.

      • Chris

        Some Hot Topic stores already do. The one by my house does at least, and they had a music download service called Shockhound which failed. They also recently got rid of CD’s at the one near me too. Only thing I see they sell now is vinyl.

        • 1plakat

          vinyl is collectible. I dig.

  • Marklar_Prime

    Music retailer desperate to go out of business,….

  • BuzzCoastin

    there are still brick & mortar music stores around!!!!!!!
    now that’s news

  • Guest

    It’s quite ironic that they promote artistic people, some with numerous tattoos, so they can sell their music and make money. They market and hype commercial artists like green day to the point of idolization…so they can sell their music. Yet, they’re unwilling to have people who may look a little like the artists they so enthusiastically promote to work in their own store? Really? This isn’t a solicitors, or a bank…its a music store. If I walked into a bank, and the financial advisor looked like Kerry King, I might think to myself “this may not be the right guy to provide me with sound mortgage advice”. When you go into a music store however, who gives a shit what the staff look like? So long as they’re clean, polite and preferably somewhat knowledgeable about music, it’s all good. You expect to see staff who might dress a little different, maybe even like the artists HMV so heavily promote? What they’re saying is, “It’s okay for the artist/commodity to dress like that – it’s part of the product, it make its more ‘authentic’ to the kids/consumers – but we’re a respectable establishment and we want to be able to sell the product to as many different consumer demographics as possible, some who may not like the look of tattoos on the shop clerk that serves them, only on the artists they listen to. It’s ridiculous, and a hilarious PR blunder that will push this dinosaur of the music industry further into the abyss of irrelevance.

    • Matt Staggs

      Agree completely. I worked at a music store in the nineties. The guy who ran it went batshit if your hair went past your collar, and wouldn’t hire anyone with tattoos or piercings. One guy I knew shaved his head (he was balding) and even that was a rules infraction because it was considered a “radical hairstyle”. Then there was the stringent dress policy (nice tie and shirt on Sunday, gotta dress well for the churchies, you know…), but that was deferred whenever some dumb-ass movie came out and management wanted to use us as walking billboards. I became conveniently ill on those occasions. Minimum wage wasn’t enough for me to sell my torso to the likes of “Phat Beach”.

  • Guest

    It’s quite ironic that they promote artistic people, some with numerous tattoos, so they can sell their music and make money. They market and hype commercial artists like green day to the point of idolization…so they can sell their music. Yet, they’re unwilling to have people who may look a little like the artists they so enthusiastically promote to work in their own store? Really? This isn’t a solicitors, or a bank…its a music store. If I walked into a bank, and the financial advisor looked like Kerry King, I might think to myself “this may not be the right guy to provide me with sound mortgage advice”. When you go into a music store however…. so long as they’re clean, polite and preferably somewhat knowledgeable about music, it’s all good. You expect to see staff who might dress a little different, maybe even like the artists HMV so heavily promote? What they’re saying is, “It’s okay for the artist/commodity to dress like that – it’s part of the product, it make its more ‘authentic’ to the consumers – but we’re a respectable establishment, we have values, and we want to be able to sell our product to as many different consumer demographics as possible, some who may not like the look of tattoos on the shop clerk that serves them, only on the artists their kids listen to. It’s ridiculous, and a hilarious PR blunder that will push this dinosaur of the music industry further into the abyss of irrelevance.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.fischer.73 Eric Fischer

      I don’t know. If I saw a financial adviser that looked like Kerry King, I’d think he must REALLY be good at his job to get away with looking like that in a corporate environment.

  • Simiantongue

    Long haired freaky people need not apply.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeT5otk2R1g

  • Ape

    Well, it wouldn’t surprise me if HMV went under in the near future. Just about every other music chain has died in recent years. So it’s kind of a moot point. Thye have only themselves to blame – high prices (even pre-Amazon domination), never have what you want, terrible (and overly loud) instore music…..fuck ‘em.

  • ill

    Now that there’s an economic crisis, why employee people with signs of individualism who will
    probably be idiosyncratic and not ideal employees when there is a pool of short-haired, ever-clean, shirt wearing goody-two-shoes never-questioning sheeple unemployed and available to work?

    It’s funny to think that these cattle-people are not even going to get a premium job for their life long compliance.

  • Jin The Ninja

    as someone whom is (now) heavily tattooed, i distinctly recall (pre-tattoos) going into HMV in the late 90s early naughts and seeing almost 100% heroin-thin, black long-haired, heavily inked people working there. this policy is ridiculous and regressive. i’ve often said the world is becoming more conservative, and i think as austerity and economic crisis rolls onward, we will see an increasing shift to conformity and the right.