The album by Newcastle singer-songwriter India Arkin will be released by 1921 Records in October
HMV has signed its first artist in more than 20 years as the retail chain announced the launch of a new record label that will be on sale exclusively in its high street and online stores.
The retailer, which was rescued from administration by the Canadian entrepreneur Doug Putman in 2019, is set to release the first disc under its new 1921 Records vinyl-only label on National Album Day next month.
The first signing is India Arkin, a singer-songwriter from Newcastle, and Putman said the label expected in future to sign two or three artists a year linked to its “live and local” events, which have hosted internationally known performers such as Charli XCX and Yungblud.
“For the most part it will be unknowns, although we will never be turning down Ed [Sheeran],” he said.
“Streaming algorithms mean it’s hard for new artists to get their voices heard, so we’re giving them the chance to get their albums in our stores, where music fans can discover them for themselves.”
HMV has not been associated with new releases since the early 1990s, when the brand was used on a handful of recordings by the former Smiths frontman, Morrissey.
In 1967 the HMV label was converted into one exclusively dedicated to classical music and continued into the 1980s. Its owner EMI abandoned the HMV record label in favour of “EMI Classics” and the label was split off from the retail group in 1998. Industry insiders said HMV had not signed its own artists since at least that time, although it has sold exclusive pressings by other labels.
Putman said live music and exclusive releases were an important part of the revival of HMV, which this year turned a small profit and opened nine new stores. The chain currently has 115 outlets and expects that to rise to almost 120 by year-end, with potentially more than 130 in time.
He said he was also “actively looking” for further business acquisitions in the UK after snapping up the Canadian arm of Toys R Us last year and launching the toy distribution firm DKB in the UK.
Putman, who is visiting the UK this week for the first time since before the Covid-19 pandemic, said: “Part of this trip is meeting with different people and seeing what’s out there. We would love to do more in the UK.”Advertisement
He said the group believed it could “add a lot of value” to retail businesses but was unlikely to move into completely new territories such as fashion. “It has got to be something we are passionate about,” he said.
Putman said he did not regret buying HMV, despite some tough times during the pandemic when the stores closed for several months. “I’m still thrilled to own it. It is a fantastic brand and I genuinely love what HMV does.”
He said sales of vinyl continued to rise by more than 10% a year at the chain, while pop-culture merchandise was also doing well.
He added that HMV was part of the UK high street, which was “something special”.
Putman called on the government to give retail businesses more support by addressing issues with business rates, which lead to higher taxes for those with store chains than online specialists, saying there had been “enough talking and we need a solution”.