Slipped disc: UK dealer goes phut

We hear that the major online UK record retailer MDT has called in receivers.

Its website was taken down last week. The phones are not being answered. In the absence of any form of communication, it has been impossible to obtain confirmation of the shutdown, but two industry sources tell us that administrators have been summoned.

Soon, Amazon will be all that’s left.

 

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  • This is very sad. I bought some wonderful discs through MDT over the years. I hope the other online retailers can survive.

  • Their competition was not Amazon, but streaming services and, to a lesser extent, downloads. I used to be a regular MDT customer, but this dropped off considerably when Spotify came on the scene. With access to a vast library of high quality music for the price of one CD per month, physical media sales will be badly hit.

    Music is, after all software, not hardware. The physical medium (CD, LP, magnitic tape, wax cylinder, etc.) holding recorded music is only an inconvenient necessary, which is no longer necwssary.

    I am personally sorry for the staff at MDT, having found them helpful and knowledgeable. However it is not usually possible to swim against the tide indefinitely. The move from hardware to software has already taken down giants like Kodak.

    • What Chris said!! Most people just want to hear the piece and aren’t that picky about performers. Spotify, Pandora, and even YouTube get that done. Why spend a bunch of money and clutter your house up with physical media? If you must *own* something or are a audiophile, there are hi-rez downloads. You just need a lotta harddrive space for those.

      Yes, there are some of us who are acquisitive old dinosaurs who must own a physical copy of a specific recording, and we’re not gonna change. But there aren’t enough of us to keep b&m record stores in business. (Besides, ALL the “software” I’ve bought since Y2K has been from online sources.)

      Record Store Nostalgia. Myeh, not so much. The records stores weren’t all the good where I grew up. Small, skimpy Classical sections with only recent, mainstream releases by artists with the label PR machine behind them. Minimal back catalog. Jamming rock music over the store stereo system. Even before the Internet, I was getting most of my records mail order.

      • The interesting thing is that CD sales are falling since streaming sites are winning customers. But the evidence shows the effect is very different for each musical genre. Classical CD sales actually increased last year. And over the last several years, classical sales have stood up pretty well and this seems to be a long-term trend.

  • This is terrible news. So it just leaves Presto Classical, and the ghastly tax cheats. Fortunately Presto are pretty good. (I’d never use the other mob.)

    • There’s also Europadisc, based in the same part of the UK as MDT. They’re well established and I’ve always found them reliable and price competitive. However, they and Presto and a handful of others represent the last of the UK independent classical retailers.

      • You have actual brick-and-mortar store classical retailers? Or do you mean online sellers who specialize in classical? You may still be better off than us ‘Mericans.

        Years ago in Chicago we had Rose Records, with their pokey old store on Wabash Avenue, next to the El tracks, that devoted the WHOLE third floor to Classical. Thought I’d gone to heaven the first time I came up the escalator and saw all the musical goodness.

      • Thank you for mentioning Europadisc. I must admit that I had never heard of them (my bad, as our American friends would say). However I looked at their web site and almost immediately found a new recording of Liszt of his unfinished opera ‘Sardanapalo’ (S687), performed by Kirill Karabits and the Staatskapelle Weimar. Magic! As a lifelong Lisztian, I have already ordered it. So many thanks again.

        • I bought it too. Did you like it? I did but exactly how much is Liszt was hard for me to determine. Interesting for all that.

  • I was wondering why the website hasn’t been accessible the past couple of days. This is awful news and, as a long-term (and very good) customer of theirs, hard to believe – can they really have been in financial distress? They revamped their website last year which I found less helpful than what they previously had. Maybe that turned customers away, but the revamping itself suggested a business in good health (to me at least, anyway).

    • I agree about the revamping; and also that it’s very bad news. In particular I liked the quality of their packaging and the fact that they used Royal Mail, so that if you were out for a delivery it was straightforward to arrange redelivery.

    • I agree with this. I found the new web-site less helpful than the old and as I result I think my purchases have reduced. I think a large fraction of my collection was obtained from MDT over the last 20 years.

  • A pity. MDT started with a rather lovely shop over 30 years ago with a knowledgable and very friendly staff. It managed well for quite some time and then tackled the online market with some considerable success. It was one of the last independent survivors (I worked for a time at Audiosonic in Gloucester, another grand little store which folded some years ago). Are we nearly at the point of last shop standing? Sorry to see them go, they tried hard.

  • I miss brick-and-mortar record stores like Specs in Miami or Tower Records in New York City. I would run into some wonderful people there and learn a lot from other shoppers I’d meet. In the relentless pursuit to shave a few nickles off the purchase price, we’ve lost those sacred spaces where kindred spirits can meet and enjoy the thrill of great music and each other’s good company. Technology, despite its virtues, can separate us and isolate us.

    • Totally agree. I didn’t go to NYC very often but did love Tower Records especially the one near the Lincoln Center. There are still record shops in Germany, especially the ones in Berlin and Munich, and France has fnac which is a sort cultural supermarket and seems busy: hope it survives.

  • This is indeed very sad news. I have bought from them for many years, and most recently within the past couple of weeks . I would agree with some of the other comments that I found their recent website revamp less easy to navigate, but it is a real shame if they have gone to the wall.

  • I agree with Chris above – the death of all CD sales has certainly been online streaming services. When online (and FREE) music became available the younger generation took to it immediately and the bottom just dropped out of retail sales – first record shops, and now online retail. It was fast too. It wasn’t long between the time when New York’s Tower Record shops were always packed – including the classical department. Then in just a matter months there were hardly any customers there. Once, I was the only one in the entire store. And it was a BIG store. I’m sorry to see MDT go too. I ordered CDs from there that I couldn’t find in the US.

    • I live in Tasmania but have been to New York a few times and always enjoyed Tower. The classical annex in San Francisco was great too. Bought some real rarities at both. The one in Seattle was pretty good too. MDT’s passing was a sad thing as I bought a lot of things from them. There is only one dedicated classical shop in Tasmania but it’s nearly 200kms from here and Australian prices are the dearest in the world from what I can see. Presto’s good but the postage is almost twice what MDT charged. As far as MDT’s friendliness was concerned I never found it particularly so. On the very rare occasions I had a query or a criticism their response was rather frosty-did get answers though most times. Sorry they’re gone for all that.

  • One reason to like brick-and-mortar record shops is that you often would find something extremely intriguing right next to the thing you were actually looking for, and you could take a total flyer on it. Or would hear something unfamiliar being played over the shop’s sound system and expand your horizons. Or overhear an interesting and informed discussion about music or performers and resolve to give it a try. Seems to me most modern means of acquiring music are best suited to things you already know about and want, and not to those impulse purchases that can be so rewarding.

  • I used to buy from MDT but for reasons I don’t precisely remember I changed to Presto. I think it may have been that I found the MDT web-site (well before the most recent changes) a little difficult and that I found being able to buy sheet music in the same Presto order as CDs and opera DVDs an advantage. It’s a very great pity, though.

  • I used to be a die-hard fan of physical products (CDs and SACDs), but I eventually decided to fully switch to downloads over 2 years ago as I realize that (1) I couldn’t handle piles of CDs/SACDs anymore as they are heavy and take up a lot of space at home (2) there is a big percentage of the whole collection that I have not really listened to (3) digital form (downloads and files imported from CDs) makes the whole collection more easily accessible which truly represents the value of the music.

    I have been a loyal customer of Presto in the past for physical products and now for downloads.

    The closing of brick-and-mortar record stores is a very natural path.

  • I guess my question about Spotify etc is…from my experience of the latter, the selection of recordings is very limited. And…for someone who likes to listen through my still very good sound system…what technology are people using with that kind of set-up these days? Hard drives that contain the music which are then connected to the system? And like others have commented – I actually still learn a lot about the music from the often very well written notes that come with physical product. I like to know not only about the music, but the circumstances of the actual recording. Maybe I’m in the minority for this…but having files and files of music store on a drive I cannot see doesn’t inspire me to listen much…and then it’s all without any context…hmmm.

    • Hi Gianmarco. I would highly recommend Qobuz if it is available in your country. Their classical catalog is quite large with recording that I have not seen available in many years along with new releases. Please keep in mind that you can either stream or download from their site.

  • MDT was a joy. They were outstanding in so many ways. Always took care of my requests – by phone, by email.
    I will miss them. Hope the staff are ok.

    • I agree fully and share your sentiments about the staff. I had bought thousands of recordings from MDT over the past 30 years. It was a firm with global reach. There will be many appreciative former customers who will be saddened by the development.

  • For those who are completely unwilling to order from Amazon (or British Amazon, or French Amazon, or German Amazon, etc.), there is always (besides Presto) Arkivmusic in Bryn Mawr, PA, HB Direct in Waterbury Center, VT, and CD Universe in Wallingford, CT. All three of these also accept money orders. It’s true their prices are much higher than Amazon’s. There is also importcds.com. If one is looking for older recordings, one should not overlook pristineclassical.com and immortalperformances.org as well as meloclassic.com, forgottenrecords.com, crqeditions.co.uk, 78experience.com (which are really recordings from St.Laurent), also available through Norbeck & Peters (norpete.com).

  • And from Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, it’s Sikora’s classical record store on Hastings Street. They stayed open as long as they dared. But I’ll never forget them . . . My husband and I bought records from them every time we visited Vancouver.

  • It’s funny that B&W picture from a Kabul record store, in those years before the Americans started to finance the Taliban to create unrest there, is a perfect illustration for anything about record stores.

  • Surprising! I’d think that the overheads of MDT’s core business must be low.

    MDT was branching out into selling other things besides CDs. Maybe it was the failure of that venture which laid them low.

  • A significant loss. Their prices were quite competitive and service was good; I will miss them. This follows the loss of Crotchet a few years back.

  • If you check companies house records UK this will show that the financial annual audit report due on the 31st December each year is missing. There is no report for 2018 which is absent. Which indicates that the books would not balance and MDT deficit was greater than its assets.

  • – will miss MDT lIked hell as buying from them by phone before I went on the internet was always a pleasure. KenB

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