I was reading a tweet yesterday moaning about a major UK retailer of CD's not stocking new bands. Here is the truth of the situation:
High Street CD retailers would LOVE to carry stock of EVERY band that their customers want.
But they can't because they don't have the stock budget and the shelf space to make it possible. Footage of CD's has been reduced in all retailers to allow in T-Shirts,Ipods and other more profitable items. There are a lot of people in music retail who are really big music fans, its often what got them into the job, decent people.
You could argue that they could take chances and promote new bands, but this is a risky business. The music scene is moving too fast for the the high street, if a track is big on Twitter and blogs by the time it gets into the shops its often old news. The only people buying CD's on the high street are people after convenience,collectors and people are who don't use the web (and they are less likely to be into new music). If people want fresh new music they look online, there has been a cultural shift.
Musicians like me who make their music available online free/pay what you want are a real problem for music retailers because I can't afford to give away my royalties from my albums purely for distribution that I can do myself online. They don't really have a lot to offer me(apart from access to an offline audience how have never heard of me). Now me as an individual not selling my music thru the high street matters little, but there are thousands of artists taking thousands of pounds out of high street music retail. This is a big dent and its only going to get bigger.
The only way music retailers can hope to keep going is to diversify product and make the in store experience FANTASTIC. Unique goods and in store events are the way forward - think experience rather than shelf stacking. Empower local communities with events and make people WANT to spend money in the shops. Support charities and build goodwill - make the store a hub with band performances and signings and knowledgeable, passionate staff(hint - offer them incentives). Only by making it exciting for customers can they hope to continue and even then I think the days are numbered. At the end of the day musicians and listeners no longer need them.