Music & Sound Retailer April 2020, Vol 37 No 4

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THE NEWS MAGAZINE FOR MUSIC PRODUC TS RETAILERS

April 2020 Volume 37, No. 4

NAMM 2020: The New Class

This Year’s First-Time Exhibitors Offer Innovative New Products and Boutique-Quality Instruments.

Great News About Guitars MI Segment Boasts Another Strong Year in 2019, But What Does the Future Hold?


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MusicMedic Inks UK Distribution Deal

MusicMedic announced an exclusive UK distribution deal with Dawkes Music. “The technicians here at Dawkes Music have been longstanding admirers of MusicMedic and their products, regularly enjoying their fantastic ‘bench notes’ repair newsletter and swooning over the clever, practical tools they manufacture,” said Abi Taylor, Dawkes Music UK repair shop manager. “We were lucky enough to meet Curt Altarac in person when Dawkes hosted the National Association of Instrument Repairers annual general meeting in winter 2018. His talk was inspiring, and we were able to express our enthusiasm for his business and work ethic. As existing suppliers of repair tools and materials to the UK and Europe, the conversation regarding distribution of MusicMedic products came naturally as our shared interests and goals as companies were so clearly aligned. We are so thrilled to be able to use, supply and shout about these products as we believe the technicians we support will benefit from an enhanced and elevated repair experience.”

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Sweetwater Unveils $52.5M Distribution Center

Sweetwater unveiled a $52.5-million-dollar distribution center located on its campus at 5501 U.S. Highway 30 West in Fort Wayne, Ind. The facility has 480,000 square feet of usable space, nearly quadrupling the size of the previous warehouse, and has a footprint of more than seven acres. In addition to more space for increased inventor y, new technology that was custom-built by Sweetwater’s information technology team will allow orders to be processed and filled faster, resulting in shorter deliver y times. The distribution center is now also home to Sweetwater’s Guitar Galler y and Guitar Shop, as well as electronics repair, installations, product photography and more. The new distribution center is part of a major expansion plan announced in October 2018. Sweetwater plans to break ground on a new conference center this July. The $31 million project will provide banquet and meeting space for the company and the community, and will be complete in the summer of 2021. More than $20 million of additional construction and renovations will occur between this month and February 2021.

Roland Gives Achievement Awards

Roland and BOSS presented their fifth-annual Lifetime Achievement Awards to successful drummer, Omar Hakim, and world-renowned Swedish guitarist, Yngwie Malmsteen, both of whom have incredible careers spanning more than 40 years. The Roland/BOSS Lifetime Achievement Awards recognize individuals for their invaluable contributions to the music industry while using Roland and/or BOSS gear throughout their careers. Roland and BOSS’ global network of influencers now reaches more than 750 artists with a collective social reach exceeding one billion. “This was very unexpected for me. I’ve been longtime friends with everybody here and in fact, I’ve been using the Roland/BOSS products for 40 years,” said Malmsteen. “The first time I actually used something that became a staple in my sound was a Roland DC-10, and one of the biggest things that might be overlooked is when you play guitar, especially the way I play, you need a lot of gain. When the gain goes up, so does the noise.” “Thank you so much, this means the world to me,” stated Hakim. “What I realized when I reviewed my time as a Roland artist, what came to mind right away, is the importance of relationships. It’s one thing to discover gear and to figure out how you are going to deploy it into your professional life, but what’s really made this journey with Roland special is all the friendships I’ve developed over the last 25 years. I’ve always been a fan of Roland’s gear, and even more importantly, what we don’t realize is that Roland gear has been part of the foundation of a lot of the music we’ve been listening to for the past 50 years.”

MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

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F E AT U R E S 23 Special to the Retailer

THE NEWS MAGAZINE FOR MUSIC PRODUC TS RETAILERS

Do you want to start a commercial Installation business at your MI store? Here is everything you need to know beforehand.

32 Five Minutes With

We get the latest from Paul Reed Smith as PRS celebrates 35 years.

VOLUME 37 NO. 4

34 MI Spy

MI Spy goes for the gold — Connecticut’s Gold Coast — looking for a bargain guitar.

42 Shine a Light

Few retailers are more “classy” than San Diego Music Studio.

46 Under the Hood

Yamaha’s NX Series of six nylon-string acoustic-electric guitars features contemporary body styles, along with proprietary preamp and pickup systems.

54 The Final Note

Hal Leonard’s Larry Morton, this year’s Music & Sound Award winner for Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame, is definitely nowhere near slowing down.

COLUMNS 38 Not Your Average Column Passion is the key to MI retailing, explains Tim Spicer.

33 Pictured on the cover: Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire performs at The NAMM Show. Photo courtesy of Yamaha

COVER STORIES 24 Good News for Guitars

It was another tremendous year for guitar sales. Overall, guitar sales rose 5.1 percent in 2019 compared to the prior year, according to MI SalesTrak.

40 In the Trenches

World events have proven why you absolutely must be diversified.

44 Veddatorial

COVID-19 can send shockwaves for months to come, states Dan Vedda.

BUZZ 3 Latest 11 People 16 Products

50 NAMM 2020: The New Class

If you are looking for new companies that exhibited for the first time at The NAMM Show, this is your one-stop source with profiles on seven such companies.

20 16

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APRIL 2020


MODERN BAND METHOD

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EDITORIAL

Unprecedented Times First, I want to thank you for reading this editorial. Family comes first during a time of crisis, so I would certainly understand if reading this article is not No. 1 on your to-do list. Whether you are reading this at home or in the store, thank you. The world is such a different place from when you read last month’s editorial. Large entertainment venues are closed, meaning many concerts were forced to take a hiatus. The National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD) canceled its March show, and on March 18, the Retail Print Music Dealers Association (RPMDA) was forced to do the same for its late-April, early-May show. That was certainly the last thing both organizations wanted to do, but look for them to return with a vengeance in 2021. NASMD is expected to take place in Puerto Rico next year, with RPMDA likely taking place in New Orleans, where this year’s show was set to take place. On a positive note, I can say that, although things change daily, the MI retailers I spoke to told me they have thus far weathered the storm as well as they can. I did not sense panic in anyone’s voice, which is a great sign. Often when times are tough, music makes a big dif-

Letter to the Editor Dear Mr. Berk, In the January issue of the Retailer, MI Spy visited the music stores in The Steel City. The music stores in Pittsburgh are a diverse and plentiful as the diversity of our great city. Thank you for taking the time to visit our stores set in the rolling hills and valleys of The Three Rivers. Thank you for the kind words and very descriptive section on Brighton Music Center. We strive hard each and every day to support music in every place for all people. Again, thank you for the kind words, and come back anytime. Sincerely, Beth Schiemer, Education Liaison, Brighton Music Center

ference, and today is certainly no exception. Although we can no longer travel to our favorite stadium, arena, bar or performance space to hear music for the time being, music is often at the center of the positive headlines we hear these days. Case in point: Ohio children Taran and Calliope Tien, ages nine and six, played a full cello concert for their self-quarantining neighbor, 78-year-old Helena Schlam. Even better: Taran put on his best suit and Calliope her party dress, according to the Columbus Dispatch. In Italy, thousands of Italians in Rome, Milan and Naples opened up their windows and stood on their balconies to take part in “musical flashmobs.” Back in the United States, a Massachusetts family stood outside a window and sang “Happy Birthday” to 100-year-old Millie Erickson. And Katherine McPhee and her husband, David Foster, used Instagram Live to perform live concerts on several occasions, singing “Hallelujah,” “Unforgettable” and more. Now, on a different topic, although good news may be difficult to come by these days, we are going to provide it in droves. Guitar sales were once again fantastic in 2019, according to MI SalesTrak, rising 5.1 percent year over year. (Where is that Washington Post reporter who described the “slow, secret death of the six-string electric guitar” on June 22, 2017?) Guitar manufacturers deserve kudos for releasing some great products, while you as MI retailers deserve tremendous credit for selling them. For three straight years, guitar sales have been excellent, which constitutes a winning streak. A final bit of good news: It may take a long time, but I am confident we will get past this crisis, as long as everyone does their part. A vaccine will be discovered. Hang in there.

April 2020 Volume 37, No. 4

BRIAN BERK Editor bberk@testa.com ANTHONY VARGAS Associate Editor avargas@testa.com AMANDA MULLEN Assistant Editor amullen@testa.com DONOVAN BANKHEAD ROBERT CHRISTIE KIMBERLY DEVERELL JEFF KYLE JR. MICHELLE LOEB

JANICE PUPELIS Art Director STEVE THORAKOS Production Manager CIRCULATION circulation@testa.com FRED GUMM Digital Art Director

WILL MASON ALLEN MCBROOM GABRIEL O'BRIEN MIKE & MIRIAM RISKO ROBERT SAMPLE

ROBERT L. IRAGGI Advertising Director riraggi@testa.com RICKY PIMENTEL Art/Production Assistant rpimentel@testa.com ROBIN HAZAN Operations Manager rhazan@testa.com VINCENT P. TESTA President/Publisher TIM SPICER DAN VEDDA LAURA B. WHITMORE Contributors

Editorial and Sales Office: The Music & Sound Retailer, 25 Willowdale Avenue, Port Washington, New York 11050-3779. Phone: (516) 767-2500 • Fax: (516) 767-9335 • MSREDITOR@TESTA.COM. Editorial contributions should be addressed to The Editor, The Music & Sound Retailer, 25 Willowdale Avenue, Port Washington, New York 11050-3779. Unsolicited manuscripts will be treated with care and must be accompanied by return postage. Sound & Communications • DJ Times • Sound & Communications Blue Book The Music & Sound Retailer • The DJ Expo • IT/AV Report The Retailer Report • Convention TV @ NAMM • InfoCommTV News VTTV Studios The Music & Sound Retailer (ISSN 0894-1238) (USPS 0941-238) is published 12 times a year for $18 (US), by Retailer Publishing, Inc., 25 Willowdale Ave., Port Washington, NY 11050-3779. Periodicals postage paid at Port Washington, N.Y. and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Music & Sound Retailer, PO BOX 1767, LOWELL MA 01853-1767.

APRIL 2020



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Fender’s George Blanda Retires

George Blanda, one of the original Fender Custom Shop founding members and most currently chief design engineer for guitars, retired on April 3, after a remarkable career with the company spanning 35 years. “It’s hard to believe how much time has gone by,” said Blanda. “I’m going to miss the people the most, but I’m grateful to take all the memories with me.” Blanda joined Fender in 1985 as senior design engineer in the newly created Fender Custom Shop. He was initially tasked with making artist signature models, but less than a year in, his role changed to meet a growing demand for U.S.-made products. He was recruited by then director of marketing Dan Smith, a pivotal figure in Fender history who was tasked with overhauling Fender’s ailing product line after years of decline under CBS. Throughout his 35 years, Blanda worked on a variety of different projects. He began making artist signature models but pivoted to meet a growing demand for U.S.-made products. Enter the American Standard series, Blanda’s first gargantuan project, and one of the most significant launches in all Fender history. He was working alongside Smith on the introduction of that line. The American Standard series single-handedly helped restore quality, performance, value and cred-

ibility to the Fender name at a time when the brand was in dire need of being revitalized. Blanda never lost his passion for artist signature models, spearheading the Yngwie Malmsteen, James Burton, Muddy Water and Jimi Hendrix models along with the Eric Clapton relationship from the start. “Fender’s Custom Shop has earned the title ‘Dream Factory,’ and for 35 years, George Blanda has made the dreams of thousands of players come true,” said Fender CEO Andy Mooney. “We will miss seeing George in Corona, [Calif.], every day, but George’s legacy at Fender will last forever. I wish George the very best for his retirement and want to thank him for the enormous contribution he has made to Fender.” Throughout his tenure, Blanda worked with Fender's Bill Schultz, Dan Smith, Bill Carson, Freddy Tavares and countless others. He worked under five CEOs, including Schultz, Bill Mendello, Larry Thomas, Scott Gilbertson and Andy Mooney.

Cascio Files for Bankruptcy, Will Continue to Operate

Cascio Interstate Music Co. and its affiliate Dynamic Music Inc. filed a petition under Chapter 128 of Wisconsin State Statutes. The petition, filed in Waukesha Circuit Court, is a strategic business move to position the Wisconsin company for new ownership. Chapter 128 is similar to Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law, but is a more efficient, streamlined process. The Chapter 128 filing will not affect day-to-day operations at the company’s operations that include a retail store, corporate office and warehouses. Cascio is an omni-channel commerce company that sells musical instru-

ments and accessories through a host of consumer and educational channels. The company, which began in 1946, currently has 75 employees. Seth E. Dizard, a Milwaukee lawyer, is the court-appointed receiver at the company’s request. “We are planning to continue business as usual and plan to keep employees in place throughout the court process,” said Dizard. Bids as a going concern will be solicited for the company as part of the Section 128 process with the winning bid to be determined by the court. Dizard said that he hopes to be able to announce an agreement to sell the company as a going concern and that proposed buyers will be asked to agree to offer employment to substantially all of the company’s current employees and acquire substantially all of the assets of Cascio. Any proposed sale is subject to court approval and higher or better bids, according to Dizard. In the event the bidding process does not result in the sale of the business, Cascio has provided the proper closing notice in accordance with the Wisconsin Business Closing law. Continuing issues with financial performance and future investments that are needed to expand its online presence has led the shareholders to the conclusion that the company must be sold. Wadsworth Whitestar Consultants has been retained by the court-appointed receiver to oversee the company’s continued operations and assist in the sale of its assets as a going concern. APRIL 2020


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DW Names Dealers of the Year

Drum Workshop Inc. (DW) named Cymbal Fusion, Alto Music and Drum Shop as the recipients of its 2020 Dealer of the Year Awards at The NAMM Show. The annual DW Dealer Awards recognize outstanding dealers and their commitment to the DW brand. Cymbal Fusion was awarded the Top Sales Award following the success of its exclusive Tamo Ash design series finish, the first exotic in that series. Alto Music received the Growth Award as sales rockL to R: Larry Winerman and Chris Lombardi of DW, Chris Dealaman of the Drum Shop, eted as a result of the exclusive 5000 series pedal, which it Andrew Meskin and Jim DeStefano of DW. marketed well on its site, stated DW. And the Drum Shop earned the Brand Champion Award after creating “The DW Store” website with an array of DW kits ranging from the Exotic Collectors Series to Performance and Design Series. “We feel it is important to acknowledge the support of our dealers. We would like to congratulate all our winners. They should be proud of their achievements. Their backing and assistance has made a significant contribution to DW being able to achieve its own ambitious plans,” said Bo Mathews, DW national independent sales manager.

Hiwatt Reunites Global Trademarks

Hiwatt and official trademarks for Hiwatt across the world have been reunited. “It was a tough go of it to bring it all back together,” said Hiwatt managing director, Darren Atkinson. “The trademarks for such key markets like the USA and Europe were split between different entities, so that situation had to be rectified before any successful re-launch of this great brand could truly begin.” Keen on protecting and promoting the legacy surrounding the brand, first and foremost is the commitment to continuing its British heritage and manufacturing. “The best thing we have going day one is that we still have a top-notch manufacturing shop in the UK making all the classics just the same as the ‘70s with Military Spec components and hand wiring. That’s what we’ll be promoting during the first half of 2020,” said Atkinson.

Fender Has the Need … The Need for Speed

Supercar manufacturer Saleen Automotive has announced a special collaboration with Fender to produce the “Fender Stratocaster 1,” a custom electric guitar inspired by the new Saleen 1 (S1) mid-engine four-cylinder turbocharged sports car. The guitar was built by Fender Custom Shop’s principal master builder Ron Thorn, a lifelong automotive enthusiast. Each year, the Fender Custom Shop’s master builders are given a challenge to build a guitar with no boundaries. The result of that creative exercise are the 2020 Prestige Collection models, with one conjured up by each master builder. Thorn has always loved fast cars. Struck by the similarities in sleek design and high performance between the Fender Stratocaster guitar and the Saleen 1 super sports car, Thorn conceived of a one-of-a-kind Stratocaster combining elements of both. The result is the Stratocaster 1. This supercharged guitar is finished in striking Saleen Candy Apple Red. Its hand-laid carbon-fiber body is hollow and super-lightweight, with a roasted-alder center block and a hand-carved maple top. Its quarter-sawn roasted-maple neck has a 12-inch-radius carbon-fiber round-lam fingerboard with medium jumbo frets, topped off with a matching carbon-fiber headstock overlay.

Sennheiser Joins IEMITO

Sennheiser has joined the In-Ear Monitor International Trade Organization (IEMITO) as a founding member in order to help set industr y standards and to better ser ve artists, engineers and music lovers. “The mission of IEMITO is to promote the use and enjoyment of in-ear monitors,” said Mike Dias, executive director for the trade organization. “Sennheiser has always been an industr y pioneer, and they continue to support both the live sound reinforcement community and hi-fi music lovers.” “We are delighted to work with IEMITO and actively contribute to the promotion of in-ear monitoring,” added Juergen Kockmann, who heads pro portfolio management at Sennheiser. “The introduction of IEMs has been one of the most fundamental developments in live audio over the past decades, not only freeing the stage of clutter and saving the hearing of many artists, but also providing the impeccable sound and accuracy that is required for high-profile live performances.”

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APRIL 2020


PEOPLE

New Head of AES

Agnieszka Roginska has begun her term as president of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), effective earlier this year. Currently celebrating her 20th year as an AES member, Roginska has served in numerous leadership roles within AES. Professionally, she currently holds the positions of professor of music technology and vice-chair of the Music and Performing Arts Professions Department at New York University. “It is an honor and a privilege to begin my term as president of the Audio Engineering Society, the world’s leading society of audio professionals, creative artists, scientists, educators and students,” Roginska stated in her inaugural AES president’s message. “One of my goals in 2020

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is to build membership and continue to recognize that we are a diverse community of members, whether you are a student just exploring the world of audio, a young professional entering the workforce and growing in experience, in mid-career maintaining your skills while learning new ones in our rapidly changing industry or a seasoned professional who wants to give back to the community as a mentor.”

Tops in Tech

Reverb appointed Jason Wain as chief technology officer. Wain has more than a decade of technology and leadership experience, most recently serving as senior director of engineering at Etsy. Wain’s team will focus on improving the tools that enable music-makers to find instruments and expanding the services that help musical instrument sellers connect with buyers. Under Wain’s leadership, Reverb plans to continue expanding its product and engineering teams, with a focus on adding engineering managers, engineers and data analysts. “Reverb has achieved incredible growth to date, and we have nothing but opportunity to continue growing the impact of our worldclass tech team here in Chicago,” said Wain. “There are a lot of best practices I can bring to the team based on my seven years at Etsy, but what I’m most excited about are the opportunities that come with building tech for an industry as unique and complex as the musical instrument market.” MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

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In Memoriam

Robert Averwater

Robert Averwater passed away in Memphis, Tenn., in late February. He was 94 years old. His father, M. J. Averwater, taught music, wrote a method book and opened up AMRO Music in Memphis with a fellow music teacher. Robert recalled some of the challenges of the store in the early days after World War II. The inventory needed to be reestablished as instruments and accessories were slowly becoming available again after the war. He continued to expand the company and hired many dedicated employees who stayed with the store until their retirement. Robert was proud that two of his four sons, Chip and Patrick, followed in his footsteps at the store, and that a fourth generation of Averwaters, CJ and Nick, have continued the family tradition.

Evelyn Brue-Roeder

Evelyn Brue-Roeder passed away on February 1, she was 101. To say she was a pioneer as a woman music retailer is an understatement. She ran a business on her own for many years, beginning 80 years ago, a fact of which she was very proud, especially considering how many women are now running music businesses. Brue-Roeder opened her music store in 1940. Her main focus in the early days was music lessons. However, she soon added sheet music, accessories and musical instruments. She developed a passion for steel guitars as she witnessed their development over her career. When the pedal steel guitar was introduced, she had to have one, and had been playing and giving lessons on the instrument ever since. Evelyn and her husband George also became active in various musical clubs, including the Pedal Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.

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David Magagna

David Magagna passed away March 10 at the age of 85. Magagna had an incredible career selling guitars for some of the biggest names in the industry. He worked for the government out of high school and attended college in Georgetown before coming into the music industry by way of C.F. Martin & Co. The year was 1962. Magagna became Martin’s first full-time employee in its newly established sales department. Over the years, he worked for most of the other top names in guitar suppliers in the United States, including Guild Guitars, Taylor Guitars, PRS Guitars, and most recently Riversong Guitars until his death.

Howard Kaufman

Lectrosonics’ longtime Northeastern technical sales representative Howard Kaufman passed away on Feb. 27. A 23-year veteran of Lectrosonics, Kaufman was working as an engineer at the United Nations designing systems for broadcast and conference facilities when he met Gordon Moore, who was Kaufman’s primar y technical support at Lectrosonics. Getting to know Kaufman inspired Moore to offer him a position at Lectrosonics. “Howard loved providing technical support throughout the Northeast U.S. and loved going to Europe for trade shows. He was demanding of our engineering department, a technical superstar who made it a point to totally, completely comprehend how everything worked,” said Lectrosonics president Gordon Moore. Credited with coining the term “Lectroid” to describe a fanatical Lectrosonics employee or user, Kaufman called himself a “Lectrovangelist,” as he was passionate about sharing the company’ products and technologies with his customers. His loyalty to family, friends, clients and company was unquestioned. “All of us here at Lectrosonics will miss Howard’s humor, presence, dedication and gentle soul. He left a big footprint on the world, and we are all better for it,” added Moore. “We pass along our deepest condolences to his family. We know they will miss him terribly, as we all will.” APRIL 2020


PEOPLE

Fishman Reeled In

Fishman appointed Bryan Fishman as its program manager. A U.S. Navy veteran, Fishman most recently served at U.S. Northern Command as the Senior Aviation Workgroup lead for our nation’s largest annual joint military-civilian training exercise, “Ardent Sentry.” In addition to organizing Fishman’s multi-year product development schedule and helping refine the company’s product development process, Fishman will be instituting novel information-management systems and contributing his experience to Fishman’s ethos of continual improvement. An amateur pianist and software developer, Fishman received his degree in astrophysics from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2008 and served for eight years on active duty as a naval flight officer. He is the son of Fishman founder and president Larry Fishman. “Bryan brings with him a tremendous amount of experience organizing multiple projects and large teams to coordinate and

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maximize efficiencies. With this experience, Bryan will be assisting the engineering and procurement teams to further streamline our new product development process and ensure Fishman remains an industry leader for years to come,” said chief operating officer Jason Cambra.

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St. Louis Music appointed Todd Schweinbold as sales manager for Alvarez Guitars and Combo. He handles all aspects of sales and brand adoption with a focus on domestic national/key accounts and international distributors. “I am excited to work closely with our Alvarez partners domestically and internationally to position the brand as one of the top acoustic guitar brands. I look forward to developing and executing brand strategies to maximize Alvarez guitars and combo products in the marketplace,” said Schweinbold. Schweinbold has had a long career in sales that spans almost two decades. He has extensive experience in the clothing industry and has worked for such mega-brands as Vans.

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Mark and April Hebert take home the Dealer of the Year Award for Cosmo Music at the 2019 Top 100 Dealer Awards.

Note From Causby

ADVERTORIAL • APRIL 2020 • NAMM.ORG

Shhhhh... Top 100 Secrets! A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Top 100 Dealer Awards For ten years, the Top 100 Dealer Awards has been recognizing extraordinary business efforts in categories that move music retailers forward. These awards celebrate the broad activities our retail membership engages in each and every day, creating musical experiences for their communities and growing our shared industry. As you well know, marketing, community engagement and customer service all play a vital role in business. Through creativity and innovation, leaders create unique value propositions, contributing to business success. These efforts should be awarded and recognized; we should lift up our innovators and celebrate what makes them tick. And in the process, we can all grow a little bit ourselves. That is the meaning behind the Top 100 Dealer Awards. Each year, dealers from across the globe enter their store’s submissions to share their stories with the industry. A panel of independent judges read through the submissions and the top scores from each category make up the Top 100.

“Who is this secret independent panel of judges?” Well, that will always remain a secret, but here’s a bit of insight. We change the panel every year. While our members craft and submit entries, the NAMM Staff is hard-at-work finding the best-of-the-best to score each submission. Our goal is to hold

a fair and impartial process, and for that reason, we tap judges from all over the world. In 2019, the Top 100 Dealer Awards panel featured 25 judges with expertise in one or more category subjects. Some hail from the music retail industry, while others come from the business world, focusing on marketing, customer service, social media and innovation. Through the combined efforts of these experts, our final results are tabulated. In May, we will announce our Top 100 Dealer list and begin the voting window for the Customers’ Choice Award. Be sure to stay tuned—this is an excellent opportunity to get your customers involved in your success. The best customers are brand advocates; don’t miss this chance to empower them! Want to know more secrets? With summer just around the corner, we will soon be in Nashville celebrating our Top 100 Dealers. Eight category winners and the Dealer of the Year will be announced at the can’t-miss ceremony, July 10, 2020. All are welcome to attend and celebrate with their peers, not to mention benefit from all of the best practices and ideas shared to elevate your operations. Join us and find out the secret behind each company’s success and what they did to move their store forward. Causby Challacombe, CAE • NAMM Director, Membership

Visit namm.org/top100 to SEE more including: • • •

Descriptions of the Top 100 Dealer categories Tips on how to submit a winning entry Judging process and program details

• •

Interviews and insights from past winners How to attend the big night, July 10, 2020


07.10.2020 DAVIDSON BALLROOM

MUSIC CITY CENTER

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE Register and book your hotel starting April 8.

JULY 9–11, 2020 • NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE • MUSIC CITY CENTER • NAMM.ORG

2019 Dealer of the year • cosmo music Mark Hebert, founder of 2019 Dealer of the Year, Cosmo Music credits his staff and their focus on unique experiences for their store’s success. “Something that I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not really about me or my store; it’s about the industry—to increase the amount of music makers, to be inspired, and to grow our market.”


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Feeling Blue

Godin Guitars launched the Imperial Laguna Blue GT EQ acoustic guitar as part of its Godin Acoustic Series. Its body is made up of solid mahogany back and sides, and it sets itself apart through its unique dreadnought shape and concert hall depth, stated the company. Dressing the body is a Laguna Blue gloss top made of solid Sitka spruce. In terms of playing, an end user’s left hand will feel right at home on the rich mahogany neck, which is topped off by a smooth Richlite fretboard, added the manufacturer. Other key features include the discretely-placed LR Baggs Anthem system, ebony bridge, custom 12th-fret inlay, Godin Acoustic pickguard with matching headstock, and the impact-resistant and lightweight deluxe TRIC case. MAP: $1,395 Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Godin Guitars, godinguitars.com

Strap In

Levy’s has debuted its signature Saxophone strap series. Available in both leather and neoprene, the two-ply saxophone straps have 1/8-inch padding wrapped in Levy’s softest garment leather. The straps also feature an “easy slide” medallion for cord adjustment, extending up to 25 inches. The easy slide allows for single-handed adjustment while the plastic snap hook on the end creates a secure fit to the instrument. The luxury embossed leather straps are available in Deluxe Jade, Deluxe Geranium, Deluxe Black Rose and Black. The four printed neoprene straps include the same easy slide and adjustment length. The neoprene straps also disperse the weight of the instrument evenly across the neck and include artistic printed polyester webbing. The neoprene straps are available in Feather, Plaid, Beale Street and Black. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Levy’s, levysleathers.com

Sweet Virginia

Fender Musical Instruments Corp. released the Eric Johnson “Virginia” Stratocaster guitar. As part of this unique collaboration with the singer, songwriter and guitarist, Fender has recreated Johnson’s 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster in the Fender Custom Shop in limited quantity and on the Fender production line for one year only. For the first time, Fender has replicated and released Eric Johnson’s beloved ‘54 “Virginia” Stratocaster, the instrument he used to record the “Tones” record and “Ah Via Musicom” albums. Built in Corona, Calif., these “Virginia” Stratocaster guitars combine extraordinary history and exceptional tone, stated the company. The rare sassafras body, custom switching and special setup will thrill players and collectors by showcasing the guitar’s unique silky tone and distinct fine-grain appearance, the company added. Models include the Eric Johnson “Virginia” Stratocaster and Fender Custom Shop Eric Johnson “Virginia” Stratocaster. MSRP: $2,499.99, Custom Shop Version: $9,000 Ship Date: Now Contact: Fender, fender.com

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APRIL 2020



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Rock You Like a Hurricane

CHAUVET DJ’s Hurricane Bubble Haze is a hybrid machine emitting haze, bubbles or haze-filled bubbles. Hurricane Bubble Haze functions with a variable-speed loft fan, which pushes bubbles airborne for a host of aerial moods. Always ready to run, the unit operates continuously to keep the party going that much longer. The build of the unit is cost-effective, featuring a gravity-fed bubble reservoir that recirculates unused fluid, thus eliminating waste. The built-in cleaning function extends the life of the unit by reducing clogs and the need for maintenance. The unit calls for CHAUVET DJ High Performance Haze Fluid and Bubble Juice Gallon Fluid. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: CHUAVET DJ, chauvetdj.com

Be a Pro

D’Addario Accessories has launched the Pro Plus Capo. Featuring FlexFit technology, the pad used on the capo arm of the D’Addario Pro Plus Capo mimics the way the anatomy of the human finger functions when fretting a string, so end users never have to worry about unwanted buzzing, muted strings or intonation issues caused by varying capo pressure, stated the company. The Pro Plus is designed to function on virtually all guitars, from flat-fingerboard classical guitars, all the way to vintage electrics with a seveninch fretboard radius. The Pro Plus Capo automatically adjusts to any fretboard radius and is also ideal for 12-string guitars or any instrument with octave pairs of strings. Available capos are the PW-CP-19 Pro Plus Capo in black and the PW-CP-10S Pro Plus Capo in silver. MSRP: $44.95, MAP: $29.99 Ship Date: Now Contact: D’Addario, daddario.com 18

Yamaha unveiled the YBS62II Professional Baritone Saxophone and the YBS-82 Custom Baritone Saxophone. The YBS-62II improves upon the ergonomics and intonation of the original model, the YBS-62, with the addition of high-end features from the company’s newly released Custom YBS-82 Baritone Saxophone, stated the company. These features include a new key layout based on ergonomics that makes it easier to play longer, faster and more comfortably, as well as a shorter bell length for improved intonation, especially for challenging notes in the lower register. The YBS-82, the first custom-level model addition to the company’s saxophone lineup, offers a variety of configurations that can help artists achieve their desired sound. The new saxophone features handmade neck options with varying tapers and finishes to satisfy a player’s preferences. The YBS-82 also features the same improvements to ergonomics and intonation as the YBS-62II, including a shorter bell length and a new key layout. MSRP: YBS-62II: $13,997; YBS-82: $16,323 Ship Date: September Contact: Yamaha, usa.yamaha.com

Pineapple Under the Sea

HUG Ukulele’s Mahogany Series uses a fanned top-bracing pattern and sturdy C-shaped mahogany neck. Mahogany is also used for the bridge and 18-fret fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlays, along with a bone saddle and nut. Each ukulele is crowned with HUG’s signature etched Ocean Wave headstock. The natural wood is finished in a matte nitrocellulose, applied as thinly as possible for maximum resonance. Offered in multiple styles, including Pineapple, Pineapple Aumakua, Soprano, Super Soprano, Soprano Aumakua, Concert, Super Concert, Concert Aumakua, Concert Cutaway EQ, Tenor Aumakua and Tenor Cutaway EQ. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: HUG Ukulele, hawaiian-ukulele.com

APRIL 2020


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Fasten Your Seatbelt

On-Stage has released the GSA20 line and the GSA30 line of guitar straps. The two-inch GSA20 guitar straps are designed out of a seat-belt material and feature a reflective cotton banding. Boasting two-ply, black leather ends with reinforced stitching and heavy-duty metal buckles, the new GSA20 straps provide guitarists with the security they need, no matter where they are playing. Adjustable in length from 36 inches to 64 inches, the straps are available in black, grey, brown, light blue, red, green, purple and pink. The GSA30 Guitar Straps boast copper buckles and are constructed of cotton banding. They feature two-ply, doublestitched brown leather ends. Adjustable in length from 38 inches to 67 inches, the GSA30 straps are available in black, grey, brown, navy blue and burgundy. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: On-Stage, on-stage.com

Into the Unknown

Hal Leonard has released matching folios to Disney’s “Frozen II.” The soundtrack was once again penned by the Academy Award-winning team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Lopez worked directly with Hal Leonard editors to personally approve all the arrangements in the songbooks. These souvenir folios also feature beautiful full-color scenes from the film. The “Frozen II” soundtrack features seven original songs sung by the cast, which includes Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Gross and Evan Rachel Wood. In addition, there are three end-credit songs performed by Panic! at the Disco, Kacey Musgraves and Weezer. MSRP: $19.99 Ship Date: Now Contact: Hal Leonard, halleonard.com MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

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Game, Set, Match

Music Nomad’s Premium Guitar Tech Truss Rod Wrench Set offers excellent versatility and organization in one compact, rugged case the size of an iPhone, stated the company. Designed to work on most electric, acoustic and bass guitars, this 11-piece set comes with six Allen key sizes (5/32 inches, 9/64 inches, 1/8 inches, 3/16 inches, 4mm, 5mm), three socket wrench sizes (1/4 inches, 5/16 inches, 7mm), a specially designed spoke wheel tool and a 3/8-inch blade bit. Bonus features include laser-etched sizes on each wrench, three magnetized screwdrivers for small truss rod cover screws, and the socket wrenches and spoke wheel tool can slide into Music Nomad’s Octopus handle (sold separately) for additional leverage and comfort. This kit works on many brands, including Fender, PRS, Gibson, Taylor, MusicMan, Epiphone, ESP, EVH, Gretsch, Guild, Cordoba, Ibanez, Jackson, Knaggs, Charvel, Bourgeois, Takamine and Yamaha. MSRP: $54.99 Ship Date: This month Contact: Music Nomad Equipment Care, musicnomadcare.com

It Takes Two

VocoPro introduced its new Dynamic Duo package, which includes two of its DJ Smart Lightshow units along with stands and a carrying bag. Both DJs and KJs (karaoke DJs) alike know that lights add another dimension to the show. But running multiple light effects usually requires additional equipment and a good knowledge of DMX (lighting control protocol). VocoPro’s new DJ Smart Lightshow units combine five different effects into sturdy, compact, all-steel units that project a 180-degree vivid light show into any area. Using the included remote control, DJs/KJs can select Water Wave, Moonflower, Strobe, UV and lasers with graphics. Users connect the two included DJ Smart Lightshow lights with the included DMX cable to double the coverage and double the excitement. MAP: $349 Ship Date: Now Contact: VocoPro, vocopro.com

XP2 Marks the Spot

Pioneer DJ introduced the DDJ-XP2. Whether end users use rekordbox dj or Serato DJ Pro, they can get the most from the new features in the latest versions of both DJ applications with this upgraded DJ controller, stated the company. The DDJ-XP2 adds to the functionality of the DDJ-XP1 but retains the solid build quality and intuitive layout of the original unit. There are 32 multicolored Performance Pads (16 on each deck). Transport mode assigns transport controls such as play, pause, cue and pitch up/down to the Performance Pads on the DDJ-XP2. And, for the first time ever, 16 pads can be used to control a single mode in Serato DJ Pro. Until now, Serato DJ Pro has only supported up to eight pads in any mode. The DDJ-XP2 also inherits the looping section from the flagship DJM-S9 scratch mixer. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Now Contact: Pioneer DJ, pioneerdj.com

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First-Round Draft Pick

Hybar Musical Equipment’s Stem Pick is a new adaptation on the stringed-instrument plectrum. The patented design is used much like a traditional guitar pick, but the “stem” provides players a tool for expanded uses: extra leverage and grip surface, preventing rotation, delayed muscle fatigue and experimental picking techniques, stated the company. The Stem pick was designed as an adaptive technology that allows for greater grip to prevent pick rotation during play. It is available in three gauges. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Hybar Musical Equipment, hybarmusic.com APRIL 2020



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We Got the Funk

Where has the funk gone? That bygone era of booty shaking, “rump bumpin,” good-time party music is gone. Or maybe not. Alpha Distribution announced the return of the Seamoon Funk Machine. It provides a “chromatic wonderland of envelope filter fun — with a few added surprises,” stated the company. The Funk Machine is an all-analog envelope filter with sub-harmonic that features blend control, frequency control, depth control, volume and a special paint job. Dimensions of the Funk Machine are 4.43 inches in length, 2.37 inches in width and 1.25 inches in height. It weighs one pound. MAP: $199 Ship Date: Now Contact: Alpha Distribution, alphadistribution.us

Get Out and Go

Line 6 introduced the POD Go guitar processor, which boasts a plug-and-play user interface and professional-quality amp, cab and effect models drawn from the HX family of processors. POD Go provides a simple and intuitive workflow. Users may choose, edit and control sounds utilizing the 4.3-inch color LCD screen, seven push encoders, eight sturdy footswitches, colored LED rings and a rugged cast-aluminum multi-function expression pedal. Two external footswitches or a second expression pedal may be connected for even more real-time control. POD Go features best-inclass amp, cab and effect models including an array of British and American amps, as well as supporting third-party impulse response loading, stated the company. Presets have nine simultaneous blocks, and external pedals may be inserted anywhere in the signal path via the effects loop. MSRP: $629.99 Ship Date: Spring 2020 Contact: Line 6, line6.com/podgo

Ocean Eyes

Electro-Harmonix has introduced Oceans 12. It features two simultaneous, independent stereo reverb engines, series and parallel control for the dual reverbs, 24 presets and advanced I/O, allowing for stereo in/out, splitting reverbs to left and right channels, or mono send/return with pre- and post-reverb options. The pedal also includes a new Tide Control for stereo image alteration, a Lo-fi Control, an infinite attenuation control and an input jack for external expression and footswitch control. The Oceans 12’s reverbs types are: Room, Spring, Plate, Reverse, Echo, Trem, Mod, Dyna, Auto-Inf, Shimmer, Polyphonic and Resonant. A Tails switch provides a choice of whether the reverb effect fades out naturally or stops immediately when the pedal is switched to bypass. The Oceans 12 comes equipped with a standard EHX 9.6DC200mA power supply. MSRP: $237.60 Ship Date: Now Contact: Electro-Harmonix, ehx.com

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Need a Lift?

The ProX Exclusive Flip-Ready Easy Retracting Hydraulic Lift Cases are made in Poland for ProX by ZCase. These cases for digital audio consoles are designed and built to make transport and setup quick and easy — no more lifting heavy consoles into place on a table or stand, stated the company. The hydraulic-lift system provides easy movement from a vertical transport position to the horizontal operational position using just one finger. The lower doors opening the storage area have magnetic catches to hold them open during the movement of the console to protect the doors. The rotational mechanism attached to the mounting plate uses gas springs, which also suppresses all vibrations generated by transport by means of Vibro-insulators attached to the mounting plate and the side walls of the case body. Each case has a large doghouse area with recessed latches on the cover, as well as engraved wood side panels that are custom fitted to retain each console firmly in the case. Available for MIDAS Heritage D, M32 and M32R; Allen & Heath Avantis; Yamaha CL3 and CL5; and Behringer Wing. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Now Contact: ProX, proxdirect.com APRIL 2020


S P ECI AL T O THE R ETAIL ER By Doug Kleeger Hello to the MI world. This is my first appearance in this magazine, although I have been writing for its sister Testa Communications publication, Sound & Communications, for 17 years. Briefly: I have 40 some-odd years of experience working in the music and sound industry, and have done, at one time or another, mostly every type of job in this industry (even acting in a Billy Joel music video, “The Night is Still Young”). This includes almost a 20-year relationship with Sam Ash Music that started in the late ‘70s and into the ‘90s, where at one point I spent close to three years as the chief engineer and a short period as head of Sam Ash Sound & Lighting. Through store referrals (from 18 locations at the time, if I remember), we designed, installed and serviced audio systems (video and control were not prevalent yet).

EVERYTHING AN MI RETAILER NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT COMMERCIAL INSTALLATIONS Why Commercial Installations?

At this year’s Breakfast of Champions during The NAMM Show, the trade group placed significant emphasis on the possibility of commercial installations as a way for MI retailers to pad the bottom line. Although my space is limited for this topic, I wanted to bring up some of the main details and issues you need to know if you are planning to go the commercial installation route. First, let’s start with the basics. Companies that work in this industry are called audiovisual integrators. There are two “spaces,” commercial and residential, that are serviced by audiovisual integrators. This article will focus only on the commercial space. Note: These are the five main aspects of an audiovisual project: sales, design and engineering, installation, service and recurring revenue. In the commercial space, there are what we call vertical markets; some of them include corporate, government, religious, K-12 education, higher education, broadcast, hospitality and performance spaces. Most integrators have their “favorites” and usually do not take work in other vertical markets. This is because, from the head-end where you design the system to the back-end where the audiovisual system is installed and completed (to the customers satisfaction, I may add), there are many nuances of the systems associated within each market that are absolutely critical. These aspects mean more than just making the system work “good enough” to get paid, but to do such a good job that the client can’t stop talking about how great you were and that they would hire you again, so they’ll provide you with a great reference to help you secure other work. Not to digress here, but please, if you are going to cross over into the commercial installation market, do it right! There are more than enough integrators in this industry already that are more focused on themselves than the customer. One of the golden rules I preach all the time is “Do It Right the First Time!” There is no greater return

MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

on your investment (ROI) than having one of your satisfied customers recommend you to others and/or hire you again!

What You Must Do

Before we start, there are a few things you need to do first. While this is a recommendation, and what others and I have done, check with your attorney and insurance agent before you commit to any changes in your business. You need to set up an entity (corporation, LLC, etc.) that is legally separated from your current business. This is not just for accounting reasons, but for liability. When you are in someone else’s space, you are responsible if something falls of the wall, out of the ceiling, etc., and injures someone — not to mention unintentional damage to their space! In fact, and in addition to having liability insurance, you need to add a specialty insurance rider called “completed operations coverage.” Ten years down the road, if something falls and injures someone at the venue where you completed an install, you may be sued. Completed operations coverage can cover you for this. Again, make sure to check with your insurance agent and/or lawyer before you get started. For example, there are many steps to hanging loudspeakers safely and correctly (not just so that they sound good and provide good coverage), including bringing in a licensed structural, professional engineer to inspect, review and ultimately sign off on your means and methods of the installation by stamping your drawing(s) with his or her seal. While this may alleviate you from the liability of the structure failing, you are still liable for the installation (following the stamped and approved installation drawings). OK, back at it. Let’s start with sales, the first of the five main aspects of a project. There are two types of sales approaches: design-build and bid-build. Design-build is where the customer has selected you to (continued on page 37) 23


Great News About Guitars MI Segment Boasts Another Strong Year in 2019, But What Does the Future Hold?

Photo courtesy of Yamaha

By Brian Berk

Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire performs at The NAMM Show.

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Last year, we posed the question of whether 2018 guitar sales enjoyed one of the best years ever. We declared that the answer to this question was a resounding “yes,” when overall guitar sales increased by 5.3 percent compared to 2017. 2019 guitar sales were also quite strong, holding their own compared to 2018, and then some. Last year saw another strong year, showing the strength and resiliency guitars have. Overall, guitar sales rose 5.1 percent during 2019 vs. 2018. “Guitar sales continued to surge last year. Electric guitars gained 4.7 percent and acoustic guitar sales increased 5.5 percent vs. 2018,” said Jim Hirschberg, president of MI Sales Trak. Thanks to MI SalesTrak, we also got some preliminary guitar data for January 2020. We should note that the coronavirus had not hit the United States hard yet in January, so data for February and March would likely be dramatically different. But for January, in terms of acoustic guitar color unit-share trends, natural remained the star, comprising nearly 78 percent of all sales, followed by sunburst and black in a distant second and third, respectively, according to MI SalesTrak. Looking at acoustic price-point trends, unit share, more than two of every five guitars sold costs $200 or less. Guitars in the $200-$499.99 range made up nearly onethird of acoustic guitar sales, and approximately one of every seven acoustic guitars sold fell in the $500-$999.99 range, revealed MI Sales Trak. Approximately one in eight acoustic guitars (12.6 percent) sold for $1,000 or more. Switching gears to electric guitars, the color trend, unit share, was a much closer “battle.” Sunburst was the No. 1-selling guitar during January in this category, followed closely by black. Red and blue placed a distant third and fourth, respectively. In terms of electric guitar price-point trends, unit share, the cheapest guitars were not No. 1 on the sales list in January. In fact, under-$200 guitars placed third behind $200-$499.99 guitars and $500-$999.99. Nearly one-quarter (23.1 percent) of electric guitars sold for $1,000 or more during January. As can be seen in the charts appearing in this article, all of the aforementioned data is available for 2019 as well. Much of the January 2020 data reflects what happened in all of 2019. However, one noticeable difference was December 2019, when more than half (50.2 percent) of all acoustic guitars sold were in the under-$200

APRIL 2020


price point, perhaps reflecting holiday purchasing during that period. During that month, these guitars were sold at the expense of acoustic guitars selling for $2,000 or more during December 2019. Electric guitars also saw sales in the under-$200 category rise during December 2019, accounting for a tick more than 29 percent of all electric guitar sales. However, sales in the under-$200 category still placed second to those in the $200-$499.99 range during that month. During this holiday month, mid-level-priced guitars were also sold at the expense of those selling for $2,000 or more. To get a perspective on 2019 guitar sales and a look into the future, including how the coronavirus virus may affect the guitar industry, we enlisted the help of some special guests: Scott Miller, communications and marketing specialist, Hoshino USA; Justin Norvell, executive vice president, Fender Products, Fender Musical Instruments Corp.; Jim Cullen, director of sales, PRS; Monte Montefusco, vice president of sales, Taylor Guitars; Ryan Kershaw, vice president, product development and artist relations, D’Angelico; and Yoh Watanabe, director of marketing, Guitars, Yamaha Corp. of America. Let’s start with the aforementioned 2019 good news. We asked our panelists if they agreed with the MI SalesTrak’s statement that 2019 was an excellent year for guitar sales. “[I] 100-percent agree,” responded Miller. “Without going into excessive detail, our 2019 was very strong and was very much in line with the rest of the industry. Our sales growth stems mainly from two things, a steady flow of new products, and maintaining a wide range of instruments that appeal to a diverse group of players.” “Guitar sales have been solid for us, yes,” noted Norvell. “We equate our success to a combination of compelling new product, compelling marketing and artist engagement.” “Over the last three years, PRS has grown [sales] nearly 60 percent. We were up 15 percent in 2019, so yes I would agree with that statement,” said Cullen. “All categories were up for us, so it is not any one thing. We have a strong, seasoned and passionate product-development team, and are focused on innovating and moving forward while learning from the past. I’ve been here 23

years and our current product lineup is the best it’s ever been. We’re also making the best guitars of our career right now. I say that because the feedback from our dealers, artists and customers is very positive. We have also always had a strong focus on relationships. Whether with our dealers, distributors, vendors, artists, media partners or players, we strive to

operate with integrity, and I think that goes a long way in this business.” “Absolutely! In 2019, Taylor experienced another year of record sales,” said Montefusco. “Master guitar designer Andy Powers further showcased the versatility of his V-Class bracing design with the introduction of our new Grand Pacific models. Players across the world enthusiastically responded

to these award-winning guitars. We’ve worked hard to craft instruments that inspire players to visit their local music store. We’re extremely proud of our current guitar lineup.” “We’ve seen steadily increasing sales for several years now. Industry-wide, the younger demographic is growing, and we are in a very exciting boom of new female players, as well. Sales in


our Premier Series have steadily grown year to year as these younger players move into their first or second serious instrument and recognize the intersection of quality and accessible pricing offered on the instruments in that part of our line,” said Kershaw. “I agree, since the MI SalesTrak data and the Yamaha sales data indicate that this is the case,” said Watanabe. “At different points during the year, we’ve had solid growth up and down our portfolio, especially when it comes to uniquely Yamaha guitars, such as TransAcoustic and SILENT Guitars.” Of course, COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. Not only is it a major health problem, but on an economic basis, it caused the stock market’s bull market run to end, with many also saying a U.S. recession began in March. Hence, sales of musical instruments — as well as sales of everything else other than household cleaning products and hand sanitizer — are sure to be dramatically affected. However, before the virus really took hold, we asked our panelists if electric, acoustic or acoustic/electric guitars are selling best overall, and which of their products have recently rung the most registers. “Yamaha acoustic-electric guitars are showing the most growth because we offer a wide range of instruments that incorporate unique technologies that enable guitarists to produce sounds they wouldn’t otherwise be able to create,” answered Watanabe. “[Two] of our hottest-selling guitars at the moment are our APX600 and CPX600 models. They are greatlooking instruments that come in a range of standout colors and finishes. I have to believe that the way these guitars look is contributing to their popularity. SILENT Guitars also are hot sellers for us. They are so beloved because of their striking cool look, and they provide the practical benefit of playing an acoustic guitar through a PA without the drawbacks of a standard acoustic-electric.” “Throughout 2019 and 2020, we’ve seen line-wide growth, which is very exciting for us, as it illustrates brand health. We were able to begin a complete revamping of our product line starting in 2017, and as consumers get to know our newest products and they permeate the market, we’re reaching new highs of interest and sell-through,” said Kershaw. “Whereas we used to see spikes in certain pockets of our product line, we’re now seeing steady growth across the board. I think this speaks

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Justin Norvell, Fender

to the betterment of the entire line and in the diversity of players shopping for D’Angelico instruments. “This year, we released some special models that we’d been working on for quite some time, and we’re thrilled that the response has been tremendously positive,” added Kershaw. “The new limited-edition Deluxe Bedford SH, our first thin-line solid body and three-pickup model, is almost completely sold out, and many of the other limited-edition instruments in that line are in a similar position. But the SH is just undeniably unique — it has the articulation and crispness of a threesingle-coil guitar, but with an element of organic acoustic tone and gumption that can only come from its particular pickup combination and thin-line

design. Our new Mini DC semi-hollow and the Throwback Collection archtops are also selling extremely well, which we’re very excited about.” “Acoustic-electric guitars are leading the way for us. Bob Taylor built our foundation by designing an acoustic instrument that played like an electric guitar. Players took them on stage and made Taylor Guitars a household name. That performance-ready tradition continues today with the majority of our guitars leaving the factory with built-in electronics,” said Montefusco. “Our USA models are selling very well. Andy Powers has refreshed the architecture of our entire USA lineup over the past two years. The guitars all offer enhanced sustain and volume, along with improved intonation. Both

APRIL 2020


“We’re performing well in all three of those categories,” answered Norvell. “The American Acoustasonic Telecaster — and now the Stratocaster — really opened doors for us in the acoustic/electric category, and the Ultra Series has performed well on the electric side. We work hard to cover all bases, from the vintage-leaning player to the hypermodern guitarist. On the vintage side, we’ve added some models to our American Original Series, including reintroducing real CuNiFe-equipped wide-range pickups

that haven’t been available since the `70s. On the modern side, we’ve got the American Ultra and American Acoustasonic Series, and on the esoteric side, we’ve done a new run of “Parallel Universe” mash-up designs, and our new Fullerton Ukes. There’s truly something for everyone!” “Electrics for sure. It’s our largest product category, and the swing zone for Ibanez as a brand,” relayed Miller. “We’ve also had several product releases in recent years that have been very well received and contributed

greatly to our positive sales numbers. The AZ line has been absolutely crushing it. They’ve been a hit since they were released in 2018, and each successive year we’ve continued to expand the lineup, including a total revamp of the Premium and Prestige ranges this year. On the more modern side of our offerings, we continue to get good traction out of our Premium and Axion Label series. Both offer features like figured top woods, specialized electronics packages, and overall, they’re just really cool-looking guitars.”

Ibanez is optimistic about the future.

casual and serious players took notice and have expanded their guitar collections.” “Both electric and acoustic guitars are growing for us. We have been in the electric category much longer and that is the majority of what we do, but our acoustic offering is very robust at this point too, and it has been gaining a lot of traction in recent years. We continually focus on being better today than we were the day before,” said Cullen. “We’re never satisfied with ‘good enough,’ and we continue to push ourselves and learn every day. I think that translates to our guitars, and people realize it when they pick up a PRS product. We are dream-weavers, and the art we create connects people with more art. “The Custom 24 is our flagship guitar model that is consistently a best seller,” continued Cullen. “The 35th-anniversary version is very popular right now. The McCarty family is also extremely popular. We put a lot of energy into refreshing the McCarty model last year. We updated the pickups, tuning pegs, finish, bridge … everything we have learned is in that guitar. They are amazing guitars: Golden Era vibe with modern-day, dare I say, PRS playability. We also brought the McCarty 594 platform into the S2 Series, and that has had an incredible reception. A lot of guitar for the price. The SE Hollowbody is another recent addition. Previously, you could get a PRS Hollowbody through our Core line, which may be cost-prohibitive for some. Adding this model to the SE line offers a great, versatile piece at a more popular price point. And, of course, the Silver Sky continues to impress; a truly unique PRS.”

MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

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What a Difference a Month Makes Fortunately for all of MI, The NAMM Show went off without a hitch this year, unlike many other trade shows. We got our panelists’ takes on the show and if they were pleased overall. “NAMM was excellent! We had great traffic through the booth almost constantly. I don’t think there was a minute I didn’t see someone taking pictures with instruments, jamming at one of our demo stations, or a YouTube channel coming through asking about the new gear. We also celebrated the release of Steve Vai’s new PIA

PRS had another great year in 2019.

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signature model with a concert at the Anaheim House of Blues. The show was packed and Steve had a number of guests perform with him. It was quite an experience and a great night,” Miller stated enthusiastically. “But most importantly, we had great productivity where it counts most: sales. There were dealers in our meeting rooms most of the time, and they were really digging the new products. Long and short of it is, we put in great numbers at NAMM, far ahead of 2019, and we’re in position to have a really productive year because of it.” “I believe the strength of our work

and quality of our product has put PRS in the best position we have ever been in as far as market acceptance goes,” noted Cullen. “Don’t get me wrong, we have always been ‘accepted,’ but we are now a much larger and more important piece of the musical ethos. Sort of like a band only a few knew about that all of a sudden breaks out. We’re in the golden era in our business right now. The energy at the show was the most positive I’ve ever felt, and I’ve been to more than 20 Winter NAMM shows in my time here. With that in mind, my bet is if you speak to anyone from PRS that had the pleasure of attending the show, we all shared a unanimously positive experience. Our footprint was twice the size of previous years, the aesthetic design was modeled after our new storewithin-a-store [SWAS] merchandising packages that director of marketing Judy Schaefer and I have been working on for the past 14-plus months. The booth was packed the entire time, and people seemed genuinely happy with who and what we are.” “The NAMM Show is the place to showcase your brand and new products to dealers, distributors and customers. The show’s reach extends far and wide on a global scale to the music market as a whole,” said Norvell. “It’s one of the key tentpole events that our brand works toward, and we use it as a platform to launch some of our most innovative products, including the new American Acoustasonic Stratocaster. We felt excitement was at an alltime high. You could really feel the tailwind and energy driven by the industry growth!” “The NAMM Show is an early indi-

cator of annual sales results. Traditionally, when dealers are happy at NAMM, the industry has a good year. We kicked off the show with our largest custom guitar event ever. Dealer sentiment could not have been better. More hugs than handshakes and smiles everywhere! 2019 was kind to the guitar business. Every major manufacturer contributed to driving guitar sales for dealers,” responded Montefusco. We followed that up by asking about each panelists’ biggest guitar launches at The NAMM Show. “We’ve recently released some of our most innovative products, such as the Acoustasonic Stratocaster and American Ultra Series, in addition to Parallel Universe, Fullerton Ukes, and all-new artist models the George Harrison 'Rocky' Stratocaster, Tom Morello Stratocaster and Jim Root Jazzmaster,” responded Norvell. “We launched the S2 McCarty 594 Series, Silver Sky with a maple fretboard option, and relaunched our 35th Anniversary Custom 24s in SE/S2/ CORE, SE Hollowbody models, Dustie Waring Signature CE with a Floyd Rose bridge, and SE Starla and SE Mira,” Cullen said. “The most sought-after models at the show were probably the Private Stock 35th Anniversary Dragon (135 pieces) and Silver Sky 'Nebula' Limited Editions (500 pieces). Stirred up plenty of conversation and positive comments and commitments to the brand. I can’t thank out retailers, customers, Artists, and employees enough.” “We had a slew of new products when we hit the show floor this year, but there were absolutely some standouts and crowd favorites,” answered Miller. “It kind of goes without saying, but this year the PIA was the star of the show for us. Our plan going in was to say nothing and do a surprise release at NAMM, but that got blown up when some catalog images of the guitar leaked out early. In retrospect, I think it may have actually been a good thing. Since we didn’t do any conventional press, having the leak and some preNAMM chatter seemed to really help build interest. The online back and forth between those who liked the design and those who, let’s say, were still warming up to it, really brought a lot of people to the booth early to see what the guitar looked like up close. After seeing it, people were hooked. The detail in the PIA really needs to be appreciated in person; there’s a lot of nuance in the design. “On the guitar side, we also released a new batch of RG Premiums and the new High Performance series, which had a lot of positive comments, especially from

APRIL 2020


dealers, since the High Performance line offers a lot of guitar for well under $1,000,” Miller continued. “Another favorite from the show was the EHB series. We thought theses basses would generate interest, but even we were surprised how many people really loved them. The design seemed [to resonate] with players, and we received multiple requests to review them very shortly after returning from NAMM, almost immediately, in fact.” “NAMM 2020 was our best show since returning in 2011,” noted Kershaw. “For us, traffic was nonstop. As always, we hosted about five to six artist performances per day that absolutely packed the room, but this year, we incorporated an educational panel stage where customers and media outlets got to interview and spend more focused time with their favorite artists and the D’Angelico instruments they were representing. Both our customers and dealers were very excited by that component of our show. We live-streamed those interviews during the show and published the majority of them on our YouTube channel, as well. And in terms of instrument sales, nearly everything in the room had a ‘sold’ sticker on it by Day 3. We couldn’t be happier with how it went.” Added Kershaw: “We were focused on about eight small product groups, but the Deluxe Bedford SH certainly became our biggest guitar launch. It’s a unique guitar, so we knew we were taking a bit of a risk with it, but the reception was overwhelmingly positive. Alongside that guitar, introducing an entirely revamped limited-edition collection to the Deluxe Series was incredibly rewarding because it allowed us to do something truly special for our customers. In 2019, we really focused on responding to customer feedback, which led us to a lot of our new product development efforts. This came to fruition in the aforementioned limited-edition Deluxe Series, the Premier and Excel Series Mini DC, the new Premier Bob Weir Bedford signature model, and the refreshed Premier Series acoustic line. We are so grateful for how our audience has responded to those efforts.” “The YCA (Yamaha Corp. of America) core NAMM team spent 10 months planning and preparing the show. The NAMM 2020 strategy was to make an even more unified Yamaha brand presence, continue making a larger global impact and fine-tune our Make Waves messaging. We showcased our strength, that we are a music brand with immense depth

MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

Monte Montefusco, Taylor Guitars

and breadth and are committed to helping people enjoy music, whether that’s through playing, listening, learning or teaching. The extra branding paid off as Yamaha booth traffic surged 60 percent vs. the previous year. To reach customers who did not attend the show, we created captivating video content around our new products and our Yamaha artists, which reached tens of millions of people,” noted Watanabe. “The NAMM Show has been a major platform to launch key models for us. Over the last few years, we launched the Revstar line of electric guitars and various TransAcoustic models, as an example. This past NAMM Show, we launched the NX Series of nylon string acousticelectric guitars. We also employ the event as a platform to bring awareness and drive interest in Yamaha guitars as a

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Ryan Kershaw, D’Angelico

whole. This is why our booth layouts strongly emphasize the unique benefits of our guitars.” “We added four new exciting models to our Builder’s Edition collection, including the updated 816ce Grand Symphony, featuring an innovative soundport cutaway,” noted Montefus-

co. “The new Builder’s Edition 324ce proved to be a runaway success. We received more orders than forecasted and have increased production capacity to meet demand. The GS Mini-e Koa Plus also was well received as the new top-of-the-line GS Mini. Dealers were equally impressed by the Taylor

AeroCase, which is included with our new GS Mini and 200 Plus models.” Prior to the health and economic crisis, we got everyone’s takes on how 2020 looked for their respective companies. “As of right now, things look very good,” stated Miller. “As mentioned,

we had a very strong NAMM show in terms of new orders, and this has put us in position to have a very good 2020. So, the short answer is ‘yes,’ we’re optimistic for the year ahead.” “We are optimistic for continued growth and excitement in the categories!” added Norvell. “We are optimistic,” answered Cullen. “We are obviously in a bit of a dynamic time right now as a global community, but we have a superb team of individuals working together here toward a common goal. We plan to continue our growth path this year, and we are off to a strong start.” “While I try to have an optimistic outlook in general, objectively, this year will be challenging. Collectively, we have to

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pull together and find a way forward,” said Watanabe. We concluded with a question about if there is optimism about the guitar industry in the future, or if outside-theindustry forces, such as coronavirus, are major concerns. “Guitar is one of the most expressive instruments. It truly allows the personality of the player to come through, which gives it an evergreen nature,” Norvell said. “I am optimistic about our industry,” stated Cullen. “Music is a great force in this world, and that truth is not going anywhere. That said, it is a dynamic time, and we are all closely watching as things develop. For now, we continue to work hard building the best guitars we can, and the feedback we have is that people want more PRS. For that, I am grateful!” “Based on our current sales’ consistency and diversity, we’re optimistic that 2020 will be our most successful year yet,” said Kershaw. “There are always a number of unpredictable factors at play in any industry, and the music instrument industry, with its relatively complex product offerings, is susceptible to such forces. But our need for making music, especially in difficult times, has always prevailed.” “I remain optimistic, because we’re seeing a lot of innovation within the guitar category, plus we’re experiencing growth in the entry-level segment, which indicates that new players are picking up the instrument,” said Watanabe. “However, I’m also realistic and understand that events outside of the industry affect consumer behavior. As a part of the guitar industry, which is part of the larger guitar community, we have to pay attention to certain shifts in consumer behavior in order to service those demands, and we will. We can never lose sight of how we make people feel when they play the guitar, and in turn, how they make their audiences feel. For most, it’s very comforting to both performers and their audiences, in all forms of delivery, from the concert hall, to the living room, to online.” “We’re on track to exceed our record Q1 revenue from last year,” said Montefusco. “At the time of this article, the world is entering uncharted territory with the coronavirus situation. Taylor Guitars has made it through three recessions, disco music and countless news articles predicting ‘the end of the guitar.’ We’ll figure this out too,” said Montefusco. “We’re extremely optimistic about the guitar industry. There will always be new challenges, yet musicians inherently need to express

MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

Yoh Watanabe, Yamaha

themselves by writing new songs. Every modern composition has been created on an electronic keyboard, acoustic piano or guitar. Acoustic guitars provide the instant ability to make music when a player is inspired. You don’t need to plug it in, and you can take it anywhere. It’s your creative partner, travel companion and best friend.” Concluded Miller, “Obviously there are external forces affecting everyone in the industry right now. Last year, companies had to contend with the possibility of new tariffs, and the coro-

S W I S S P R E M I U M G U I TA R S

S W I S S P R E M I U M G U I TA R S

navirus situation is obviously something we’re watching carefully. Both situations directly affect the industry in one way or another, but facing challenges is nothing new. CITES was a major disruptive force when it first came into play, but it is something the industry has adapted to and even partially mitigated with the recent easing of restrictions on guitars containing rosewood. So yes, even with all of the global economic uncertainty, we still remain positive about the outlook for the industry in 2020 and beyond.”


FI V E M INUTE S W ITH

Paul Reed Smith Founder, PRS Guitars By Brian Berk

For our annual guitar issue, we placed a call to one of the most iconic and personable people in our industry: Paul Reed Smith, founder of Stevensville, Md.-based PRS Guitars. Among other things, we asked about the company’s current 35th anniversary and if Smith ever expected to have the success he and his company have enjoyed over the years. The honesty Smith provides in his answers is difficult to rival, and he is an entertaining conversationalist to boot. Enjoy!

The Music & Sound Retailer: Let’s start with the 35th anniversar y, but take it from this angle: Are you proud of all of your success? Were you expecting it? Paul Reed Smith: I am proud of the people here. Nobody ever gave up. A couple of times for us, it was Chicken Little, “the sky is falling.” But those moments are why I am in the position I am in. I actually went into our national sales manager’s office [at one of those times] and said, “If everybody got drunk for two and a half months, we will still have a business.” There was another time we were at our worst in 2009. We had squirreled away 10 years of wood for a rainy day. Well, it rained. We built this wood library and invited the whole world to show up, and they gave us orders. There were moments when people didn’t know what to do in certain situations. I called our chairman of the board and asked him what we should do. He said, “I don’t know, but you will muddle through it.” What I like is when everyone puts their heads down and stays at it, regardless of the situation. We had Gibson lawsuits. The first one we lost, and I said, “It is not our day, but it will be our day again.” And then one day, two and a-half years later, the phone rang and they said the [lawsuit] was over. It was our day. Everybody stood strong. I went to the factory floor and somebody got in my face and said, “Don’t you dare back down.” I like the people here. I am proud of that. There is a [movie] out about Carroll Shelby now (“Ford vs. Ferrari”). He never gave up. It is probably the most remarkable thing about him. I could make a really good living in a single shop making guitars. But I don’t for a variety of reasons. One of the main ones is I like working with the people in this building. I am proud of the group effort. Did I know this was going to happen? No. Was not making it an option? No. I remember someone walked into our NAMM booth in 1990 and said, “They’re still here?” I was standing right behind him. It was a guy running another company. We are still here. I remember someone in 2011 saying, “The lights are still on. Good job.” Did we know how we would get here? No. But had we not got here, it would have been spiritually wrong somehow. I always felt we would make it. I always thought, spiritually, we would survive. I just never saw it quite the way it is. We have been through some layoffs. We have been through some tough times. But I keep telling everyone at The NAMM Show, “This is our time.” I say it over and over again. This is our time. It is like having a football team that had a lot of interesting seasons, but this year, we are headed to the playoffs. I think of the [1989] movie “Major League,” when the [Cleveland] Indians keep losing until Charlie Sheen [playing fictional Indians pitcher Rick Vaughn] got new glasses, and then they started winning. That was like us. I always thought we would be alive, like we are. I did not know it would be like it is. I really appreciate the people I have worked with. That includes the media, dealers and (continued on page 53) 32

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MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

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M I SPY

HUNTING FOR A BARGAIN GUITAR ON CONNECTICUT’S GOLD COAST

When I received my latest assignment from MI Spy HQ, I couldn’t help but chuckle. The Chief had tasked me with tracking down a guitar for the budget-conscious player in preppy Connecticut, a state that’s as synonymous with wealth as it is with boat shoes and pastel pants. Mention “Connecticut” to people from other parts of the U.S., and you’re likely to hear a lot of jokes about the one percent, spoiled children and wine moms ruling the road in their giant, luxury SUVs. Perhaps nowhere in this small, expensive state is conspicuous consumption more baked into the social milieu than along Connecticut’s Gold Coast, a 20-mile stretch of shoreline that borders more populous New York. And once you cross the New York State line traveling east, it all begins in the wealthy town of Greenwich. Here, Hollywood producers and hedge-fund millionaires alike mount home-construction projects that rival new office buildings in size, complete with construction entrances to the property and ample porta-potties for the help. Each new big house seems determined to outdo the last. All that ostentation hides the fact that Greenwich, at least, is rather diverse. In Connecticut, a large town such as Greenwich (population 62,300) can consist of numerous sections that anywhere else would likely function as towns in their own right. In Greenwich, the working-class neighborhoods Byram and Pemberwick look identical to the parts of New York that they border, while father east, Cos Cob and Riverside are more middle- to uppermiddle class. But the cost of living in any neighborhood on the Long Island Sound will be quite expensive, and ditto for those northerly reaches of town known as “Back-Country Greenwich” (despite the quaint-sounding nickname). The high cost of everything here gives people all the more reason to try to scout out bargains, I suppose. So your MI Spy went shopping for a low-priced acoustic guitar for my fictitious 14-year-old nephew. Surprisingly, I found just two stores that offer guitars within Greenwich’s 67 square miles. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go far afield to find two more. The others were in the neighboring city of Stamford and the next town to the east, Darien. The four stores I visited varied in size and selection, but all were manned by salespeople who demonstrated knowledge of music in general, and guitars in particular. In this respect, they exhibited a profound appreciation for a market that’s as apt to be as discriminating as it is well-heeled.

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APRIL 2020


Greenwich Music 1200 East Putnam Ave. Riverside, CT 06868 203.637.1119

This midsized store occupies, along with several other shops, the ground floor of a threestory medical building that promises “valet parking.” The sign is clearly meant for medical patients, not for retail shoppers. Though I visited during a late-afternoon slow period, the available parking was sparse, this being Greenwich, after all. Inside, I found a fairly spacious, well-laid-out store with a sizable selection of guitars covering much of the rear wall. I told a salesman what I was looking for. “For a 14-year-old, I would go with a full-sized guitar, unless he is smaller than average in height, in which case the full-sized models might be difficult to hold and to play,” the salesman told me. “And, I’d suggest a model with steel strings, because that’s how most of the music sounds that kids today like.” Given their greater versatility over classical models, the best choice would be an acoustic guitar, he said. And steel-stringed acoustic guitars are the overwhelming favorite among teens, he added. The price range: $170 and up. Within that realm, the Epiphone Pro-1 steel-string guitar would be a great choice, the salesman said. It sells for $169 and offers reduced body depth to make it easier for beginners to hold and play, and jumbo frets to enable easier fingering. At $179, the Epiphone PR-4E Player Pak is one of the store’s best sellers. This acoustic model has a plug-in jack enabling it to function as an Music & Arts electric guitar. The package consists of an amp cable, electronic tuner, gig bag and strap. 22 West Putnam Ave. Next up in price was the Austin AA25DSB, priced Greenwich, CT 06830 at $219. This particular model comes in a black finish 203.661.1492 and is also geared toward beginning guitarists. “The The Greenwich outlet of the nationwide Music & Arts chain occupies a small storeneck is a fraction smaller than the Epiphone models, front along busy West Putnam Avenue, around the corner from the heart of downtown which might make it somewhat easier to play,” said with its designer boutiques and galleries. Everything here is picture perfect: Even the the salesperson. “However, there won’t be much of a YMCA building in Greenwich is an architectural gem, with fat pillars and a dome with noticeable difference.” a small widow’s walk. Music & Arts is right next to a very fragrant steak restaurant, Another attractive buy on display was the Ibanez enabling musical-instrument shoppers to take a break and enjoy some wonderful food. ACCG, a used acoustic guitar at a bargain-basement Next to that is a small art gallery that had what seemed to be a genuine Keith Haring price of $129. There was one drawback: It was a leftpainting/sculpture prominently on display. handed model. “Unless your kid is a lefty, this one is This Music & Arts branch packed a lot of instruments into a small space, and the no good,” the salesman said. salesman was an expert. After I pled ignorance to all things musical, he gave me a Upon exiting the store’s parking lot, I discovered a rundown of the finer points of guitars, especially those favored by younger musicians key downside to shopping in this area. East (and West) such as my fictitious 14-year-old nephew. Generally, younger folks overwhelmingly Putnam Avenues are Greenwich’s section of U.S. prefer acoustic guitars equipped with steel strings, he pointed out. This is especially highway 1, and traffic in this area can be heavy at any true if they are rock music fans. “Nylon strings are slightly easier on the fingers,” he time of the day. Or any time of the year, for that matter. said. “But with a pick and the calluses that develop after playing for a couple of months, The road is four-laned, and if the traffic is moving at they are fine.” all, it is moving very fast. What’s more, it seems that For beginners, Music & Arts carries a well-regarded private-label line: Laurel Canon Thursdays and Fridays year ‘round, much of the yon. The LA-100 acoustic guitar normally sells for $149, but was on sale for $99 during rest of the eastern seaboard passes through Connectimy visit. “It lacks a plug-in [for use with an amplifier],” he said. “But that might be a cut, turning Interstate 95 (located literally behind the feature for this beginner’s next guitar.” store) into a 100-mile-long parking lot. Abundant traffic The salesman then suggested that “If dollars are less of an object, go for a Yamaha. exits onto U.S. 1, and these drivers are in no mood to Yamaha makes a beautiful guitar.” Yamaha acoustic models begin at $149 for the F235D slow down for mere shoppers and doctors’ patients, let dreadnought acoustic model and $159 for the F335 acoustic guitar; an acoustic-electric alone MI Spies. model will cost an additional $75 to $100. After a 10-minute wait for the traffic to clear, I exited “Above and beyond that, you’ll want a case — there’s one on sale right now for $25 left toward downtown Greenwich and the next stop on — and a guitar stand for $15,” he said. “You just need some basic protection. For most my shopping agenda. beginners, a soft-sided case will be fine. Hard cases are only for musicians who travel. You don’t want to knock into it and have it fall over.” The salesman related the sad saga of a customer who purchased an acoustic guitar “and all the add-ons,” but got lazy and took to stuffing his guitar underneath the sofa. One day his kids decided to use the sofa as a trampoline. The guitar, he recalled, was crushed. “Fortunately, that was one of the Laurel Canyon sale models, so replacing it was not a challenge,” he said. “The other thing you need to bear in mind is that wood and laminate finishes are sensitive to temperature and humidity. Keeping a guitar in its case affords protection.” MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

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Crescendo Music 351 Post Rd. Darien, CT 06820 203.689.7725

I dislike visiting any music store at closing time. Since I’m not a true shopper, I feel I’m imposing a bit on a salesperson to go in and pepper him or her with questions. When I visited Crescendo Music at 4:40 p.m. on a Saturday, 20 minutes before closing time, I was pleased to see that the lights were still on and I would be the sole customer in the store, so at least my visit would be quick. Crescendo is a spacious, well-organized store just over the border from Norwalk in the tony shoreline suburb of Darien. This was the wealthy town that Rosalind Russell’s character derided for snobbishness in the 1958 film “Auntie Mame.” (In case you’re wondering, part of my MI Spy training includes being able to bewilder and beguile with classic film references.) Today, Darien is a friendly, family-oriented town, though conspicuously upscale. The store is easy to find, right off I-95 in a small strip mall. It’s near a 24-hour Guiliano’s Music diner and a Duchess, a fast-food chainlet 70 High Ridge Road found only in Southern Connecticut. Here, the salesperson’s advice echoed Stamford, CT 06905 that of the other music stores: Classical 203.614.9920 models, while often a bit gentler on the It took a bit of trial and error to locate the just-opened Guiliano’s Music store (and school) in pocketbook, won’t fit the usual teen’s central Stamford, owing to outdated listings on Google and Yelp. Complicating matters sometastes. “Classical guitars are definitely what, the store used to occupy space in an office building right up the street, and a sign reading out if you want to play modern music,” “Guiliano’s” is still outside the building; venture inside, and you’ll find a crowded yoga studio. he said. I later learned that Guiliano’s had, indeed, consolidated into one location (in Norwalk, six miles His first recommendation: the Washeast) several years ago, but decided to reopen in Stamford. The new store, located in the center of burn HF11S Heritage Folk Acoustic, a strip mall across the street from a standalone Lord & Taylor, is well worth finding. which the store currently sells for $299. I visited on a late afternoon and found the salesman both attentive and extremely knowledgeAn acoustic-electric version sells for able. He was, for starters, somebody who had picked up his first guitar at just about the same age $50 more. “It has a great sound for the as my fictitious nephew. Moreover, he was a graduate of a college that a) specializes in music, and money,” the salesman told me. “It is built b) your MI Spy had actually heard of. with a solid top, and my experience has During my visit, a salesperson from Guiliano’s somewhat-bigger Norwalk store came in to been that, the longer you have these obtain some sales gear, which added a layer of insight into mastering the wonders of the guitar. guitars, the better they sound.” For beginning guitar players, the salesperson recommended the nylon-stringed Kohala KG100N. Next up would be guitars from TakaBecause the description I invented of my “nephew” was of a five-foot-eleven adolescent, the salesmine. These include the GD30-BLK man recommended an adult-sized guitar. It is worth noting, however, that Kohala makes identical dreadnought model and GN20-NS NEX. instruments to the KG100N that come in two smaller sizes for younger (or smaller) learners. Both are offered for $399. For a some(By the way, Kohala’s headquarters is in Tennessee, but its roots are in the Aloha State. Yes, the what bigger outlay ($479) the Takamine company is quite well known for ukuleles — which Guiliano’s also carries.) GY93-NAT Acoustic New Yorker offers The next step up represented a significant jump in both price ($300 vs. $149) and richness of both acoustic and electric capability and sound. This was the Seagull S6 Original Slim QIT. Because he was an accomplished guitarist, and comes with a built-in equalizer. because he had a storewide audience of one, the salesman picked up both the Seagull and the KoAccording to the salesman, he strongly hala and played a few chords for me. The more expensive model had a deeper tonality to it, owing urges buyers to spend an extra $45 for to both its steel strings and its construction. “It definitely projects more,” the salesman said. “But a soft gig bag. “Hard-sided cases are for nylon strings are going to be much easier on the fingers and hands for the beginner.” This would people who perform professionally,” he make it more likely that a student guitarist will continue practicing and playing. noted. “For most kids, a soft-sided bag The Kohala was no slouch in the sound department, however. It had a nice, warm tone, alwill do the job.” though it seemed tamer and softer. It clearly would do a yeomanlike job of encouraging a young learner to master the guitar, as well. This Guiliano’s Music location is still new and did not yet carry any instruments at price points between $150 and $300 at the time of my visit. The Norwalk location does, however. What’s key wherever you shop, said the salesman, is getting a good education, and both of its outlets can help in that regard, he noted.

The Sale

As is often the case, there were no “losers” among the four stores I visited. Every salesperson I encountered was helpful, attentive, professional and, perhaps most important of all, knowledgeable. I made it clear that I knew nothing about music and just wanted to provide a favorite nephew with a memorable gift. The four salesmen agreed on one thing: acoustic over classical. And they urged me to steer clear of any all-electric models until this beginning guitarist mastered the basics. They all seemed to indicate that a plug-in jack for an amp might be a “nice to have,” if the budget permitted it, but it was definitely not a “must.” Three of the four salesmen steered me toward steel-stringed models. In this respect, Guiliano’s was the outlier, with a caveat: The salesperson urged me to purchase a nylon-stringed model, although he noted that he had learned on a steel-stringed guitar 10 or 15 years ago. (I am guessing his age to be late 20s.) “There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of string,” he said. “In my own case,

36

I decided to learn on a steel model and trained myself to ‘power through’ any pain I might have been experiencing at the time.” The salesman also related that he learned to play at the “old” Stamford Guiliano’s, the one that’s now a yoga studio. In time, he discovered, the blisters he developed became calluses, which in turn made the going much, much easier. “For me it was, no pain, no gain,” he said. “But most kids aren’t like that, and for that reason, a nylonstringed model would be better for most.” Although all stores were great, I appreciated the personal quality to the salesperson at Guiliano’s stor y, and for that reason, I chose Guiliano’s as the winner. Yet, any one of the four stores is apt to provide you with a great shopping experience, and should you choose to buy an instrument, all four stores operate music schools as well. People in this neck of Connecticut demand excellence, and each of these four stores delivers. APRIL 2020


SPECIAL TO THE RETAILER

(continued from page 23) provide them with a proposal, which they will compare with other proposals from other integrators, and then select whom they want to do business with. Bid-build is typical of government work (local, federal, etc.), although some smarter customers will opt to hire a consultant first, and then send out a bid package to known integrators before choosing whom they want to award the contract. Many clients have been burned in the past, and there is most definitely an opportunity to earn business from those looking for a new audiovisual integrator. I am not trying to make this complicated, but it is. In design-build work, each integrator will meet with the customer and design the system around their favorite equipment and/or the brands they sell (which, by the way, is not always what the client needs). For designbuild projects, you have an advantage if you already have a relationship with a customer. Even if you are more expensive than other integrators who submit proposals, the client can still choose you. The downside

a little more complicated. Back in the day, you would pull your loudspeaker wire, microphone and signal cable, and you’d be done. Not anymore. Many states now require systems integrators to be licensed. Yes, just like an electrician needs a high-voltage license to work on a building, audiovisual integrators are classified as low-voltage contractors (a classification that also includes the security and telecomm industries). You will have two choices here: Either have a dedicated individual on staff take certification classes and pass the low-voltage exam, or use an already-licensed subcontractor to do your installs. (Yes, if you choose to train someone in-house, you will also need to provide a van and tools for them at your expense). Another tip: Many companies have a caveat in their employment contract that if you cover the costs for them to receive a license and/ or certification, unless they remain with the company for a year or two,

Installations, when done right, are profitable. It is not uncommon, when you combine the overall cost of equipment and your installation labor, for you to sell the job at a 40-percent or 50-percent markup.

is that, unless you have the ability to compare the other proposals to yours, you’ll be working with a customer who is not comparing apples to apples. Your design/proposal and the other design(s)/proposal(s) will likely include completely different solutions and completely different systems. This often leads to many issues, including the customer not getting their money’s worth or the functionality they need. Now, in the bid-build world, everyone is bidding on an identical system, and the client, of course, almost always chooses the lowest bidder. Bids (proposals) are submitted by a date and time. If you are even 10 minutes late to the deadline for bid submission, it will disqualify you, even if you just spent 80 hours putting together a multi-million-dollar bid. To start out, I recommend looking for design-build work, likely generated from a combination of your existing clients and new clients outside of your regular customers. Typically, existing customers will be of the worship or performance-space type, like a church, synagogue, nightclub, etc. They come into your store looking for more than a purchase — they want the equipment installed. You may or may not already have folks that go check it out for them, and even do installation work on the side. These sales folks may be your entry into this business. We call them account managers. I can distinctly remember my first 10 leads at Sam Ash Sound & Lighting that came in through their stores. I closed eight of them, one was a rental, and one did not hire us and decided to go with a brand that was wrong for them (nine months later, they called us back and admitted that they were wrong!). I cannot guarantee that you will have an 80-percent closure ratio of qualified leads from your store(s), but it will be higher than your success rate from leads that are not existing customers.

Should You Take the Step?

Let’s start with staffing. At a minimum, you will need someone whose priority is generating leads for installations. They need to be able to leave the store for hours and not have to rush back to meet someone who wants a guitar. They need to be familiar with the systems they will be selling, and they need to be able to create a proposal and other documents related to the installation. Think of them as a dedicated account manager for your installation division (or whatever you would like to classify it as). In addition, you will need someone to install and service the audiovisual systems. Typically, this is not the same person as your account manager, since installations can take many days, and you cannot sell more systems if you are busy installing them. This is where it becomes MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

they have to pay you back for the cost of the training. Since the license is in their name (not your company’s) when they leave you will have to train someone else, again, at your expense, unless you hire a new installer with an existing license. And here’s one more tip concerning bid-build work: One of the reasons I suggest not starting with bid-build work is that it is rarely as profitable as design-build work. Typical markups for bid-build work are as low as eight percent to maybe 16 percent. Many companies intertwine bid-build projects with design-build projects to keep their staff busy during slowdowns and to increase the volume of equipment they sell, to keep their equipment cost at the best pricing tier. However, for beginners, your best bet is to focus on design-build projects. And now … drumroll … the GOOD news! Installations, when done right, are profitable. It is not uncommon, when you combine the overall cost of equipment and your installation labor, for you to sell the job at a 40-percent to 50-percent markup. Of course, this depends on your account manager and their level of sales expertise. Note: You do not want an account manager who sells systems by lowering the price; you want someone who sells the service and the value of doing business with you. Now, for a programming note: We plan on following up on this subject in future issues and making this a multi-part feature. We will go into more depth on each of the five aspects of a project on its own, and then wrap up with a summary. Meanwhile, you can go to the Sound & Communications website (soundandcommunications.com), and look under the Resources tab, where you will find “Doug’s Docs.” These are document templates I have created over the years, arranged by category and available for you to download and use free of charge; they are accompanied by links to corresponding articles that explain their usage. In the event you want to “Do It Right the First Time” (and do not want to wait for the series to unfold), feel free to contact me and we can discuss your thoughts on this subject and the role I may be able to play. Doug Kleeger, CTS-D, DMC-E/S, XTP-E, has been a member of the audiovisual industry for more than 35 years. He is the owner and principal consultant of AudioVisual Consulting Services (avcs.us), based in Powder Springs, Ga. While his primary services offered are engineering design and documentation services, his diverse background has given him expertise in the selling, designing, installing, servicing, and renting of commercial and consumer audiovisual systems. Doug also spent almost 20 years as a location sound mixer in the film industry. He authors a monthly column for Sound & Communications called “What Would You Do?” and other columns, and is a member of that magazine’s Technical Council. Contact him at dkleeger@testa.com or doug@avcs.us. 37


NOT YOUR AVERAGE COLUMN

Wh a t’s Your

passion?

By Tim Spicer Passion. It’s what drives creation, inspiration and growth. Passion is the foundation of your favorite songs, your favorite instruments and, I would argue, the foundation of the most successful business leaders in our industry. Many of our industry leaders are driven by their strong desire to improve and grow both personally and professionally. In this column, I’m asking, what drives you? What are you passionate about? What motivates you and pushes you forward in your business? I’m writing this column to get back to the basics. Let’s focus on the foundation of our businesses. Let’s focus on ourselves. Take a minute and think about the late legendary guitar man Les Paul, Sweetwater

38

founder Chuck Surack, and NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond. These are three heavy-hitting names in our industry. Les Paul created one of the most iconic guitars in the world. Chuck Surack started a four-track recording studio in the back of his Volkswagen that he grew to the largest online music retailer in the world. Joe Lamond has helped lead the MI industry to an all-time high through the collaboration of manufacturers, retailers, engineers, educators and pretty much anyone else involved in the music business. What do each of these industry leaders have in common? They have a contagious passion that drives them to wake up every day and improve upon yesterday. Their for ward-thinking attitude has helped them stand out as clear leaders. I would argue that each of their teams, although vastly different, have often looked to them for inspiration and ideas. So what makes Les, Chuck and Joe stand out? Their passion. Let’s break down what I mean by passion. It can be easy to confuse passion and emotion, but it’s important for business leaders to separate the two. Emotion feels, and passion does. Emotion is a reaction, and passion is a commitment to goals and plans that cultivate actions and create results. It’s possible to have emotion, but not have passion. What I’m referring to is the force that drives you to improve personally and as a business leader. Why do you show up every day to work? Is it because you have to clock in in order to pay your bills? Or is it because you love what you do and you want to share your passion with others? Our emotions rise and fall throughout life depending on current events and experiences, but passion is a steady force that drives you forward. Although I’ve only been in the business for seven years, I’ve had plenty of days where my emotions held me back. Even in difficult times of long hours and grueling days, there’s an unmoving desire to press for ward. That’s because I have a deep passion for sharing music with others. I have seen the power music has to touch lives firsthand, and I want ever yone to experience the joy of playing an instrument. APRIL 2020


Unfortunately, there are a lot of business leaders struggling to keep their passion alive. I’ve lost count of how many people have strongly encouraged me to “find another industry” throughout the years. I’ve had many conversations with people covering topics like, “Our industry isn’t what it used to be” or “Online sales have choked our margins.” I remember a specific conversation at an industry event a few years back. I was told, “Kids these days just don’t get real music.” I bit my tongue and smiled and nodded as I let the gentleman inform me of all the reasons I shouldn’t own a brick-and-mortar retail store in today’s world. Looking back now, I regret not speaking up in the moment. I disagree with the mentality of these statements. Although potentially grounded in some truths, I think the key point is being missed. Of course our industry isn’t what it used to be. Which industry is? Of course online sales have changed the way products are sold in quantity and in price point. Of course, in an everincreasingly digital world, the way music is created is changing. The world is changing, people. Get with it. Change isn’t always bad. The emphasis should be on our passion as business leaders, not on complaining about change. Are we passionate about our companies? Are we passionate about seeing the next generation fall in love with making music? If so, let’s focus on that. Let’s look for inspiration with online sales and in current music. Let’s adapt our business models to better serve the musical needs of the next generation. If you feel like the passion you once had has faded, maybe it’s time to plan a sabbatical. Maybe it’s time to look for new ways to get reenergized. However it may look, I challenge you to think of tomorrow. What is going to drive your business forward? Tomorrow will come whether we are ready or not. As I typed this column, I’ve been telling myself, “This is much easier said than done.” MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

I hope I am many years from slowing down. I hope I never lose the passion I have now. But more importantly, I hope I have the strength and courage to step aside if that time comes. I know my business and its impact on the world will be much greater if I do.

Lastly, I don’t think this is a “set-it-and-forget-it” topic. Life events can change in an instant, and that can alter our passion and sense of direction. I believe it’s important to constantly rate our passion on a scale of one to 10. Take note if the scale begins

to shift. If it does, spend time focusing on taking the correct next steps. Where is your passion right now? Does something need to change in your business? I would love to hear your input. You can reach me at tim@spicersmusic.com.

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I N T H E T RENCHE S

By Allen McBroom

DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET

If you’ve ever worked with chickens and gathered eggs, the old phrase “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” probably didn’t make much sense to you. When gathering eggs, one basket is all one can handle. One hand collects the eggs, one hand totes the basket. That’s how it works. The old adage isn’t really about gathering eggs, of course; it’s about the level of risk one accepts when all one’s assets are lumped into one accident-prone container. As I’m writing this, the world is about a month into the gripping drama of the coronavirus, and the death toll has just passed the 2,000 mark. I’ve been thinking about how many baskets our store has been using to tote our eggs. With so many products being made in China today, our supply chain is bound to be disrupted. Many Chinese factories are closed, and travel (and product transport) from one Chinese city to another is severely restricted. This means, even if a factory is operating, it may not be able to get its products to a seaport. Even if they arrive at a seaport, the buyer in America has to pay a premium for container space, since so few containers are moving. These factors, and others, are creating distribution bottlenecks that may disrupt our supply chain for months or years. Since we’re barely a month into this crisis, it’s hard to predict the outcome. One thing’s for certain, though: Many of the MI compa-

nies that produce exclusively in China or some other single country are already scrambling to find alternative manufacturing sources for the here and now, as well as for the future. Diversifying a production map is expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as being out of inventory and not being able to get product made or transported across the sea. So, while we may not know exactly how this is going to impact our own stores, we know it will impact us to some extent. Perhaps, by the time this article appears in print, we’ll be heaving a sigh of relief that the worst is over, and things are returning to normal. If we are getting that relief, let’s not forget that all of this could (and probably will) happen again, and we don’t know what form the disruption might take next time. The good news is, we can take steps right now to limit the impact of a future supply-chain disruption. Perhaps the biggest barrier to protecting our stores’ supply line is our own complacency and satisfaction with the status quo. Maybe you’ve got a brand of cables that have worked well for you for years, and you stock that one brand exclusively. What happens if/when that brand is suddenly unable to deliver? It can happen for a lot of reasons other than a worldwide contagion outbreak. Say their factory burns, or their labor force goes on strike, or their country of origin is hit with high tariffs, or their labor force is taken over by an alien life force. OK, that last one is unlikely, but now that I have your attention, let’s see what we can do to limit the damage these disruptions can cause for us. Have multiple sources for your products. You can still stick with your old, reliable-so-far brand of cables, but have at least some offerings from a couple of other sources.

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Maybe you sell a lot of drumsticks and heads. If so, look for small, boutique-level brands that produce in smaller quantities, but that produce here in the U.S. Yes, these will probably be sold at a higher price point, but you’ll at least have your foot in the door

when the next disruption occurs. Most strings are made in the U.S. as well, but remember, there are more potential causes for disruptions than just international concerns. Keeping your eggs in more than one basket can also require some real soul searching about your current product lines. I looked into picking up a really large brand recently, and I figured out pretty quick that the significant annual commitment was not something I wanted to take on. The sales rep told me that another dealer who also thought it was a large commitment realized if he lumped everything he spent last year on electric guitars, acoustic guitars, amps and related gear into one pile, he had more than the big company’s annual commitment, and that made him comfortable with taking on the line. Wow. Think about that for a moment. The rep’s suggestion was to total up everything we spent last year on large stock, and then, this year, put all our eggs (inventory money) into one basket (the big company). Gosh, what could go wrong with a plan like that? Needless to say, we passed on that idea. We have long-standing relationships with many good companies that have stuck with us through fat years and lean years, and many of them have solid margins and great people working for them. Putting all of our eggs into one basket like the one proposed would be a risky venture indeed. Any ripple in that company’s sea could upend our ability to stock our shelves. Your store probably has similar longstanding relationships, and those have genuine value that’s hard to calculate in terms of dollars. Diversification in product lines, just like diversification in finance, MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

spreads thin the risk. Even the smallest of stores can diversify with a little planning. Maybe you’ve got 30 SKUs from one string company. You could trim back to 20 SKUs and pick up five SKUs each from two other companies, or 10 SKUs from a brand you’ve never stocked. If you won’t be buying enough to go direct,

get them from a distributor. If you want to limit the amount of grey matter you have to invest in diversifying, ask the distributor’s rep what’s selling most often. She’ll be glad to give you a suggestion on new product to buy. Whatever you do, remember that the next product supply disruption isn’t a question of if

it will happen, it’s a question of when it will happen. Go ahead and start adding to your supply roster now. Halfway through the next disruption is the wrong time to be making a new supply relationship. Spread your eggs out enough that one basket failure is, at worst, a mild inconvenience. Happy trails.

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SHINE A LIGHT

San Diego Music Studio 423 S. Las Posas Road San Marcos, CA 92078 (760) 761-0055 www.sandiegomusicstudio.com Mon. – Fri. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sat. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Kimberly Deverell, Director of Educational Development and Advocacy Robin Sassi, Owner

Ukuleles are hot sellers. San Diego Music Studio displays theirs in an “ukulele hut.”

You Stay Classy, San Diego Music Studio!

By Michelle Loeb

Twenty-five years ago, Robin Sassi opened a small retail and rental space to complement her piano-teaching business in a way that also offered flexibility for the life the then-23-year-old hoped to build for herself. “The primary driving force behind opening this store was wanting a flexible career so that I could have children one day, but it’s also been a dream of mine for a long time,” said Sassi. “My uncle said that, when I was a little kid, I used to block off a section of our living room and pretend that it was a music store and not let anyone in without paying.” While the store first opened with about $700 worth of music that Sassi never thought she’d be able to sell, “Now we sell that much in a day,” she said. Today, Sassi has cultivated San Diego Music Studio into a core part of the music-making community, offering lessons, instrument rentals, music supplies, sheet music and in-house repairs. “Each part is like a tree in the forest, and they’re all feeding off the same ground,” Sassi said of her business philosophy. “There are some times when everything is up or everything is down, but usually it’s a balance, and it insulates us from economic ups and downs. There are ebbs and flows between the pieces, and they work together. That’s how this business works.” Helping to make the business successful is Kimberly Deverell, another piano teacher who was a college student when mutual acquaintances introduced her to Sassi. After graduating with a degree in music education, Deverell quickly took on a management role in the store, and even ran the business for three years while Sassi went to law school. “It was a sink-or-swim moment for me, and I’d like to think I swam,” said Deverell. The two have worked closely together ever since, holding lots of meetings on the go and in the car as they run errands or pick up their children from school. Sassi and Deverell have worked hard to make San Diego Music Studio a family-friendly environment that is flexible and attuned to the needs of staff and customers alike. 42

Robin Sassi

“When a customer walks in, we embrace them and treat them like family. We truly care about them and want to make them as comfortable as possible. The staff is welcoming and inviting, and everyone is treated with respect,” said Deverell, whose job has grown to encompass advocacy and outreach functions, including managing relationships with local schools and teachers. “A lot of my day is spent just talking to people and learning information,” Deverell continued. “There isn’t as much time for that in a big store, but a small business can take the time to do that and not just sell them something, and then you have a customer for life who will pick up new stuff every time they come in. It’s a relationship.” For Sassi, developing those relationships has only become easier since she herself became a parent and earned her self-described “street cred” with her customers. “Parents are concerned about their children’s development, and often it’s about managing expectations and assuring them that they are good parents. It’s hard to strike that balance between being a good parent and a good worker. I feel like a bad parent because I’m at the store, but then I feel bad at my job when I’m spending time with my kids,” APRIL 2020


Kimberly Deverell

Deverell and Sassi both love their jobs

Sassi explained. “So, we understand that parents need reassurance, and we teach our staff that when the parents are being tough, it’s often about what they are feeling and not what they are saying. They feel like you don’t understand until you have kids of your own, and they treat you differently once you’re a parent too.” Having that experience allows Sassi and Deverell to be creative in coming up with new ideas for the store, whether it’s launching a toddler music gym, installing a popcorn machine that keeps children excited to come in and take their lessons, and even utilizing household objects to display products in new and imaginative ways that maximize floor space. “For example, we needed a clean, attractive display for trumpet mouthpieces that was easy for our customers to look at and see how much the items cost. I came up with the idea of using a spice rack, and our customers loved it,” said Sassi. “We also use tea boxes to organize our reeds.” One of San Diego Music Studio’s most recent creative endeavors MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

was an ukulele hut. “It’s an actual hut,” said Deverell, who said the idea was inspired by something she had seen in the likes of Ikea and Home Depot. “The ukulele displays were taking up too much room, so we had a friend create this hut, and it became an amazing place where people gather. It’s very inviting, and it’s a smart way to get people to buy. People always come in and say ‘wow.’” Maintaining a friendly and welcoming environment, with fun and creative ways of displaying products and meeting customer needs, has helped to keep San Diego Music Studio in business for a quarter century. And it is what Sassi and Deverell hope will allow the business to continue to grow for many more years to come. “We all sell similar products, so it’s not about what we sell, but about how we sell it,” said Sassi. “Our community happens to be in a store where you buy things, and we want them to be happy when they come in, as well as when they leave. We want to keep creating music-makers, and our customers want to buy from the people who they feel comfortable with.” 43


V E D D AT O R I A L

GOING VIRAL By Dan Vedda

I’m tabling my discussion of brand representation until next month, because I want to talk about an “in-the-news” topic. Nothing to do with the election, thank goodness. You’re on your own with that. But this is something that likely will affect our brick-and-mortar business procedures and our goodwill within our communities, potentially shaping portions of our industry for years to come: At the moment, the big issue is the coronavirus, COVID-19. Relax. I’m not jumping on the doomsday wagon, announcing the sky is falling or giving out decorating tips for your HAZMAT lesson studios. Nor am I dismissing it as a “hoax” or minimizing the very real concerns about it. But the worldwide mobilization to combat the spread of the virus fuels a fearful state of mind among a broad swath of consumers. I think it’s in our best interest to consider how we can deal with the variety of problems we could face from this pandemic. While COVID-19 may have faded from the headlines by the time you read this, the fact that it has dominated the news makes it likely that another disease roller coaster will show up soon. Yes, a lot of the coverage is hype, in the same way that the snow squall of my youth is now grist for reports of Yeti sightings. But the virus and its impacts are real, and the very fact that people are up in arms means that we have to deal with anxious consumers’ expectations, whatever the reality may be. First, a note for perspective. In 1918-19, just over a hundred years ago, a pandemic flu ran rampant throughout the world. Certainly, public health measures were more primitive, but we also didn’t have widespread air travel — or 44

even that many automobiles. People stayed close to home, didn’t go to big sporting events, and the population was both more spread out and smaller. Yet the influenza epidemic of 1918-19 killed more than 50 million people at a time when the global population was just under 2 billion. It is estimated that 20 percent of the world population — about 380 million people — caught the disease, which would give it about a 13-percent mortality rate. Thankfully, COVID-19 is nowhere near as virulent. But before this health scare even blew up, I was already getting calls from nervous mothers wanting to bring their child’s band instrument in for disinfection because their kid had the flu. Concerns about transmission in lesson rooms or from our restrooms were expressed. Even without COVID-19, people are a little uncomfortable with potential contagion. So, we’re coming up with some information and protocols to calm nerves and actually do some good. We’ve put together a pamphlet to give customers some home cleaning tips, and we’ll follow up with a video. Why don’t we just grab some extra money and offer a “corona-clean” service? In this litigious society, do you want to risk — or defend a claim — that a horn you “disinfected” caused a child or an employee to fall ill? Sure, it’s unlikely to happen. And everyone should know that McDonald’s coffee is hot. But defending that is still expensive. So, it makes sense (and it’s good public relations) to visibly step up housekeeping, waste disposal and rental instrument prep. This is not a job that existing institutions can handle well enough to quell all fears. As I write this, an announcement that all local Cleveland buses will be disinfected every day just showed up in my news feed. I’m sure plenty of other businesses and groups will be adding measures. People are rethinking travel, business meetings and attendance at sporting events. The response has been as thorough as anything I’ve ever seen. So, what are we doing? We’re stocking studios with hand sanitizer and wipes for those who want them. We now keep sanitizer next to the pointof-sale iPad used for card signatures. We’re doubling up on bathroom maintenance. Just as important, we’re posting the steps we’re taking so our customers can see them. APRIL 2020


It’s also a good time to discuss lesson attendance policies regarding illness. Teachers don’t want to be closeted with a contagious student, and parents want to keep a sick child home ... usually. I’m certain there will be some pushback about tuition credit when a student is ill, regardless of what that policy states. It’s a bit of a minefield, but coming up with a policy that will be seen as reasonable to both student and teacher is in our best interests. This will only become a bigger issue over time. On top of any prudent precautions we take, the public relations effort is increasingly important because many of our businesses are already feeling the effects of spooked consumers. I personally believe the greatest long-term danger from COVID-19 is economic. I’ve already watched some households go into cocoon mode, and it’s an even greater incentive to shop online when you’re afraid to go out in public for fear of influenza zombies roaming the streets. A number of suppliers have already let us know that shipments are at least interrupted from the Pacific Rim, and a kneejerk reaction to close borders will only exacerbate that. I fully expect to see closings, layoffs and other bad economic news as a result of plugged supply chains and consumer fear, and there will be ripples going on for months, possibly into the fourth quarter of 2020 and beyond. But I also think that it’s part of a societal shift that we can’t ignore. Even if this virus fades into relative obscurity — as H1N1, SARS and “swine” flu have — there will be another. And the already fearful will again stress out about the new flu or other

contagious bug. Guarding against disease transmission becomes part of our “new normal.” If we address concerns — or better, anticipate them — we can stay ahead of the trend and be seen as a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. If you want customers to walk in the door, let-

ting them know you are on top of things and concerned for everyone’s welfare is a good look. If you feel all this angst-filled preparedness is just so much hand wringing, you’re entitled to think that (although the scientific community disagrees). But if your customers are worried and you

N AT UR A L FEEL

don’t seem to be, be prepared for a different kind of quarantine. If you have a comment, feel free to share it on the “Veddatorial” Facebook page. And as always, post an inquiry if there’s another topic you’d like to see covered here. (Please post to the page rather than DM, so others can see the dialogue.)

UNN AT UR A L LIFE SPA N

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U N DER T H E HOOD

Yamaha NX Series

By Brian Berk As has become an annual tradition, this year’s NAMM Show saw Yamaha turn an Anaheim Marriott ballroom into a massive showroom for its latest product releases. When entering the space, it is easy to think of it as a party for all of the company’s new products, plus much more. Hence, it was a monumental task to pick just one of these new products to feature in this story. But, since this is the guitar issue, we are focusing on one of Yamaha’s most significant guitar launches: the NX Series of nylon-string acoustic-electric guitars. The NX Series features six guitars with contemporary body styles, along with proprietary preamp and pickup systems. “The new NX Series of acoustic-electric nylon-string guitars is the answer for nylonstring players who want live performance capabilities with excellent plugged-in sound, and electric and acoustic players who are looking to branch into nylon for creative and experimental purposes. At Yamaha, we wanted to fulfill that need with a guitar that would surpass expectations in sound quality and overall design,” Shannon McKee, product marketing manager, Yamaha Guitar Group, told the Music & Sound Retailer. The series comprises the NTX models (NTX1, NTX3 and NTX5), designed to make it easy for electric and steel-string acoustic guitar players to add the warmth and beauty of nylon-string sounds to their tonal palettes. NTX guitars have slimmer bodies, shallower neck profiles and narrower fingerboards than classical guitars, providing a more familiar playing experience. The 22-fret (NTX1 and NTX3) and 24-fret (NTX5) necks extend their range beyond that of standard nylon-string instruments. Also introduced were the NCX models (NCX1, NCX3 and NCX5), which have classical-style neck profiles and fingerboards and were designed primarily for experienced nylon-string players in search of superior amplified sound. All include strap pins. Yamaha certainly took into the account the importance for guitarists to play live, which for many artists now comprises a majority of their income. “The original NX series, launched in 2009, was built based on the needs of professional guitarists and live performers. For example, unlike most nylon-string guitars, all NX models have always had a cutaway and come equipped with strap pins and a pickup. With the new NX series, we are supporting the growth of the live performer with some additional defining features, namely, adjustments to bracing for improvements to body resonance, and the addition of our proprietary Atmosfeel pickup and preamp system,” noted McKee. The NTX3, NTX5, NCX3 and NCX5 guitars incorporate the Atmosfeel 46

APRIL 2020


pickup system. “Atmosfeel is a three-way pickup system that provides unparalleled amplified sound even at performance-level volumes. An under-saddle piezo pickup with individual string sensors captures the low-tomidrange frequencies, eliminating the characteristic brittleness of piezo pickups, while a unique contact sensor captures the highs. An internal microphone captures overall body resonance and ‘airiness.’ The sound from these elements is blended within the Atmosfeel preamp, and adjusted using the Mic Blend, Treble EQ and Master Volume controls,” said McKee. “The microphone adds a dimension and depth that particularly complements solo performers and chord melody players, while a lower mic blend may be preferred by fingerstyle players and guitarists who need more immediate response and cut in a full band,” she added. “The treble knob combines several EQ adjustments to change the tonal focus to suit all musical contexts. The tone can be tuned from a warm and deep thump to a crisp and shimmering punch and everything in between. A core competency of Yamaha is that we build the guitar and the electronics. This allows us to fine tune both until we arrive at the ideal balance. With the NX Series, the preamp is specifically voiced for each body shape. That means that, right out of the gate, you’re going to get great sound without having to tweak the settings, that the full range of each knob is usable and that there is less risk of feedback. The simplified controls mean that performing guitarists are able to dial in their desired settings more quickly and without the need to actually see the controls, which is invaluable in a live stage setting.” Before designing the NX Series, Yamaha sought plenty of feedback, McKee confirmed. “We surveyed various professional musicians to divine their needs, and then worked with many of them in individual sessions to improve acoustic body resonance and to fine tune the voicing ranges of the pickups. We’ve also MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

been collaborating with the Latin guitar duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela, for many years. Their style is incredibly dynamic and percussive, and working with them has proven invaluable in honing the Atmosfeel system,” she said. Thus far, the NX Series has been received well both dealers and end users alike. “The

new NX was launched in early January, and we had the opportunity to display the series at NAMM,” relayed McKee. “The feedback we received from dealers, distributors and musicians alike was amazing. We do have an overview video already out on the series that features six emerging and high-profile artists perform-

ing and talking about their first impressions of the NX, with more interview and demo videos in the pipeline for later this year.” NX Series guitars are expected to ship shortly. MSRPs are as follows: NCX5: $3,020; NTX5: $3,020; NCX3: $1,700; NTX3: $1,700; NCX1FM: $910; NCX1: $740; NTX1: $740.

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THE FINAL NOTE

(continued from page 54) sale carefully. Very impressive long-term approach.

The Retailer: What is the best thing about the MI industr y? Morton: Our shared passion for how music can improve lives and make the world a better place. The Retailer: Who do you admire most outside of the music industr y and why? Morton: Elon Musk. He’s a game-changer with space travel, solar energy and electric vehicles. I love his passion and authentic approach to work and life. The Retailer: If you weren’t 48

in the music industr y, what would you be doing and why? Morton: I never once considered anything other than our industry!

The Retailer: Tell us about your hometown and why you enjoy living there. Morton: I moved to Milwaukee nearly 30 years ago to join Hal Leonard. It is a wonderful city and an incredible place to live, work, raise a family, etc. Great people, great location and four beautiful seasons! The Retailer: What are your most prized possession(s) and why?

Morton: I have a railroad spike on my bathroom counter from my dad, who passed away in 1993. He worked for the Union Pacific railroad for 45 years. The railroad spike is a reminder to me to stay humble, be reliable, work hard and take care of your family.

The Retailer: What’s your favorite book and why? Morton: Too many to choose from, but one of my favorites is a book of poems by Robert Frost. His works were my mom’s favorites. You can find meaning in every one of his poems that apply to day-to-day struggles and the joys of life.

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49


NAMM 2020: The New Class This year’s first-time exhibitors offer innovative new products and boutique-quality instruments.

By Amanda Mullen and Anthony Vargas Artiphon artiphon.com

The NAMM Show is where the entire MI industry converges to show off its latest products and game-changing innovations. In an industry like this one, with so many iconic legacy brands, it is often the biggest names that snag the majority of the post-NAMM press coverage. However, each NAMM Show also welcomes a number of first-time exhibitors to the show floor, and while these companies may not have the name recognition of the bigger brands, their products deserve just as much attention. For this reason, each year the Music & Sound Retailer highlights a few standouts from the show’s roster of first-time exhibitors, as part of our NAMM Show coverage. We hope you enjoy learning more about these companies and their products.

Artiphon stood out among The NAMM Show’s first-time exhibitors thanks to its innovative digital instruments. The company currently has two product offerings. The Instrument 1 is a MIDI controller than can be played like a guitar, violin, piano or drum, allowing musicians to incorporate a wide variety of playing techniques, from strumming and sliding to bowing and tapping. And the Orba, which was debuted to the MI industry at NAMM, is a handheld synth, looper and MIDI controller that lets users create music with gestures and button presses. The company was founded by Mike Butera, who explained the philosophy behind his products. “We’re really focused on the majority of people who just want to be musically creative. And they might not call themselves musicians necessarily, but they enjoy making music on the side,” he said. “We do have a lot of pros playing our instruments because they’re fun. But unlike a lot of companies at NAMM, we’re really more focused on that consumer market.” In order to ensure its products have as much universal appeal as possible, Artiphon designed them to be intuitive for kids and adults who may never have played an instrument before, as well as those who are already experienced musicians. Butera explained how this approach influenced the Orba’s design in particular. “We said, ‘What are the kids doing?’ They’re on their phones. They’re playing with gaming controllers. They’ve got amazing thumb dexterity. So let’s make an instrument that can really capture those micro-gestures that your thumbs can do, and have all the sounds built in so you can just have fun immediately,” he said. “So, yes, we designed it for the next generation. But what we’re finding, now that we’re launching it, is that everyone’s on their phones, [so] everyone can do this. And so it’s not necessarily about beginners only, because this is an advanced MPE MIDI controller that has 10 different outputs on MIDI CCs, and you can do them all at once. People are starting to use this and map it to their favorite synths. So it really can kind of grow with you as you explore more. But your first note is gonna be fun, too.” Artiphon has already completed a successful Kickstarter program for the Orba, and both it and the Instrument 1 are ready for the MI market. “We just wrapped up the Kickstarter for Orba this past week, and we sold over 13,000 of these in the first month or so,” Butera said. “If any retailers are interested, they can reach out to us at sales@artiphon.com.”

Marvin Guitars marvinguitars.com Guitars are some of the flashier items NAMM Show attendees will see on the show floor, and that’s especially true of the handmade guitars out there. Marvin Guitars was one company exhibiting handmade guitars for the first time at this year’s show, and founder and builder Keith Horne handles just about every aspect of the business. Horne’s primary concern when building his instruments is quality, and he’s dedicated to ensuring musicians walk away with guitars that don’t just look great, but sound great as well. “I design, make, build, paint most of the stuff myself,” Horne explained. “[I use] the highest-quality components I can find, using small-batch builders for the components, as well as the pickups, the bridges, the tuners, everything. I try to use as many high-quality parts as possible and try to make the best-sounding and the best-looking instrument.” At The NAMM Show, Marvin Guitars showcased guitars and basses, hoping to appeal to both types of players. “I don’t really do a lot of basses,” Horne said, “but I figure, you know, why not put a couple on the rack? Because there are bass players out there that are interested in handmade instruments.” Several variations of Horne’s Fillmore model were on display at the company’s booth, along with some of his older designs. Horne also expressed an interest in working with mom-and-pop shops to distribute his guitars, relaying that he already uses pieces from smaller, independent companies to build his lineup. “I do everything myself, so my business is me,” Horne explained. “I have no employees; it’s just me. So, I respect the fact that there’s people out there just hand-making stuff in small batches to the highest quality they can.” Horne added, “I use two different pickup makers, and they both hand-wind everything themselves. Same thing with the bridges that I use. They’re made by a small mom-and-pop company in Redding, Calif. They’re called Schroeder Guitar Hardware. For tuners, I use Hipshot Tuners, which is a small company out of New York. I just try to find people who are kind of doing the same thing that I’m doing, so that we can support each other.” Anyone looking to support Marvin Guitars or simply learn more about the company can contact Horne through the form on the company’s website.

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Keith Horne

Mike Butera


BBICO bbico.com The British Band Instrument Company (BBICO) stood out at its first NAMM Show through its collection of environmentally friendly products. The North Londonbased company, which was founded 10 years ago by Alun Hughes, launched its Academy and Edgware product lines at this year’s show, both of which are geared toward “the environmentally conscious musician.” The first brand, Academy, offers carbon-fiber bows for violinists. According to BBICO’s Luke Bilson, the bows are “aimed at the intermediate student market.” “Carbon fiber is well priced for the dealer market,” Bilson explained. “We feel, especially in the USA, there’s a real keen opportunity for new string dealers. [The bows] are priced competitively for the U.S. market and priced to allow dealers a decent margin, but the consistency in quality of finish and material is excellent, and we’ve been having some really good feedback from U.K. dealers.” According to BBICO’s Hannah Williams, the Edgware line of products includes “oils, greases, sprays, soaks, brushes and cloths,” all of which are created and packaged with sustainability in mind. “Although part of our packaging looks like plastic … it’s actually made from NatureFlex, which is wood pulp from managed plantations, and is fully compostable,” Williams explained. She also added that the product labels are “100-percent recyclable and made of recycled paper. To seal our packaging, we use a fully compostable twine, rather than any paperclips or staples. All components of our L to R: Luke Wilson and Hannah Williams packaging are made in the U.K. It’s all fully recyclable and compostable. And all of our oils and lubricants are toxin-free, petroleum-free and synthetic-free. So they’re made from natural food-grade oils.” Such products are ideal for children playing B&O instruments in school music programs, something Bilson and Williams touched on a bit while discussing the Edgware lineup. In particular, they highlighted the brand’s Sanitizer Spray, which unlike most cleaners, is completely toxin-free. “It doesn’t have toxins, petroleum and also is alcohol free,” Williams explained. “It contains hypochlorous acid, which is something that’s formed naturally in the body that fights germs and infections.” “If you look on the market in the moment, a lot of sanitizer sprays do contain alcohol and lots of other nasty chemicals,” she added. “And if you think about you cleaning a mouthpiece with products containing these ingredients and then putting that mouthpiece in your mouth, it’s crazy to think about really, especially with young children.” Overall, BBICO reported positive feedback from U.S. dealers at this year’s NAMM Show, especially considering it was the company’s first time exhibiting there. “We’ve been amazed by the feedback that we’ve received so far, not just on the packaging of our products, but also on the concept behind it,” Williams said. “And people have been really enthusiastic about getting behind it. And we’re looking forward to getting back to London and getting to work and getting some orders out.” U.S. dealers looking to work with BBICO can learn more about the company by emailing edgware@bbico.com or academy@bbico.com.

Flipears flipears.com In-ear monitors (IEMs) have made a major splash in the MI market in recent years, with many major audio manufacturers eager to get into the mix with their own IEM offerings. Also looking to capitalize on this opportunity is Philippinesbased IEM manufacturer Flipears, which made its NAMM Show debut this year to claim its own slice of America’s burgeoning IEM market. “We’ve been around for seven years. We started in the Philippines and expanded into Japan, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia. This is the first time we’ve ever touched the American market,” said Aries Sales, CEO of Flipears. “We’re made in the Philippines, assembled in the Philippines. But as we speak, we’re setting up a [facility] in Las Vegas for faster turnaround time and after-sales service [for the US market].” Flipears already has an extensive line of custom and universal-fit IEMs available in a variety of configurations, from entry-level offerings to IEMs designed for discerning audiophiles. All of Flipears’ IEMs feature specialized drivers that are similar to the type used in hearing aids. Each tier of product packs a number of these miniature drivers in each monitor, from two drivers per ear all the way up to 16 per ear. Sales gave the Retailer a rundown of some of Flipears’ product offerings. “The dual-driver model has two-way crossover, so there’s one speaker for the low frequency, and the other speaker for mids and highs,” he explained. “The next entry level we call the Aisha Pros, and that has one low, one mid and one high. Then the mid-tier models have six and eight drivers. The sixes have two lows, two mids and two highs, but the eights have four lows, so if you’re a basshead, if you love bass, that’s the way to go. Then the top of the line, which is an audiophile series, has 10 to 16 drivers, so it’s also good for producers, for mixing. The [16-driver model] has four bass drivers, six mids and six highs.” All Flipears IEM models are available in custom-fit or universal-fit varieties. Flipears also offers an almost limitless array of customization options for its IEMs. “Users can customize their in-ears with different colors on the left and right, different faceplates on the left and right,” Sales described. “If you want your dog’s photo on your in-ears, yeah, we can do that. We’ve done wood faceplates. We

L to R: RJ Lunes, Aries Sales, Rene Lunes, Art Sales, Abby Sales and Hazel Lunes

even put guitar strings on the faceplate. Your imagination is the only limitation.” According to Sales, Flipears is interested in having retailers sell its universal-fit models in their stores, and the company also has plans to work with US-based retailers on selling the custom models, as well. “For distributorship, we can give them a good margin that they can also mark up from. In Japan, we have five distributors already, and I hope we can do that here in America,” Sales said. “[For retailers who want to sell the custom models,] we can train them on doing the fitting. So that could actually be an extra source of income [for their stores,] because when you go to an ear expert who is trained to do ear impressions, it costs around $50 to $150. They can email us, and then they can visit us in Vegas where we’ll do the training.” Interested retailers can contact the company through its website or via email to orders@flipears.com.

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Alpine Guitars alpineguitar.fr

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BOURNS PRO AUDIO................24 CE DISTRIBUTION....................25 CHAUVET LIGHTING................16 CHAUVET LIGHTING................17 CHEM-PAK..................................53 D'ADDARIO.................................45 EBAY........................................ C-III FENDER.......................................7 FENDER.......................................21 G7TH, THE CAPO COMPANY................................39 GATOR CASES............................19 HAL LEONARD..........................5

Bass guitars are always a popular item on The NAMM Show floor, and Alpine Guitars came all the way from France to show off its collection of them. Run by David Bazin (co-leader), Matthieu Combe (head luthier) and Pierre Labrosse (leader), Alpine Guitars creates both limited-series and custommade basses, offering musicians something unique with each one. The company was founded four years ago, and it prides itself on making limited-series bass guitars with French wood exclusively. “We use principally walnut because French walnut is not so heavy, like West walnut,” Bazin explained. “West walnut is a good wood, but very heavy, you know? And we use, too, French maple, French alder. The French maple is very white. It’s a very clear color. And in hardware, we use Hipshot USA, because it’s a very good company and very good material. And in pickups, we use Nordstrand Pickups.” According to Bazin, Alpine Guitars’ first NAMM Show went well, with the company receiving interest from dealers on the show floor. “It’s a good show for us,” he said. “And next year, we’ll come back with pleasure, because we spoke with distributors, with shops, with our contacts, which is very good.” Anyone seeking further information on Alpine Guitars can contact the company through its website.

JMAZ LIGHTING........................10 KYSER MUSICAL PRODUCTS...............................40 LYON & HEALY..........................31 MANHASSET SPECIALTY COMPANY................................3 MUSIC NOMAD..........................12 NAMM..................................... 14-15 ODYSSEY INNOVATIVE DESIGNS...................................11 OMG MUSIC................................6 PRO X...........................................29 PRS GUITARS.............................41 QRS MUSIC TECHNOLOGIES.....................30 STRING SWING..........................8 SYNCHRONY FINANCIAL.......9 TASCAM..................................C-II TECH 21.......................................27 VOCOPRO....................................13 YORKVILLE........................... C-IV While every care is taken to ensure that these listings are accurate and complete, The Music & Sound Retailer does not accept responsibility for omissions or errors.

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Wizzdrum wizzdrum.com Wizzdrum is the brainchild of Dutch inventor Wouter Hietkamp, who wanted to take the idea of the portable drum kit to a whole new level. Each Wizzdrum kit fits inside a carrying case that’s about the same size as a typical rolling briefcase, so drummers can take their kits with them on the road, or even on a plane. And the kits are quiet enough to play in a hotel room, so drummers can still get some practice in on the road. Each of the drums is comprised of two rings with a drumhead placed in between. All of the sets are completely 3D printed. The kits come in two sizes. The Wizzdrum Base Kit comes with a stand, a 13-inch bass drum, a 10-inch snare drum, a 10-inch tom, an eight-inch tom, two cymbal stands, a hi-hat manual system, a tuning key and a carrying case. The Wizzdrum Extended Kit comes with a stand, a 13-inch bass drum, a 10-inch snare drum, two 10-inch toms, an eight-inch tom, a hi-hat foot pedal, a bass drum foot pedal, two cymbal stands, a hi-hat manual system, a tuning key and a carrying case. Neither of the sets come with cymbals, so drummers will have to provide their own; however, both sets have room for cymbals in their carrying cases. According to Hietkamp, drummers will find a lot to like about the portability and comparatively low volume of the Wizzdrum sets. “Drum sets are pretty loud, and they’re heavy and bulky. And for every drummer, it’s the same problem: Guys in the band always complaining about the level of sound. So I wanted to change that,” Hietkamp explained. “This kit is very lightweight. It has a great sound. Tuning is really easy. And you can set it up in like five minutes from a box.” Hietkamp added that the Wizzdrum kits are especially suited for drummers who play certain styles of music, or who play in smaller venues, or on cramped stages. “There are some styles which are more suitable than others, like funk, or when you’re playing in the street,” he said. “Small venues — it’s excellent for that. If you play big rock concerts, I would suggest you get a double bass drum and the biggest set you can find. But for all the others, I think this is the most suitable kit that you can find. It has a very low sound level. So if you want to play acoustically with like a guitar or a piano, you don’t have to amplify the other instruments.” Hietkamp welcomed retailers to reach out if they are interested in stocking some Wizzdrum sets. “If there are distributors or large retailers [who are interested], they can always contact us through Wouter Hietkamp our website, and we can see if we can make a deal,” he said.

David Bazin


Utility Design utility.design Utility Design (UD) is a family-run music-tech startup whose premiere product, the Vidami foot controller, enables users to loop any section of a video while slowing it down, making learning an instrument online easier than ever before. The Vidami’s hands-free design also controls play/pause, rewind and fast-forward functions, which allows musicians to maximize their focus and productivity by keeping their hands on their instruments, with no need to reach for a mouse or keyboard. According to UD CEO Amy Hayashi-Jones, the company sees the Vidami pedal as an indispensable learning tool for players of all levels — especially guitarists — since players are increasingly inspired by YouTube videos and are using them to supplement their music lessons, and more and more music teachers are going online to teach. “I think it's going to change the learning curve for musicians and become a hugely beneficial aid to both students and teachers,” Hayashi-Jones said. “For instance, if you are new to an instrument, just the ability to easily pause and rewind the video without taking your hands out of position is incredibly helpful. Add to this the ability to loop any section and slow it down to multiple speeds, and you have a learning tool that can benefit musicians of any level. Transcribing solos and songs is faster than ever before. The Vidami allows you to personalize your practice to be able to focus on what you want to work on, making learning online motivating and inspiring.” With time at a premium and attention spans growing shorter and shorter, UD believes that the Vidami will allow players to stay focused longer, which will allow beginning guitarists to make it past that difficult first year of learning. “Fender has stated that 90% of beginning guitarists quit within the first year. That means that 9 out of 10 beginners are quitting within the first twelve months. That’s an alarming statistic, and UD believes that this pedal has the ability to turn that figure around,” Hayashi-Jones said. “If we can make that figure 8 out of 10, we will double the customer lifetime value for guitar retailers.” She added, “At UD, we are designing products to bridge the gap between the user and technology, and that is why we believe that the Vidami is a product whose time has arrived!” You can learn more about Vidami and UD at the company’s website, utility.design. Retailers who are interested in stocking the Vidami pedal can contact Amy Hayashi-Jones directly at amy@utility.design.

L to R: Austin Jones, Ian Jones, Wayne Jones, Amy Hayashi-Jones and Quinn Jones

FIVE MINUTES WITH

(continued from page 32) everyone else I have come across. We buy the wood, we make the guitars, we hire the people and we ship it out. But at that point, the job is still not done. You still have to do other things like market products. Wow. It is like a merry-go-round. Every horse [on the merry-goround] represents a different part of the process.

The Retailer: You had a significant presence at The NAMM Show. In fact, you even hosted a press conference. Tell us about some of the product launches you had at the show. Smith: The Dragon guitar, which I think is really beautiful, could be the best one we have ever made. I [also] really like all of the John Mayer Nebula guitars and maple fretboard guitars. And I am particularly partial to the revamp of the McCarty line. They didn’t receive a lot of press because they are not new models. Instead, we redid them. But I like the sound of those guitars. We have this new tuned capacitive conductive pickup item that is going well for us. We are getting a better reputation about pickups every day. We also had new S2 and SE guitars. Last year, the Tremonti amp was the hit of MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

The Retailer: Looking at the guitar market, are you pleased with what you have seen recently for the industr y and on a companywide basis? Smith: We are growing at 15 percent a year. How can I not be happy with that? We have a half-year to yearlong backorder in almost every category. Our problem is delivering, not trying to sell. We are sticking to our knitting. We are trying to make better guitars.

the coronavirus has been around a long time. The last time there was a flu, a half million people died. They are just trying to shut this down. The problem is, it is going to be hard to stop. Usually, things run their course. I can say if it still has an effect a few months from now, it will be devastating. Let’s say you are a grocery store. If you run out of cantaloupes, you are still a grocery store because you can buy other things. But when you are a guitar company and you run out of “cantaloupes,” you can’t finish the guitar because you are missing a part.

The Retailer: Some recent factors may have changed the industr y, with tarif fs last year and now the coronavirus. Do you think they are having an adverse af fect on our industr y at all? Smith: We got hit with the 25-percent tariff on amps on some of our products. It was sobering. We didn’t complain. We just dealt with it. Coronavirus is a different animal. Some factories have been shut down that make parts. My morning meeting [the day you called] was about coronavirus. I don’t know enough about it yet to say anything definitive other than it is a real issue. The people at Johns Hopkins are telling me

The Retailer: To wrap it up, despite these issues, are you still optimistic about the future of your company and the industr y as a whole? Smith: Highly. To go back to what I said before, we have a halfyear to a year’s worth of items on backorder in almost every category in our entire product line. How can I not be happy about that? This is our time. Some people are never happy no matter what. Some people are always happy, even if things are bad. I am kind of in the middle. When things are really good, I say, “It’s good.” I got up on a chair at our holiday party and said, “It’s good.” Everyone said,

the show. This time, it was a little bit of everything.

“Yay, it is good.” I then gave out $300,000 in holiday bonuses that day to thank our employees, and we had a party. The reason we have parties is because we know things are not good all the time. When they are good, we celebrate. After I got up on the chair, the whole place celebrated, we had a drink and everyone went home. It actually happened.

53


THE FINAL NOTE

LARRY MORTON

President, Hal Leonard

Larry Morton with John Williams of “Star Wars” fame.

By Brian Berk The Music & Sound Retailer: Who was your greatest influence or mentor and why? Larr y Morton: My father set the example of honesty, hard work, loyalty, kindness, positive attitude, humor and lifelong learning. He was the perfect role model for me. The Retailer: What(continued was the best advice on page 51) you ever received? Morton: Don’t be afraid to show your passion and follow your passion into a career. Life’s too short to spend it doing something you don’t love doing. The Retailer: What was your first experience with a musical instrument? Morton: I took up piano at five years old, mainly to annoy my older sister, who was already taking piano lessons. My earliest memories were plunking out melodies that I would hear on TV or the radio. The Retailer: What instrument do you most enjoy playing? Morton: Piano has been my lifelong muse! I play nearly every day. I also played trumpet, bass guitar and other instruments over the years, but piano is the only instrument I love. I can barely walk by a piano without being drawn to it. It is an endlessly fascinating and challenging instrument. 54

The Retailer: Tell us something about yourself that others do not know or would be surprised to learn. Morton: Probably that I took up triathlons just before my 52nd birthday, and I have now done over 30 triathlons, including a full Ironman in 2016! The Retailer: What’s your favorite activity to do when you’re not at work? Morton: Piano, time with my family, drinking wine, and, of course, swimming, biking and running. The Retailer: What is the best concert you’ve ever been to? Morton: Paul McCartney, whom I’ve seen several times. Such a total musician and songwriter! The Retailer: If you could see any musician, alive or deceased, play a concert for one night, who would it be and why? Morton: It would be Chopin, playing piano in a Parisian salon, mid-1800s! The Retailer: What musician are you hoping to see play in the near future? Morton: Bruno Mars … soon! The Retailer: What are your favorite

songs on your smartphone/iPod? Morton: I listen to a huge variety of music, for my job and for fun. Some of my go-to music is Steely Dan, Oscar Peterson, Chopin, Yes and a lot of southern rock. I’m very eclectic.

The Retailer: What’s the most fun thing you saw/did at a NAMM Show? Morton: Hanging out with Quincy Jones at the Hal Leonard booth. One of my biggest musical heroes! The Retailer: If you had to select three people, past or present, to have dinner with, who would they be and what would you ask them? Morton: President Grant (I’m a direct descendant) about winning the Civil War, holding the country together after the assassination of Lincoln, etc. Mozart: How did so much genius reside in one person? Michael Jordan: We’d talk about jazz, competitiveness and life after being a champion. The Retailer: Tell us about your most memorable experience with an MI retailer (without naming them). Morton: I recently bought a new Steinway Model B piano. The retailer nurtured the relationship with me for years and cultivated the (continued on page 48) APRIL 2020


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