9 minute read

MI Spy

ALOHA TO HAWAII

Greetings, MI Spy fans! Although I’ve been ecstatic about my return to in-person store visits, I mentioned in a prior MI Spy feature that I would still be taking occasional breaks from the road to visit stores online. So, this month’s report will be an internet-focused report (but don’t worry, I’ll be back on the road next month).

Now, about my assignment this month, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that, thanks to the wonders of the internet, your MI Spy can visit places that HQ would never foot the travel bill for, like this month’s destination: Hawaii. The bad news is, of course, that I won’t actually be in Hawaii.

After all, who hasn’t daydreamed about visiting Hawaii — relaxing on the beach with a cold cocktail in hand, munching on fresh pineapple, peering at distant volcanoes and listening to the sweet sounds of an ukulele? Your MI Spy has! Yes, a Hawaiian vacation would truly be magical. (Speaking of magic, sometimes I wish I could make like Harry Potter and instantly apparate to a place like Hawaii.) But for now, with pandemic restrictions still making long-distance travel more than a bit difficult, yours truly will have to settle for a virtual visit to this island paradise by checking out musical instrument store websites and social media.

Although nothing quite compares to an in-store visit, I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance, especially in this day and age, of how stores use not only their websites but also their social media capabilities. Stores can get a lot of mileage from utilizing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms (Twitch? TikTok? YouTube? Pinterest?) Social media is a low-cost and fairly easy way to document and publicize your business, and some musical instrument stores are making their posts and curating their social feeds accordingly. Social media is also easier to update than your typical commercial store website.

So, let’s take a look at the online offerings of some of the 50th State’s music stores and see if they are as dreamy as I’ve imagined. Since Instagram has become one of the preferred platforms for retail stores, I decided to gather intel on each store’s Instagram profile. And, given the setting for this month’s report, I was particularly interested in seeing how these stores promote the guitars and ukuleles that they sell. Strum along with me.

Easy Music Center easymusiccenter.com Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @easymusiccenter

Your MI Spy appreciates a website that is colorful, easy to navigate and serves snacks … wait, I suppose the last requirement isn’t necessary (especially since I do have a bag of veggie chips handy). I also like a website that offers a clear price range guide, such as the one offered on the Easy Music Center website.

Click on any product category on the Easy Music Center homepage, and you’ll be taken to a page listing the store’s offerings in that category. Look to the left of the page, and you’ll see options to limit your search results by brand and product type, as well as other categoryspecific filters like number of strings for stringed instruments, etc. You’ll also find the price range guide, which lets you enter the lowest and highest prices you’re willing to pay. Once you’ve set your search parameters, you just click on the product pic in which you’re interested, and you’ll be taken to a page that shows multiple photos and specifics about the product. If an item is sold out, the store can email you when it’s available.

Easy Music Center offers items in a wide range of prices, so if you’re a beginner with limited funds or a wealthier musician, you can find something here for sure. There is also a sizable clearance section to poke through.

Are you in the market for an acoustic guitar or an uke? There are plenty on offer here. The least expensive acoustic guitar the store had in stock was a Yamaha Folk model for $159.99, and the priciest in-stock guitar was a Taylor acoustic-electric at $5,499. As far as ukuleles, Easy Music Center offers a soprano uke bundle (including bag, strings, DVD and a tuner!) for $84.99, and at the other end of the spectrum, they sell two Kamaka ukuleles for over $2,000 each.

Overall, the Easy Music Center website is really nice. The store logo is a cute guitar drawing, and the website offers a very wide selection of instruments, accessories, studio and pro-audio equipment. It’s a bright and clear website, and easy to use. According to the website, the store offers lessons, repairs and rentals in addition to retail sales. You can also click “Our

Story” for a brief history of the store, which has been around since 1939. Instagram Stats (as of 7/19/21): 404 posts, 1,262 followers

Easy Music Center’s Instagram is about three-quarters photos of products (not all of which were necessarily taken by them) and about one-quarter in-store photos (featuring displays from the sales floor and staff posing with instruments). I thought the in-store photos were interesting because they offer a snapshot of the store and the workers. But the product photos are appealing and show the variety of musical instruments Easy Music Center stocks (including guitars, keyboards, brass instruments, recording equipment, amps, mics, lighting and more). There were also a few pictures of when the store was closed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were similar pictures and text on the store’s Facebook page, and to a much lesser extent, on Twitter. You can even find a Pinterest pin for this store. But Easy Music Center seems to post most frequently and most effectively on Instagram. Overall, their social media complements their website very well.

Dan’s Guitars dansguitars.com Instagram @dansguitars Facebook.com/Dans-Guitars-299184836861135

The homepage of Dan’s Guitars offers many options, but the most prominent data when you open the page is their pandemic-modified store hours. At the top of the site, you’ll find a navigation bar with links to pages for various product categories, as well as an “About” page and a page for booking instrument lessons or contacting the store via phone or email. Scroll down further to see links for services, repairs, lessons (again) and accessories (shouldn’t this be in the nav bar at the top of the site with the other product categories?).

A major point to note about the Dan’s Guitars’ website is that when you click on many of the product listings, a message comes up saying “This item is not available for purchase online. Please call 808-942-2900 to order.” This could be frustrating for people who are shopping from further away. The website seems more useful for local customers who want to look online to see what the store has in stock before they can stop in, although the product information is sometimes limited, and even product images aren’t guaranteed, with several items listed as “Image Not Available.” Hmmm.

Another issue with the website is that some pages are not completed: Click on either of the two links for “Lessons,” and you’ll be taken to a disappointing page that simply says “More Information Coming Soon.” Overall, it’s a website that has some nice features but needs more development and more photos to be uploaded.

Instagram Stats (as of 7/19/21): 169 posts, 805 followers

I liked the Instagram feed for Dan’s Guitars; it has lots of attractive photos, including many close-up, detailed product shots. Most of the feed is photos of guitars, effects pedals, amps and accessories. In fact, the Instagram page offers a much more appealing set of photos than the actual store website. The feed also included posts about holiday sales, pandemic-related items, changes in store hours and more. There were also some timely one-off posts, like a tribute to the departed Eddie Van Halen. And several posts prominently feature the store’s resident pup, Shibi. (Remember, folks: Pets are always a hit on social media, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better mascot for your store than your own furry friends).

On Facebook, Dan’s Guitars posts every few days (the store is probably mirroring its Facebook and Instagram posts; if you’re not already aware, there are settings that allow you to add the same post to Facebook and Instagram simultaneously). The Facebook feed also featured some YouTube videos that looked interesting.

I also noted one post on the Facebook feed that a customer had replied to with an adorable photo of his young son playing a guitar about two times his size; it was captioned “My little man tearing it up back in 2015. Your store is like home to us.” (And of course, the customer signed off with a Hawaii-appropriate shaka or “hang loose” emoji.) Dan’s Guitars responded “You’re family to us. Thanks so much for letting us be a part of your lives.” These kinds of interactions are what social media is made for, and they can help your store win customers for life.

Goodguys Music & Sound goodguysmusic.com Instagram and Facebook @goodguysmusic

The Goodguys Music & Sound homepage has a nice assortment of eye-catching photographs, and the welcome text immediately gives a casual, local feel: “Holding it down on Kapahulu Ave since 1999.” A photo of the store’s front windows and entrance that is posted near the top of the homepage makes the website seem like an extension of the store and not a totally different entity. And I like the store’s logo, which has a G clef in place of the first letter of the Goodguys name.

Goodguys Music & Sound actually puts a few of its Instagram posts right smack dab on the homepage of its website, a blending of online platforms that is so very 2021. It’s another element that makes the website grab your attention right away. And it works, because it’s an easy way to put video demonstrations of instruments or equipment and attractive photos of products in a prominent place (although it could be placed further up on the homepage). The site also has an “Extras” section with some short blog posts enhanced with lots of photos and an Instagram-based video blog.

The focus here is on new and used guitars, ukuleles, sound systems and other items. A large photo slider at the top of the page offers links to product pages for the store’s featured brands, including Fender and Tagima guitars; Kala, Kamaka, Koaloha and Leolani ukuleles; and Roland, Boss and Xotic effects and accessories. Interestingly, the store is showcasing new instruments on its site for online sales, but for used gear, you do have to go into their brick-and-mortar location. Hence, there is a limited selection of guitars and ukes, but they are presented well on the website.

Instagram Stats (as of 7/19/21): 219 posts, 572 followers

Goodguys Music & Sound’s Instagram feed is interesting; there are many more photos with people in them compared to Easy Music Center and Dan’s Guitars. The sight of so many smiling faces and