Music & Sound Retailer September 2019, Vol 36 No 9

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September 2019 Volume 36, No. 9


For our 14th annual Independent Roundtable, we present the Retailer’s NAMM University Session at Summer NAMM

Lessons Learned By Brian Berk

We are changing things up a bit. Instead of our traditional Independent Retailer Roundtable, our 14th annual edition of this story features a transcript of the NAMM University educational session the Music & Sound Retailer presented on July 19 at the Summer NAMM Show. This session, moderated by the Retailer’s editor Brian Berk and titled “New Innovations in Lesson Programs,” featured a fantastic panel. Answering our questions were four columnists for the Retailer: Kimberly Deverell and Robin Sassi of San Diego Music Studio, Tim Spicer of Spicer’s Music and Will Mason of Mason Music,

as well as a special guest, whom we affectionally dubbed our “plus one,” Michael Cathrea, owner of Resonate Music School & Studio. Brian Berk: Thank you ever ybody. Let’s first start with a little information about each store. Let’s start with San Diego Music Studio. Kimberly Deverell: We are in San Marcos, Calif. We do lessons, rentals, repairs, retail. A little bit of everything. We are celebrating our 25th year in business. I am not the owner. (continued on page 24)

Gibson CEO’s Journey

'JC' Curleigh’s speech was a Summer NAMM highlight By Brian Berk

If one were to ask what the biggest change at Summer NAMM this year was, the answer would be simple: Gibson Brands Inc.’s presence. As most are aware, Gibson emerged from bankruptcy with a new leader, James “JC” Curleigh, who has made a plethora of changes since, utilizing his vast experience of leadership in other industries. Curleigh, clad in a white denim jacket and Levi’s jeans, presented a lengthy speech at the NAMM Young Professionals event on July 19 at Summer NAMM in Nashville to discuss his career, why he joined Gibson and what MI retailers can expect from the guitar manufacturer in the future. Here’s a detailed look at what Curleigh, a citizen of three countries — Canada, the United States and the United (continued on page 34)


Holiday Sales Guide Page 36


Cosmo Music Named NAMM Dealer of the Year Several “Best Of” award winners, including “Dealer of the Year,” were honored during the Top 100 event at Summer NAMM in July. Winners were: Dealer of the Year: Cosmo Music Co. The Music Makes a Difference Award: San Diego Music Studio Innovation Award: Zeswitz Music Best Community Retail Store: Amro Music Co. Top 100 Customer’s Choice Award: Anderton’s Music Best Store Design: Walt Grace Vintage Best Online Engagement: Thomann Musikhaus Best Customer Ser vice: Beacock Music Best Marketing and Sales Promotion: Ted Brown Music To determine the “Best Of” category winners, a panel of independent judges reviewed and made selections from the Top 100 finalists. Each finalist was evaluated for effectiveness in marketing, customer engagement and innovation in retail. The event’s new “Top 100 Customers’ Choice Award” was determined by an online popular vote of customers and fans. Country Music Television personality Katie Cook hosted the evening, which featured a performance by “American Idol” winner Danny Gokey.

Gibson Relaunches Foundation

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Cosmo Music joins NAMM chairwoman Robin Walenta (right).

In his new role, the 30-year music industry veteran Jarrett, who joins the Gibson Foundation from Harmony Central, will bring a passion for creating, sharing and supporting music to the new Gibson era. Jarrett will join the Gibson team in its new downtown Nashville-based headquarters and will report to the newly formed foundation board. “The power of music has enriched every part of my life,” relayed Jarrett. “To be able to create music programs and share the gift of music on a worldwide scale through the Gibson Foundation is a lifelong dream.”

Dendy Jarrett

Gibson Brands Inc. re-launched the Gibson Foundation and appointed Dendy Jarrett to executive director of the foundation. As a starting point, Gibson has committed to giving away a guitar a day over the next 1,000 days. One-hundred percent of donations to the Gibson Foundation go directly toward giving the gift of music, reaffirming Gibson’s commitment to giving back, empowering music culture and encouraging the creation of music. “The Gibson Foundation is core to our past, present, and future,” said James “JC” Curleigh, president and CEO of Gibson. “The combination of a new foundation mission, amazing foundation partners and new foundation leadership with Dendy sets us up to make a meaningful impact in the world of music going forward.” The Gibson Foundation works directly with strategic partner affiliations to fund and deliver direct support to music development programs. This includes legacy partners like Notes for Notes, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, The Grammy Foundation and MusiCares, as well as new organizations, to help achieve their mission. MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER



Features 36 The Music & Sound Retailer’s Holiday Sales Guide 46 Summer NAMM in Photos


48 Five Minutes With

On the Cover

Rob Hanson, sales and marketing director, John Packer Ltd., discusses the band and orchestra market, the differences between the U.S. and British markets, and much more.

Lessons Learned

50 MI Spy

For Our 14th Annual Independent Roundtable, we present the Retailer’s NAMM University Session at Summer NAMM.

It’s been 50 years since Woodstock! MI Spy heads to the region to see if service is groovy.

Gibson CEO’s Journey

52 Letter to the Editor

‘JC’ Curleigh’s speech was a Summer NAMM highlight.

Backstage Music Allen McBroom’s heartfelt tribute to Fishman.

On the cover from L to R: Brian Berk, editor of the Music & Sound Retailer; Will Mason, Mason Music; Robin Sassi and Kimberly Deverell, San Diego Music Studio; Michael Cathrea, Resonate Music School & Studio; and Tim Spicer, Spicer's Music, on July 19 during a NAMM University session at the Summer NAMM Show.

54 In the Trenches

Speaking of McBroom, he explains why it is so important to be prepared.

56 Retailer Rebel

There is a unique way to connect to your customers and the musician community as a whole. Gabriel O’Brien explains.


58 Shine A Light

Ninety years is a long time for any retailer to be in business. Alamo Music reveals its secret sauce.

60 Veddatorial

When the dust settles, we’ll see a blend of shopping tactics, and the split will be defined by intent, states Dan Vedda.

62 Under the Hood

Ukulele sales continue to ascend. We take a lengthy look at Amahi Ukuleles' Classic and Exotic Wood Series.

70 The Final Note

Growing up for Joe Castronovo, president, KORG USA Inc., featured family car trips set to the soundtrack of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”



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Music for the Greater Good Aurora, Ill. Virginia Beach, Va. Gilroy, Calif. Chippewa Falls, Wis. El Paso, Texas. Dayton, Ohio. This is but a very small sample of the mass shootings that have taken place this year alone, as of press time. I have a lot of emotions every time I hear about these shootings. Sadness, anger and worry are the main three. The worry stems from the younger children I have who attend school. I also am mentally drained from going through these emotions and from thinking about it. I have to be scared now every time my children go to school? Is that what it has come to? I don’t have enough knowledge of the law to enter into a political discussion about what can or should be done by politicians. And even if I did, I would never use the pages of the Music & Sound Retailer to do so. But what I can talk about is music. I once wrote about this topic in an editorial, so if you read that then, I apologize for a repeat. But the topic of music as a way to occupy and entertain our youth is more important than ever. In addition to sadly involving access to weapons, a lot of the recent violence has one thing in common: young people are committing the crimes. In all the reporting on these terrible incidents, one thing I am not hearing is that a shooting took place after someone was practicing the drums, guitar, violin, ukulele … you name the instrument. (In fact, the Ohio shooting was the first such large incident that I’ve heard of in which the offender was in a band.) Nothing will stop the most violent criminals from committing crimes. But music is a great way to steer our nation’s youth in the right direction. It gives them

a sense of accomplishment, being a part of a team, improved math skills and stress relief. You name the benefit, the odds are music provides it. Of course, as retailers, you are doing a fantastic job of facilitating the power of music with your great lesson programs, rock camps and more. Politicians, I hope you are listening. To think music and the arts are not fully funded makes no sense. And talk of eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts is asinine. Seriously, today, more than ever, we need every music program we can find to occupy our youth. Believe me, I hate bringing up a negative topic. I love the music industry and its great people, and I often use this space to talk about how great it is. But in my mind, the fact that despite every effort the industry makes, music still isn’t thought of as a way to help prevent even one young person from committing future crimes, is disappointing. It may not be a mass shooting. It could be shoplifting. And crime prevention aside, music is valuable no matter what. I recently listened to several presidential debates that featured a whopping 20 potential candidates. And I read or heard members of Congress and the Senate talk about the gun violence issue. Not one has mentioned music and the arts as a possible solution. Not one! I hope someone starts thinking outside the box.

September 2019 Volume 36, No. 9

BRIAN BERK Editor ANTHONY VARGAS Associate Editor AMANDA MULLEN Assistant Editor

JANICE PUPELIS Art Director STEVE THORAKOS Production Manager CIRCULATION FRED GUMM Digital Art Director



ROBERT L. IRAGGI Advertising Director RICKY PIMENTEL Art/Production Assistant ROBIN HAZAN Operations Manager 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


60s Jazzmaster The


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Player: Curtis Harding


©2019 Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. FENDER, FENDER in script, JAZZMASTER and the distinctive headstock commonly found on Fender guitars and basses are trademarks of FMIC. Registered in the U.S. and foreign countries. VINTERA is a trademark of FMIC. All rights reserved.


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Sweetwater Opens 24-Hour ‘Store’

Sweetwater introduced its 24-Hour Gear Store inside the lobby of The Clyde, a performance and arts venue in Sweetwater’s hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind. A highly curated assortment of gear and accessories is available at the push of a button. Included are 20 different items ranging from guitar strings and microphones to batteries and gaffer’s tape. “We want to make sure that nothing stands in the way of a performance,” said Sweetwater chief marketing officer David Stewart. “If an artist needs something at the last minute, we can provide it on the spot. This reinforces our commitment to do all we can to help our customers make music and to always exceed their expectations.” The Sweetwater 24-Hour Gear Store isn’t a typical vending machine. It features a dynamic touchscreen that hosts pictures and short descriptions for each item available. Additionally, customers can pay with all major credit and debit cards as well as both Apple and Google Pay. Customers can also obtain a copy of Sweetwater’s 600+ page gear resource, ProGear, from a display stand immediately next to the machine. “This is a great way to combine innovation and convenience to help better serve our customers,” said Sweetwater CEO Chuck Surack.


Taylor Honored for Retirement Program

Taylor Guitars was awarded “Best in Class” and “Plan Sponsor of the Year” for 2019 by PlanSponsor Magazine. The awards recognize 401(k) plans Taylor provides for its employees. Taylor Guitars was one of 34 winners selected out of 3,495 401(k) plans nationwide, which were rated based on more than 30 criteria related to plan design, oversight/governance and participant outcomes. The El Cajon, Calif.-based guitar maker was also awarded Plan Sponsor of the Year for 401(k) plans with assets between $25 million to $50 million. As the only guitar manufacturer listed among the winners, Taylor boasts an extremely low opt-out rate of 2 percent for its retirement plan, which is very uncommon for a company located so close to a major market with a high cost of living like San Diego. As a result, 81 percent of employees 34 years old and under are projected to replace at least 70 percent of their income in retirement and, overall 61 percent of its employees are likely to replace at least 70 percent of pre-retirement income, Taylor stated. Both full-time and part-time employees are permitted to participate. “We’re deeply invested in the future of all of our employees,” said Bryan Bear, vice president of finance at Taylor. “That’s why it’s so important that we educate about their retirement plan options and try to make it as easy as possible for them to participate in a retirement plan that works for them and protects their future.”

Music & Arts Joins West Virginia Market

Music & Arts announced its entry into West Virginia with the acquisition of both locations of Kerr’s Music World. Now open under the Music & Arts name, the sites, located in Charleston and Huntington, will continue to uphold the legacy of Kerr’s Music World in the community, while also providing additional services to long-time customers and new students. “We are thrilled to bring our top-notch music services to West Virginia and continue to serve the families and customers in the Huntington and Charleston communities with the level of customer service they expect,” said Music & Arts vice president of sales Chris Stone. The retailer also opened its third location in Kentucky, acquiring Miles Ahead Music in Louisville. “We’re pleased to be able to further expand our topnotch music services in Kentucky and provide the families and customers in the Louisville area with the level of service they expect,” said Stone. SEPTEMBER 2019


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D’Addario Surpasses $500K in 2019 Financial Grants

The D’Addario Foundation has provided more than $565,000 in financial grants and D’Addario & Co. product donations to 232 nonprofit programs that are greatly improving outcomes of marginalized and impoverished children through an immersive education in music. These grantees are spread out over 39 states and 141 cities, and deliver on average nine hours of instrument instruction per child each week for 31 weeks out of the year. “Thanks to the D’Addario Foundation grant, we were able to bring in extra instructors to conduct 23 sessions of group lessons to help with our students as they practiced for their end-of-year performances,” said Andrew Johnston, founder/executive director of Jazz Empowers, a first-time grantee of the D’Addario Foundation. “Also, we were able to use all of the reeds that were donated in our programs across the country. Thank you for your support this year.” The D’Addario Foundation conducts two grant cycles per year where organizations may apply for support after first submitting an initial letter of inquiry. Prospective non-profits must clearly illustrate critical elements for success including intensity and need, leadership strength, sustainability and community commitment.

New Retailer Resource

KMC Music announced availability of its all-digital “KMC One Stop Product Resource.” Designed to meet the needs of today’s increasingly digital-centric music retailer and consumer, it is an easy-to-use, even easier-to-navigate searchable PDF that features more than 450 full-color pages loaded with information on every major brand offered by KMC in the MI, professional audio, accessories, band and orchestra, and education categories. “The new KMC One Stop Product Resource transcends the limitations of traditional print catalogs in every meaningful way. It remains 100-percent current 100 percent of the year and provides dealers with all the latest news and information about the brands and instruments their customers want to know about,” said Roger Hart, KMC vice president of merchandising. Hart emphasized that, in preparing the new digital PDF resource, the company completely re-evaluated the relevance of every brand and instrument featured within it. “The end result is that this new version of the KMC One Stop Resource features all of the first-call brands today’s players want to buy, and it remains the industry’s single largest and broadest product resource for today’s music retailer. More than ever, KMC is the industry’s first-call distributor for all of the first-call brands retailers need to be able to offer their customers,” he said. The resource will be permanently housed within the KMC dealer portal at

Full Compass Supports Wisconsin Production

Full Compass’ Jonathan and Susan Lipp took part in “Opera in the Park,” a production taking place in Madison, Wis. This year marked the 18th year of the event. Full Compass supplied equipment from Sennheiser and Yamaha, as well as a public address system and delay system from Bag End. Specifically, a Yamaha QL5 mixer with Rio stage box was used at the event, along with Sennheiser wireless microphones. Behind the boards, Jonathan Lipp was assisted by his grandson, Jake Lipp, as well as Henry Heine from Bag End. The Madison Opera Chorus and Madison Symphony Orchestra shared their favorite opera and Broadway music theater numbers on Sunday, July 21st to an expected crowd of more than 15,000 patrons. This unique event is known as an amazing opportunity for Madison’s residents to come together to enjoy the talent of the glorious singers and musicians from the state capital.



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Guitar Center Opens Custom House

Guitar Center opened Custom House, a new AVDG and Guitar Center Professional multi-functional experience center. This new location, based in Nashville, Tenn., features the latest in audio and video solutions from a collaboration between Guitar Center Professional (GC Pro) and GC’s Audio Visual Design Group (AVDG) and begins to showcase their combined capability. Custom House is specifically designed to create a relaxed, comfortable and casual environment, where current and future clients can spend time with Guitar Center’s account executives to exchange ideas and goals, while spotlighting Guitar Center’s numerous capabilities to serve its customers. Additionally, Custom House highlights immersive technology examples and case studies created by the AVDG/GC Pro teams. “With the opening of Custom House, we are now able to provide Nashville and the Southeast region with new, expanded resources and services to handle our clients’ residential or commercial space needs,” said Doug Carnell, Guitar Center vice president of business solutions. “Nashville has been rapidly expanding, and we wanted to give our customers a full understanding of what the AVDG/GC Pro teams can do for them. Custom House is an experience center that not only showcases the latest state-of-the-art customized A/V solutions, but also provides clients an environment to relax and discuss their specific needs with








Gibson Returns Oberheim Brand


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Custom House staff.” “The opening of Custom House is a key milestone and provides a glimpse of future developments for the expansion of the Guitar Center organization,” added Ron Japinga, Guitar Center president and CEO. “The integration of AVDG with Guitar Center Professional in Custom House gives us the ability to service clientele in their professional, commercial and residential endeavors. As our business grows and the needs of our customers evolve, we will continue to provide customized, turnkey solutions to not only keep Guitar Center competitive, but to lead the MI industry in innovation.”

Gibson and its president and CEO, James “JC” Curleigh, have granted possession of the Oberheim brand and intellectual property back to its original owner and company founder, synthesizer pioneer Tom Oberheim. Gibson has owned the Oberheim brand name for several years as it sought to expand into other categories. With the renewed focus on its core business, Gibson is rationalizing its legacy portfolio accordingly, Tom Oberheim but the Oberheim brand deserved special attention. A chance encounter at Winter NAMM turned into a quest to return the Oberheim brand name back to its original owner and founder. “Of the many stories I have heard and decisions I have made since joining Gibson, this situation seemed simple,” said Curleigh. “Let’s do the right thing by putting the Oberheim brand back in the hands of its’ namesake founder, Tom Oberheim.” “After over 30 years of being without it, I am thrilled to once again be able to use the Oberheim trademark for my products,” said Tom Oberheim. “I am very grateful to the new leadership team of Gibson for making this possible.” SEPTEMBER 2019


Experience PRS to Return in 2020

PRS Guitars announced its Experience PRS 2020 open house and concert, which will also serve as a celebration of PRS Guitars’ 35th Anniversary. It is scheduled for May 8 and 9, 2020, at the PRS factory in Stevensville, Md. The event, which will be PRS’s 10th, debuted in 2007 with an attendance of around 800 people. The 2020 event is expected to attract close to 3,500 attendees from all over the globe. As part of the celebration, PRS will open up its doors with an interactive schedule including factory tours, star-studded concerts, artist clinics and panels, product demonstrations, hands-on opportunities and a test drive tent where attendees can try out PRS gear. “I’m honored that, for 35 years, guitar players and guitar lovers across the globe have helped us build a strong culture dedicated to making the best guitars possible,” said Paul Reed Smith, PRS Guitars founder and managing general partner. “To open our doors and throw a great party is our way of saying thank you for both believing in our craftmanship and for your support.” “Experience PRS 2020 coin-

G7th in Seventh Heaven

G7th won a European Product Design Award for its Performance 3 capo with Adaptive Radius Technology (ART), launched at The NAMM Show in January. The European Product Design Award recognizes the efforts of talented designers and design teams who aim to improve our daily lives with a practical and beautiful creation, designed to solve a problem, make life easier or simply spread joy. “It is an honor to receive this reward on behalf of the team so early in the product’s lifecycle,” said Nick Campling, G7th’s chief designer and chairman. “G7th and Bluefrog Design are proud to be counted among the best European designers, especially for a guitar accessory. The award is for the ground-breaking ART system that automatically adapts to the shape of any guitar fingerboard to offer unrivalled tuning stability. Combined with the award-winning Tension Control System that has been a feature of every Performance Capo since 2004, this European Award recognizes our efforts to offer every guitar player a superior capo solution.”

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cides with our 35th year in business, and I can definitely say that the passion and creativity in this place are beyond exceptional. We are excited to have the opportunity to (once again) open our factory to our friends and family and share our love of guitar building while also providing the opportunity to meet some of the talented people that make PRS. With food and beer trucks, world-class artists on multiple stages, opportunities to jam with professional musicians and an astounding array of PRS guitars on display, I think it is fair to say that this is one event you shouldn’t miss,” added PRS director of sales Jim Cullen.

Note From Joe


A Sincere Thank You to All Our Exhibitors Through the innovation and drive of thousands of manufacturers and distributors, our global industry moves forward.

One of our great honors in serving the more than 10,000 members of NAMM has been the ability to focus on growing our industry and helping to create more music makers of all ages. We’re committed to providing platforms and education to help our members be more successful, but perhaps even more importantly, we’re also passionate about expanding our advocacy efforts, championing school music programs and building awareness of the benefits of making music for all people. At NAMM Shows, industry gatherings and in countless conversations with the NAMM team, we’ve had the opportunity to regularly hear from our members around the world. And, through our conversations, I’ve come to understand that we’re all united in our belief that music is a force for good. As such, our industry is engaged in an incredibly simple yet powerful initiative. We call this more to start, fewer to quit (MSFQ), encouraging more people to start making their own music and then retaining these musicians throughout their lives. As the number of music makers grows, together we achieve our vision of a more musical world. This shared purpose reminded me of a concept made popular by Jim Collins, author of the #1 bestseller Good to Great. Collins likened business success to that of a massive flywheel, gaining speed with each successive push before reaching a

critical mass and becoming self-sustaining. The collective effort adds up to become more than the sum of its parts. In other words, greatness equals teamwork plus time. It occurred to me that this metaphor is exactly like NAMM’s Circle of Benefits business model—an initiative to reinvest the proceeds from each NAMM Show back into programs, grants, scholarships and music education advocacy and therefore increasing demand for music, sound and entertainment technology products around the world. All NAMM members contribute to this shared effort, but the momentum has to start somewhere. By exhibiting at The NAMM Show in January, our manufacturing community pushes the boundaries of innovation, jumpstarts its own success and drives the industry’s flywheel and NAMM’s Circle of Benefits model forward. It is quite something to see the creativity of our commercial members, from raw material suppliers to component makers, to finished products. We are humbled and grateful that more than 7,000 brands exhibit at The NAMM Show each year, which in turn draws interest from tens of thousands of buyers and influencers looking for the latest products and ideas to engage their communities and customer segments.

And while we’re all experiencing the incredible energy of the NAMM Campus, the global media also turns its attention to the innovations of our exhibiting members, generating mainstream stories, blogs, podcasts and billions of media and social media impressions. Our retail members are likewise creating an incredible amount of exciting content at the show to build excitement in their channels, further driving demand in the marketplace. All of this activity kicks off the year in a way that is simply unfathomable without the collective energy created when a global industry all gathers at one time, in one spot—a literal flywheel that would make Jim Collins proud! And as The NAMM Show grows, we are ultimately able to invest more into music grants, advocacy, music-brain research and a diversity of programs to help bring the joys of music making to more people. As we expand the overall access to music making, our members find shared success—and the achievement of our shared vision of a more musical world. Through NAMM’s Circle of Benefits model, millions more people around the world now have access to music and music education. So as we all look forward to an exciting 2020 NAMM Show, our members can also feel proud that, through their participation, we are achieving our collective goal. And that is the power of an industry to change the world!

srs r o t i o b t i i h b x i E h , x u E TThank Yo u, n and creativity power Your passio

f Benefits the Circle o

See you in Southern California,


NAMM Circle of Benefits

Exhibing members kick off the year, showcase new products and generate interest

Thousands of buyers and influencers converge at The NAMM Show

Trade, consumer and new media share brand stories

The world follows along, creating more demand for music and sound products

Thank you for supporting the show that gives back!


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Goodman Honored for a Great Career

The SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association (N.Y.) presented the 2019 Minerva Award to Scott Goodman, CEO of Zoom North America and 1979 graduate of the college, during the college’s Reunion Weekend, from July 12 to 14. The Minerva Award is presented annually to an alumnus or alumna who has demonstrated outstanding professional achievement in his or her field. It is the highest honor that a SUNY Potsdam graduate can receive from the association. Goodman was recognized for his outstanding professional achievements and stewardship of his alma mater. “Sometimes you forget that Crane was the first institution in the United States to offer training courses for music educators, dating back to 1886,” said Goodman, referring to SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. “It’s really incredible, knowing how responsible Crane has been for graduating so many of the country’s great music teachers, and their places in our public-school system. “More than anything I want to thank my percussion instructor, Jim Petercsak, for taking me, and all his other students, under his wing,” Goodman continued. “He always encouraged us to be the best we could be. Jim knows how to uncover his students’ talents … and then he helps drive them to success. It’s an incredibly rare talent, and something you only hope to encounter after you’ve chosen your college or university. Tonight, my wife Margo and I would like to make an endowment to the Crane School of Music to have Jim’s office remain forever the James ‘JP’ Petercsak Studio of Percussion, commemorating Jim’s incredible dedication to the hundreds of drummers and percussionists who have studied at the school.”

Paul Gets the Call

Fishman appointed Paul Brunelle as vice president of finance. He brings a diverse finance background to Fishman and was most recently the corporate controller for the L. S. Starrett Co., a manufacturer of precision measuring tools and equipment and saw products. “Paul has the background and experience that we need to manage our financial growth as we continue to invest in new initiatives that will allow us to achieve our goals,” said Fishman chief operating officer Jason Cambra.

In Memoriam: Joe Cardinale

Joe Cardinale passed away last month. He played jazz bass in clubs and theaters all around New England. Cardinale also created his own trio and studied at what would become the Berklee College of Music. He joined the wholesaler HarrisFandel in the pre-Beatles era and witnessed firsthand the impact the British Invasion had on the industry. Along the way, Cardinale remained passionate about music and music-making. In 1986, he formed Joe Cardinale Sales and picked up lines such as G&L Guitars and Jupiter band instruments. In 2002, Cardinale was awarded the first NAMM Believe In Music Award in recognition of his dedication to the NAMM Oral History program, which he continued to support until his passing.

In Memoriam: Aspen Pittman

Aspen Pittman passed away in August in an automobile accident. Pittman grew up in the 1960s as a student of the folk music movement. He studied the art form and performed on every type of string instrument there was to play. During high school, he and a friend got a job delivering organs for a retailer that was just about to open a rock and roll retail shop called Guitar Center. Aspen joined the company within the first six months of its opening and remained in retail until 1973, when he became a sales rep for Acoustic Corp. Over the next several years, he outlined goals for his own company, which opened in 1979, called Groove Tubes.

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See It in Concert

Amahi introduced a concert size in its 130 mahogany series. Previously only available in soprano, the UK130 has been a proven best seller in the entry-level mahogany series, stated the company. It features a select mahogany top, back and sides with laser-etched elephant-designed sound hole. It comes standard with a 10mm padded gig bag, Aquila strings and chrome die-cast tuners. Street Price: $88 Ship Date: Now Contact: Amahi Ukuleles,

True Classics

On the Fly Kristin Goold

Based on its amPlug 2 series, Blackstar’s amPlug 2 FLY provides a completely remastered headphone amp for both guitar and bass. The fully analog circuit has been reworked for an even clearer and more present sound, stated the company. The amPlug 2 FLY for guitar has three channels: clean, crunch and lead. It includes Blackstar’s patented ISF tone control, plus chorus, delay and reverb effects, all the main components for guitarists who crave quality sound and detail, stated the company. In addition, the amPlug 2 FLY includes a bass version with three voices: classic, modern and overdrive, as well as tone control and six rhythm loops to play along with. MSRP: $44.99 Ship Date: Now Contact: Blackstar Amplification,

Fender Musical Instruments Corp. expanded its Squier Classic Vibe series, including nine new decade-inspired Stratocaster, Telecaster, Precision Bass, Jaguar Bass and Mustang Bass models. In addition, Squier is introducing three semi-hollow-body models inspired by the 1970s Fender Starcaster: Classic Vibe Starcaster, Contemporary Active Starcaster and Affinity Series Starcaster. The new models provide players with a variety of accessible Fender designs, packed with unique features and style. New additions to the Classic Vibe series include the `50s Stratocaster, `60s Stratocaster, `50s Telecaster, `60s Custom Telecaster, `60s Telecaster Thinline, `50s Precision Bass, `70s Precision Bass, Jaguar Bass and Mustang Bass models. These nine new


Take Care

D’Addario’s Instrument Care Essentials is a kit that gives an end user everything necessary to keep an instrument’s finish looking excellent. The kit includes a threestep polishing system, Hydrate neck cleaner and a cotton polishing cloth. It includes the following: Restore (Step 1): a rich formula designed to cut through the toughest grime; Protect (Step 2): combines premium-quality Carnauba wax and advanced chemistry to produce a distinct radiance with quick-andeasy application; Shine (Step 3): erases dust, fingerprints and minor imperfections, while color enhancers bring out an instrument’s beauty; and Hydrate: a unique formula of oils and cleaners that restores the character of dark natural wood fingerboards, leaving a clean, fast and glowing surface. It also includes a polishing cloth made from highquality double napped cotton flannel which is ideal for buffing or applying polishes, waxes and cleaners. MSRP: $27 Ship Date: Now Contact: D’Addario,

Classic Vibe models celebrate the rich history of the Fender brand, each featuring decade-specific headstock markings, all-new Fenderdesigned alnico pickups, lustrous nickel-plated hardware and a slick vintage-tint gloss neck finish that delivers an old school look. These guitars and basses provide player-friendly features and vintage styling that expand the Squier offering for both continuing and new players, stated the company. MSRP: Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster: $349.99; Classic Vibe ‘60s Stratocaster: $349.99; Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster: $349.99; Classic Vibe ‘60s Custom Telecaster: $399.99; Classic Vibe ‘60s Telecaster Thinline: $399.99; Classic Vibe ‘50s Precision Bass; $349.99; Classic Vibe ‘70s Precision Bass; $349.99; Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass: $349.99; Classic Vibe ‘60s Mustang Bass: $349.99: Squier Classic Vibe Starcaster: $399.99; Contemporary Active Starcaster: $399.99; Affinity Series Starcaster: $299.99 Ship Date: Now Contact: Fender, SEPTEMBER 2019

The Lab Is Fab

Yamaha introduced the MLC-200 Music Lab, an audio system created for real-time group keyboard instruction. The MLC-200 combines the iPad app and ML Touch with audio hardware utilizing Dante technology to create a unique and flexible system for music educators to interact with their students. The MLC-200 system enables instructors to speak or play to the entire class through their headphones, monitor what students are playing on their instrument or saying into their headset, communicate one-on-one with classmates who may be seated toward the rear of the room, mute all instruments with the touch of an icon and even take class attendance. With a tap of the app, instructors can also create subgroups for students with different levels of ability or those working on different pieces. The MLC-200 system provides control of select Yamaha keyboards and Clavinova digital pianos, including highlighting notes on students’ instruments simply by playing them at the teacher’s station or resetting all student pianos to the main grand piano voice. By using wireless headphones, instructors can roam about the classroom to help their students individually, while hearing and controlling the entire blend of the class’s instruments. MAP: $7,999 Ship Date: Now Contact: Yamaha,

V for Victory

Taylor Guitars added V-Class models for its steel-string Grand Concert guitars from the 400, 600, 700, 900, Koa and Presentation Series. This new wave of V-Class Grand Concert models boasts a variety of different tonewoods and unique voices. A pair of rosewood guitars, the 412ce-R (Sitka spruce top) and the 712e 12Fret (Lutz spruce top) both share rosewood’s heritage of rich, sparkling tone, with all that harmonic content further enhanced by the V-Class architecture. The 412ce-R is designed for working musicians who need a pro-level guitar that isn’t too precious to load in and out of the van, with minimal appointments, a sweet musical voice, and great-sounding onboard electronics for gigging, stated the company. Meanwhile, the 712e 12-Fret displays the sonic benefits of V-Class bracing in another appealing way, as the repositioned bridge — a distinction of the 12-fret neck/body configuration — opens up even more warmth and sustain. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Taylor Guitars,




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Right On!

Levy’s Leathers introduced a line of guitar straps that “solves the age-old problem of getting the perfect fit while playing your instrument.” The Right Height Line with RipChord Technology allows musicians to easily adjust their strap with a quick pull of the handle, raising and lowering their guitar without missing a beat, stated the manufacturer. The Right Height line features five different strap models, including an advanced ergonomic strap that distributes weight to prevent shoulder fatigue. The ergonomic strap’s split-body style allows for best positioning on the shoulder while playing. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Gator Cases,

Getting a Fair Shake

Godin Guitars launched the Fairmount CH LTD Rosewood HG EQ acoustic guitar. Conceptualized and designed by Simon Godin, this guitar is a new addition to the line of Godin Acoustics unveiled earlier this year. Main features include solid Rosewood back and sides, Concert Hall (CH) body shape, Godin LTD inlays, matching tortoise shell pickguard and headstock, and LR Baggs Anthem preamp. Includes Deluxe Godin TRIC case. It also comes with a solid Spruce top, Mahogany neck, Richlite fretboard, and a high-gloss Natural finish. Street Price: $1,795 Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Godin Guitars,

The ART of Converting

ART (Applied Research & Technology) introduced USB DI, a digitalto-analog converter used for connecting a computer to a stereo or PA system. It takes in USB audio, converts it to analog audio and then isolates the output using custom transformers. The output isolation is key to removing ground loops and other system noise between the digital and analog audio systems. A large knob on the USB DI front panel allows quick, precise control over the output level, while a separate headphone output allows the user to monitor the system. The front panel main outputs switch allows the user to keep the isolated outputs at a fixed level while controlling level of the headphone output. The line-level XLR outputs are available for connecting to all sorts of systems. The main outputs are always isolated but allow the user to control the ground reference to reduce noise. The USB DI/O is powered by USB, drawing less than 200mA and eliminating the need for an external power. MSRP: $89 (MAP: $69) Ship Date: Now Contact: Yorkville,

Light as a Feather

Aguilar Amplification added the SL 210 to its line of Super Light bass cabinets. Designed for small- and medium-sized venues, the SL 210 delivers a tight and punchy low-end with excellent midrange articulation, stated the company. Weighing 35 pounds, this cabinet pairs well with Aguilar’s SL 115. Features include two custom voiced 10-inch neodymium speakers and a phenolic tweeter with variable level control. Power handling is 400 watts RMS and the cabinet will be available in both four- and eight-ohm versions. Street Price: $999 Ship Date: This month Contact: Aguilar Amplification,



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Clarinet Clarity

Hal Leonard’s “Clarinet Omnibook for Bb Instruments” compiles 43 of the most famous jazz clarinet solos transcribed directly from the artist recordings for anyone who plays a Bb instrument — trumpet, trombone, soprano and tenor saxophone, clarinet, etc. The comb-bound book includes solos from: Sidney Bechet (“Okey-Doke”), Eddie Daniels (“I’m Beginning to See the Light”), Buddy Defranco (“Fascinating Rhythm”), Pete Fountain (“Ja-Da”), Benny Goodman (“Runnin’ Wild”), Ken Peplowski (“All the Things You Are”), Artie Shaw (“My Blue Heaven”), Phil Woods (“Azure”) and many more. NAMM members will appreciate that former NAMM president and clarinetist Larry Linkin is even included with the song “I’ve Found a New Baby.” MSRP: $24.99 Ship Date: Now Contact: Hal Leonard,

Welcome to the Show

VocoPro launched its DJ Smart Lightshow product, designed for DJs, karaoke performers and consumers who are ready to spice up their parties with five-in-one, club-like LED lighting effects. It requires no additional DMX (Digital Multiplexing used in theatrical lighting industry) and it has a unique two-stage sound-activated control, each with nine sound sensitivity levels. This is important because the product’s beat-synchronized light show will work in various volume level environments — even a smartphone speaker can trigger the light. It features a AC100-240V, 50-60Hz power supply and 30W power consumption. MSRP: $199; MAP: $149 Ship Date: Contact company Contact: VocoPro,

Hey, Mr. DDJ

Pioneer DJ introduced its Serato-compatible DDJ-1000SRT controller. The four-channel controller inherits the layout of the DDJ-1000. All the same professional features are there too, including low-latency, full-size jog wheels from the CDJ-2000NXS2 and the MAGVEL FADER for tight scratching. Also featured is On Jog Display, which gives end users important track information in the center of each jog wheel, as well as 4 Sound Color FX and 14 Beat FX, and 16 Multicolored Performance Pads (eight per deck). As an added bonus, Pioneer is putting a free Serato DJ Suite voucher, valued at $299, in the boxes of the first 5,000 DDJ-1000SRT controllers that it ships worldwide. MAP: $1,299 Ship Date: Now Contact: Pioneer DJ,

Not an Average Joe

TOPJOE PICKS are suitable for guitar, bass and mandolin. Made in the USA, the product is constructed out of Delrin acetal homopolymer resin and a unique cavity design. It offers superb grabbing means and enhanced tone due to its patent-pending cavity design, which allows the player to comfortably grab the pick and experience precision control to minimize hand exhaustion and improve tone quality, stated the company. MSRP: $7.99 (per four-pack) Ship Date: Contact company Contact: TOPJOE PICKS,

Pedal to the Metal

On-Stage, a division of The Music People, unveiled its PS901 Pedal Power Bank at Summer NAMM. According to the company, it drives an almost limitless array of guitar effects pedals and boasts nine fully isolated, individually LED-indicated outputs. Internally surge-protected, the PS901 Pedal Power Bank also includes a five-plug daisychain for expandability to power up to 13 pedals. The Pedal Power Bank is housed in a heavy-duty, black anodized aluminum housing and comes with a unit-comprehensive package of eight power cables, one reverse-polarity plug and an 18V power supply with European conversion adapter plugs. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Now Contact: On-Stage, MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

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(continued from cover)

She is right next to me (Robin Sassi). But I have been with the business for 22 years now and serve as director of operations. Tim Spicer: Spicer’s Music is a full-line combo store in Auburn, Ala. We are big on community engagement and our lesson program is the heartbeat of the store. Will Mason: We are in Birmingham, Ala., and have four locations. Lessons are our bread and butter. We love working with students and inspiring them to pick up an instrument for the first time. Everyone who works for us knows how important music has been in each of our lives. It’s hard to imagine life — TV, movies, singing “Happy Birthday” — without music. Music is fun and should be fun to play. We also sell retail [products] and have a recording studio, a booking agency and are about to open a music venue. Never a dull moment. Michael Cathrea: We have a music school and recording studio [in Edmonton, Alberta]. We opened in September 2012. We just opened our second location. Our main location has about 1,200 lessons a week. We do ver y little retail. It’s only about 1 percent of our sales.

Berk: OK, let’s get into the heart of it. What is your most innovative program or event within your lesson program? Mason: One of the reasons we switched from driving around to people’s homes to conduct lessons to having a brick-and-mortar store and taking on the burden of rent was to have more of a community atmosphere and get people to meet each other, engage with

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“We got rid of the September-through-June each other and have students who may live in different parts of the city. One of the ways we have done that is through camps, and we have a program during the school year called Rock Band League, where we essentially take students, put them together in bands, practice every week with a coach, and put on concerts throughout the school year. That has been a huge thing for us. We are very visible in the community. People see pictures of their kids and their friends’ kids on social media and didn’t even know they played guitar. Relationships kids build in bands are special. It’s way more than just music for them. Cathrea: For us, it is our membership plan. We right away got rid of the September-throughJune school year. Our membership plan is month to month. It includes a weekly lesson, and includes extra incentives, like rewards points, time in our recording studio, unlimited make-up lessons, welcome packages and more. Our biggest draw has been the overall structure of our services. Deverell: One of our favorite events we have been doing for years now is we team up with a local coffee shop, just around the corner from us, and they host our annual coffee house recital. So, instead of doing the big formal event, which we love to do as well at the Museum of Making Music, we bring our gear to the coffee house, and it is an open forum, like an open mic. Kids can show up whenever they want, wear whatever they want and play whatever they want. The beauty of it is we don’t need to prepare for it. We get to just show up. It’s easy. We put a tip jar out, and students get to experience performance in a casual setting. The kids get to keep their tip money. They even tip each other. You should see their eyes when money goes in the tip jar. They just light up. MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER


school year.”


—Michael Cathrea



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Mason: I am totally going to steal that idea. We do inter-semester recitals and aim for one-third of our students to participate. For a lot of kids, it is scary to get up on stage. There are a lot of objections they need to get over. Having something less formal, where they can get their feet wet and get encouragement in a casual environment, would be really cool. Sassi: Parents tend to be overscheduled these days, so there is often a baseball game or a Brownie meeting to go to. So, we just tell them, “If you have the time, just stop on by.” They can just watch if they want. And if they feel like playing, they can. It’s absolutely no pressure. It’s a great first-time experience playing in front of a crowd. Spicer: The most innovative thing we do is along the lines of what Will said with summer camp. We have rock camps, but we also have a lot of youth camps. We break up the camps by age and they have a final “gig.” Instead of a concert, we call it a gig at a local venue. Everyone shows up, they have [drinks], and it is a lot of fun. Another thing we do are events. Our open-mic nights each month feature a lot of lesson students

who come through the program. They look forward to playing with other members of the community each month.

Berk: How have you used technology to innovate and/or upgrade your lesson program?

Cathrea: There are a lot of ways to incorporate technology into your program. The big one is general operations logistics and scheduling. I hope you use an online platform to schedule digitally. Doing it on paper would be pretty tough and not very scaleable. For us, we have gone through three massive software overhauls in six years. It’s a ton of work, but any time we see something that can provide a greater benefit, we take advantage. We also incorporate apps when we can as a supplement. Mason: This is tangentially related, but we have a recording studio and we do a “Recording 101” class. It’s a cool opportunity for kids to get their hands on some of the equipment. That’s a technology and a lesson [wrapped into one]. Kids on our devices. That’s where their attention is. If there is a way to harness

that and leverage it for instruction, it helps. A platform for scheduling that [Cathrea uses] is something we are looking into. Technology is tough. We have been using Google and cobble it together to make it do what I want it to do. Cathrea: You don’t have an unlimited budget, so you may have to do a variety of things until the perfect fit comes along. Like with us, there are a few school software programs, but they are based on how schools are normally run. So, we can only use software to about 80-percent capacity, but we have become more efficient over the years as apps have become better. Sassi: We have an iPad in every single room. There is a lot of fear with YouTube that students can learn for free. We use YouTube to accentuate our lessons. I can’t play every instrument. It gets to the point where it gets too advanced. But I say, “You need to listen to this Clementi Sonatina. But don’t just listen to one interpretation. You need to listen to four or five.” They see how different one piece can be and it really opens them up. It really enhances the music

“We team up with a local coffee shop and they host our annual coffee house recital. ... We put a tip jar out and kids get to keep their tip money. ... You should see their eyes when money goes into the tip jar.”

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education we provide. We are not afraid of YouTube. We use it in the classroom. Mason: I used to be afraid of YouTube for the same reason. I thought, Why would anyone pay for lessons if they can go on YouTube for free? I have one student in particular who said to me, “I learned how to play this song on my own.” But it was totally wrong. So, I think we will be in business for a long time. If you just take one lesson and hang out and play “Fortnite” the other six days of the week, you haven’t gotten any better at the guitar. If YouTube gets them playing the guitar the other six days, I am all for it.

Berk: Where do you draw inspiration from for new ideas for lesson programs?

Mason: Being at NAMM is the inspiration. Every year, I take away so many ideas. There’s no way we would be as successful as we are without it — or even in business — without NAMM. Spicer: These are three phenomenal stores right here [on the panel]. I love borrowing ideas and checking out their websites. Sassi: We pull a lot of ideas from people who work in other industries. For example, sometimes when I’m training a teacher, I recommend they go to the karate place down the street. They are so positive there and it offers a different perspective. Deverell: As a mom, I look at other service-based businesses. For example, at a school, I got the idea to put up information about all of our teachers on our walls with their [biographies] next to them. Schools have students of the month. We have a student of the month wall when you walk into our store and see a picture and a little interview with the student. We also got an idea of bumper stickers and we have ones that say, “My Child Was Student of the Month at San Diego Music Studio.” I even take ideas from Chick Fil-A. Sassi: Technology ideas come from where we get our hair and nails done, including going online to make appointments. There’s no reason we can’t pull from other industries. Cathrea: You nailed it. When I started, I used examples from a lot of other industries, regarding what products and services I was buying. Every time I have a really good customer service


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experience, I try to take note of what they are doing and look for ways to take that and implement it. We have iPad bars throughout our lobby. I went into the Apple store and saw all the iPads sitting on the table and replicated that. We had scan cards also, so that when students came in, they would check in like what you see at a gym. Spicer: My wife is a hair stylist and she always has her schedule up on her phone and is able to change and make adjustments. That’s always something we are looking for: the ability to change and make adjustments to make communication as easy as possible.

Berk: How to do you attract and keep good teachers?

Mason: This is one of my favorite things to talk about. Culture has been the main focus for me and our organization for a couple of years now. It gets away from you very easily if you’re not managing it. First, you have to be clear about your values; what’s important to you, so when you are sitting down interviewing someone, you can figure out quickly if it is someone who will fit into your culture. It’s like a recipe, and it stands out when someone is not a cultural fit, if you are clear what you’re looking for. Just because someone has the skill set, it does not mean they are the right fit culturally. It’s about your values and your mission. An example is if someone isn’t involved in the community. “Is there a reason you are not involved in the community? Because if you are not, it’s going to be a hard

“Our open-mic nights each month feature a lot of lesson students who come through the program.”


—Tim Spicer


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relationship to maintain.” Of course, you need to pay your people market average or better to attract good people. But I heard somebody say that people want to work for more than just money. They want to have a purpose. We are a good fit for the teachers because we can handle all the back-office stuff, and they just show up to teach. Another big thing is surveys and in-person reviews, which aren’t only about how they are doing, but how we are doing. We take that feedback and implement it. We had feedback recently that our drum room could use more soundproofing. We had some extra money laying around, and we did some soundproofing. It’s always a risk teachers will want to go off and do their own thing, but you have to make sure they love being at the store and don’t want to mess around and consider leaving. Sassi: I agree. We do a lot of interviewing, and we find that people will have the skill set, the credentials and the ability to teach, but are just not the right fit. We find people who are not right there in terms of skill set but are trainable and bring a good attitude with an ability to connect with students. Deverell: We hire for personality. If your teachers are happy, the students will be happy, and the parents will be happy. It will be one big happy family. But part of keeping teachers happy are things like bonuses — based on number of students teachers have — a 401(k), paid time off and health care available to full-time employees. Teachers also have a lot of flexibility, within reason. They don’t want to leave. They are happy with us, making the studio a happy place to be. Sassi: We also train teachers really well. It takes about a year until the teacher [is fully locked in]. When they come in, we require 20 hours of observation. We pay that teacher their full pay to sit and watch someone else teach. We teach as a MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

studio. It’s not just one teacher. So, when students have to have a make-up, they feel comfortable with another teacher. The teacher may be different, but the structure is the same, because we work to train them as a group. Cathrea: We try to be genuine

about what is important to us and make sure it is reflected in everything we do. It becomes clear whether people will jive with that or not. Spicer: We make sure our focus doesn’t shift from lessons to retail too heavily, because


retail is more demanding on a daily basis with orders, receiving, staff management and sales goals. We make sure the focus stays on the [lesson] program, because it is a pivotal part of a retail business. Lessons and retail feed each other.


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We have an annual holiday party, and we do our best to wine and dine our “family.” We had massage chairs last year, and we tell teachers we care about them. They are a big part of who we are. As far as keeping instructors, communications is really important. There are a lot of moving parts in the lessons service industry. If you slack on schedules or sign ups, for example, there can be tension, so communication is big. Mason: One way to ruin your culture is to keep someone on the team who is not working [out]. If you have one teacher who is not a cultural fit, doesn’t appreciate your policies or buy into what you’re doing, and you do nothing about it, everyone on the team will see it. It’s tough, but sometimes you need to make the call to go separate ways. It is ultimately in the best interest of both parties: the person who is not enjoying their work and the team who suffers from someone hurting the morale. We’ve never made that call and looked back and said, “Man, I wish we gave them one more chance.” We actually gave them too many chances. We usually say, “Man, I wish we let that person go earlier, because we knew.” We

don’t want to let them go because we are nice. Cathrea: It is tough because it is a people-based business. Those people have a relationship with the students, so there is a potential for repercussions. Managing the relationships is probably the toughest area of this business.

Berk: Tim, did you say massage chairs? I have been daydreaming about that awhile.

Spicer: Yes, I did. It was the first time I did that. It was a costly investment, but everyone was happy.

“Culture has been a main focus for me and our organization for a couple of years now. ... First, you have to be clear about your values.” —Will Mason

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Berk: OK, let’s move on to the next question. Let’s talk about the future. Where do you predict music lessons and programs are going?

Spicer: It’s clear the whole world is going more online. That’s where things are going across all habits. I think lessons are going there too. Fender has Fender Play. There are some other companies that are trying to get more into the lesson market. There’s a shift in our industry that is coming. If you use technology and can be on the cutting edge of using the internet and mobile devices to engage with your lesson students throughout the week, it will be important. Sassi: I agree with technology. Sometimes you shy away from it. Oh no, there goes my job. They can just go online and learn. We had a customer who kept saying to us they could learn online. But they kept coming back to us for lessons. There’s a human element when you are one-on-one with a teacher. We’ve seen students that can’t get a concept, but they go to a different teacher who phrases it in such a way that it clicks with that student. Online and technology will be something we use as a tool. It will be something we use to accentuate and enhance the human element we have between the teacher and student. Cathrea: On YouTube, you can learn basic theory. So, what is it that we as store owners can offer SEPTEMBER 2019

Berk: You answered this for the most part. But is there any more information about how different your lesson program might look in five to 10 years? MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

Mason: We had this conversation in one of our Mondaymorning staff meetings. I think it could be more online lessons and a subscription model for it. There are a lot of people doing that right now, but if there is a different way to do that, I want to

look into that. Sassi: We’ve already talked about putting together a set of videos for the school year that shows kids how to take care of their instruments. We always give a free trial lesson, but a lot of the time is taken up by how to take

care of your instrument. We will now tell them to go to YouTube to look it up, and we will take care of everything else. Technology can take care of some of the easier things we won’t have to teach, so we can take care of higher-level problems.


that the apps can’t? We look at it as pivoting away from just being an education company to being an experience company. What are people going to do with the skill once they have it? An app can’t set you up in a huge rock band for a killer show. It can’t put you in a recording studio. Promote the benefits of what you can do at this scale. As an industry, we probably have more control over this than we think we do. We need to make sure students are getting great one-on-one experiences and can do something good with the skills they are learning. Mason: I want to find a way for us to have an online platform for lessons. But, there’s no replacing the one-on-one relationship. There’s the “Blue Ocean Strategy,” a book that says you want to go where everyone is not. The idea is there is a feeding frenzy in one place and all the food is already spoken for. Go find somewhere new to innovate and you have the freedom to create your own customer base. As for where lessons are going, I think online will create more of the market share. So, it will be more important to hone in on the experience, like [Cathrea] said. Cathrea: I think with the health and wellness trend, it’s about putting the [device] away and setting limits. It’s already a mindset that we spend too much time on devices. So, I think it might actually trend back in our direction, especially as public-school sizes are getting larger. One-on-one connections are really rare, and we are one of the places that can offer that. Some of those may work in our favor. It’s how you want to interpret it and position yourself with these changes.



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Berk: OK, let’s go to the “lightning round.” What was the biggest mistake you made in setting up your lessons program?

“An app can't set you up in a huge rock band for a killer show. It can't put you in a recording studio. Promote the benefits of what you can do.” —Michael Cathrea

Sassi: Not setting the right price. Cathrea: I don’t even know where to start. It’s hard to narrow to one thing, because it is the learning process and going through the learning curve to figure out how it is going to work. Deverell: I think you have to be willing to adapt and change. If something doesn’t work; something you fell in love with and are passionate about, but just isn’t working for your program, you have to be willing to let it go. Sometimes, we let our classes run too long when they weren’t necessarily too profitable. We hope the class will fill up, and it doesn’t. Also, with teachers, you hope the teacher will pick up the slack and carry their weight. You keep giving them chances, when what you really should do is let it go. Spicer: Which mistake do I choose? I think it was going through a season when I allowed myself to take the focus off the lesson side of the business and shift it to the retail side because it demands more of my time and attention. Structuring it so the balance is better is a big thing.

Berk: How do you handle upset parents who may not see immediate results for their children?

Deverell: I think the key is communication. If you communicate with the parent early and let them know where the student is, you avoid a [bad] situation. We notate in our students’ books like crazy. We circle and date everything. Every time we listen to a piece of music, we put a date. If the student doesn’t get the piece checked off, we put a reason why. So, if a parent comes to us and says, “My child has been working on this for six weeks. How come you haven’t checked it off?” We open the book and tell them, “On this date, I asked them to work on this. And this is why they are still working on the piece ….” Communication is preemptive. Cathrea: It’s about setting expectations right off the bat. Sometimes, customers will come up with things they expected from us, that we literally never once said we would SEPTEMBER 2019

offer. They get upset you didn’t do something you never said you would do in the first place. Communication is important. It could be a welcome video that reiterates the policies. It’s difficult to think students will remember every policy that they went over when they signed up, so it is good to reiterate your policies. Sassi: You definitely want to keep them from being upset. But when they are already upset, I have to acknowledge that sometimes, it’s not us. Parents have a lot going on and they’re under a lot of pressure. They are overscheduled, overworked and extremely tired. One of the first things we need to do is accept they are upset and acknowledge they are upset. They want to be heard first. After they know they are being heard and are listened to, then they can listen to us and take in what we have to say about their kid. I think it goes a long way. Spicer: The good news for me is my lesson coordinator Kelsey [Moore] has to handle all that stuff. Bad news for her [jokes]. One thing we do is communicate ways to help the student progress and practice throughout the week. Tips and tricks. That goes in our camp flyers and brochures. A lot of parents may not be musicians themselves or maybe played an instrument when they were 7 and quit. You need to educate the parent and let them know what you are expecting and what they should be seeing in terms of results, and what a practice structure should look like.

Mason: Lessons are huge. They are the whole reason we are in business. It’s the lion’s share of our revenue. From a business perspective, it gives you stability because you have a recurring stream of cash flow that you can more or less count on. You

butter. So, it helps. Spicer: We’ve had students that started at age 3 and worked their way up in our programs. They are now 9 or 10 years old. Lessons have fewer moving parts than the retail or rental side of the business have. ad_Odyssey-MSR_Aug2019_ARTIST_v4.pdf



know you are not worried about making payroll next week. That is such a relief. I can’t imagine if it were the other way around, and 90 percent of our business were retail. I would have even more gray hair in my beard, which I shaved [today].

11:30 AM










Berk: OK, last question. We are not going to discuss any specific numbers. But what do lessons do for the bottom line, in terms of sales, at your store(s)? Deverell: Lessons feed every other aspect of the store. Students come in for lessons at a very young age. When it’s time for them to rent their first band instrument, they are already customers of ours, and they come to us. They purchase supplies from us. Lessons are the bread and MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER




(continued from cover) Kingdom — professed during his 50-minute speech, which included many one-liners and plenty of fascinating information. n “Life is about momentum. Momentum is a force. Have you ever thought about physics in what you do? An object at rest tends to stay at rest until you apply force. Nothing happens until you do something. Force equals mass times acceleration. And third is, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction can stop your momentum or cause you to pivot to other momentum… Momentum is often something to think about [in your business].” n “Often, people are asked, ‘What’s your story?’ Some will just say, ‘Well, I am just hanging out.’ Others will be asked the same question, and they draw you in. Those individuals have captured a lot of what they’ve done over time and can tell a story. Knowing your personal story or story as a business is important. I know people who have struggled to articulate their story. If they struggle, perhaps others do, and perhaps the business is not where it should be.” n “I love chocolate. When I moved to London, my dad, a general, gave me a book. Have you ever received a book from your parents and not read it? How did

"The question is, 'Where will the mountain be in 10 years?'"

it end? Not good. The book talked about the top 100 companies to work for in Europe in 1990. He said, ‘There it is, your future.’ I said, ‘Dad, you don’t buy a book, call a number and get a job.’ The No. 1 company to work for was M&M Mars. I called the number. … I went in to see them. I joined M&M Mars for five wonderful years. I was there for brand extensions. I led the Olympic program in Albertville, [France]. I spent $30 million to throw parties in Albertville and Barcelona to relaunch Snickers around the world. In 1990, Snickers was called five different things throughout the world. I said, ‘Why is that?’ The Brits told me snickers rhymes with knickers, and you can’t call it that. But the Mars family liked the idea and we relaunched with one name less than a year later. The moral of the story: Have a big vision. Take something you don’t imagine can happen and do it.” n “At the Olympics, we often had the same party. I had this vision that we would watch men’s and women’s downhill skiing and the next day, who wouldn’t want to ski there [down the same slopes]? 34



young companies can do, because we had no rules and no policies. I remember a conversation we had there where we said, ‘We can’t call it a toe-protected shoe. What is it? It’s a hybrid shoe that protects and breathes. That sounds fancy.’ We built this brand off of fun and performance. It was an amazing experience.” n “I was at Keen, and all of sudden, I got a call from Levi’s. I had been wearing Levi’s my whole

life, ever since I was a kid. I went to talk to them in 2012. I told them, ‘I have been wearing Levi’s all my life. My kids have no idea who you are. My wife left you years ago. My parents don’t wear you anymore. You need to act like the future matters more than the past.’ The next day, they asked me if I wanted to figure out how to do so. Jeans are synonymous with so many things. I knew they needed to have a vision of not

where it was, but where it could go. They told me they were the worldwide leader in jeans [sales], so everything was OK. But sales were declining. Rule No. 1: If you ever find yourself No. 1 [in a category] and you are not growing, you should declare crisis immediately. We took a look at the entire closet and saw jeans had about 5 percent or 6 percent of the purchasing power of the closet. (continued on page 68)

HOT SELLERS PRS Guitars offers an array of products to suit just about any tonal preference. Make sure you are carrying these proven winners from our versatile lineup. Custom 24 - our flagship model, this is the guitar that started it all. S2 Vela Semi-Hollow - a departure from your typical PRS and a good choice to win over new PRS customers. SE Paul’s Guitar - PRS DNA from the ground up: TCI pickup design, proprietary nut material, sculpted body carve, brass insert stoptail bridge, and more. SE A60E - a beautiful sounding acoustic that shares the bracing design of our exclusive Private Stock acoustics. MT 15 - a serious piece of gear in a tiny package that comes at a very attractive price. These products are SKU’s that our dealers know will turn again and again. Contact your local PRS rep to see about getting these in your store. © 2019 PRS Guitars / Photos by Marc Quigley

Salomon was launching new skis there. I met with them and said, “We would like our guests to get some skis and take them on the men’s downhill.’ We got all these skis from Salomon. Professional skiers took our guests down the men’s and women’s downhill [slopes]. It was an amazing experience. I had great contacts at Salomon. I went back to Mars in London. Guess who called me a month later? Salomon. They asked me if I would consider coming there. I loved M&Ms, but man, the mountains were calling. I met the owner, and he said, ‘JC, should we just ski or should we do something more?’ It’s a good question for a leader to ask. I remember in his office there was a whiteboard. I said, ‘Maybe it’s not a question of should we ski or do something more?’ The question is, ‘Where will the mountain be in 10 years?’ I drew a picture of the mountain and people will be going snowboarding, and in the backcountry, there are families, Olympics and racing. There are all sorts of things going on. There’s a health movement that, when the snow goes away, people hike up and down the mountain and go on trails. So, I said, ‘It’s not looking at share of skiing. It’s looking at share of the mountain.’ A couple of months later, my drawing of the mountain was still up on the whiteboard and he said, ‘That is now in permanent ink.’ One of my first jobs was erasing the whiteboard. … We became a mountain sports brand that tripled its magnitude and vision. It was an amazing 12-year journey at Salomon, where I became president and CEO of Salomon North America, which allowed me to really understand how to go into a market and create new things.” n Following Salomon, Curleigh received a call from a man who said he invented a shoe that can protect your toes and let them breathe. “I thought it was a big idea. This guy invented Keen shoes, a toe-protected sandal. You either know them, love them and wear them, or you don’t. It’s polarizing. I was the president of Keen footwear for five or six years. We had explosive growth. We built a brand off a culture that didn’t exist. We could do things that

Check out new Strings, Cables, and accessories from PRS!


The Music & Sound Retailer’s Holiday Sales Guide Returns By Brian Berk Yes, it’s only September, but the holidays are once again quickly approaching. Need a list of products that can fill the stockings at your store (OK, several of them can’t actually fit) this holiday season? Check this list out once. Check this list twice. And if you prefer, you can even surpass Santa’s requirements and check this list three times.


Strum the Right Tune

Jack of All Trades

Electro-Harmonix’s Clip On Tuner is intended to provide a compact and convenient tuning device for musicians with a broad range of tuning modes: Chromatic, Guitar, Bass, Violin, Ukulele C and D. It features a bright, easy-to-read LCD display; tuning range: A0 (27.5Hz)~C8; (4186.0Hz); A4: 430Hz~450Hz; Flat tuning: ♭, ♭♭; Nomar pads; and power: 3V CR2032 battery included.

Good-quality cables are an essential part of a sound production, and there are countless ways that cables can be damaged, causing sound to be disrupted or completely lost. Jack Caps provides tapered bracing at the base of the plug and a tight seal at the base of the body, and are engineered to provide ultimate protection in the toughest environments, while the leash keeps them strapped and organized, stated the company.


Marching to a New Beat Promark Drumsticks debuted two new signature marching snare sticks, the BYOS (Bring Your Own Style) FireGrain Marching Snare Stick and the expansion of the Scott Johnson DC17 Marching Snare Stick, now in a painted white finish. The BYOS FireGrain Marching Snare Stick, in collaboration with Ralph Nader and Harvey Thompson, features FireGrain technology, a patented heat-tempering process that turns ordinary hickory drumsticks into precision tools with unprecedented durability. The stick features a medium taper as well as a grip ring at the butt end of the stick to provide a comfortable grip while executing stick tricks. The .700-inch diameter paired with the large round bead provides the necessary output volume needed for marching activity both indoors and out. The Scott

Johnson DC17 Marching Snare Stick was designed with drum corps legend, Scott Johnson, and features a medium taper and large round bead for a wide range of dynamics on the drum while still providing a great feel in the player’s hands.


FOR MUSIC RETAILERS Light as a Feather Roland’s Aerophone Mini AE01 is modern wind instrument with six onboard sounds that let end users explore a variety of music styles, while the compact design travels anywhere. Aerophone also offers the following features: access to more than 50 additional sounds with the free Aerophone mini Plus app for iOS and Android; 11 easy-to-follow tutorial songs in the Aerophone mini Plus app; onboard speaker and battery power; headphone jack; and a weight of just one pound, two ounces.


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Visit or call (801) 893-3680 to learn more!

Product data from over 100+ vendors!


Let’s Get iLoud In the Bag MONO added two bags to its Stealth line: the Stealth Alias Backpack and Stealth Relay Messenger Bag. The Stealth Alias Backpack and Stealth Relay Messenger Bag are lightweight, yet sturdy bags, stated the company. The Alias has a minimalist profile, designed with DJs and beatmakers in mind. The Relay is a modern essential for producers who want to travel lighter, but keep their gear secured, thanks to the bag’s ample compartments and attachment points, added the manufacturer. The Alias and Relay are both ergonomically designed with adjustable shoulder straps to fit most musicians’ bodies.

IK Multimedia’s iLoud MTM is a compact reference monitor that delivers pristine sound and unprecedented accuracy for the professional and home studio, stated the company. iLoud MTM delivers unsurpassed clarity, 100W RMS power and 40Hz to 24kHz frequency response, added the company. It offers an ultra-flat frequency response, but more importantly, a truly linear phase response, for true-to-life sound, the manufacturer said. The symmetrical MTM design (two 3.5-inch highperformance woofers and one-inch high-definition tweeter) provides precise, point-source sound that can’t be achieved by two-way systems at close distances, for more natural sound that minimizes the ear fatigue. Its self-calibration is derived from IK’s ARC System, with an included reference microphone, to easily adjust to any room’s acoustics.

Pocket Protector Music Nomad introduced its Premium Guitar Tech Screwdriver and Wrench Set that offers unmatched versatility in one compact, rugged case that can fit in your pocket. Designed specifically for guitars, it is a must have for every instrument case or work station, stated the company. It comes with 18 screwdriver bits, seven hex wrench sizes, plus a Premium Spanner Wrench. It makes adjustments on guitar hardware such as: tuners, jacks, pots, bridges, pickups, tailpieces, string guides, pickguards, tremolos and more. The large, ergonomic handle is made from strong ballistic nylon material that won’t scratch or ding hardware and is engineered for the most common hex wrench sizes. It can even tighten nuts in sunken pots and recessed jacks such as tele-cups.



Getting to the Core Dynaudio’s Core 7 and Core 59 use the company’s most advanced drivers, including allnew tweeters that feature the new resonance-defeating Hexis inner dome, plus new DSP technology for even more power and surprising ease of use, stated the company. Extreme consistency between speakers and intelligent, flexible cabinet design, plus the “best digital amplifiers its creators have ever heard,” bring the pinnacle of precision, consistency and reliability to a studio, the company added.

Protect your gear from harmful UV rays.




acoustic, electric and • Fits most bass guitars Deflects sun’s heat and • UV rays with either • Reversible...use silver or black side visible • Water repellant • Cover height: 43”

Greatest Hits Alfred Music released “2019 Greatest Christian Hits” for easy piano. It includes 12 easy arrangements of the most popular Christian songs from 2019. From ballads to up-tempo styles, these songs will be inspirational for all pianists. Titles are “Build My Life” (Housefires); “Do It Again” (Elevation Worship); “Even Then” (Micah Tyler); “Joy” (For King & Country); “Known” (Tauren Wells); “Only Jesus” (Casting Crowns); “Reckless Love” (Cory Asbury); “Resurrection Power” (Chris Tomlin); “So Will I (100 Billion X)” (Hillsong United); “Tremble” (Mosaic MSC); “Who You Say I Am” (Hillsong Worship); and “You Say” (Lauren Daigle).




Turn a Triple Play Fishman’s TriplePlay Connect is a MIDI controller that installs easily and non-invasively on most electric and acoustic guitars and allows users to plug into their iPad and create new sounds, instruments, write and record songs, and more. Users simply download the free TriplePlay Connect iOS app from the App Store to play and control virtual instruments,


perform songs and share them online, create, share and play loops and audio files, or turn their guitar into a whole band. TriplePlay Connect includes a controller, an easily

mounted hexaphonic pickup, lightning and USB cable for connection to iPad, magnetic mounting brackets and hardware.


• Deflects sun’s heat and UV rays • Elastic opening fits keyboards ranging from small ( 28”- 36”) to large ( 48”- 56”) • Water repellant SILVER SIDE DEFLECTS SUN’S HEAT & UV RAYS


COVER • Weighted corners

for stability and easy folding • Corner grommets for securing Drum Cover • Water repellant • Size: 80”x108”

DEALER INQUIRIES Ph: 1.800.371.3509 • 316.684.2229 View our complete product line at


Ace of Bass Remo introduced the External Sub Muffl Bass Drum System. The Sub Muffl is a bass-drum-dampening accessory product that features a free-floating external design that works with all bass drum heads that do not have external dampening. Constructed with an external plastic profile and a slip-resistant dampening foam, the Sub Muffl allows the drumhead full contact with the bearing edge, enabling the head and drum shell to maintain their full character of sound with additional attack and subsonic lows without frequency manipulation of glued-on dampening profiles. The dampening sections slip in and out of the tray for easy adjustability in studio or live situations. Available in 18 inches, 20 inches, 22 inches and 24 inches.

Blowing in the Wind The Wind Wynder is a device for holding music books or pages in place. It hooks onto a music stand or a hard music folder. The Wind Wynder enables all musicians to make normal page turns in windy, drafty conditions indoors or outdoors, or when music pages will not stay open, stated the company. These problems are solved, the company added: no more clips dropping on the stage; no more music flying off the stands; players no longer have to stop playing to make page turns; no more stress and struggle for musicians; and better-quality performances.

Not a Little Too Intense Los Cabos Drumsticks released the 5A and 5B Black Widows, 5A, 5B and 7A Pink Drumsticks, and 5A and 5B Intense Drumsticks. The Black Widows add a stylish twist to its classic 5A and 5B red hickory models with a glossy black paint job and black widow spider logo. Intense Drumsticks feature an extra half inch of reach compared to their standard counterparts. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of every pair of Los Cabos Drumsticks’ pink sticks goes to support cancer research in Canada and the United States through its Think Pink campaign and annual donation to the Canadian Cancer Society and the Breast Cancer Can Stick It! Foundation.




Amahi introduced Panda Ukuleles as its newest line of entry-level offerings. Building on the successful Amahi tropical series colors and designs, Panda brings an array of color choices. With 12 solid colors and three new designs, the Panda line also includes a collection of mahogany and spruce models. Features include open-geared tuners, Aquila strings and padded gig bags.




That Can Be Arranged

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Yamaha introduced the PSR-SX700 and PSR-SX900, two 61-key Arranger Workstation keyboards for composing, arranging and playing confidently out at gigs. These all-in-one instruments, which replace the PSR-S775 and PSR-S975 respectively, offer ultrarealistic and expressive Super Articulation Voices, with greater real-time control over a performance than other similarly-priced keyboards on the market today, stated the company. Both share a seven-inch TFT touch screen, and six new assignable controller buttons have been added beneath the touch screen, each of which can be assigned a desired function. A new joystick controller with modulation hold opens up expressive possibilities and is ideally suited for almost every genre of music. New Voices and DSP have also been added, inherited from Genos. To complete the creative process, arrangements made with the 16-track recorder/player can be output CASES FOR ACOUSTIC, BASS as studio-quality WAV audio AND ELECTRIC GUITARS files to play back on smart Combines style with durability devices or computers. Weather-resistant exterior


Hideaway backpack straps with top grab handle

Multiple storage and carry options Plush-lined, EPS foam interior Available in tan, grey, charcoal

Interior compartment for capos, strings, picks and accessories



™ These guitar straps with patent-pending RipChord Technology™ solves the age-old problem of getting the perfect fit while playing your instrument. Easily adjust your strap with a quick pull of the handle, raising and lowering your instrument without missing a beat.

Innovative Ergonomic Design Prevents Shoulder Fatigue






A Rose by Any Other Name

Checking It Twice

Seca Group LLC’s FR-52 is a collection of Patented 3D Sound Technology wired headphones under the Floyd Rose brand. Each earphone cup has two drivers (one for bass and the other for mid/ highs) with dual sound coils and a frequency circuit divider board. It features technology that enhances the human ear and gives the listener 3D sound that has broader range with perfect highs, mids and lows, stated the company. Features include a durable fabric headphone cable, lightweight design, aluminum and metal construction, stylish fabric finish, soft-forming earpads, fabric zippered carrying bag and one-quarter-inch adapter jack. Available in Black or White.

When it comes to lists, Tech 21’s Geddy Lee YYZ Signature SansAmp is one to check out twice. That’s because given Geddy’s huge and dedicated following, it’s a pretty good bet Santa will be seeing the new Geddy Lee YYZ Signature SansAmp on many of his lists this year. The YYZ Signature SansAmp not only delivers Geddy’s core sound, its flexible controls offer the versatility for many different tones. Features include all-analog SansAmp technology, Mix to blend the ratio of high-end studio clean and dirty bass tube amp tones, and a Tight button to add definition to notes in cleaner settings and make distorted tones snappier. There’s also Drive, active three-band EQ and Master Volume.

Going Retro

What’s New? A LOT! Acousti-Lok™ Strap Lock Adapters

Gator Cases’ Retro-Rack Series comprises vintage amp-style wooden rack cases that offer modern protection with a classic appearance for the stage or studio. This series pays homage to the 1950s and 1960s style with three colored tolex options: Seafoam Green, Tweed and Black. Fit your favorite processors and recording equipment into 2U, 3U or 4U rack-size options with 12.5 inches of rackable depth.

You can finally let go.

Premium Guitar Tools

Guitar Tech Tool Set


Bridge Pin Puller

Truss Rod Wrenches

Spanner Wrench Suede Backing


Peak Performance The G7th Performance 3 capo is “becoming the new standard for capos” thanks to its Adaptive Radius Technology or ART, stated the company. The ART string pad offers excellent tuning stability by mechanically adapting to match the curvature over the strings (radius) on any guitar. With ART, one capo delivers complete confidence that there will be no string buzz or need for constant retuning on any six-string acoustic or electric guitar.

Take This Axe to the Max Ibanez’s RGD71ALMS Axion Label is an ultra-modern axe with futuristic appeal, offering some of the most extreme styling in the Axion Label series, stated the company. Fishman Fluence pickups supply a plethora of hair-raising tones supplemented by a voicing switch, significantly expanding the tonal capabilities of the cutting-edge humbuckers. Aesthetically, the eye can’t help but be drawn to the multiscale design and Black Aurora Burst Matte finish, while a five-piece Nitro Wizard-seven neck supplies all of the speed, accuracy and dynamic attack a player could ask for, added the manufacturer.



The ‘Today’ Show

Kepma Unplugged

Hal Leonard released “All-in-One” combo packs of its bestselling “Play Today!” instructional titles. These new items include the original Books 1 and 2 conveniently bound together and complete with online audio tracks and video lessons. The online audio includes PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows players to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, and pan left or right. These combo packs make perfect add-ons to holiday sales so gift recipients will be sure to get everything they need to start learning how to play their new instrument as soon as the wrapping paper is ripped off, stated the company. The first releases are Guitar, Bass, Drums and Ukulele.

Kepma Guitar Co. released the Kepma AcoustiFex Series D2-131A guitar. The patented AcoustiFex Preamp and Effects system gives players the ability to play acoustically with adjustable reverb, delay and chorus effects, and when plugged into an amplifier. The D2-131A features a laser-aged solid Sitka spruce top Elite with mahogany back and sides and, like all Kepma Elite models, features a Plek setup and top vibration of 300 hours to “break in” the wood. The Kepma AcoustiFex preamp and effects system utilizes a new-generation lithium ion 18650 battery that can power the unit for up to 30 or more hours of continuous playing time on a single full charge.

Out of This World The Apollo SpotFX is a petite yet surprisingly bright gobo projector which allows the user to project steel, black and white glass, fullcolor glass or Apollo’s PrintScenic gobos. Image clarity is remarkable and the SpotFX may be powered by a small battery pack, allowing discrete placement within environments with limited power availability, stated the company, The SpotFX lends itself well to restaurants, pubs and retail spaces which would benefit from a small, yet punchy image projector, added the manufacturer. It is also designed for DJs and inhome use during the holidays and sporting seasons.






2:07 PM


Aloha, Harmonica Coming soon is Lee Oskar Harmonicas’ Hawaiian Harmonica, a 21-hole tremolo that is made with the same exacting standards and superior craftmanship as all of the instruments in the Lee Oskar Harmonicas system, stated the company. This Hawaiian-style tremolo creates a rich and soothing sound that expresses the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, echoing the traditions, culture and Aloha Spirit of this enchanted land. Included with this special product is a traditional Hawaiian song book and tablature for playing harmonica with ukulele, plus special access to download additional songs celebrating Hawaiian culture.

Loop Me In PreSonus’ ATOM Producer Lab can create innovative beats, play virtual instruments, and trigger samples and loops in real time with unsurpassed expressiveness and flexibility using the intuitive ATOM pad controller, stated the company. It records vocals and allows users to create their own original sample library with the bus-powered AudioBox USB 96 audio/MIDI interface and M7 large-diaphragm condenser microphone. The bonus MVP Loop content library and Studio Magic Plug-in Suite lets users put a professional polish on their productions, whether a studio is in a bedroom or a backpack. ATOM, AudioBox USB 96 and Studio One are also available separately.









Beauty Is in the Eye of the Holder Holidays or not, musicians want to keep their drumsticks within easy reach during live performances and practice. With the newest addition to the String Swing Stagehand series of products, the SH03 Drumstick Holder, they can. Requiring no screws or clamps, the Stagehand Series holders secure to a stand with a simple twist of the wrist. The tension-fit design prevents this unit from moving, even when bumped or lifted. It works with mic, music and cymbal stands ranging from 3/4 inch to 1 1/4 inches in diameter.







Just one of many offerings at the Fender booth.

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Among the freebies at the Synchrony Financial booth were mints housed inside a mini guitar case.

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Sales and Marketing Director, John Packer Ltd. By Brian Berk British-based John Packer Ltd. has been professionally servicing the needs of woodwind and brass players of all stages and standards for more than 40 years. Its initial axiom of “serve as you would be served” has remained a central company theme. To get much more insight about the company, the state of the band and orchestra market, as well as how its U.S. and British MI retail markets are faring, we reached out to Rob Hanson, John Packer’s director of sales and marketing. The Music & Sound Retailer: Tell us about John Packer and its histor y. Rob Hanson: John Packer is a real person. He is more or less retired these days. He does still work, though. He started the company a little more than 40 years ago. He started his career as an oboe maker for the Howard Co. in London. He did that for a while and then moved back to the southwest


of England and opened up a repair shop. One day, someone walked in and said, “Would you like to buy a clarinet?” John said, “I don’t sell clarinets. I fix them but don’t sell them.” But the person wanted to sell it to him, so he bought the clarinet, sold the clarinet and with the proceeds, bought two clarinets. He sold those John Packer co-director Annie Gardner with Rob Hanson at Buckingham Palace two clarinets, and with the proceeds, he bought a flute, work for Schreiber and Yamaha. It was a clarinet and a saxophone. In the next sevreally a natural step for John to do his own eral years, that business grew into becomthing. ing one of the largest and most specialized At the time, I was the “road guy” at the brass and woodwind stores in the UK. He company, selling to school districts. Over did a lot of work with education authorithe next 20 years, we built the manufacturties. He did quite a lot of design work with ing side of John Packer to be much bigger companies as well. than the retail side of the company. We John Packer still is a brass and woodwind supply 45 countries all over the world. The store in the UK. Our retail shop is someU.S. is our biggest single market. We have thing we are very proud of and invest a lot had great success. We are becoming known of time in. The reality though is the UK for doing things the proper way and looking market is very different than the rest of the after our dealer base. world. We don’t have a rental market here like they do in the U.S. School districts here The Retailer: Tell us a little about tend to do most of the your career. central purchasing. Hanson: I was a UK brass band cornet So, they tend to own player. I started playing the cornet when I instruments and lend was 7 years old. But it was never enough them out to children. to earn a living. I was pretty good, but it That’s fantastic, but it never was going to be a full-time career. also comes down to I was always quite good at selling things. school bids. So, when So, the natural progression was to find a you have a situation job in MI that would support my hobby. I when these bids are have been at John Packer for 21 years. I so big, it becomes called John up and said, “Give me a job.” increasingly difficult After a little persuading, he did. He began to make any margins. by putting me on the road as a sales rep So, in the early 2000s, visiting school districts. what John decided to It’s interesting that I wanted a job to supdo was to make his port my hobby. Now, I don’t have time for own line of products. my hobby. My enjoyment now comes from That way, you can hearing other people play. [That includes] control the products, my son, who took the exact same path as control the branding me. He started playing at 7. He is a very and control the price fine trumpet and cornet player now. He got point. It was very a job working for the accounting firm Price good timing for him. Waterhouse Coopers. He had done design SEPTEMBER 2019

The Retailer: Can you tell us some advice John Packer imparted on you? Hanson: When John Packer made me director, he only gave me one piece of advice, which still sticks with me to this day. He said, “Rob, never, ever chase a profit. Because if you chase a profit, you will never find it. Get everything in its place. Do everything the right way. The profit will come.” That is something we have done as a company and are very proud of. We do everything the right way. We work hard. We are nice to our customers. We have a wonderful working relationship with them. We have an honest and open relationship with them. We have never chased profit, but it comes and treats us very well. The Retailer: What is your take on the overall band and orchestra market and how is it different when you compare the U.S. to the UK? Hanson: There are a lot of similarities in the markets. Both are based around central government funding. When central government decides that music is a wonderful thing, both sides of the Atlantic benefit. About 12 or 13 years ago, the UK Government thought music education is a wonderful thing. They invested several hundred million dollars to make sure every child nine years old learned to play a musical instrument free for a year. That was what changed MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

John Packer from a retail shop into an international force. So much money arrived, and we had the right production in the Far East, the right product and the right price point. They really set us up for life, having control over production in China, quality control, branding and more. That money was life changing for the entire UK music industry. But as quick as it came, it was gone. So, we had seven or eight tremendous years of growth in the UK, but that is now completely down the toilet. The budget has been cut and been cut and been cut more down to levels that we probably haven’t seen for 20 years. Sadly, with the politician situation in the UK, I don’t see it getting much better at least in the short to medium term. As far as our perspective on the U.S., it is a much stronger market. In places like Texas and North Carolina where music is centrally funded, the level of interest we get is astronomical, compared to what it even used to be in the UK. You go to high schools and 300, 400 or 500 children could be playing music. That is incredible. In England, you may have a high school with only two or three children playing. In England, there is some apathy toward music because parents have so many other things to pay for, whereas in (continued on page 67) 49


Woodstock Revisited

In case you haven’t heard, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard. So let’s indulge in a bit of nostalgia, whether or not we were actually there 50 years ago. Snarkiness aside, can you believe that it’s the 50th anniversary of Woodstock? Like it or not, this remarkable event, encompassing music, culture, political and social awareness, and so much more has shaped so much of society that we are probably not aware of its full impact. Your MI Spy does admit to not having been to the original Woodstock (but Woodstock ‘99 is a different story!). I do love the Woodstock documentary, however; it’s in my Top 5 list of films. The musical performances, the fans running around and sliding in mud, the staff and Max Yasgur speaking to the crowds, the cars abandoned on the New York Thruway: All those scenes and many more make it a thoroughly fascinating film. And yeah, if a young MI Spy could have been there, it would have been … far out, man. Well, anniversaries aside, living in the past isn’t really the MI Spy’s style. But what is the MI Spy’s style? Checking out the musical instrument stores in the region that hosted Woodstock those many years ago, of course. And while I was a bit surprised that there were not dozens of such stores in the area, there are many artisans designing and building musical instruments in their homes and studios. As far as fullfledged stores that stock a variety of musical instruments, there are some intriguing shops that I did get to ply some spycraft in. To say that these stores echo the Woodstock Festival itself would be a stretch, although one did capture some of the essence of the festival, in a non-slick, somewhat surprising manner.


Planet Woodstock Music has railroad tracks behind it, and if you like trains, this is a cool visual perk (but if you get stuck waiting for a loooong train to pass by, you might be cooling your heels and wheels). And there is a large sculpture of a guitar beside the main entrance, an enticing artistic touch. My assistant for the day and I found ample parking in front of the store, and we slipped inside. Shortly after entering, your MI Spy spotted one of the ginchiest novelty instruments I’ve ever seen: the Vibraslap. Where has this item been all my life? At Planet Woodstock, it was beside a few other quirky musical things. This store has a wide variety of new and used musical instruments, as well as used records, used and new CDs, and other stuff. Why, it even offered a three-string Mickey Mouse lunchbox guitar, plastic handle included. (There was another kiddy lunchbox guitar, as well as a more modest cigar box model.) There was a healthy variety of acoustic guitars for sale here, and lots of sheet music. The prices were labeled clearly for the most part, and there was a good range of prices. The Dollar Record Bin was a plus, and there were lots of enticing (and dusty) 45s. I bought four golden oldies. The store also sells more expensive and rarer items, such as old jazz albums. (John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk were prominently displayed.) And it has a selection of discs by local bands and artists. Part of the store resembled a music lover’s studio apartment, with a few drum sets surrounding a dowdy comfy chair and music-themed pillow. A clear bowl at the main counter held a healthy assortment of guitar picks in different colors, stamped with the store name. The worker at the counter had earlier greeted us with a “Hey, how are you?” when we first walked into the store. I asked him about the Vibraslap and he showed me how to use it successfully. “You hear it at the start of ‘Crazy Train,’ for instance,” he said. “It’s a really cool percussion instrument.” I asked him if there were others he liked in particular. He showed us a few examples of shakers and told us, “It’s not just for little kids. These can really add something special to a video or a recording or a club date. Bands and kids come here for their gear. People like to come combing through the inventory.” The store does have a bit of a “collector’s hangout” feel in some of its corners. Heck, my assistant was tickled to find a “Partridge Family” record in the discount bin. Overall, this is a good local store with a bit of a local vibe (again, local performers sell their CDs here), and the owner is a local guy who studied music in California. There is a little of something for nearly everyone at Planet Woodstock, although the depth is mostly in the guitars, sheet music and percussion.

Planet Woodstock Music 1112 Morton Blvd. Kingston, NY 12401 845.336.5599


The backside of the Stockade Guitars business card has a unique list of statistics: the weight of “Elvis On Other Planets” which includes Mars (97 pounds), Pluto (13 pounds), Uranus (232 pounds), the Sun (7,140 pounds) and others. This may or may not be the deciding factor in your patronizing this store, which specializes in special guitars and other stringed instruments. Located across from a record store aptly called Records, Stockade offers several guitars. The day MI Spy popped by, I saw a 2013 SG Standard for $1,100, a 2006 Ibanez for $350, and both used and new acoustics. They also had a used Fouke Industrial guitar for $550, which has to be seen to be believed. There were guitars just a bit more than $100, and others over $3,000. There was a whole showcase of Electro-Harmonix pedals, and other pedals on display as well. MI Spy has noticed a trend in tastefully and strategically decorated music shops as of late — unusual record albums placed along the walls, little shrines to musicians and so on. Stockade participates in this trend, with a Santo & Johnny album on a shelf, sitting next to bodega candles. It established the mood. Interested in non-guitar offerings here? I also spied a 1950s Martin uke for $800, in addition to the tasty selection of guitar effects pedals. I did feel like the ugly duckling for at least 10 minutes when I first came into the store, because I received no greeting. There were two other customers there already, but no one cast a glance toward me, and no one uttered a cheery “Hey, how are you?” Two guys chatted while I picked a few licks on an electric guitar. Then, I was finally asked, “Are you looking for anything in particular?” I asked about the Godin acoustic on display, an expensive but beautiful looking instrument. The salesman did open up then, and he provided me with interesting details about it, the pickups (“These are far superior to so many other guitars out there, distinctive, really.”) and the fact that this guitar is made in Canada. “The company is partially subsidized by the Canadian government. It has a really good sound to it,” he explained. Then a customer came in with a high-end guitar that needed repairs. I eavesdropped on his conversation with a store employee, which was similar to a patient and a doctor going back and forth. This is a store with such impressive guitars, and it has the feel of a being shrine more than a store. And once I zeroed in on a particular guitar, the guy at the store warmed up and spoke freely.

Stockade Guitars 41 N. Front St. Kingston, NY 12401 845.331.8600


Sitting side by side on Broadway in Kingston are two music shops. First, I stopped into Saker Guitar Works, which is a quite an appealing destination for guitarists in particular. One other customer was in the shop when I stopped by, and he was wrapping up his transaction with the owner. The owner is a laid back, friendly guy who told me about Barcone’s Music the guitars he stocks, the repairs he offers and even those 528 Broadway guitars he actually builds. We chatted while he performed Kingston, NY 12401 maintenance on an acoustic. In fact, I had noticed a customer coming out the door when I entered, and the guy looked 845.331.6089 so happy. “I did this difficult repair on his guitar,” the owner explained. “He was worried it was a goner, almost.” I asked him about the four Danelectro guitars on the wall, and he was enthusiastic. “They’re new, and they are something to look at.” I told him a bit naïvely that I had thought the brand had folded. “Oh, no, they came back around 1998. And they’re really good products. They’re much more than museum replicas. They do have a fine sound.” And he asked, “What brings you here? Not ever ybody just walks in.” I told him I was interested in guitars for a young person I know who studies jazz guitar at a local college. “Bring him or her by and I will show them some excellent guitars, and also some good accessories.” Would you like a Snark for your guitar? That is a good question, folks. Saker has a lot of those tuners for sale. The price schedule for labor and repairs is prominently displayed on the wall, so customers know well in advance what they’re getting into. The shop has lots of acoustic guitars, but I was particularly fascinated by the colorful electrics in one room. There are some really nice-looking guitars in this place, and lots of Boss pedals. When I left to visit Barcone’s, I parked my MI Spy mobile behind the Barcone’s van. The van proclaimed that Barcone’s has existed since 1890. This is indeed impressive: nearly 120 years in the music business! And the decorative sign above their main door shows a few of the instruments the store stocks, focusing on trumpet, clarinet, sax, flute and violin. It’s a nice logo. Barcone’s stocks these instruments and a healthy selection of others, such as keyboards, guitars, ukuleles, French horns, small percussion instruments, plastic egg shakers, harmonicas and more. It also sells lots of instructional sheet music and books, as well as accessories and the like. And it has its own logo baseball cap, along with other items. This all seems rather encouraging for a potential customer who walks in. There was a young woman behind the counter while I was there, and a few minutes after I entered the store, she said “Hello” to me and asked if I needed any help. I asked one general question, which elicited one short answer, and then she didn’t say another word to me. I stood there and silently begged her to ask me questions, to pick up an item and ask me if I wished to try it out, to tell me about sale items, anything. Nope. I did ask her if the store stocked guitars, and she said, “I recommend the store next door,” without mentioning its name. And that was it. Barcone’s is clean and orderly but not antiseptic. There is a lot of sheet music offered, especially for the piano, and lots of instructional materials for young music students.

Saker Guitar Works 528 Broadway Kingston, NY 12401 845.338.1398

Lastly, I wandered into the town of New Paltz, which has a Woodstockian vibe filtered through a modern sensibility. Imperial Guitar & Soundworks, just minutes away from State University of New York at New Paltz, is a top-notch guitar shop. This is fitting because SUNY New Paltz has an excellent music program, with strong concentrations in both jazz and classical music. “Imperial” sounds like a high-falutin’ name for a guitar store, but it’s actually the owner’s last name. With its striped guitar pick logo, Imperial Guitar is a place you will remember if you are a guitar player, or if you aspire to be. There is a deep variety of new and used acoustic and electric guitars here, with a smattering of other instruments (saxophones, stand-up basses, mandolins, ukes, etc.). Amps? Accessories? Guitar parts? Plenty of these (continued on page 67)

Imperial Guitar & Soundworks 2A Cherry Hill Road New Paltz, NY 12561 845.255.2555



Giving Kudos

Jim Beaty of Backstage Music (left) presents new Fishman Artist to Jonny Hollis and his son (right).

All MI retailers have felt, from time to time, that maybe their manufacturing partners care about them only because they are a revenue source for the manufacturer. I’ve experienced that same feeling from time to time, but something happened this year that bears retelling. This is a short story about goodness and kindness in a business world that could do with more of both. Just before Christmas 2018, a young man in our small town, Jonny Hollis, lost all of his music gear when his home caught on fire. We’ve known Jonny since he was just a youngster, and he’d bought a lot of his gear from us. He’s gained a bit of a reputation as a solid performer, playing regularly in churches and local venues. Now married with a young son, Jonny is universally well liked, and he has had a lot of solo gigs in our area. Just before Christmas, Jonny’s home caught on fire, and he lost all his music gear, even the new Fishman Artist he bought from us earlier in the year. Between the fire and the smoke, none of it could be salvaged. We learned about the loss through a Facebook post, and when Jonny came by the store one day, he confirmed it was a total loss. Since we felt like we’d sort of raised Jonny in the music scene (we’ve all got players like that, ones we’ve watched and encouraged along the way) we wanted to help out in some way. We thought maybe we could replace the Artist for him, and maybe Fishman would make us a deal on one so it would be easier for us to do. (Hope does spring eternal, doesn’t it?) Thinking it was probably a long shot, I called Kevin, our guy at Fishman, and explained what had happened. I sent him video links of Jonny playing and using Fishman gear, and asked for some sort of help on the price, if possible, so we could replace his amp. Kevin sympathized, and said he’d kick it up the ladder



and see what could be done. Several days passed, and then Kevin called. He said the powers-that-be saw the videos and agreed that our local guy needed some help, so, in the spirit of the season, they were sending a new Fishman Artist as a start on Jonny getting back on his feet. Kevin confirmed that Fishman was sending us an amp, not selling us an amp. They didn’t want to make a big deal of it, but they wanted to help. Wow. The amp arrived, and we called Jonny to come by the store. We had something for him to pick up. He came by with his son, and we pulled out the new Artist and told him it was his, compliments of Fishman. To say he was stunned would be an understatement. He was floored. And, to be honest, so were we. We got a photo of Jonny and his son with the new amp and sent it to Kevin so the Fishman folks could enjoy the moment. Later, we got a heartfelt thankyou note in the mail, so we sent that to Fishman as well. Fishman, in keeping with the sentiment of its actions, never capitalized on its kindness. Kevin sent a thank-you email for the photo and the note, and that was that. Fishman had stepped up, made a grand gesture for someone they didn’t know, and for Fishman, that was the end of it. For us here at Backstage Music, Fishman’s generosity spoke volumes about Fishman as a company. We’ve always been proud to be a Fishman dealer, but how a company conducts themselves in normal situations really doesn’t tell you much about a company’s culture. How a company conducts itself when the chips are down really tells the tale. We knew Fishman wasn’t looking for kudos when it made this contribution. It didn’t seek publicity. It had the photo, and it never showed up in any trade journal that I saw saying, “Hey, look what we did.” Much to the contrary, Fishman did a generous thing, without fanfare, and then moved on. MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

Yes, we MI retailers often think the manufacturers we represent are just number grinders, demanding re-ups while telling us to cope with lower margins. In some cases, that description’s accurate. But Fishman has reminded us that it sees our customers as real

people, and it listens to us when we call. I don’t mean to put Fishman on a pedestal, but if I had to pick a company to put there this year, Fishman would be our No. 1 candidate for the honor. Fishman is truly our partner in the MI business, a partner with a heart and a

very kind nature. We are grateful for them. Sincerely,

Allen McBroom, and ever y person working at Backstage Music Starkville, Miss.



One of the first things a new Scout learns is the Scout motto: “Be prepared.” Lord Robert S.S. Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, was once asked, “Be prepared for what?,” to which he replied, “Why, just any old thing.” Lord Baden-Powell knew that it was impossible to train and prepare for every possible event that might require a Scout to act, so Scouts trained on the basics and learned skills outside their usual range of interests. Today, running a music store and being prepared for “just any old thing” requires the same level of preparation. Human resource managers talk a lot these days about cross-training employees. A lot of us have run into that idea, but if you haven’t, it basically means Bobby learns how to do Sally’s job, and Sally learns how to do Marvin’s job, and so on. If Marvin has to be out or he retires/quits/

Be Prepared Cross-training can be as simple as getting a different person to sweep the sidewalk or clean the front-door glass. It can be as involved as getting your front-room manager busy calculating margins or researching shipping options.


By Allen McBroom

gets fired, Sally will be able to do the critical aspects of Marvin’s job until a new employee can be hired, and then Sally takes a hand in training the new guy. Sally, because she’s cross-trained (i.e., prepared), now has some extra skills she didn’t have before, which makes her more valuable to the boss (and the boss’s competitors), so she now has extra leverage when salary negotiations come up in her next evaluation. Sally’s new skill set also helps the boss (you) sleep better at night and be more relaxed on vacation. It’s tempting to think all this is cross-training stuff is fine for the world of big business, but down here in the trenches, running a music store, it sounds like a lot of corporate mumbo jumbo, and we don’t need to think about stuff like that. Tempting, maybe, but we need to give this idea some thought. Let’s say you’ve started having some level of success in the world of online sales. You’re not setting the world on fire, but you’ve got the process of invoicing, packing, labeling and shipping down to a smooth process. Your products ship quickly, and the labels go on the right boxes, because you’re the one doing all the work. It’s too important to trust someone else with your online reputation, right? You’ll just do it yourself, and it’ll be gloriously good, until you have to have surgery, or a family member has an emergency, or (fill in the blank) happens and you have to be gone for several days. If this is how you operate, you’ll have to shut down your online store while you’re gone, and that will cost you some sales. Here’s a better idea. Become prepared by training one other person to do your online shipping and related matters. Start small. Give her a stack of last night’s sales, have her gather up the items and then you can process it from there. After a few days, show her how the eBay store works and how to print labels. Continue this process, adding a step at a time, until she understands how it all works and how it fits together. You’ve just migrated those tasks to another person, and now you are her backup, and you just freed up some of your daily time. This same process can be replicated with a multitude of tasks that you really don’t have to do yourself. Once you’ve freed up some management time by reassigning the tasks to others (cross-training), you can start looking at tasks that other employees always do themselves. Inventory control comes to mind. Maybe you’ve got one person who checks in all new inventory and makes sure the packing slips accurately reflect what arrived. If that sounds like your store, start letting the inventory person train (again, in small steps) another person to check in inventory. Should your SEPTEMBER 2019

inventory guy get the flu, the store’s smooth flow continues, and it doesn’t fall on you to pick up the slack. Cross-training can be as simple as getting a different person to sweep the sidewalk or clean the front-door glass. It can be as involved as getting your front-room manager busy calculating margins or researching shipping options. No, you probably don’t want her to do that job on a regular basis, but once she understands a new aspect of how the business runs, and the knowledge required to make it all happen, she’ll have a newfound respect for the person who does those tasks. She can also cover, should the need arise. Take your newest salesman into the shop, and have your best tech teach him the correct way to restring a guitar. While he’s at it, have him learn to look for open seams, lifting bridges, frozen tuners, etc. Now if he has to do an emergency restring while the tech is out, he’ll be able to do a good job of it. He’ll also be able to determine quickly if the guitar offered in trade has any fatal problems or if it has been properly maintained. How much cross-training you do will probably depend on how large your store is. If you’re a one-guy store, you’re already cross-trained, because you do it all. If you add a second person, their job needs to include a goal of learning just about everything you know about operating the store, so they can sub for you if you have to be gone. The more people you have, the more likely it is that their skills will be compartmentalized, with little cross-training taking place on its own. The larger the staff count, the more likely it is that labor fiefdoms will develop, and employees will guard “their area” from fellow staff members. Just how bad that scenario can be becomes painfully obvious when some virus sweeps though the staff and takes out two or three memMUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

bers of the fiefdom royalty. Being prepared ahead of time by making sure your staff is cross-trained will make your life less stressful, and since stress runs downhill, it will also make your staff’s lives less stressful.

Even if you never have a staff outage that requires y’all to cover for each other, stores run better when everyone understands what the other staff members have to do to get through the day. Crosstraining may be the least expen-

sive — and potentially the most effective way — of making your store more efficient and a better place to work. Remember: Be prepared for just any old thing. Happy trails.



Building Listeners By Gabriel O’Brien

In my April 2015 and November 2017 columns, I talked about the rise of online user reviews and how they’re a response to lack of knowledge and bad customer service in retail stores. Over time, consumers have been trained to think that retail staff most likely don’t know what they’re talking about and are just making it up as they go. I encounter this all the time in some forums I joined back then to interact with consumers and learn more about how they used forums to source information. Since then, I and retailer friends who have also joined the forum have worked to change this perception, and I think more retailers should be participating in these online discussions. They offer a unique opportunity to connect to the musician community. One of the things you quickly learn when participating in various forums is there’s a wide gamut of people who participate in online communities. There are plenty of consumers who are as informed as any retail salesperson. There are beginners, old timers and everything in between. There’s also as much outdated, misleading or just flat out opinion-based information disguised as facts. At the heart of it, though, forums and groups tell us that there are loads of people who want to spend their time online engaging with others and talking about their love of music and musical 56

instruments. So why get involved as a storeowner or manager, you may ask. It creates opportunity. I don’t mean immediate direct sales opportunities, but the opportunity to engage people and create trusting relationships the oldfashioned way. It is a peek behind the curtain at what your customers are thinking, what they like, what they don’t like and what they’re looking for. Being able to address someone not as your storefront or your website, but as a person, overcomes those trust and credibility hurdles consumers assign to retail staff based on bad experiences. It also lets customers find you in the most organic way possible: as part of a community of people who love instruments, making music and talking about it. “I enjoy the comradery of the online guitar forums and Facebook pages,” said Paul Tobias, owner of Tobias Music in

Downer’s Grove, Ill. “As a fellow guitar geek, I stay up to date on the consumer’s opinions and buying habits. As a dealer with an ‘insider’ point of view, I can also share some knowledge and even help correct some misleading information that might be out there.” I’ve actually gotten to know Paul well through several Facebook groups. He’s kind and generous with his time, and always stays positive and tries to help people, which is something I too enjoy. I’ve gotten to know a number of other notable gearheads through these groups too. Chris McKee of Alamo Music is well known in the online guitar-buying community for his popular YouTube videos. He’s also active in multiple groups and forums. “I have always been a part of online guitar communities, whether it was on forums or more recently Facebook groups. I have learned a lot from

the members of these communities, and I am glad to be a source of information as well,” said McKee. So how do you best navigate a forum, and how do you convert posting on forums into sales? First off, be authentic. Enjoy yourself and participate in discussions and focus on being a person, not a dealer. “I find that these communities are helpful in business because they allow me to connect with potential customers,” added McKee, “but that is more a byproduct of simply engaging with people. At the end of the day, we are all gear nuts and share similar passions. It is from this mutual interest that we are able to connect, grow and prosper. If it was solely a calculated business decision, I don’t believe much would come of it.” I’ve never once seen any of the dealers I know make a sales pitch, which is something I think is key. Being authentic and taking the time to participate is what allows people to get to know you. They appreciate finding out about you as a player and as a person. Once people get to know you, they

will often feel comfortable reaching out to you organically. “As a shop owner,” said Tobias, “I don’t lay out any heavy sales pitches, but rather, gain some trust from other members. I tend to stay away from any controversial or argumentative posts (it is the internet after all). I don’t want to alienate any potential customers. We have seen numerous sales as a result of the friendships we have made on these online forums.” While you don’t want to shy away from letting people know you’re in the business and have a store, you should still focus on being a good community member first. Adding value to a group or forum by lending your voice and knowledge, sharing “insider” info and being there to answer common questions is valuable, especially surrounding new product releases, like The NAMM Show, or when someone has an issue with their instrument and you can provide valuable insight and repair advice. Joining online communities is a great way to reinvigorate your love of gear, performing, recording and just being a musician. Thinking of joining one? Write to me at gabriel@ SEPTEMBER 2019


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Alamo Music 425 N. Main Ave San Antonio, TX 78205 210.224.1010 Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Zach Marr, President/CEO



By Michelle Loeb This year marks the 90th anniversary of Alamo Music, one of the oldest-surviving music stores in the state of Texas. What today is a two-store operation with 40 employees headed by president and CEO Zach Marr was once a one-man piano sales and repair business led by Marr’s greatgrandfather, Alfredo Flores Sr., who had been a refinisher for the Gaghen Brothers piano company. He started his business in 1929 after learning a valuable lesson about the sales power of music. “One day on a trip to a ranch outside the city to repossess a piano, he encountered a difficult situation. The piano belonged to the ranch hands, not the ranch owner, and it was their only source of entertainment,” said Marr. “He felt terrible taking it, and when he brought it to the banker, he asked him what he was going to do with it. The banker told him he would sell it for $50. Mr. Flores bought it from him on the spot. He then took it back out to the ranch owner and told him that he had a serious problem on his hands — the morale for his ranch hands would soon be nonexistent because they no longer had a piano. He offered to sell the piano to the rancher for $100.” Marr continued, “[Flores] realized at that moment that people greatly underestimate the value of music, and that you can build a business by educating them on it.” Alamo Music has gone through many iterations over the past nine decades, adding guitars, band and orchestra, accordions and music technology to its core piano business, not to mention lessons and repair programs as a means of supporting those sales channels. Being able to adapt to changing times is one reason why Marr thinks his family’s store has been able to survive as long as it has. “The business has changed dramatically during its 90-year history, from accepting livestock as payment for a piano to filming gear reviews in our basement,” said Marr. “You’ve got to be willing to accept change in this business because our best prodMUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

uct segment today may not exist in 20 years, and if you stay too attached to what has made you successful in the past, it will drag you into non-existence.” Marr has been in charge of Alamo Music since 2013, three years after he first came to the business following a stint at a marketing

firm. At the time, Marr’s grandparents, Alfredo Flores, Jr. and Tenchita Flores, were running Alamo Music, and he decided to take on the family business as a marketing client. “I thought it would be fun to help my family’s business, and after getting involved with the

marketing, I started helping on a few other projects in the store and found that I really enjoyed it,” said Marr, whose first order of business upon starting at Alamo Music was to modernize the store’s operations. “We were using a computer (continued on page 66)

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I’ve been amused recently to see a number of large retail entities trotting out “new” concepts, and many of these efforts are sprouting up in the brickand-mortar environment. Amazon is testing physical “four-star” stores that only carry highly rated products from its online marketplace. Coming soon is a relaunch of the venerable Toys ‘R’ Us chain, aimed at presenting a shopping experience that’s more “experiential and interactive.” Walmart is doing its own tweak on the store model, rethinking size, quietly closing underperforming stores and adjusting product mix in target markets. Similarly, Target has launched a market-customized store design that crafts the shopping experience product or a unique design had and interactive? I can’t imagine in a way that uniquely reflects moved out of stodgy meatspace one of our stores selling an each market, meaning no two and into the sparkling digital instrument that the consumer stores will be alike. world. And you could discover doesn’t have the opportunity To me, these “new” concepts it all in your pajamas drinking to touch or try before buying. aren’t any more new than a glass of Chardonnay. After And certainly, the idea that no Disney’s “The Lion King” (or years of a bland, inconvenient, two stores are alike is often “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the even abusive shopping experitrue to a fault in the music Beast,” and sooner or later, ence, who wouldn’t want a fling products industry. “The Shaggy Dog”) reboot. with the internet? So, we have at our core the Re-imagined, perhaps, but not So now that the internet elements that the experiencewhat I would consider new honeymoon is over and we’ve hungry shoppers crave, and I ground in retailing. But many discovered that frauds, counterbelieve the best stores in the of the concepts these retail gifeiters and identity thieves also industry are already seeing ants are trying had fallen by the live in cyberspace, the retail additional shoppers who are wayside over the last couple of sector senses an opportunity to attracted to this model. But the decades as the superstore and woo the prodigal shoppers back difficulty for many is execution. then the internet captured the into a store. Studies and polls It’s tough to be a smaller comimaginations — and dollars — show that there is significant munity music store, create a of consumers. longing for a pleasant, in-person personalized shopping environArguably, many of the shopping experience. But the ment, and still hit the expected “tried-and-true” concepts were newest crop of consumers marks on procurement, invenonly getting lip service from grew up in a digital world, so tory assortment and speed companies years ago. Certainly, throwing product on a shelf and that the big guys manage. We the once-dominant Sears had unlocking the door isn’t enough get some wiggle room from stagnated, and the shopping exto rebuild the habit of physical customers who understand perience — at least in America shopping. Thus, we have the that we are smaller, but we still — had deteriorated, priming many experiments, reboots and have to present evidence that shoppers to try something new. inventory adjustments. we’re trying. They were ready to abandon What strikes me about these That, to me, is the crucial a shopping culture that had forays into physical retail is difference. What makes the been in place for more than 150 that all of these concepts are personal shopping experience years, when the invention of firmly rooted in the DNA of the so satisfying to a shopper is the the department store defined stores in our industry. Curated feeling that the store and its shopping as a leisure activity. inventory? Check. Experiential employees are there to inform, The thrill of a bargain, a new


not excited about the prospect, citing security or other concerns. One in four American consumers qualify as “underbanked,” and do not have access to cashless payment systems. So, touting your cutting-edge cashless store may

offer some advantages, but you are narrowing your customer base, perhaps even in a discriminatory way. As the expression goes, you’re leaving money on the table. We can’t afford to do that.

entertain and serve. For many years, I’ve used the metaphor of retail as theater, and I think it’s even more important now as we woo customers back to shopping in person. Certainly, we have a lot more to offer on all those fronts than the place you might buy toothpaste. That’s a distinction I propose for the “future,” such as it is, of shopping. Rather than simply decreeing that “it’s all going online,” as so many pundits believe, or that we can get back to the “good old days,” I think when the dust settles, we’ll see a blend of shopping tactics, and the split will be defined by intent: We’ll more likely go online for commodities, the products we use; we’ll shop in stores for the products we enjoy. Of course, there will be gray areas. Fashion for some is a commodity; buy the name and get it in your size. For others, it’s an adventure, and finding something in a boutique that isn’t available to anyone with the URL is part of the fun. Selecting an instrument is the proof of our advantage. When I work with a customer choosing a violin, they immediately “get” it: How can you just put a random item in a digital cart when they’re all so different? The more we walk our customers through this, the more they appreciate our shopping experience. Finally, the touchstone I use isn’t “follow the money,” but a variant: Follow the people. I don’t believe everything will be this way. Instead, I look at the way my customers use technology. (I have had three people ask to use ApplePay in the last two years.) I look at what drives their need. (Convenience usually wins over price, but quality is relative — they want a good value at a reasonable price.) “Following” also reminds us that the public can move at a snail’s pace. Wired recently published an article suggesting that the growth of “cashless” businesses is not exactly a win for all. More than half (53 percent) of consumers were

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 PM, so others can see the dialogue.)

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For US dealer enquiries: Davitt & Hanser. A Division of JAM Industries USA, LLC Tel: 866-817-3822 E: KMC Music. A Division of JAM Industries USA, LLC Tel: 855-417-8677 E:


Amahi Ukuleles’ Classic and Exotic Wood Series By Brian Berk Ukuleles are definitely not just for playing at tropical, relaxed locales anymore. Sales of the instruments continue to climb for several reasons. “We are still seeing growth; sales are up 19 percent,” Amahi Ukuleles founder, Michael Schear, told the Music & Sound Retailer. “We believe this is driven Michael Schear by the educational sector and ukulele enthusiasts. We are seeing more and more orders for classic sets of ukuleles. Additionally, we have seen a rise in the popularity of ukulele circles and festivals. Many of our most successful dealers are those that are offering free clinics and other in-store events.” Amahi Ukuleles’ Classic and Exotic Wood Series are two lines enjoying strong growth for the Cincinnati-based company. Both series of products were designed with a goal to complement other products that were already on the market. “We started with a selection of best-selling woods, like zebrawood, rosewood, ebony and koa. From there, we added more variety, including flamed maple, African burl and quilted ash, among others,” said Schear. “Many of our mid-range models were designed with unique binding. rosettes and sound holes but sell for less than $200, making them very accessible to the amateur player.” The ukuleles serve as a step-up model for a current player, but also are intended for the adult beginner. “A growing demographic in the ukulele market are those in the 50-plus age bracket,” relayed Schear. “Many people at that age do not want the least expensive thing to learn on, but rather something more distinctive that is both pleasing to the eye and ear. With that in mind, we designed these series to offer as much variety as possible. What appeals to one person may not necessarily appeal to another. By having several designs in similar price points, we are able to achieve that goal.” For MI dealers, the products also provide a wide array of options to display in their 62


store without breaking the bank. “We often offer a package deal of our 10 different models in the classic series. For $649 dealer net, the packages include 10 different concert models with a total MAP value of $1,553. The customer can choose to upgrade to the concert, tenor or baritone, or add an EQ for only the difference in cost of dealer net,” noted Schear. Amahi is taking several proactive steps to make sure its ukuleles keep moving off of MI retailers’ shelves. “Since we first started selling ukuleles, we have offered dealers package specials on our best-selling models. We found that this has made the ordering process easy for dealers, and each month we offer up to 12 different specials. All include free shipping and a discount off the regular net pricing,” Schear said. “We work with Ukulele Magazine regularly to advertise to the end user. We have also become active in sponsoring and supporting ukulele festivals, as well as adding musicians and influencers to our artist roster.” Feedback for the ukuleles has been strong, stated Schear, with MI retailers reporting brisk sales of the Classic and Exotic Wood series thus far. “Dealers tell us it is their best-selling and fastestmoving line,” he said. “We often hear feedback on how much variety is available in the $100 to $200 price point. Consumers often comment on the fact that this series has a bound fretboard and wider neck. Having the width at the nut just a bit wider makes it more comfortable for players with larger hands or those who also play guitar.” Of course, with the success of the ukulele market, competitors have swooped in. But Amahi has several unique selling points, including positioning itself as an exceptional value in its market. “For example, all of our ukuleles include a matching gig bag and most of the student mahogany models and all of our intermediate and advanced models include a padded gig bag. For what most of our competitors are charging for just the ukulele, we are

including the bag. Additionally, all of our mahogany student ukuleles include Aquila strings, and most have the frets dressed by hand. Everything from our student mahogany line and up are hand inspected before shipping. All of our step-up ukuleles are individually set up before shipping,” stated Schear.

Ukulele design is another huge differentiator for Amahi. “Our approach to ukulele design is similar to how our parent company, Amati’s Fine Instruments, approaches violin design. Each ukulele starts as a project on how to improve the overall tonal and intonational properties, as well as visual appeal and playability. Design begins by first

selecting the wood for its tonal properties and beauty. Binding is then selected for its function and improvement in the overall look of the ukulele. For our tropical series, we look for unique designs. A local artist in Cincinnati helped us create our DDUK9 wave design and several of our rainbow (continued on page 66)

THE TIME IS ALMOST HERE! In next month’s issue, all retailers will receive their nomination ballot for the 34th Annual Music & Sound Awards: Manufacturers Division. Voting will also take place online. Please make sure to make your nominations for the best products and companies next month.


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ALBERT AUGUSTINE................12 ALFRED PUBLISHING..............59 AMAHI UKULELES...................43 AUDIX CORPORATION.............21 BOURNS PRO AUDIO................68 C.F. MARTIN & CO.....................17 CASIO...........................................9 CELESTION C-III CHAUVET LIGHTING................10 CHAUVET LIGHTING................11 D'ADDARIO.................................29 DAKOTA SAXOPHONES...........28 FENDER.......................................7 FISHMAN TRANSDUCERS.......31 FLOYD ROSE..............................40 G7TH, THE CAPO COMPANY..61 GALAXY AUDIO........................3 GATOR CASES............................41 GRAPH TECH..............................19 GROOVETECH TOOLS..............44 HAL LEONARD..........................23 HAL LEONARD..........................25 HAL LEONARD..........................27 IK MULTIMEDIA........................26 JOHN PACKER............................30 KORG...........................................C-II KYSER MUSICAL PRODUCTS....16 LACE MUSIC PRODUCTS.........69 LAVA CABLE..............................34 LEE OSKAR PRODUCTIONS....68 MALONEY STAGEGEAR COVERS....................................39 MANHASSET SPECIALTY COMPANY................................6 MUSIC NOMAD..........................42 NAMM.................................... 14-15 NEUMANN..................................5 ODYSSEY INNOVATIVE DESIGNS...................................33 OPTION KNOB............................68 PETERSON ELECTRO-

(continued from page 59) system that was straight out of a sci-fi movie from the ‘80s, and we also were doing a lot of things by hand that could be done digitally,” recalled Marr. “So, I changed our computer system, rebuilt the website and put a CRM [customer relationship marketing] system in place. It was a two- or three-year process. I had to learn everyone’s job in order to show them how they can use the system so that was a good learning experience.” Marr has made many improvements since then, including changing the focal point of the business from selling to marketing. “I believe that relationships are what keep a business around for a long time, so it is still a focus for us,” said Marr. “However, if you want to be an industry leader, the key skill set is marketing, which means being visible to the customer in a compelling way. Whether it’s that initial walk-in or email or call, stores struggle to get that initial opportunity to build a relationship.” For Marr, this change involved more content production that compels people to visit or learn more about the store in the first place. Alamo Music also holds

events — including the longestrunning guitar competition in the United States, Guitar Wars, and its offshoot Accordion Wars — and Marr has implemented more analytical systems for inventory and product selection to keep the offerings fresh and optimized for his customers’ needs. “We look at industry data from the trade magazines and MI SalesTrak, as well as listen to our customers and communities to look for hidden opportunities. We have an internal equation that takes into account demand, sales and data, and we try to limit our use of raw intuition unless we can find hard numbers to support it from one of our data sources,” said Marr. Though he and his staff are experts in their field, with practically all employees playing music in one form or another, Marr tries to impress upon his staff that they are not there to push their own tastes on the customers. Rather, his staff is instructed to act like doctors, diagnosing the customers’ musical needs instead. “We try and put on the shoes of the average customer by listening and not projecting,” said Marr. “In our view, every instru-

ment is exciting, even if it’s not something we would buy for our personal collection. If someone’s first guitar is going to be a $200 instrument made overseas, we still get excited about that person’s decision to invest in their musical journey, as it is a personal journey with personal choices and tastes. We help to educate them on what’s good for them.” With 90 years under its belt, Alamo Music has been serving the Texas music community for generations. Under Marr’s leadership, the store will continue to do so for many more generations to come, with him remembering to enjoy it every step of the way. “One thing I think has distinguished us from our competitors is that we have enjoyed our musical friends and communities better than most,” said Marr. “We are in a fun business, and if we don’t take time to remember and embrace that fact, then it is easy to lose your passion for it and your ability to reinvent yourself. It is not investment banking or insurance sales; you’re not going to make a fortune, but you will make an impact on yourself and others through the power of music.”

Wood series, it offers 22 unique models in various sizes with options for solid top and all solid. They MAP for between $159 to $470. There is also an option for tuner/preamp combination with EQ in many of the models in both series. As for the future, expect Amahi to continue to innovate. “We

showed several new models at the summer NAMM show,” concluded Schear. “We are most excited for the addition of some six- and eight-string models, and also some sopranino-size ukuleles in a variety of different colors. We will also be offering a sunburst Koa model with cutaway and tuner/ preamp combination with EQ.”


(continued from page 63) designs. Our newest model for 2019 is the DDUK12, a mermaidscale design by a local artist in Indiana,” revealed Schear. Amahi currently has 10 unique models in its Classic series, and it offers soprano, concert, tenor and baritone options for most of the models. They MAP for between $97 and $193. In the Exotic

MUSICAL PRODUCTS............38 PRO X...........................................55 PRS GUITARS.............................35 QRS MUSIC TECHNOLOGIES.....24 RAIN RETAIL SOFTWARE........37 REMO...........................................45 STRING SWING..........................32 TECH 21.......................................53 VOCOPRO....................................13 WD MUSIC PRODUCTS............8 WIREWORLD..............................22 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.



(continued from page 70) Castronovo: The industry has been so resilient that any “new” thing would have minimal impact. The Retailer: If you weren’t in the music industr y, what would you be doing and why? Castronovo: I would have loved to have worked at either a university or in professionallevel coaching, with a progression into management. It would be an opportunity to have an impact on both myself and on

the people I coach. It’s similar, but I think there is more intensity in that space. The Retailer: Tell us about your hometown and why you enjoy living there. Castronovo: Long Island, N.Y., has great school systems, and I live in close vicinity to a major city (New York City), the Atlantic Ocean and all sorts of outdoor activities. The Retailer: What are your most prized possession(s)

and why? Castronovo: Pictures and memories of my family and friends, both here now and those who have passed. The Retailer: What’s your favorite book and why? Castronovo: “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose. A great book written by a great historian about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. How can you not be floored by their courage for adventure?



(continued from page 49) the U.S., it is easier for parents to fund it, because music is more of a normality. It’s almost like, “You are in this school, you will be in the band, so you need to go to your local music instrument store and you will go and rent this trumpet.” In England, it is more of an optional thing, so music tends to fall by the wayside in favor of something else, whether it is cable TV, the latest electronic gadget or something else.

The Retailer: We in the U.S. were out fighting for more music education funding at the NAMM Music Education Advocacy Fly-In in May. Hanson: The NAMM organization is a wonderful thing. A wonderful friend of mine, and fellow Brit, Alun Hughes, is on the NAMM board. I have the utmost respect for him. How NAMM mobilizes for this cause is totally incredible. I am a big fan of NAMM. To be honored by NAMM with an achievement award this year is just incredible for us. The Retailer: Tell us a little more about the award you

received from NAMM. Hanson: We were nominated by Alun and received the Believe in Music Award. We were honored at The NAMM Show this year. It recognizes our service and input to MI. We take great pride in it and it has a prominent place here [in our headquarters], as well as other awards we have won in the past 12 or 13 months. In 2018, we also won the Queen’s Award for international growth. That involved a trip to Buckingham Palace.

The Retailer: For those of us not as familiar with the Queen’s Award, can you tell us about it? Hanson: There are many companies that get nominated for the award. It recognizes sustained and achievable growth over a period of seven years, which we did. There were several hundred UK companies awarded in 2018, but we were the only musical instrument company. To go to Buckingham Palace and meet Prince Charles was just incredible. We also had a presentation by the Queen’s representative in our part of the UK. 2018 was


(continued from page 51) and more are on display. I was particularly enamored of an expensive but gorgeous Valente acoustic guitar. The guy working the floor explained to me that, “It’s tuned D to D, and sounds like a mandolin.” He picked it up and played it for a minute, and the sound was excellent. “We also stock a lot of less expensive guitars, guitars in all kinds of price ranges, and we have a lot of accessories.” He pointed out different groupings of accessories and repair items. “We do a lot repairs too, for students and instructors at the college, some at the high school, local teachers and others.” When I stopped by Imperial Guitar & Soundworks, it was near closing time, so I was concerned the workers might rush me out, but they were relaxed and did not pressure me while I browsed.

The Sale

Hudson Valley musicians have their options. The independent music store is alive and well in MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

the region that once hosted the Woodstock Festival, which is an encouraging sign for lovers of music and music history. If you are hooked on guitars, then you have some solid options. Imperial is your best bet for a number of reasons: excellent inventory, gregarious staff, good parking lot, you name it. So, it is this month’s winner. Saker is a very good store, but really only for guitars, not other instruments. Woodstock Music is a very good music store all around, and it has a lot of surprises. The slightly quirky vibe and offerings, including the used records and lunchbox guitars, make this a very good stop for musicians of varying abilities. Barcone’s has been around a long time and must be doing something right. But the day that I stopped by, I was certainly disappointed by the disinterested staff. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go frolick in the mud with some flowers in my hair.

a year of awards and pomp and circumstance for us. We got a bigger trophy cabinet (jokes).

The Retailer: What differentiates John Packer from other companies? Hanson: It’s currently a difficult marketplace. There has never been a point where there was so much product for sale by so many people, to a market that is overall shrinking. It’s a bizarre time and is difficult for certain products to rise to the top and get onto people’s radar. The big advantage we’ve got is the heritage of this company. We are also a retailer, so I can walk into any retail store and know what the retailer needs from us as a manufacturer. Maybe it’s about dislike for minimum buy-ins or payment terms. Manufacturers tend to not be good at listening. We listen. If there is a problem, we fix it. Retailers want a product that they can supply and supply with confidence. We make sure everything is simple, concise and easy. We really have a two-way relationship with our dealer base. The retailers find it refreshing. Many tell us we are their favorite supplier just because there are no complications. We sell musical instruments. It isn’t rocket science. The Retailer: On the other side of the coin, you are looking for more retailers. Is there anything you seek from those retailers? Hanson: We often look for small- to medium-sized dealers. We don’t generally go to the large retailers. We need to provide products so small- to medium-sized dealers can supply with confidence and margin. We are very protective of our dealers. We look over their territories and make sure they don’t have too much price competition, which ultimately affects us. If there is too much price competition, the retailer will find something else. The Retailer: It might be different in the UK, but there has been some chatter about a recession coming to the United States, perhaps as early as next year. If there is an economic downturn, how

do you prepare for that? Hanson: I’m not sure you can prepare for it fully, because we don’t know what’s around the corner. We have a unique thing going on in the UK with Brexit. We don’t know about Brexit, but we think we are going to have one. But what will happen as a result of that? Who knows? Tariffs can also cause huge complications for MI, because [at the time of publication] everything from Asia could be subject to a 25-percent tariff in the U.S. There will be backlash from the retail customer, who might think the industry is profiteering. In the last recession, the [British] pound dived against the U.S. dollar and the euro. It caused one manufacturer to raise prices [on us as a retailer] nine times in seven months, just to keep up with currencies. It was about a 35-percent price increase over nine months. Do I think there is a recession coming? I think people are borrowing up to the hilt again. When they can’t borrow any more, there has to be a little bit of a downturn. I think it will come. I think it will come fast and loose. We think we will be in a very good position to counteract that because we have good value products at a good price point. We should be able to ride out that storm pretty well. Retailers will look to downsize their purchases to a slightly less expensive brand, and that’s where we fit in really well.

The Retailer: Can you tell us about any products that have been selling well lately? Hanson: One thing we are selling really well is the JP2057 Sousaphone. That has become a real star. Our JP379BB 4/4 Tuba is something we can’t keep in stock at the moment. The JP164 French horn is perfect for rentals. It is always backordered, particularly this time of year. The Retailer: Anything else you want to add? Hanson: We just want to make sure we do everything the right way, which is unique in this marketplace. Manufacturers generally work in one-way traffic, where we always make sure the communication is two ways. 67


(continued from page 35) So, even if we won, we would only be the leader of 5 percent of the closet. So, I focused on share of closet. What does every pair of Levi’s have? Belt loops. So, I said, ‘Let’s [make] belts. How about jackets?’ Levi’s has become an amazing lifestyle brand once

again. Levi’s had a great IPO [initial public offering] recently.” n “Last year, I got to the point that things at Levi’s were going great. I read the news and I am a musician. I saw news about Gibson that started with a B: bankruptcy. That is not a good


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word, especially for a brand that is iconic. I thought, How could that happen? I got in touch with a few folks. Levi’s was going great, and I knew music was something I was passionate about. It was a challenge I wanted to take on. The brand is iconic and in a place called Nashville, which is awesome.” n “SOS is a very real distress signal that means the ship is sinking. That was declared on May 1, 2018 at Gibson. My rally cry on day one was to save the sound at Gibson. Gibson is synonymous with shaping sound for 125 years. Mandolins, banjos, clearly acoustic guitars and the golden era of Chuck Berry in the 1950s, who created music nobody had ever heard of. I spoke to Chuck Berry’s estate, and they said, ‘Without Gibson, Chuck might not have been Chuck.’ Certainly, without Chuck, Gibson might not be Gibson. It was during this golden era that the Les Paul was created. … The quest for Gibson going forward kind of seems simple. How do we set the conditions for the next 125 years to create, shape, and inspire and share that sound moving forward? What share of sound can Gibson contribute in the future? Has anyone ever thought of that concept? Who owns the share of sound? You can go to a concert and see what guitars are being played. You can see what instruments music is recorded on. You can go to a guitar shop and see how many guitars are from how many different brands. I started day one by shifting from let’s save our sound to let’s go after share of sound.” n “I started thinking like a startup. What happens with big, bold companies with a heritage is, they tend to get a culture that is a little bit lethargic. People were telling me, ‘JC, this how we’ve always done it.’ I said, ‘How did that work out

for us? Bankruptcy. Maybe we should do it differently.’ I am not trying to be facetious. You need to understand what has worked. And if it doesn’t work, you can’t incrementally shift it. You need to smash it. Guess who does that best? Startup cultures. Why? They don’t have a heritage, something iconic, a legacy that people love and covet. Startups have to learn every day. I said, ‘Let’s become the 125-year-old startup. We leverage our iconic power. Strip away Gibson. Strip away music. We need to become a modernday manufacturer that can then say we are in this awesome industry of music. We have invested more in our factories in the past eight months than we have in the past eight years. We are letting our workforce come up with ideas. Craftsmen are coming up with ideas.” n “I read up a lot about Gibson before I came here and saw the quality is not what it used to be. So, we took the lead on quality. My No. 1 obsession is quality of guitars. If you do everything else well, but you haven’t fixed what you do best, it doesn’t matter. I have never been more proud of a team. The quality coming out of factories is the highest level of quality we have SEPTEMBER 2019

created in many, many, many years. Are we perfect? No. Are we making amazing progress? Yes. Part of the challenge of Gibson in the past is, we took way too much on. We spent a lot of money to go way beyond the core. That debt load started affecting the core. When that happens, you stop investing in factories. You stop investing in marketing. We said we needed to go back and rebuild our core. Protect the core. Expand for more.” n “Life is getting complicated. But it doesn’t mean simplicity is always the answer. It doesn’t mean sophistication is always the answer. Think outside the industry about brands you touch every day that become part of your life. There’s this place I’ve heard of. There are 10,000 of them in the world. It’s near where you live. It’s near where you work. When you go in, there are 16,800 permutations of choice. They teach you a new language: venti. They know your name. And you get that custom solution for $5. That’s simplicity, but very sophisticated. You don’t think of Starbucks that way, but it is. Simplistic in the front and sophisticated in the back may be the new business model.” “Have you ever heard the MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

phrase, “The consumer is the boss?” If your boss tells you that, tell them JC says [they are wrong]. The consumer can’t fire you. Has anyone ever seen a consumer fire someone? But what the consumer has is something way more powerful: choice.” n “Nothing matters more than more people playing music in our industry. … The guitar has mattered a lot during the past 100 years. How do we make it matter more in the future? That’s a daunting task. But we have to think like that.” n “With ‘A Star Is Born,’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘Rocket Man’ and now ‘Yesterday,’ we are putting music beyond music stores and onto screens. We are putting it into the zeitgeist of culture. It’s unbelievable. The week I joined Gibson, I saw ‘A Star Is Born,’ and apart from the ending, I thought, Who wouldn’t want to be that guy? [In ‘A Star Is Born,’] both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga had Gibson guitars, the J45 and 335. But there is a moral for Gibson. Who here [in the audience] saw the ‘A Star Is Born’ J45 and 335 as the ultimate holiday item for him and her? We missed a huge opportu-

nity. That would have been the ultimate gift. I didn’t see anyone in the industry do anything [related] to the movie. That’s an indictment on us. Hollywood is making us awesome. We should have done more with this. Leverage it. Don’t just let it pass. Take that moment and do something with it.”

n Steve Jobs said, ‘It is all about giving something people didn’t know they wanted, and when they got it, they couldn’t live without it.’” n “The industry has accepted me with open arms. … As The Beatles and Joe Cocker said, ‘We get by with a little help from our friends.’”




By Brian Berk The Music & Sound Retailer: Who was your greatest influence or mentor and why? Joe Castronovo: My father taught me to have integrity and to be honest! Your word is your bond. You never can go wrong with the truth. My high-school wrestling coach taught me determination and the attitude to never give up. The Retailer: What was the best advice you ever received? Castronovo: Listen more and talk less. The Retailer: What was your first experience with a musical instrument? Castronovo: My parents bought a portable Farfisa organ in the 1960s. The Retailer: What instrument do you most enjoy playing? Castronovo: I don’t play, but love both the guitar and piano. The Retailer: Tell us something about yourself that others do not know or would be surprised to learn. Castronovo: I love to cook. The Retailer: What’s your favorite activity to do when you’re not at work? Castronovo: Wow, that is tough one. Golf, woodworking and gardening. The Retailer: What is the best concert you’ve ever been to? Castronovo: Very hard to name, but 70

early on, the most impactful was seeing Bruce Springsteen in 1975 in Boston’s Symphony Hall. Small venue. The Retailer: If you could see any musician, alive or deceased, play a concert for one night, who would it be and why? Castronovo: Another tough one. Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Retailer: What song was most memorable for you throughout your childhood, and what do you remember about it the most? Castronovo: “American Pie” by Don McLean. Listening to AM radio on family car trips, it seemed like it was the only song that played. The Retailer: What are your favorite songs on your smartphone/iPod? Castronovo: “Stairway to Heaven,” and any Neil Young or James Taylor song. The Retailer: What’s the most fun thing you saw/did at a NAMM Show? Castronovo: NAMM shows are mostly business and entertaining both suppliers and retailers. The most fun I have is seeing all the people that are part of our industry. The show floor never surprises me. 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?

Castronovo: It would just be Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. I don’t think that I could ask them a meaningful question. I would let them speak about their vision for the future of America. It’s interesting to note that many of the issues we have today in the political arena were similar to what they experienced in their times as well. The Retailer: Tell us about your most memorable experience with an MI retailer (without naming them). Castronovo: Generally speaking, the camaraderie with MI dealers is great! Dealer visits, golf games [and] dinners all contribute to the great memories and times I’ve had within the industry. But participating in the NAMM Educational Days of Service with local schools and seeing the impact you can have on them is priceless. The Retailer: What is the best thing about the MI industr y? Castronovo: Passion of everyone connected for making music. The Retailer: Who do you admire most outside of the music industr y and why? Castronovo: Steve Jobs, visionary. The Retailer: What technology could change MI down the road? (continued on page 66) SEPTEMBER 2019


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