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October 2019 Volume 36, No. 10

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up!

Electronic Drum Sets Leading the Way in a Healthy Percussion Market By Brian Berk See page 28

Market Pulse Retailers and Manufacturers Sound Off on Two Hot Topics See page 26

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Taylor Empowers Powers

Taylor Guitars announced that master guitar designer Andy Powers joined Taylor co-founders Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug as the third partner of the company. The move solidifies a bright future for the acoustic guitar manufacturer, as Powers has been the creative wellspring for Taylor’s guitar development and innovation since his arrival in 2011, stated Taylor Guitars. “I’m thrilled to build guitars and continue this fascinating work I’ve been pursuing since I was a young boy,” said Powers. “It’s a genuine pleasure to be able to design the best instruments I can, and, within the context of Taylor Guitars, have an opportunity to serve musicians around the world.” As co-founding partners of the company, Taylor and Listug have grown the business around a passion for guitar innovation. As they look ahead to the long-term future of Taylor Guitars, they want to ensure that Taylor’s drive to make better guitars is preserved. According to the company, Powers’ passion and talent for guitar design make him the right person to lead its innovative pursuits and help the company thrive for decades to come. “Kurt and I have been the sole owners of Taylor Guitars for decades,” said Taylor. “Andy is the best guitar builder I have ever met, and I believe the best alive today. If anyone ever deserved to be called ‘partner’ with me and Kurt, it is Andy. He’s vital to our future, and together, as we combine our talents, we can bring a great musical experience to our customers.” Since his arrival, Powers has delivered a steady stream of musically inspiring innovations to the Taylor line. Among his recent award-winning designs are his V-Class bracing, a groundbreaking new internal architec-

Musical Instruments Receive CITES Exemption

The CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP18) voted to approve an exemption that will allow finished musical instruments, as well as parts and accessories containing rosewood, to be transported around the world without permits. The governing body, comprising 182 countries and the European Union, also included an exemption for other finished rosewood products, such as small handicrafts weighing less than 10 kilograms per shipment. The new policies apply to all species of rosewood, with the exception of Brazilian rosewood, which remains on CITES Appendix I. In the decision, raw material rosewood would remain regulated and subject to CITES permits granted by the management authorities of the individual countries and other governing laws. “The consensus reached in Geneva this week and the new policies adopted by CITES parties are the result of more than three years of collaboration among international music stakeholders, government officials and conservation leaders,” noted Heather Noonan, vice president of advocacy for the League of American Orchestras. “Musical instrument stakeholders have a lasting commitment to the goals of CITES, will remain at the table for ongoing conversations, and are committed to educating the music community globally about how compliance with CITES requirements will support both urgent conservation needs and essential international cultural activity.” Charles Barber, the director of the forest legality initiative for the nonprofit World Resources Institute and a member of the rosewood working group, added, “The exemption for finished musical instruments is a common-sense measure that resolves a key implementation barrier for the otherwise essential rosewood listing. It will remove a major administrative permit burden on CITES authorities that did not have any substantive conservation impact, while continuing to regulate the raw material that goes into instruments. CITES implementation resources can now better focus on the illegal and unsustainable global rosewood trade in furniture.” MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

Bob Taylor, Andy Powers and Kurt Listug

ture for the acoustic guitar; Builder’s Edition models, which boast unique contouring and other exclusive player-friendly features; and the Grand Pacific body shape, an entirely new flavor of Taylor tone that has broadened the sonic appeal of the company’s guitars, attracting players who normally haven’t been drawn to the Taylor sound. “What’s unique about Bob and me, and our partnership, is that one of us is a guitar maker and engineer, and the other is a businessman and sales and marketing person,” said Listug. “That combination, and our shared ethics and values, are what has set us apart. Since Bob identified Andy Powers as the person to lead the company’s guitar design into the future, we’ve all witnessed Andy’s amazing talents and seen the improvements he’s made to our guitars, as well as his advancements to acoustic guitar design. We’re proud to have Andy join Bob and me as a partner and shareholder at Taylor Guitars.”



Features 32 Five Minutes With

David Salz, President, Wireworld Cable Technology offers plenty of tidbits about his 27 years in business, provides advice for MI retailers selling its products and more.

VOLUME 36 NO. 10

On the Cover I Don’t Wanna Grow Up

Electronic drum sets leading the way in a healthy percussion market.

Market Pulse

Retailers and manufacturers sound off on two hot topics.

34 MI Spy

When it comes to rock music, few cities are more connected than Cleveland. How did MI stores there rock the MI Spy’s world?

36 Not Your Average Column

Want to take your lesson program to new heights? Tim Spicer has all the answers.

38 In the Trenches

No, there’s no good way to fire a customer. There’s no reliable method that will result in the customer going elsewhere and still thinking you’re a great store owner. So, what can you do?

40 Retailer Rebel

Being a great leader and team player is easier said than done.

42 Shine a Light

It has been almost 100 years since Mil Averwater, a classically trained pianist, and his friend Frank Moorman decided to open their first piano studio in the heart of Memphis, Tenn. 100 years! It’s time to learn much more about AMRO Music.

44 Veddatorial

Done well, you can keep a service problem from becoming a goodwill destroyer.

46 Under the Hood

Yamaha’s Live Custom Hybrid Oak Drum Sets have turned heads since being launched at The NAMM Show in January.

54 The Final Note

Ricky Mannion, owner/analog designer, M House Studios, also serves as an engineer in the aerospace industry.

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The Pulse of MI As things change, you can rest assured the Music & Sound Retailer will change with them. A major change you will see in this month’s issue is a new cover story called “Market Pulse,” in which we asked both retailers and manufacturers alike to provide their opinions on two hot-button issues. This year, we selected tariffs and the economy. Are tariffs hurting your business? Will we have a recession, as some experts predict is coming in 2020? No matter your opinion, the answers are fascinating and the story is a must-read. I was impressed by the clarity of many of the answers, and I was piqued by the range of answers provided. To some, tariffs are having little effect on their business. To others, tariffs are a huge factor. And as for the economy, some believe we will see a recession as early as next year, while others think it is simply economist-speak with no gusto behind the predictions. No matter your opinion, it’s certainly interesting to see what your peers think. Regarding the economy, I, along with everyone else, don’t know what will happen. But it is good to prepare yourself in case a recession does rear its ugly head. What I do know is that, overall, 2018 and 2019 have been good economically for many manufacturers and MI retailers. This is evidenced again in this month’s second cover story, which presents an in-depth look at the percussion market. With electronic drumming leading the way, the percussion market continues to do well, according to the Percussion Marketing Council and the panelists we spoke to. Percussion is a tough market for manufacturers to innovate in. It takes months, if not years, to come up with that next great drum set. (For proof, compare the number of percussion products that appear in our Product Buzz section throughout the year to the number of guitar

products.) But electronic percussion continues to get better and better, replicating the acoustic experience as closely as possible. Considering the factors that can prevent drum sets from being omnipresent, such as the space they take up, the high cost and the loud sound emanating from acoustic sets, I believe a strong percussion market is not a good sign, but a great sign for our industry. This is not about a $100 investment in a guitar that may or not lead consumers to actually playing an instrument. Drum sets are often four-figure investments, so the fact that consumers are buying them and students are interested in percussion bodes well for MI’s future. If you don’t sell any percussion products at your store, or if drumming is simply not your thing, I encourage you to read the rest of the magazine, where you are sure to find plenty of information you can use. Beyond our usual Buzz sections and our great columnists, check out The Final Note with Ricky Mannion of M House Studios, a company we have never featured before; a Five Minutes With interview with Wireworld’s David Salz; features on retailers Musical Innovations and AMRO Music; MI Spy’s visit to Cleveland and much more.

October 2019 Volume 36, No. 10

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



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Guitar Center Teams With Eric Clapton Guitar Center teamed up with Eric Clapton to launch the 2019 Crossroads Guitar Collection. This collection includes five limited-edition recreations and signature guitars, three from Eric Clapton’s legendary career, and one apiece from fellow guitarists John Mayer and Carlos Santana. These guitars are now being sold in North America exclusively at Guitar Center locations and online via The collection launch coincides with the 2019 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, which took place Sept. 20 and Sept. 21. All guitars in the one-of-a-kind collection were developed by Guitar Center in partnership with Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Fender, Gibson, Martin and PRS Guitars, drawing inspiration from the guitars used by Clapton, Mayer and Santana at pivotal points throughout their iconic careers. The collection includes the following models: the Fender Custom Shop Eric Clapton Blind Faith Telecaster built by Master Builder Todd Krause, Gibson Custom Eric Clapton 1964 Firebird 1, Martin 000-42EC Crossroads Ziricote, Martin 00-42SC John Mayer Crossroads and PRS Private Stock Carlos Santana Crossroads. A significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of each of the gui-

tars in the collection will be donated to benefit Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre Antigua. The Crossroads Centre was created to provide treatment and education to chemically dependent persons. Treatment is provided through residential care, family and aftercare programs. The pathway to recovery is founded on the movement toward a change in lifestyle. “On the occasion of the 2019 Crossroads Guitar Festival, Guitar Center is proud to once again show our support for Eric Clapton, the festival and his Crossroads Centre Antigua,” said Michael Doyle, Guitar Center vice president of guitar merchandising. “We are honored to be invited by Eric to collaborate with him and the world’s finest guitar manufacturers to create these special instruments.”

West Music Gets a Boost From Bustos

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) visited the West Music Quad Cities store for her latest “Cheri on Shift” job shadow. West Music repair technician Andy Ross led Bustos in multiple repair activities on student trumpets and trombones during the busy back-to-school season. “I have been meeting with Rep. Bustos in Washington, D.C. for the past several years, working to ensure full authorized funding for Title IV, Part A, the Student Support and Academic Enrichments (SSAE) program that provides funding to state and local districts access to a well-rounded education that includes music education,” said West Music president and CEO Robin Walenta. “It was wonderful to have [her] visit our Moline store and to experi-


ence first-hand our passion and commitment to music participation by providing quality products and support services to our local schools and regional customers.”

OMG Acquires Lock-It

OMG Music has acquired Lock-It Straps. Manufacturing and distribution will be handled out of OMG’s Sheridan, Ind., facility. “I’ve known about Lock-It’s genius strap-lock system for a long time,” said Brett Marcus, partner at OMG Music. “Our customers have raved about these straps for years, so when I found out the company was available, we immediately entered into talks. You cannot find a better-reviewed guitar strap on the internet.” Lock-It’s patented design incorporates a locking mechanism located inside the leather strap end itself. It requires no change of hardware on the instrument and works with virtually any guitar, including being uniquely effective on acoustics. The design has been praised by guitar greats such as Jennifer Batten and master guitar builder Paul Reed Smith. Lock-It joins the current OMG Music lineup of Rotosound strings, D’Andrea products, TKL Cases, Henry Heller instrument accessories and Lakota guitar straps. OCTOBER 2019


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NAMM Oral History Program Celebrates Milestone The NAMM Oral History Program recently celebrated a milestone with the capture and publication of its 4,000th interview that featured Meyer Sound co-founder Helen Meyer. NAMM’s Oral History program began in 2000. During the interview, Meyer chronicled the history of Meyer

Korg Adds Sakae

Sound, the innovative audio company that she and her husband, John Meyer, founded in 1979 in Berkeley, Calif. Meyer spoke of her love for music and the piano lessons she took as a child. While they were dating, the couple attended a

rock concert that had a subpar sound system. John turned to Helen and told her he thought he could make a better system. It wasn’t long before they founded Meyer Sound, and like John, Helen jumped in with both feet. While John was creating award-

winning innovative products for live sound and movies, Helen focused on overseeing accounting, designing the parts department, leading sales and running human resources, where she was in charge of hiring new employees.

You Know the Why, We Are the How. Authors

Our authors are experts in their field, with extensive years of teaching, performing, and composing music for percussionists.

Norio Iwasaki

KORG has acquired drum manufacturer, Sakae. Operations will take place in Osaka, Japan, designing new models developed by key members of Sakae’s renowned product and design team. “Sakae Osaka Heritage is proud to open a new chapter in its storied history,” said Norio Iwasaki, president of Sakae Osaka Heritage. “We are determined to deliver the highest-quality and best-sounding drums to players all over the world.” Sakae’s history includes more than 90 years of drum kits, including many years of producing highend drums. Sakae drums such as the Trilogy, Almighty and Celestial series have become staples for professional drummers worldwide due to their craftsmanship and high-quality design. Besides kits, Sakae also designed and produced a wide range of world-famous snares, hardware and more. “Every Sakae finished product is a work of art,” said Jeff Shreiner, brand manager for Sakae Osaka Heritage at KORG USA Inc. “Sakae always have, and will continue to be, wholeheartedly committed to making the highestquality drums possible. We look forward to this new chapter and continuing the Sakae legacy.” MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER


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30 Years for Tech 21

Tech 21 is celebrating its 30th anniversary by releasing a compilation video in honor of the occasion. “While we’re very serious about our products, this is a celebration, and we wanted to have some fun,” said vice president Dale Krevens. “The video features a variety of artists and business associates speaking pretty much off the cuff about Tech 21, including a few bloopers sprinkled throughout. It’s hard to believe the company is 30 years old. And I’m amazed how long we’ve had partnerships with our distributors and artists, some being 20 years or more. It’s even more amazing how so many grew into true friendships. We are also fortunate to have a very low turnover of employees. A handful that started early on eventually retired from here. We are so thankful for having such incredible long-term relationships.” In 1989, B. Andrew Barta’s invention, the original SansAmp (later dubbed the Classic), was a pioneer in tube amplifier emulation and the direct recording movement, stated Tech 21. Ironically, Barta never actually intended to become a manufacturer. After trying to sell his technology to major manufacturers and being consistently turned down, Barta formed Tech 21 and set out on his own. Over the years, Barta hasn’t stopped pumping out designs. Most

recently, in 2014, the Fly Rig 5’s success spawned an entire line of Fly Rigs in various flavors, as well as signature artist models for Paul Landers of Rammstein and Richie Kotzen. Featuring all-analog SansAmp circuitry, each version is a self-contained “rig” in a tiny footprint. Players can slim down without sacrificing great tone and travel without fear of baggage surcharges and dreaded mystery backlines. The 30th anniversary video can be viewed at

From L to R: 2019 “Roadie for a Day” grand-prize winner Anthony Lowe with drummer/host Cindy Blackman Santana and PMC representative Brad Smith.

PMC Names ‘Roadie for a Day’ Winner

The Percussion Marketing Council (PMC) named Anthony Lowe as its International Drum Month “Roadie for a Day” grand-prize winner. Lowe received a backstage tour and visit with celebrity spokesperson and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana at the Santana concert in Tinley Park, Ill. on Aug. 4. Before the show, Blackman Santana’s drum tech gave Lowe a detailed tour of her kit as it sat on stage. Lowe learned about her monitoring system, how she rotates her sticks and the unique aspect to her approach for a long show. Lowe also received a special gift package from PMC members, including a crash cymbal, drum sticks and a wide assortment of branded merchandise. “Cindy Blackman Santana was a fantastic celebrity drummer and International Drum Month event host who enjoyed giving this educational experience to this year’s winner,” said PMC representative and on-location host Brad Smith. “Every year, the PMC hosts this contest where one lucky winner receives a life-changing experience. This connection of the percussion industry, music retailers and the drumming community throughout the country is amazing and grows every year.” “The 2019 International Drum Month campaign and ‘Roadie for a Day’ grand prize received widespread interest and support from the entire percussion industry,” added PMC co-executive director Karl Dustman. “We saw growing participation from drum retailers nationwide, all developing their own regional International Drum Month promotion and event theme. ‘Roadie contest’ entries were processed, and more than 145,000 social media impressions were recorded. Plans are already developing for the PMC’s 25-year anniversary in 2020 with a completely new May International Drum Month theme and market development initiative.”




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GC Study: Music Lessons Significantly Help Children

Supplemental music lessons have a profound effect on children ages 7 to 17, according to a new study commissioned by Guitar Center. Specifically, the study found that students participating in supplemental music lessons enjoy a variety of positive effects and healthy habits, including self-imposed limitation of screen time, increased problemsolving skills, time management and prioritization, increased selfawareness and social skills, and more. “A growing number of parents, researchers and technology advocates acknowledge that limiting screen time in favor of other pursuits such as music aids in the healthy development of children,” said Donny Gruendler, Guitar Center vice president of education. “In this study, we found that students in outside-of-school supplemental music lessons are far more likely to balance their own screen time rather than doing it simply because they are made to do so by a parent or caregiver. That is, regularly scheduled music lessons can help build healthy afterschool habits and time-management skills that students may otherwise forgo in favor of other leisure pursuits. Altogether, such habits result in a number of additional beneficial life skills and reinforce what we’ve known for some time: Studying and playing music has benefits far









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beyond the mere learning of playing a musical instrument, and the ripple effects result in happier, healthier, more balanced children.” Additionally, after just a year of taking private music lessons, the study found that for students ages 7 to 17, these lessons: • Encourage patience and resiliency in problem solving: Eighty-five percent of parents perceive that their child has a greater ability to keep working until they finish a task, even when they think that the task is difficult. • Teach time management: Sixty-eight percent of parents perceive that their child improves their ability to finish tasks on time, and that their child has a greater ability to use a tool, such as a planner or calendar, to keep track of what they need to accomplish. • Build self-awareness: Eighty-three percent of parents perceive that their child has a greater ability to welcome feedback on their work for the purpose of improving. • Build self-motivation: Sixty percent of parents perceive that their child has a greater ability to self-monitor and limit their screentime use because they know it is good for them, as opposed to the 42 percent of parents who perceive that their children are limiting their screen time use due to pressure from others. • Instill prioritization skills: Seventy-one percent of parents perceive that their child has a greater ability to self-monitor their screen time because they know it gives them more time to do things that are important to them. “Examining Parents’ Perceptions of the Self-Regulatory Behaviors, Self-Determinative Screen-Time Use and Engagement with ScreenBased Personal Learning Environments for Adolescents Participating in Private Music Study” was authored by Brian C. Wesolowski, Ph.D. (University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music) and Stefanie A. Wind, Ph.D. (University of Alabama College of Education). The online study, commissioned in July 2019, surveyed a total of 2,323 parent respondents across the United States. The selection criteria included parents of adolescent children ages 7 to 17 who were currently participating in private music lessons through either a national music store, local independent music store, music institute or with a private independent music instructor. “In this study, we used psychometric methods that allowed us to measure parents’ perceptions of their children’s level of self-regulation, self-determination and engagement with personal learning environments to enhance their learning. Our methods took into account the pattern with which parents responded to survey items in order to estimate how they perceived the abilities of their children with regard to these three constructs,” said Wesolowski and Wind. “For all of the constructs, we found that parents of children who participated in music lessons for over one year perceived statistically significant higher levels of all of the behaviors compared to parents whose children participated in lessons for less than a year. OCTOBER 2019


Yamaha Hosts Piano Retail Event

Yamaha Corp. of America (YCA) hosted a Piano Pros Home Office event as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to support its dealers. Meeting rooms at YCA headquarters in Buena Park, Calif., were packed during intensive three-day sessions, attended by some of the best Yamaha dealers from all over the country. Instructors covered the company’s piano philosophy, history of craft and innovation, best practices in sales techniques, handson product training and customer feedback, according to Gary Klugman, director, keyboard department, Yamaha. In addition, dealers got an opportunity to experience Yamaha culture extensively and up close in the heart of the company itself, with a direct line of communication to key staff. Klugman rated the summer’s training event resoundingly successful. “I was impressed to see the training sessions bring our staff and dealers closer together,” he said. “It was an excellent opportunity to get the people in charge of customer promotions, product launches and branding here at YCA in better alignment with the dealers who interact with our customers every day.”

Fender, Zappos Team Up

Fender and joined forces to launch Strum for the Sole, a first-of-its-kind workplace health and wellness benefit program that encourages a healthy work-life balance through the healing power of learning an instrument. The partnership provides more than 1,500 Zappos employees with the opportunity to learn to play or further enhance their skills on the acoustic or electric guitar, bass and ukulele. The joint venture aims to provide employees with an outlet to reduce stress, increase creativity, foster self-expression and build confidence, which the power of music is proven to yield.

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Proud Member of

Note From Causby


Fighting for Our Member Community NAMM membership empowers positive change worldwide In 1901, our industry came together and built a community. To this day, the legacy endures, maintained by our members, for our members with joint dedication and support. As your trade association, NAMM has since grown to include a global membership base, which has helped to unite the industry and make the world a little smaller in the process. While there are many tangible and actionable benefits of NAMM membership, I believe our sense of community and global impact is what makes NAMM stand apart. Over the years, I have gotten to know each type of member, their creativity, their struggles and stories of success. Throughout the process of serving these members, I have been inspired by the passion, loyalty and commitment each member has towards NAMM and this exciting industry. There’s a reason why we work in the sector that we do. We truly love it. As we look ahead to an uncertain economic future, your trade association is determined to continue to fight for our shared interests on the international stage. Emboldened by hard-

A Collective Voice for the Industry NAMM has increased our lobbying efforts on issues that directly affect your bottom line, including: • • • •

Import/export tariffs CITES regulations Intellectual property Proposition 65 Be heard. Join us at...

• • • •

Adult music access Tax legislation Music-brain research Music education funding

fought, CITES’ musical instrument exemptions, our NAMM Public Affairs and Government Relations team is redoubling efforts to advocate for our industry’s interests. We encourage all members to stay updated and engaged on our Issues & Advocacy portal. Trust that through good and bad business times, NAMM is consistent and steady, providing a stable community for members to come together, learn and advocate. And, in the face of any challenge, we are stronger together, as a global community. I look forward to seeing you soon at our industry’s family reunion, The 2020 NAMM Show. Yours, Causby Challacombe NAMM DIRECTOR OF MEMBERSHIP

Reasons to Join or Renew Year-round access to benefits and resources

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Join or Renew Today! Believe in Music | Belong to NAMM •


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Conn-Selmer’s Stoner Retires

Conn-Selmer Inc. announced that John Stoner, president and CEO of the company, has retired effective Aug. 30. Stephen Zapf has been selected to take on the role and formally joined the company on John Stoner Sept. 3. Stoner has been with Conn-Selmer for 17 years, and he has made a significant impression on the music industry since joining the company in 2002. “I sincerely appreciate having had the opportunity to work with all of the employees of Conn-Selmer, all the dealers, educators and artists in this incredible industry,” said Stoner. “I am extremely proud of all that Conn-Selmer has accomplished during my tenure, and that we have been able to continue the legacy of producing musical instruments in the United States. I would like to thank everyone for the support, guidance and encouragement you have provided me during my 17 years with the company. Although I will miss everyone and the company, I am looking forward to the next chapter that lies in front of me.” Zapf’s great-grandfather and grandfather started Zapf’s Music in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1928, and it was from an early age that his love of music and the music industry was born. “John has been a friend and tireless supporter of music education for many years; he leaves big shoes to fill, and I know that we will all miss him,” said Zapf. “It is my honor to build on his legacy and lead Conn-Selmer through a new era of growth and innovation in music around the globe.”

In Memoriam: Bill Hagner

William “Bill” Hagner of Fort Myers, Fla., passed away on Aug. 25. He was 96. Hagner figured highly in the history of Gretsch. He started working at Gretsch on December 1, 1941, just six days prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Having just finished high school, he answered an ad in the paper for someone to work in Gretsch’s factory at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn, N.Y. Starting out as a clerk, he was told by the company’s vice president, “Someday, this is going to be big company. So, if you have any interest in a career, I advise you to learn what you’re doing and stay with it.” Hagner took this advice to heart. One of Hagner’s early jobs was to prepare payroll for the factory workers. All jobs were done as “piece work” at the time, and Hagner had to review William “Bill” Hagner and approve individual pay slips for each job. When he didn’t understand an operation that was being paid for, he’d go to the worker and say, “Explain what you’re doing to me.” In that way, he eventually became knowledgeable about every operation taking place, preparing him to become plant manager down the road. He went on to become personally responsible for overseeing all Gretsch manufacturing. But Hagner’s wartime tenure at Gretsch didn’t last long. Like so many members of what has been dubbed “the greatest generation,” he entered military service in January of 1943. As a member of the Army Air Force, he became a glider pilot, conducting missions over the fields of Normandy during the D-Day invasion in 1944. At the end of the war, Hagner returned to work at Gretsch, where he eventually became plant manager in the Brooklyn factory. In 1967, the Gretsch Co. was sold to The Baldwin Piano Co., and operations were moved to Booneville, Ark. Hagner remained with Gretsch and had plant manager and sales manager roles during his tenure with Baldwin/Gretsch. When Baldwin filed for bankruptcy, current president Fred W. Gretsch and his wife, executive vice president and chief financial officer Dinah Gretsch, were able to buy the company back in 1984 and return it to family ownership. In 1985, Fred Gretsch wanted to move drum-making operations out of De Queen, Ark., and into Ridgeland, S.C. (where the Gretsch USA drum factory is still located today). Hagner was living in Fort Smith, Ark., at the time. He offered his services to help team building and assist in the moving of machinery and inventory. This help proved invaluable in getting the drum-making operation up and running in its new home. In fact, Hagner is the only individual in the long history of Gretsch to have held key posts in Brooklyn, Arkansas and South Carolina. “Bill was an innovator, a leader and an undeniably unique character,” said Fred Gretsch. “All told, he spent 58 years associated with Gretsch. His contributions over those years are a significant and unforgettable part of the Gretsch legacy. We cherish his memory, and we will truly miss him.” Donations in honor of Hagner may be made to The Salvation Army to support music programs worldwide.

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Adams’ Family

QSC promoted TJ Adams to vice president, systems product strategy and development. In this new role, Adams continues to oversee strategy development and execution of product development for its Systems portfolio, including the Q-SYS Ecosystem. “Since TJ joined QSC over six years ago, he has played a pivotal role in the development of our overall product strategy for leading solutions in our Systems portfolio,” TJ Adams said Jatan Shah, chief operating and technology officer, QSC. “As we continue to grow our business, we are looking to scale our leadership team with individuals that can develop thought leadership, people leadership and teamwork while driving visible results. We are confident TJ will continue to bring these qualities to our organization as we focus on proliferating Q-SYS throughout AV and IT industries.” “I am honored to play a part in developing the most robust, software-based audio, video and control ecosystems in the industry, one which continues to innovate and change the way integrators and end users design and install systems,” noted Adams. “I look forward to progressing the Q-SYS vision through further software/cloud-based innovation while expanding our platform through complementary technology and IT industry partnerships.”

Welcome, Matt

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Matthew Rudin joined Yamaha Corp. of America as drums marketing manager for its drum and percussion department. He reports directly to Steven Fisher, director of the same department. “Matt brings to our team a wealth of marketing experience, paired with extensive knowledge and passion for drums,” said Fisher. “Having Matt onboard positions us to strengthen our marketing efforts, to encourage Matthew Rudin drummers everywhere to share our passion and to connect with their audiences through our products.” Before joining Yamaha, Rudin led the marketing and creative direction, as well as branding, for Accuride International Inc., a manufacturer of commercial-grade drawer slides, linear track systems and electronic locking solutions for cabinetry in commercial, residential and industrial applications. “As a long-time drummer, music lover and marketing professional, it is an absolute honor to join this talented Yamaha team,” said Rudin. “The future is very exciting for both our innovative electronic and acoustic drum lines, and I am excited to get the opportunity to share these products with our enthusiastic fans and new musicians alike.” Rudin earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and his MBA at the University of California, Irvine.


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The Eric Andrea Show

The Music People announced the appointments of Andrea Christiano as its director of operations and Eric Palonen as marketing manager. “We are ver y excited to welcome both Andrea and Eric to the TMP family,” said John Hennessey, co-president of The Music People. “Their strong experience in both the accessories and MI industries, coupled with their vast knowledge of customer ser vice, will be key as TMP continues on its steady growth trajector y.” Andrea Christiano Christiano joins TMP from lifestyle accessory brand BigMouth Inc., where she served as sales director of ecommerce. During her tenure, Christiano held multiple roles ranging from accounting and customer service to sales operations and account management. “It’s a very exciting time to join The Music People, and I’m looking forward to using my background in the accessories industry to help TMP grow further,” Christiano said. “I’m very excited to be a part of The Music People’s continued success and hope to further enhance the customer experience for both our dealers and end users.” Also at BigMouth Inc., Palonen held the position of marketing manager before joining Eric Palonen TMP, developing the brand’s explosive growth through key influencer marketing, web development and trade events. “The Music People have long been a benchmark of integrity in this industry,” Palonen said. “The feeling of joining such a passionate, revered team is magnetic. I look forward to contributing to this company’s impressive story.”

In Memoriam: Mark Fullerton

Ted Brown Music announced the loss of its long-time friend and employee, Mark Fullerton, who passed away unexpectedly and suddenly in his home on the evening of Aug. 9 at only 57 years old. Fullerton worked in MI his whole career. “We were lucky enough to have him in our business for 27 years,” stated Ted Mark Fullerton Brown Music. “Those who were lucky enough to know or work with Fullerton, or even just encounter him one time, will attest to his love for music and his dedication to his work in the music industry.” Fullerton was proficient in many instruments, but he was an exceptional guitarist. His love and talent for the guitar allowed him to travel the world and led him to a successful career, and it (along with his rock-star hair) was instrumental in Fullerton meeting his wife, Tani. Fullerton got his first job in the music industr y at the young age of 15. In 1992, after a successful touring career and working at a local retailer, he joined the Ted Brown Music family. He was hired as a manager and most recently ser ved as the purchasing, marketing and sales manager for the company’s six retail locations. According to Ted Brown Music, “A man like Mark may only exist once in our lifetime. Mark was full of life. His love for life, music and his family always shone through. He had a way about him that made everyone feel welcome and loved. He was the kind of person that made everyone feel they’d known him their whole life, even when meeting for the first time. The happy, smiling person you met is who he was. A life-long learner, Mark was a person who wanted to help people, and this drove him to gain knowledge in so many different areas. He sincerely cared about the success of others for their benefit, not his. The hole he leaves behind in Ted Brown Music will not be filled by just one person. The hole he leaves in our hearts will never be filled. Mark will undoubtedly continue to live on through the impact that he has made on so many of us.” Fullerton is sur vived by his wife, Tani, and three daughters, Kylee Gehring (husband Zack), Kaylor Frederick (husband Dylan) and Kianna Fullerton. Mark and Tani also have one granddaughter, Thea Rae Frederick. OCTOBER 2019


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Girl Power

Kyser Musical Products Inc. appointed Joy Anderson as director of human resources and Hilary Brown as director of marketing. The appointments are a part of Kyser’s larger restructuring initiative as it broadens its reach into new product marketplaces and elevates the brand’s footprint across innovative channels and audiences. Joy Anderson “When we started looking for talented individuals to fill these spots, I secretly hoped that we would find women to take over these roles,” said Kyser CEO Meredith Hamlin. “And it’s not just from an equal-opportunity standpoint, but it’s about having some genuine diversity in the workplace. Kyser wants and

Hilary Brown

needs a more inclusive culture, and Joy and Hilary are the ones who will help us achieve this.” Prior to her appointment at Kyser, Anderson spent the last 17 years serving in public education. Brown has spent more than a decade in the MI industry guiding the marketing and editorial strategies of numerous organizations across manufacturing, retail/e-commerce, nonprofit and media.

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A 14-input analog mixer, 16-track internal multitrack recorder, 16-in/14-out USB audio interface and built-in effects processor. Record one track at a time, or the full performance simultaneously using the quick, easy and intuitive recording and audio control surface. Unit can be rack mounted with optional kit.

Dan Murphy

Dan Murphy, general manager of Florida’s All County Music, announced his retirement after a 30-year career. An Ohio native, he started his after-college career as a band director but found that his love of performing was too strong to keep him in the classroom. Murphy traveled the country and the world playing his saxophone and many other instruments in multiple musical genres. After settling in south Florida, he was hired by All County’s founder Mel Schiff, for his vast knowledge of education, performance and products. His expertise became invaluable and as the company grew, so did his responsibilities. Murphy was instrumental during All County Music’s frequent store remodels, niche pro shop additions, computer system changes, hurricanes and an ever changing retail and competitive landscape. He departed just in time to finish the latest repair shop overhaul. MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

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Virtual Reality

IK Multimedia debuted the MODO DRUM, its first physical modeling drum virtual instrument. A sequel to IK’s MODO BASS software, MODO DRUM brings musicians of all styles and genres a new level of customization, detail and realism, stated the company. Using a combination of modal synthesis and advanced sampling, MODO DRUM offers 10 deeply customizable, virtual drum kits with real-time access to every parameter of each drum (kick, snares and toms), from size and tension, to shell profile and playing style, and more. Cymbals can also be tuned and damping adjusted to ensure realistic music tracks, the manufacturer noted. To further shape their sound, users can place their kit in different acoustic environments and take advantage of a full mixer with sends and buses, as well as 19 studio processors and effects from IK’s T-RackS and AmpliTube software titles to add the final polish to any kit. MSRP: Regular version: $399; crossgrade: $299 Ship Date: Now Contact: IK Multimedia,

World Class

PP Cajon drums from PP World Percussion are offered with a natural wood shell and dark (PP150) or red wood (PP155) striking surface (tapa). The tapa is vibrant and super sensitive to light finger rolls, hand slaps and Cajon brushes, stated the company. The output is focused, bright and punchy with an excellent bass response from the ported shell, while integrated fixed snare wires produce authentic, modern-day snare sounds. Rounded corners on the playing surfaces ensure total comfort for the player’s hands, while sturdy rubber feet increase stability and bass response through the floor. It comes complete with a padded bag with adjustable shoulder straps. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: JHS,

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Shekere It Up

Based on the Xequebalde, a Brazilian folk instrument, the Gon Bops Bucket Shekere is a hybrid of a metal bucket and a shekere. It can be played in hand like a traditional shekere or placed on a stand — a snare stand works perfectly — and played with brushes, stated the company. The Bucket Shekere is also the first Will Phillips signature instrument for Gon Bops. The Shekere is designed primarily to be super light for long-playing comfort, and it provides a rich, warm percussive attack. It’s crafted from lightweight aluminum, and its shell stands eight inches in height with a 12.5-inch opening. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Gon Bops, OCTOBER 2019


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PROtect Yourself

Drum PROtect ends the decades-long scourge of drum rash that has ruined the finish on countless toms and bass drums, stated the company. The product features a virtually invisible self-healing surfaceprotection film similar to what protects cars from chips and hand-held devices from scratches. It comes in pre-cut patches that easily install on the “hot spots” of toms, bass drums and hoops on all high-gloss and wrapped drums. The inspiration for Drum PROtect

came from selling a custom drum set with a one-of-a-kind finish that was going straight out on tour with the owner. The product is distributed by Big Bang Distribution. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Big Bang Distribution,

Photo ©Michael Weintrob

Your Partner in Profit

Krazy for Koa

C.F. Martin added the D-12E Koa and 000-12E Koa to its lineup. The back and sides of these models are constructed with koa fine veneer, which is an environmentally conscious, alternative-wood option, made by bonding koa hardwood to an African mahogany core. The result is the look of a koa guitar in two popular body sizes. Along with Martin tone, balance and comfort, end users receive mother-of-pearl patterned rosette and fingerboard inlay, a full-gloss body, a softshell gig bag, Fishman MX-T electronics and Martin’s Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 strings. MSRP: $1,599 Ship Date: This fall Contact: C.F. Martin,

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Speak Up

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Kristin Goold

Celestion launched the F12-X200 loudspeaker, the first guitar speaker designed specifically for use with profiling amps, modeling software, impulse responses, and all technology for emulating the tones from coveted guitar amps and speaker cabinets, stated the company. It is a full-range driver that delivers a frequency response from 60Hz all the way up to 20kHz. The higher-frequency part of the signal is reproduced using a Celestion compression driver which has been integrated using a high-quality crossover circuit. This enables the F12-X200 to reproduce the full spectrum of audible frequencies for the most accurate output possible, whatever the environment or setup. The F12-X200’s response is remarkably neutral, with Celestion technology built in to ensure there are no unwanted colorations that can overpower the input signal. However, the lighter moving mass and straighter-sided cone of the type commonly used with guitar speakers gives the X200 the feel and live response of a traditional guitar speaker, delivering all the physical feedback you’d expect from playing through a conventional guitar rig. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: Celestion,


The Avante Audio AS8 compact column PA system comprises an active eight-inch subwoofer enclosure alongside two column units. One features six precision-aligned 2.75-inch speaker cones, while the other serves as a spacer to lift the speaker column up to head height. Both feature Avante’s new SAM (Secure Array Mount) system which allows the columns to lock securely to the sub and to one another. Featuring a Class D power amplifier with built-in limiter that delivers 800 watts of power, the subunit also integrates a flexible three-channel mixer with two-band EQ. The lightweight system can be easily transported in a small car and is supplied with a padded bag for carrying and protecting the column units. This makes it the perfect system for live musicians as well as DJs and mobile entertainers, stated the company. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: American DJ,

Take Control

Roland released the DJ-707M DJ Controller, a four-channel, fourdeck Serato DJ Pro controller engineered for the perfect balance of functionality and portability. The DJ-707M is built to efficiently manage the wide-ranging needs of mobile DJs. The compact controller features a compact size that allows it to sit between turntables and DJ media players, and it is DVS-upgrade-ready for component DJ setups. Built-in automatic feedback suppression listens for and anticipates feedback, adjusting speaker output automatically and preventing disruptions. Each assignable output’s separate EQ, multiband compressor and limiter output settings can also be saved and recalled with 10 Scene Presets. The DJ-707M features seven inputs, including front-mounted auxiliary inputs for easily connecting instruments from guest musicians or two additional microphones. MSRP: $999 Ship Date: Now Contact: Roland,




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Receive a Lifeline

Alfred Music released “The Musician’s Lifeline: Advice for All Musicians, Student to Professional.” Written by Peter Erskine and Dave Black, it represents the combined experience and knowledge of the authors gained through their lives in music. In addition, it includes advice from more than 150 musicians the authors have the honor of knowing, with topics ranging from sight-reading, learning, listening, auditions, the music business, practice, musical aesthetics and perfor-

mance, to general travel and life wisdom. Contributors to “The Musician’s Lifeline” include Gordon Goodwin, Nathan East, Janis Siegel, Christian McBride, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gary Burton, Kenny Werner, Steve Smith and so many more. MSRP: $16.99 Ship Date: Now Contact: Alfred,

Not in a Holding Pattern

On-Stage, a division of The Music People, released its TCM1500 tablet and smartphone holder. Adjusting from eight inches to 12 inches high and 3.5 inches to 9.5 inches wide, the holder accommodates a wide variety of tablets, including the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface. Weighing in at less than a pound, the TCM1500 is constructed of strong, durable plastic with soft protective padding at contact points, assuring that a tablet or smartphone will be safely secured, stated the company. An assembly adapter allows the holder 180-degree tilt and 360-degree rotation for ease of use during performance. The TCM1500 also includes a batter y/cell phone holder that adjusts from 2.5 inches to four inches. An included clamp attaches directly to any threequarter-inch to one-inch stand or desktop. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: On-Stage,




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Don’t Leave This Book in San Fran

Available for both Piano/Vocal/Guitar and Hal Leonard’s E-Z Play Today formats, “Tony Bennett — All Time Greatest Hits” features all of Bennett’s major classics from the 2011 album of the same name. Songs featured include: “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Everybody’s Talkin’ (Echoes),” Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words),” “For Once in My Life” and “The Good Life.” MSRP: PVG folio: $17.99; E-Z Play Today folio: $14.99 Ship Date: Now Contact: Hal Leonard,


In Lincoln We Trust

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Since 1995, Odyssey has established a worldwide reputation for innovation, quality and design as one of the most respected brands in the DJ community. Odyssey’s group of companies includes leading truss brand Show Solutions, custom case manufacturer BC Cases, and Gruv Glide the world’s #1 vinyl treatment. Odyssey is also the official US distributor of Serato accessories. LEADING THROUGH INNOVATION


Fender released the Britt Daniel Signature Telecaster Thinline and Lincoln Brewster Signature Stratocaster, which embody Daniel’s precision-punk guitar style that has fueled Spoon to indie-rock superstardom over the course of the band’s 20-plus year career. Its lightweight semi-hollow ash body resonates sweetly, while sacrificing none of the Telecaster guitar’s signature steely clarity, thanks to its Fender Custom Shop pickups and an S-1 switch that allows users to change instantly between series and parallel pickup wiring, stated the company. The one-piece “Deep C” maple neck shape fits comfortably in the hand and the 9.5-inch-radius fingerboard and medium-jumbo frets allow for fast playing and choke-free bending. Other features include Fender ClassicGear tuning machines, an electro socket output jack and Elite molded hardshell case. MSRP: Britt Daniel Signature Telecaster Thinline: $1,999.99; Lincoln Brwester Signature Stratocaster: $1,990.99 Ship Date: Now Contact: Fender, OCTOBER 2019

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The Right Mix

Panic! At the Disco

TASCAM’s Model 16 is an all-in-one mixing studio that takes live multi-track recording to an affordable new level, combining the warmth, ease and feel of analog recording and mixing with the workflow and quality of digital, stated the company. It is a full-featured compact mixing console that fits comfortably in a rehearsal studio, house of worship, home studio or any production environment where recording quality is paramount and space is limited. It integrates a 14-channel input analog mixer, 16-track internal digital recorder, multi-track USB 2.0 audio interface, 16 editable effects, versatile mixing and routing channel path and Bluetooth wireless streaming into an all-in-one unit. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Contact company Contact: TASCAM,

Get in the Spirit

Yorkville Sound’s distributed brand, Hughes & Kettner, has unveiled the third amplifier to feature its analog Spirit tone-generating technology, the Black Spirit 200 Floor. It combines a range of sounds and the power of the Black Spirit 200 head and adds in the practical switching and controlling functions of the Hughes & Kettner FSM-432 MK III MID Board, as well as a range of new features. The result is the ultimate floor-based guitar amplifier, offering the analog tone, feel and power of a real amp alongside all the benefits and convenience of a fully programmable processor, stated the company. The Black Spirit 200 Floor weighs in at 4.1 kg (8.9 lbs.) and is housed in a rugged, roadworthy metal enclosure, making it perfect for a life on tour. With 200 watts of power on tap, the amp can easily keep up with any live band. Connecting to traditional guitar cabinets, PA and/or in-ear monitors is easy thanks to its wealth of output options, including the Red Box AE+ DI. New features include two programmable true-bypass pre-loops, allowing players to fully integrate their favorite pedals into their setup without compromising on the amp’s true tone. An adjustable Monitor In also lets users blend their personal FOH monitor mix to their amp signal and send it to the integrated headphones out or even to the speaker out. MSRP: Contact company Ship Date: Now Contact: Yorkville Sound,

On the Road Again

Electro-Harmonix intrdoduced the Dirt Road Special, a reissue of the company’s 1970s amp with modern enhancements to its electronics and mechnical design for improved durability. In addition, four reverbs from the Holy Grail Max reverb pedal have been added. It offers a compact design with 40 watts of power and a single 12-inch speaker. Other features include a raw, natural overdrive with interactive volume and bite knobs to control crunch and overdrive and spring, plate, hall and reverse reverbs, with reverb footswitch included. MSRP: $395 Ship Date: Now Contact: Electro-Harmonix,





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2:07 PM


(continued from cover)


Market Pulse Retailers and Manufacturers Sound Off on Two Hot Topics

Editor’s note: Answers were provided as of press time. Geopolitical events happen rapidly, which could change our respondents’ answers. The Music & Sound Retailer has no opinions regarding any of the topics discussed in this story, nor is the story intended to take any political stance in any fashion.

Let’s change things up a bit. Here’s a new cover story called “Market Pulse,” in which retailers and manufacturers alike answer two hot-button questions. We kick things off with the first question, about whether tariffs are affecting our respondents’ businesses and if they are concerned about tariffs moving forward. Our second question has to do with the possibility of a recession in the near future. Economists disagree on when, or if, a recession is coming. Many agreed the yield on 10-year treasury bonds, which dipped below the two-year treasury in August — the first time that's happened since June 2007 — is a definite sign a recession may be coming. But they disagree if the recession will happen in 2020, 2021 or if it will happen at all. What do our respondents see? Are they protecting themselves if a recession does rear its ugly head? Let’s see what the MI industry had to say.

1. In what ways are tariffs hurting your business? Are you concerned about tariffs moving forward? “Since my business is the publication of music for brass instruments, and I do not depend on the import of any goods, tariffs have had no effect on me.” —Joe Keith, Musicality



“The tariffs have had little or no effect on our business so far. The pricing has remained the same on the band and orchestra instruments from most of our manufacturers.” —Peter Ellman, Ellman’s Music Center




“In my business (ReConing speakers), I’m forced to buy many of my speaker parts from China simply because nobody else makes them. I’ve noticed a significant increase in the prices and shipping. Now parts take one to two weeks longer to arrive as well.” —Mike Taylor, Neal Speakers




“Not yet, but to export to China is difficult because of tariffs.” —Gerhard A. Meinl, National Association of German Musical Instrument Manufacturers




“Tariffs at this point are not a concern, although I find more and more of my business geared toward preowned. There seems to be more demand from the consumer for used items as well. Also, I believe this altercation with China has been brewing for a long time, especially over intellectual property rights. If I were any of the big guitar manufacturers, for instance, and knew a consumer could buy a [guitar] for less than $500 off a website, I would not be able to sleep at night. Now I am even seeing knock-off guitar strings. Theft is theft, and trying to ignore it will only cost you in a bigger way if you delay doing something about it. In fact, it will probably put you out of business.” —Paul Allison, The Music Trader “Increases caused by tariffs have not impacted our customers to date, as we keep enough depth of stock to weather temporary fluctuations. Tariffs have, however, impacted who we are buying from, as some suppliers are using tariffs as an excuse to implement blanket price increases.” —Linda Osborne, Arthur’s Music Store “As with everybody, we have seen wholesale prices rise on imported goods. Sometimes this happens with an increase in MAP price, but that increase usually still comes with a drop in gross margin. We have lost ‘good-guy deal’ discounts that sales staff at vendors we do a large volume with would grant as their margins are getting pinched. That said, when people have a hard time buying new gear, they see the value in something secondhand. Since my store primarily buys and sells used gear, we have historically kept our head above water in ‘down’ eras.”   —Brian Coates, Music Go Round


“We are seeing an increase in prices from many of our smaller manufacturers that cannot sustain the increases themselves. However, some of our large manufacturers are leaving China and moving to Taiwan or places that the tariffs are not affecting. While I think this helps the short-term problem, I am not sure the entire tariff ransom works. Just a personal opinion.” —Luke Furr, Shoreview Distribution

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“Yes, the tariffs are hurting my sales.” —Billy Ray Herrin, Hickory Wind Music “Tariffs are not hurting our business; we try not to concern ourselves with this stuff. Similar to the weather, it is not something we can personally control. We really just focus more on positive relationships with our customers and our fantastic brands we carry.  We order during Winter or Summer NAMM, when typically, manufacturers have product specials going on. A positive mindset creates positive growth; that’s what works for us. We are a fairly small and young business. Comparatively, however, we have had double-digit growth almost each year for the past five years. Plus, we pride ourselves on being a 100-percent debt-free, online-focused music store.” —Dave Locke, LAWK STAR Guitars




“Tariffs on Chinese goods are not affecting my music business in any way, form or fashion. My demographic is extremely high-end boutique musical instrument products; therefore, this eliminates China. I love China; I’m there every month and have been for many years. The people are wonderful, but the [Chinese] government is the problem.” —Lynn Burke, Blues City Music “As much as I understand the reason for the tariffs, they have affected our business. Our margins have taken a hit for products that have a 10-percent tariff. On products with 25-percent tariff, we had no choice but to raise prices, and the sales of those products have been affected. If the 25-percent tariff is put into effect on Dec. 15, there will be turmoil in the industry. Some brands have production outside of China and will not be affected; others like us have production all in China and will be substantially affected by the tariffs. To move production is easier said than done. It’s not just finding the right partners, but the cost to produce is higher, there are large investments in tooling and the supply chain of parts to build products is mostly in China. This makes moving production not a simple task. Assuming we make the investments and move production, what happens when the tariffs are gone? We spent a lot of money, [and] our product costs more than those that stayed in China. Planning is impossible because of the uncertainty. If the tariff or additional duties were permanent, then everyone [could] plan accordingly. In any case, there will be losers due to the tariffs. Consumers will lose by having to pay higher prices. Brands will lose some margins and sales.” —Artie Cabasso, Innovative Concepts and Designs LLC “I haven’t seen any ill effects from any tariffs. I don’t think they will be an issue in the future, either.” —Bill Smith, Fogt’s Music “I can’t see any negative impact from the tariffs at all so far. When speaking to my customers, they support the tariffs, and a few have elected to buy American.” —Steve Jones, Kat’s Guitars “The tariff issue is an interesting situation for a mature, 10-year-old Chinese brand. Kepma Guitars has entered the U.S. market at a challenging time due to the uncertainty with short-term tariffs. Guitars had not been subject to the prior tariff increases. But with a 10-percent tariff being applied to all imports from China, stringed instruments will now be impacted. We believe Kepma will weather this temporary storm because we have several factors working in our favor: First, Kepma is a premium brand of acoustic guitars with USA pricing that starts at $1,000 MAP. We have very large dealer margins but still offer an incredible value to consumers relative to other domestic or import brands. These margins give us an ability to absorb the additional tariff costs in the short term. Second, we have a long-term vision. Kepma sells more than 25,000 guitars a month in China. Kepma has a very solid base that is unaffected by import tariffs. This foundation offers us the confidence to establish long-term partnerships with U.S. dealers that extend beyond the window of these temporary tariff increases. We want to build lasting relationships with dealers and create a real connection with American consumers. Our focus is not on just how many units we can move today; we are more interested in how we can partner with retailers for mutual growth. Third, our guitar factory is one of the most highly automated in the industry. We use robotics, automa-

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I Don’t Wanna Grow Up!

Electronic Drum Sets Leading the Way in a Healthy Percussion Market By Brian Berk

A “canary in a coal mine.” The idiom means something or someone who acts as an early indicator and early warning of possible adverse conditions or danger. Years ago, some thought the advent of the electronic drum set was a canary in a coal mine, predicting the death of acoustic drum sets. But something else has happened. “Electronic drum sets were once thought of as the destruction of acoustic drum sets,” Percussion Marketing Council (PMC) co-executive director, Karl Dustman, told the Music & Sound Retailer. “But it is really growing the number of players.” Dustman explained that acoustic drummers continue to enjoy their instruments and hone their craft. But electronic drummers are rapidly joining the fray as perceived “noise” becomes less of a problem, making drumming an acceptable activity in garages, bedrooms and perhaps even living rooms. “Any retailer cannot afford to ignore this,” stressed Dustman. “It’s doubling the opportunity for drummers.” Jules Tabberer-Stewart, global strategic product marketing manager — drums, Roland Corp., and Pat Kennedy, product manager, drums and percussion, Roland Corp. U.S., agree with the sentiment that electronic drumming is adding new drummers, as opposed to simply converting acoustic players. “As a former middle school band director, I can say with confidence that the use and incorporation of technology helps to drive the desire to play and practice music,” said Kennedy. “Having access to an instrument that can help coach you along the way and connect to phones, tablets, laptops and the like creates a pathway into music that may have otherwise gone unexplored. A common barrier for many new players is often the self-conscience aspect of having others hear you while you are learning.  Although it is very important to have professional guidance and knowledge along the way, electronic drums allow students of all ages and abilities to develop skills and musical concepts with the comfort of personal space and aural freedom.” 28

“Yes, I do agree [with this statement],” affirmed Tabberer-Stewart. “Without question, the electronic drum kit has opened up the possibility for younger players and families to give drumming a try. When I was learning drums, I was fortunate enough to have a family (and neighbors) who were tolerant enough to hear me play acoustic drums each day. But that’s not the case for a lot of people. In the mid-1990s, when I was learning to play, electronic drums were just too alien and too expensive to even consider. I have personally met a lot of parents that were not aware of electronic drums, or that they were a viable alternative to acoustic drums, and I’ve met many young players and drum students who began their journey on electronic drums. The fact that today’s electronic drums don’t produce a loud ‘acoustic’ noise and can be played on headphones has certainly opened up the opportunity to new drummers who previously may have had to write the idea off.” But then there is the question of whether electronic drumming will continue to grow, as opposed to enjoying growth and plateauing. A consortium of PMC executives, namely Yamaha Corp. of America’s Dave Jewell, Hal Leonard’s Brad Smith, Alfred Music’s Jennifer PaisleySchuch and Sabian’s Stacey Montgomery-Clark, flat out said growth of electronic drumming is sustainable. “Absolutely this can continue, and PMC can help drive this expansion of the percussion market. We have found that electronic drums are a great entry into the drumming world because of the smaller area it takes to set up and the silent aspect of playing an electronic OCTOBER 2019

helping to drive the popularity of electronic drum sounds for sure, and electronic drum pads such as the SPD-SX are a common instrument on stages everywhere today as a result. A lot of today’s drummers are expected to play and know how to use a hybrid drum kit, comprising traditional acoustic drums and cymbals with electronic drum pads. Hybrid drumming in general is a sub-category that is seeing growth within the wider music industry. “Parallel to that, electronic drums have moved on hugely since their beginnings,” he continued. “Play an original electronic kit from the ‘80s and compare that with today’s TD-50 V-Drums, and you’ll see the evolution is as obvious as the ‘80s cell phone compared to the smart phones of today. Because our V-Drums are that much more playable and expressive, even compared with the V-Drums we produced 10 years ago, they are becoming more acceptable to play while offering the obvious benefit of quiet practice in the home/residential environment.” Kennedy added the following to Tabberer-Stewart’s comments: “Another driving factor of the growth in electronic drumming is that it allows drummers to brand themselves as a more marketable musician. As Jules stated, electronic drum sounds are heard everywhere in today’s music, spanning all genres and styles. Drummers must have the knowledge, access and confidence to use electronics to create the most musical interpretation and expression that is demanded within the music industry. This same adage also applies to non-drummers, such as vocalists, keyboardists, or even guitar/bass players, who want to spice up their setup with a drum pad or sampling pad. The encouragement of all musicians — drummers in particular — to embrace electronics, and to apply them in an organic, musical way, continues to be a driving force behind this growth.” kit. Also, the internal features to help a drummer play in time and learn different styles are vast. However, we find when that drummer wants to join a band and play some gigs, they go out a buy an acoustic drum set. We can almost say we are very much like a guitar player. I would say 95 percent of the guitar players that have an electric guitar also have an acoustic guitar,” the executives said in a joint statement prepared for the Retailer. Many components are currently driving the growth of electronic percussion, relayed Steven Fisher, director of drums and percussion, Yamaha Corp. of America. “There are less expensive options that lower the barrier of entry, new advances and technologies to make electronic drum products easier to use and the general awareness of the various applications such as education, practice, recording and performing,” he said. “There will always be new technologies that will give drummers new sonic choices and applications, as well as growth, from the awareness for anyone that wants to enjoy drumming that is faced with the challenge of noise restrictions.” Going back to the 1970s, there were drummers and percussionists who recognized that electronic drums have a different sound character, which could be used to complement their traditional acoustic instruments to broaden their sound palette, added Tabberer-Stewart. “Ever since that time, music has evolved to increasingly incorporate electronic percussion elements. Just look at today’s diverse music genres, and a lot of them feature electronic percussion sounds. So, I think progression in music and the evolution of new music styles is MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

Young Americans

Accessibility for students to electronic drums is another important piece of the puzzle. The PMC’s Drum Set in the Classroom (DSC) program has presented workshops and assemblies to hundreds of teachers and thousands of students throughout the school year, Craig Woodson, Ph.D., owner, Ethnomusic Inc. and Roots of Rhythm, told the Retailer. “Over the past two years, the PMC has been integrating the introduction and classroom use of electronic drum kits into what started as only an acoustic drum set program,” he said. “While most schools and classrooms might have some acoustic hand percussion instruments, this newer electronic complete drum set technology is always exciting and enthusiastically received by both students and teachers. For many, this is a positive first drumming experience that ignites the interest in drums and drumming. Very often, we have found that a teacher or other workshop-classroom program attendee has seen and heard electronic drum kits through other family and friends.” Students are reacting positively to electronic drum products, Dr. Woodson added. “Wherever DSC programs are presented using an electronic kit, it becomes obvious that the instrument, with its varied drum and percussion sounds available, has tremendous appeal to students. In the same way that acoustic pianos and guitars have become classroom fixtures over the years, the future is bringing electronic musical instruments — specifically drum sets — into regular classroom use. The more classroom teachers experience the creative and self-expression fun of drumming, the more electronic drum sets will start appearing in school applications. “Whether played through a speaker or through headphones, students are always amazed at the variety of sounds the electronic drum kit can produce and the compact nature of the instrument,” continued Dr. Woodson. “Most electronic kits provide a wide variety of play-along tracks as well as self-recording applications, all of which have been very helpful in creating a positive performance experience for each student. Typical of enthusiastic students waiting to play the kit are comments like, ‘Can I get back in line for another turn?’ or ‘How much does this drum set cost?’” Lindsay Rust, managing director for Dancing Drum and a program facilitator of PMC’s Percussion in the Schools in New Orleans, added that she works mostly at the elementary school level, while electronic drum sets appear mostly in high schools. However, she did note that “There may be some interesting possibilities for app development where students can use iPads as an electronic drum.” Bob Bloom of Drumming About You, a “Master Teaching Artist” who leads arts integration and interactive-drumming programs for students in grades pre-kindergarten to 12, added that, in his many conservations with teachers, students ask to play percussion products in schools. However, he acknowledged that setup time, storage space, durability and transportation for any drum set are critical issues for many teachers that may impede sales for MI retailers. To solve this problem, “What about a kit(s) that incorporates the electrical contacts for the triggers into the racks, stands and mounts? This would eliminate the need for wiring. Setup, teardown and 29

storage would be made easier. I’d also make rack heights and widths adjustable to accommodate a range of grade levels, and to be accessible to kids with disabilities.” Dr. Woodson noted that some stereotypes still exist in schools, for which he hopes electronic drums can present a solution. “In general, students like and enjoy playing percussion instruments, probably for how quickly everyone can begin music-making,” he said. “Rhythmic expression is a basic impulse to all humans and I often find that students already playing other instruments either had seriously considered percussion at the beginning of the instrument selection process or would like to go back to playing drums. Electronic percussion seems to help make that re-connection to the fun and creativity of drumming. Some teachers say they played drums or a percussion instrument in their youth and would now like to get back to it. Others say they have some form of drums at home and play them regularly for relaxation. Un30

fortunately, I have experienced a few music teachers discouraging young girls from playing drums, indicating that they should be playing traditional ‘girl instruments,’ like flute, violin or clarinet. I believe electronic drums will help make playing percussion accessible to all populations without any stereotypes.”

Benefits of Drumming

Whether it’s with an electronic drum set or acoustic drum set, Rust stressed the importance of drumming, because it is not only about making music. “It’s also a medium through which students can work together to build school community, learn to focus in a dynamic environment and enjoy creative self-expression,” she said. “Dancing Drum aims to create a positive community of respect, where students are exposed to other cultures and connected to their own. Music is so important for kindergarten to eighth-grade students, and Dancing Drum enables them to make music with their peers that sounds great, builds listening and performing skills, and inspires them to participate at their high-

est level of ability,” she said. “As students experience success through drumming, the boost of confidence that they feel in music class can carry throughout the entire school day. A large majority of students perceive drumming as cool, and it’s an activity that they thoroughly enjoy. As teachers, we can use the engagement piece of drumming as a ‘hook’ to get kids interested in all kinds of other subjects: math, language arts, social studies, geography, history and more.” Added Bloom: “Students benefit from the characteristics of arts-integration [and] interactive drumming (ID) that contribute to their grade-to-grade advancement, grow their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, and support their workplace readiness. A primary paradigm of education is to build and nurture the skills of the ‘4 Cs’: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. ID is a great medium to support this paradigm. ID is enticing and accessible when led with attention to the challenges of people with cognitive, physical and multiple disabilities. The products that I currently provide

to consumers to play in arts-integration presentations are: Hand drums, shakers, castanets, paint buckets and implements, adaptive equipment, scarves.” There are several physical advantages of playing a drum set, noted Dr. Woodson. “1. The drum kit creates an experience working in a large three-dimensional space. Other instruments are primarily linear (piano, clarinet, trumpet). 2. The drum set requires and builds extensive four-way coordination for both hands and feet. 3. With hand drums, the wide variety of sounds are produced simply by how and where you strike the head. 4. The percussion player needs to make extensive use of peripheral vision, like multiple drums and cymbals in drum sets, and is a requirement for playing mallet keyboard percussion instruments like vibes, marimba, etc. “… When playing a percussion instrument, students go through the cognitive process of integrating rhythmic patterns in real time, especially with the play-along tracks provided within the electronic kits,” he continued. Regarding the overall state of the drum market, things are OCTOBER 2019

robust, Fisher told the Retailer. “Increasing interest and awareness to attract more players is very important to continue the growth of our business. More manufacturers need to participate in this endeavor with organizations such as the PMC that can help make a difference. We are also fortunate that drums and percussion as a product category are not ‘fixed’ instruments and are always evolving. Drummers are always looking for new and innovative products that inspire them to create new sounds [and] applications and [to] musically express themselves,” he said. The proof is in the numbers, relayed Tabberer-Stewart. “For sure, sales data points to continued growth in the electronic drum and percussion product market. New brands and product entering the market has also helped to see growth in the electronic percussion sector. At Roland, we’ve seen continued growth in the electronic drum business and have remained a market leader, which we’re delighted to see, as it means we’re continuing to succeed in our mission to help new and existing drummers enjoy the creativity of playing the instrument and making music, every day. Products such as the TD-17 Series V-Drums, which we launched in May 2018, have seen very strong sales, and I do think it has helped to convince many drummers, particularly those previously skeptical about electronic drums, to give them a try. The TD-1DMK that we launched just one year ago in September 2018 has had tremendous success, initially as a festive-season best-seller in 2018, but actually the sales demand has sustained throughout 2019. That particular product is really aimed at beginners and students, and of course their parents, so I am confident that we’re helping to bring in new customers into retailers, which is healthy for the industry. “I hear anecdotally from retailers that electronic drum sales today outweigh acoustic sales, at least on a quantity basis,” continued Tabberer-Stewart. “I hear too that acoustic drum and percussion instrument sales have been more of a challenge in recent years, but then, I also hear that trends in high-end and mid-range acoustic drums are strong. While the growth in electronic drum sales has increased and the knock-on MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

effect may well place a squeeze on the growth in the acoustic sector, I do think that, overall, the growth in electronic drum sales can bring new blood into the world of drums. I don’t necessarily see that someone who starts out on electronic drums won’t progress to play and buy acoustic drums eventually, leading to a sale of acoustic drums along the line. Roland’s intention is not to reduce or take share from acoustic drums either; our V-Drums are just another way to access the instrument. If we can help to grow the drums and percussion business overall, that is surely good for everyone.” “Fortunately, the data shows that electronic drums are a growing sector of the overall percussion market. Much of this positivity can be attributed to the values and benefits mentioned in our [aforementioned comments], while also factoring in advances in technology which pushes these instruments to do more and more,” affirmed Kennedy. “The future holds many exciting possibilities for electronic drums, and Roland will continue to open doors and forge new paths to offer access for anyone interested in enjoying the world of music.”

2020 Foresight

The percussion industry should receive an additional boost as we approach 2020. Next year, PMC will present plenty of firepower to advocate for drummers and drumming as the organization celebrates 25 years. Expect plenty of events during the year-long celebration. “At the very core of the PMC’s mission is the determination to bring drums and drumming to the center of the general public while making percussion accessible to everyone … a lifestyle. By presenting playing drums as a positive educational fun recreation, percussion retailers have benefited from this market growth, whether they realize it or not. This dedication for creating more players goes out to capture the attention and interest of every current non-player and provide a positive drumming experience. Once this is achieved, the public wants more and will gravitate to the retailer for assistance, advice and guidance in getting started,” the trade group stated.

The year-long celebration will commence with a party at the 2020 NAMM Show on Jan. 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Look for more details to be revealed about this shortly. In addition, the PMC will have monthly online contests where consumers can enter for 12 free drum lessons, from the contestant’s favorite local drum or music store retailer that offers studio private lessons. The contest, whose slogan is “Get Your Sticks Together,” will provide lessons that are valued at $30 each and paid for by the PMC. A randomly selected winner is drawn for 12 months of 2020 (January through December), with a promotion at year’s end recognizing the 12 winners and participating percussion retailers. There are no age restrictions/ criteria for winning this package. And the PMC’s 25th anniversary will really kick into high gear in May 2020 during International Drum Month, during which the PMC will sponsor a free celebrity drum lesson contest carrying the slogan “Take It From the Master.” The randomly selected winner will receive a one-hour online live video drum lesson from an assortment of pre-determined, highly recognized international drummer-artists. The one-hour video drum lesson will be arranged within 30 days of winner selection. There is no age requirement or limitation in the consumer entry form. The PMC’s 25th anniversary celebration during International Drum Month will also include an

online consumer entry contest for a one-of-kind commemorative percussion product donated by participating PMC member firms. For consideration, entrants must be over 18 years old and submit an entry to indicate their name, address, phone number and contact person for his/her local percussion retailer. These special contests and events are in addition to ongoing PMC programs, including Percussion in the Schools, Drum Set in the Classroom, Drums Across America, March to Your Own Drum and Hand Drumming for Life. But what are the PMC executives most excited about next year? “I think this really comes back to the fundamentals and following our mission of the PMC,” concluded the PMC executive consortium. “The PMC’s mission is to provide professional marketing and advertising campaigns, programs and activities that bring increased public awareness to drumming, thus increasing the number of people playing all types of drums. With this in mind, and always trying to find programs that will involve our dealers and create new players, we are looking forward to our ‘Take It From the Master’ program. In addition, we will offer one lucky winner each month in 2020 the chance to win 12 free drum lessons from their local dealer. These new initiatives will help us celebrate our 25 years of growing the percussion industry.”



I am 62 years old. I have four adult children. I am an avid sailor. I have a patent for testing methodology for cables, among others. Some are for cable technology. I have also been working on technology for sailing and seating. So, I work in two other industries. I am a technologist.


President, Wireworld Cable Technology By Brian Berk Wireworld Cable Technology was founded in 1992 with the goal of creating cables that objectively improve fidelity. Its awardwinning Cable Comparator methodology, patented in 1998, was instrumental in achieving that goal. In 2017, Wireworld received a NAMM Milestone Award for its 25th anniversary, when president David Salz said the following: “Over the past 25 years, Wireworld has grown from a tiny startup with only three employees to an international brand with distribution in over 50 countries.” The Music & Sound Retailer dialed up Wireworld headquarters in Davie, Fla., to see what Salz had to say today. Enjoy.

The Music & Sound Retailer: Tell us why you founded Wireworld in 1992. What market need were you meeting and what goals did you set at the time? David Salz: I had already recognized the need for cables that preserve a signal. What convinced me was learning how to test cables properly. A theme that will resonate throughout this discussion is cable testing is possible, yet is rarely done. The problem I noticed in cables is the fact that if you change the cable, you can change the sound. But it wasn’t clear exactly what was being lost in the cables. Why would the sound be changed? Unless they were causing some kind of problems, the sound wouldn’t change at all. Wireworld began when I created the first test for cables. I had a very good playback monitoring system, and I realized that every time I changed the cable that was feeding the amplifier, the sound changed much more than it should have. I ended up connecting my preamp source directly to the amplifier, and I realized the cables had been losing a lot of sound, not just changing it. So, I decided that I would make it my career to solve that problem. It was about making a cable that performed as close as possible to perfect instead of what I was getting, which was significant masking and coloration effects from the cables. 32

The Retailer: Please tell us more about the company and how it has changed in the past 27 years. Salz: I had already been involved in the car stereo industry and in the hi-fi industry when I started Wireworld. I knew there were a lot of cables out there, but none of them seemed to work right. Products were created for the high-end audio industry I had already been working in. We got our start selling in highend audio stores, and we always had a few professional users — people I had known or come in contact with who were following what was going in cables in high-end audio — and realized I was on the right track. As home theater grew, we made more and more cables for home-theater applications. But with all of our products, it was about figuring out how to test them first, and then developing the product using the test.

The Retailer: It has to be exciting when you get your first patent… Salz: Yes, but on the negative side of that, I study a lot of patents, and patent art is mostly relatively worthless [laughs]. There are a whole lot of patents people file where they think they made something better. Maybe they have in one way, but they have made it worse in two other ways. So, I don’t think of patents as an impressive thing [laughs]. The Retailer: Data shows 2018 and 2019 have been kind to the MI market. Have you seen that regarding your business? Salz: We have a very good position in the hi-fi world, where we have been gaining market share. We’ve been there a long time. That’s the market I know best. When it comes to the small studio market, musicians, etc., I am a relative newcomer. We are really building our brand in this market. In the past, most professional audio engineers who bought our

The Retailer: Now, how about some more about yourself? Tell us about your family and what you like to do when not at work. Salz: My career in audio absolutely goes back to when I was a kid. I can’t remember before I was interested in audio. I grew up in south Florida. Before I was 10 years old, I was fixing peoples’ stereos, modifying equipment and helping people install things. I got heavily into car stereos in my teens. I worked in the car stereo and home audio industry before founding Wireworld.


products have been mastering engineers. They were buying products that were developed for high-end stereos. It has really been just the last few years that we have targeted our products in studios and MI. [These markets] are just gaining traction now. So, it’s hard to comment on the market other than the fact we do see a lot of our growth coming from people with small studios.

The Retailer: Looking ahead, some experts predict a shakier economy within the next two years. Are you concerned about that, and how have you weathered past recessions (in particular, the one we experienced 10 years ago)? Salz: Because our business is so evenly spread around the globe, we were relatively insulated [10 years ago]. We sell in more than 50 countries currently. That insulated us well the last time around. Also, the way the market reacts and how people respond to market conditions seems to vary a lot over different product categories. There are certain things that sell better when the market is down. I think music can be one of those things. The Retailer: Is that because, during downtimes, musical instruments are a good investment because they last a long time and are a good way for people to get out their frustrations that a bad economy brings? Salz: Yes. I think it has to do with the basic values of music in terms of helping improve people’s spirits. In my opinion, music is the best entertainment value of all. I think people looking for value steer more toward music when times are tough.


The Retailer: What advice can you provide for MI retailers when selling your products? Salz: The cable market to some extent is a bit of a confidence game. Everybody is looking for opinions. Cables are not as well understood as a lot of other products. Some companies that sell upgraded products have more of their special sound because they are lossier than conventional cables. It’s a very strange world. In the audiophile world, I can say that somebody “reflavoring” their system with a different cable might make some sense if they just wanted to hear something different. But when it comes to music, at the beginning of the recording process, you want to save as much of the tone, texture, expression and dynamic light that the music has, because it really improves the finished product. Having cables that are lossier than necessary seems to take away a lot of the feeling of the music. That’s exactly why I got into [this business] in the first place. That’s our position. It’s very difficult for a consumer to know what a better cable is. This is why we are developing recorded cable tests. Somebody doesn’t necessarily have to test a cable live to understand what cables are losing. I have already convinced some of the leaders in the industry that the tests work. It’s just a question of how well we can go out into the world and have people understand that there’s a way to quantify how much better a cable is and how much music it preserves. The Retailer: Please tell us about recent product launches you have had and what makes them cool. Salz: We’ve had a bunch of product launches. In fact, our ethernet cable is a real standout product that people are really surprised by. There is a general feeling among experts and lay people that digital connections should be less lossy than analog connections. But when you actually begin testing, that is not necessarily the case. It can go completely

in the other direction. This is often the case with ethernet connections being used in studios and live venues. There is a really simple test for it I keep urging people to try. They are usually very surprised with the results. In a studio, where you have a good monitoring system, if you listen to exactly the same track played off a local drive, right at your playback position, and then compare it to the same thing coming from a server on the network, you will find out that the signal coming through the network does not come close to the same level of fidelity as the local file source. People usually say, “It’s fuzzy. It’s compressed. I didn’t know I was losing that much.” It turns out there were some very poorly understood issues going on in network transmission that we were able to correct with a cable design and by swapping out these ethernet cables, which are flat. The degradation of the network is reduced to the point where the sound much more closely resembles the local drive. This is what we would call a proper cable test that almost anyone in a studio using network cables can perform. It’s not a question of preserving the signal. What we’ve learned to do is to avoid an interface problem that is related to noise. Substantial improvements can be made in your audio chain without buying any more electronics.

The Retailer: In terms of both products and philosophy, how might Wireworld change in the future? Salz: At this point, what we are really trying to do is ramp up the awareness of cable testing and the solutions that we are offering. Most serious people aren’t even aware you can test for these things. Yet, the ethernet test can be performed easily in most studios. So, for us, it’s really just about getting the message out there that there are things going wrong that a properly engineered cable with the right innovation can fix. We are always looking at new applications as they come out, such as Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt 3 is something we are working on right now. But otherwise, we are not planning on changing what we are doing or how we are doing it.




Ohio has long been considered one of the most “all-American” U.S. states, and within it, Cleveland is perhaps the quintessential big American city. And during the early ‘50s, Cleveland became the birthplace of the most American of music styles: rock and roll. Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed first popularized this new type of music that synthesized elements of blues, country, jazz and R&B, and he is widely credited with giving rock and roll its name. Although Freed left Cleveland for New York City in 1954, Cleveland continued to dominate the rock-music scene for decades to come, through the music of such diverse bands as the James Gang, Raspberries, Pere Ubu and Nine Inch Nails, among others. Folk/blues singer Tracy Chapman is a native Clevelander, while Chrissy Hynde, lead singer of The Pretenders, hails from nearby Akron. Hynde even immortalized postindustrial Ohio in the ‘80s lament “My City Was Gone,” a testament to the power of rock music to speak to all aspects of the American spirit. In 1995, Downtown Cleveland celebrated the grand opening of the I.M. Pei-designed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the Lake Erie shoreline. It has become one of the city’s most popular destinations and is credited in part with a sparking the rebirth of downtown Cleveland. It also helped rehabilitate the city’s image, which suffered mightily when the Cuyahoga River caught fire during the summer of 1969. That event was instrumental in the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency and resulted in a nationwide cleanup of America’s rivers and lakes, with Ohio leading the way. As it happens, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also brought your MI Spy to town. The city’s status as a rock-and-roll mecca made Cleveland a fitting place to shop for a musical instrument and to gather some intel on the local music retail scene. Obviously, The Chief had no issues with your MI Spy visiting Cleveland, considering its musical roots, and I was happy to plan a mission there during the waning days of summertime. This time around, your MI Spy sought a low- to mid-range acoustic guitar for my fictitious sister, who is celebrating her 50th birthday. At each store, I wove a story of a guitar-playing woman who had put aside music for career and family, who wanted for little in her now empty nest and who would find a guitar to be a delightful surprise. In case anyone noticed my out-of-state license plates, I devised an ingenious cover story about not wanting to haul my purchase westward on a plane trip back for the celebration. We all know how miserable air travel with instruments can be, after all. For this mission, your MI Spy and his companion set up a safehouse in lakeside Willoughby, in Cleveland’s eastern ‘burbs. Because of that, most stores featured here are located in the city’s eastern suburbs. Nonetheless, shoppers can find a wide range of music stores throughout Metro Cleveland. 34

First up was this spacious store on Cleveland’s far eastern end. It’s in a neighborhood called North Collinwood, which has enjoyed a renaissance as a housing destination for artists and musicians. Music Emporium has occupied the same spacious location at the corner of Windward Road since 1984, and before that, it occupied a storefront further down 185th street. Next door is an eyelash salon and further down the block, a used furniture store. Lake Erie is two blocks north. When I entered the store, a CD playing “Los Cubanos” was playing in the background — quite appropriate, considering this assignment. A person who turned out to be the store’s owner quickly wrapped up a phone call and greeted me. The store does a brisk business in both new and used guitars, he noted. The guitars he suggested proved quite affordable. For starters, he held up a used Fender DG-8 dreadnought guitar as an especially good buy. It would cost $125. He pointed out a small blemish on the front that would not, he said, affect its musical prowess. “It sounds great, plays great and it’s easy to play,” he said. One drawback to growing old, he noted, is that arthritis and other forms of hand stiffness can make playing a guitar progressively difficult. That wouldn’t be a problem with the DG-8, he said. Moving up slightly in price was the Kona K2 acoustic-electric guitar. It comes with a pickup to plug into an amp. “From what you’ve told me about your sister, I don’t think she would be using that feature,” he said. “But it’s there if she wants it. Also, getting an amp to go with it might be a good thing if younger relatives want to play.” All instruments sold here come with a one-year warranty. “Our used instruments have the same guarantee as new ones,” the owner pointed out, “and everything we carry has been completely tuned and

Music Emporium 670 East 185th St. Cleveland, OH 44119 216.481.8648


road tested.” The store earns widespread praise through Google and Yelp. “Run by musicians for musicians, and tons of new and used gear,” wrote one reviewer identified only as “J.” (Perhaps a fellow secret agent!?) With such a satisfied customer base, Music Emporium seems to be enjoying some success. In fact, a second, smaller Music Emporium location in South Collinwood, a neighborhood aptly located on the other side of Interstate 90 from North Collinwood, is in the works. Situated just over the city line in the inner suburb of Cleveland Heights, Academy Music has been in the music business since 1958. It has been at its current location since 1968; a second store is located about 15 miles away in the small town of Solon, Ohio. The store is heavily oriented toward students and is equal parts an instrument store and a music school. Stroll in — as MI Spy did — on any given Saturday, and you’ll be apt to overhear the melodic sounds of a violin, cello or saxophone lesson. Upon hearing of my quest, the salesperson offered the Alvarez RD263 acoustic guitar. It is part of the Alvarez Regent series of guitars. This particular model is especially popular among adults who play the guitar as a hobby, he said. “With the RD-263, you’re getting a very good guitar without breaking the bank,” he said. The package retails for $199 and includes a gig bag, strings, picks and an electronic tuner. This instrument features a wooden neck, back and sides, with a laminated body. The Regent line includes both lower-end beginner models, as well as professional models priced in the thousands. Academy Music is a destination of choice for student musicians and is within a quick drive of such affluent suburbs as Shaker Heights, Beachwood and Chagrin Falls. “While we do sell a few used models as well, they tend to be higher-end instruments that are trade-ins,” he said. Academy Music also wins rave reviews online, with most reviewers giving it excellent marks for quick service, musical acumen and fair prices. “The instructors are true professionals,” wrote one reviewer, “playing gigs during the week and then sharing their knowledge on weekends.”

Academy Music Co. 1443 Warrensville Center Rd. Cleveland, OH 44121 216.381.8460

Makin’ Music occupies a corner store in Downtown Parma, Ohio, about 10 miles south of downtown Cleveland. Downtown Parma is rather quaint. This area is known to locals as “Parma’s Polish Village,” and across the street is a diner specializing in homemade pierogies. Makin’ Music, which opened in 1995, is the youngest of the four music stores I visited on this mission. Almost immediately after I entered the store, a salesman offered his recommendation: a Cort 8110 OP. With a sticker price of $199, the guitar provides excellent value in a model that’s a “cut above” beginners’ models, he explained. All instruments come with a 30-day “noquestions-asked” return policy, he added. Nearby was an eye-catching used guitar, a Carlo Robelli F-414CE with a striking red finish. This model is both thinner and lighter than most, and as such, might be easier for a smaller woman to handle, he said. On this particular Saturday, the guitar could be had for $179. “This would be the guitar for you if you want to get your sister something a bit dif-

Makin’ Music 5795 Ridge Road Parma, Ohio 44129 440.885.2227


ferent,” said the salesman. “A new model would cost at least double that price, and it’s in excellent condition.” Should I to want to move up a bit in price, the salesman suggested two Luna models: the Luna SW140 and Luna Gypsy 42310. Both are in the $300 range. “These would be great choices as well,” he said. On the way back to the hotel, I paid a visit to Sam Ash in suburban Lyndhurst. This is the only Cleveland location of this venerable musical-instrument chain, which celebrates 95 years in business this year. The Lyndhurst store is toward the rear of a shopping center on busy Mayfield Road, straddling the line with more well-known Mayfield Heights. Mayfield was, for all you TV trivia fanatics out there, where the Cleaver family lived in “Leave It to Beaver.” Sam Ash is nestled next to a kids’ furniture store, a shoe store and a bagel shop. I inadvertently passed the store when looking for it initially; after making a U-turn in an adjacent strip mall, your MI Spy was back in business. The store was large and well appointed, and the guitar section was easy to find. This being a weekend, a guest guitarist provided soft background music for shoppers. Upon learning of my plan, the salesman directed me to four midrange Taylor guitars: the Taylor 110 and 210 dreadnought guitars, and the Taylor 114 and 214 Grand Auditorium models. The Grand Auditorium models are slightly smaller in size and lighter in weight than dreadnought models. For a female guitarist, that might make such a model easier to lug around, especially if she is petite. “Any of the Taylors will provide you with fantastic music quality and playability,” the salesman said. The models range in price from $799 to $899. Asked about lower-priced models, the salesman suggested the Epiphone Masterbuilt DR400MCE, which retails for $399. This dreadnought model, he noted, offers excellent tonal qualities but might not be as easily portable as the aforementioned auditorium models. “Any of these five models will give you superb sound and excellent durability,” he added, which should be important considerations for the experienced guitar player.

Sam Ash 5700 Mayfield Road Lyndhurst, Ohio 44124 440.446.0850

The Verdict

When conducting these mystery shopping assignments, your MI Spy often finds it difficult to choose a hands-down winner. This assignment was no exception. All four stores offer an excellent selection of instruments, and all of their employees were knowledgeable, responsive and polite in terms of service. Of the four, I found the owner of Music Emporium to be the most personable. Indeed, I could have spent hours chatting with the owner. There was just one other customer in the store when I was there, and that individual spent his entire time perusing sheet music. The experience was pleasant, and I could see the store having a large, loyal following. Sam Ash benefits from being part of a large chain, with stores stretching from New England to Florida to California. All products discussed here are featured on the company’s website, and you can research the inventory of any individual Sam Ash retail location. That’s an especially useful feature, and Sam Ash was the sole retailer among the four with a robust web presence. As its name might imply, Academy Music has a strong educational bent. Physically, it was the smallest of the four stores visited, but it does a brisk business with area students and parents. It’s well established, and the owner pays personal attention to all customers. However, even with four strong contenders, one store has to get the (continued on page 51) 35



Fall is here, bringing with it school, family schedules, sports and music lessons. A lot of music stores have a lesson program, but many may be in need of a facelift. A robust lesson program can bring steady revenue to your store and can greatly increase your company’s bottom line. Lessons are an important part of our industry, but as a music store, it can be easy to focus most of our attention on retail instead of a consistent lesson program. A healthy lesson program has a multitude of benefits, including a consistent and steady revenue source, a stronger brand in your community, and directly feeding your inventory sales. So, what does it take to run a successful lesson program? The first step to running a successful lesson program is to give it your full attention. This sounds obvious, but in an industry that is largely focused on retail, it can be difficult to give your lesson program the attention it needs each day. Retail has a lot of moving pieces, 36

and it takes a lot of effort to manage the complexities of sales: managing a sales team, hitting sales goals, inventory purchasing and receiving, inventory upkeep, marketing and financing. It’s no wonder retail becomes the main emphasis for many stores. It’s important to understand that in some cases, an effective lesson program can generate a lot of profit with much less work and energy. Spend some time truly focusing on your lesson program. Are you focusing enough on lessons? Or are you spending all of your time concentrating on retail? The second step to running a successful lesson program is to make everyone involved in your program comfortable. Your students and parents should feel comfortable and safe at all

times. How safe are your lesson rooms? Do you have windows, glass doors or cameras in each room? Do your instructors walk students into a closed room and shut the door to teach their lesson? It’s essential to continuously ask yourself how safe your students and instructors are. If you don’t have a camera system in your lesson studios, research options immediately. Not only does a camera system assist in child and instructor safety, but it gives comfort and peace to your parents that their children are safe while in music lessons at your store. Next, think about the comfort of parents while their children are in the lesson. I have spent time in music stores where parents waited in their cars instead of coming in to wait on their children due to the lack of clean and comfortable seating. What kind of a message is this sending to your lesson parents? At our store, we have found

parents who come in and spend time each week in the shop are more engaged in the student’s learning. This creates more lesson consistency and retention. A parent waiting in your store instead of waiting in their car can result in more retail sales as well. Place relatable inventory near parent seating areas with easy-to-read signs. Ask yourself how your lesson studios look and feel. Are your studios clean and organized with quality gear and an attractive color scheme? If you haven’t been into every lesson studio in a while, walk into each room and observe the lighting, temperature, cleanliness and paint. Look for improvements that can be made prior to the fall-season rush. Talk to your instructors about their feelings of the studios. After all, your instructors are the ones living in these rooms each day. The more comfortable your lesson studios and parent-waiting areas are, the better chance you’ll keep students longer, adding to your bottom line. The third step to running a successful lesson program is to give your students a reason to keep taking lessons. RetenOCTOBER 2019

and musicians to open for their regular acts. Ask local schools if they will have youth bands and musicians play at their fundraising events and family nights. The more opportunities you can give your students to perform in front of an audience, the more you give them something to look forward to. This will directly affect your student-retention rates.

tion is key for a strong and healthy lesson program. What incentives are you giving your students and parents to keep them coming back each month? Do your instructors inspire their students to continue learning? The strength of your program begins with the strength of your instructors. Ask yourself if you’d like your own children to take lessons from your instructors and let that guide your judgement. Focus on the opportunities you are giving your students to play together and perform on a regular basis. Summer rock camps and youth music camps can take students from your lesson program and pair them together to play in bands. Look for other opportunities to get your students in front of an audience after summer camps. Talk to local venues and restaurants about booking youth bands MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

Give your customers a reason to take lessons with you instead of taking them from your competition. Get involved in the lives of your students and create a culture at your store that supports and encourages your students to continue growing. Make sure student safety and comfort are your highest priorities and expand and maintain your program

with opportunities for students to perform regularly. Fostering a strong lesson program helps all areas of MI as we continue to grow the next generation of musicians! I’d love to hear how you’ve structured your lesson program. You can reach me at I look forward to hearing from you!

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Hurt feelings can generate ill will locally and online for the store.

Firing Roscoe By Allen McBroom


We’ve all had customers who, for one reason or another, made us wish they’d just go away. Maybe they had abrasive personalities, or they handled each transaction like they were living on depression-era income, or they were so suspicious of everything our employees said that we started to doubt our own veracity. Let’s talk about a representatively negative customer we’ll call Roscoe. Roscoe wants to return a product for a full refund. Nothing wrong with it, he assures you. His friend used it a few times, and then, after a month or so of it lying around, he decided to return it and buy something else. This was a relatively fragile ear-loop microphone, the sort of thing that is easily damaged and sort of an up-close-and-personal thing to use. You open the box to take a look at it, and he starts his pitch. Roscoe: “You ain’t got to look at it, it’s still brand new.” Well … the paperwork is missing, the cable is tied up tight with a garbage bag twist tie, the box is damaged and all the parts are opened. It’s obvious the loop has been used. It’s been long enough that the receipt has started fading to a different color. Roscoe: “You can still sell that. It’s just like new.” New means different things to different people, but this really is no longer new. You mention that, ethically, you can’t sell it as new, but you might be able to sell it as used, and … Roscoe: “As much business as I do here, and you ain’t gonna give me all my money back?” The phrase, “As much business as I do here” usually means two things: One, the customer is quick to play the bully, and two, he’s probably been in the store only rarely, if ever.

Do you recognize Roscoe yet? We all have customers like Roscoe. Roscoe can be the guy who hangs out in the store and tries to take part in every customer conversation you have, offering his “expert” opinion on every transaction. We had a Roscoe once who interrupted a conversation I was having with a customer. I had been prepping that customer to buy an expensive keyboard for her son, and today was the day. Roscoe butted in and told her he’d never spend that much money on a grade-school child, she could get a keyboard at Wal-Mart for less than $100 that would do just as well for a kid his age. These are the Roscoes who might make you think firing a customer in certain circumstances sounds like a good idea. And as appealing as that might seem in abstract, let me tell you that firing them is a really bad idea. Firing a customer can be an active thing or a passive thing. The active method means you directly tell the customer something along the lines of “Get out of the store, and don’t come back.” Oh, my. Get out and don’t come back. If you want to give the Roscoes of the world a good reason to blast you and your store on social media, this is a solid method of making that happen. It can result in negative reviews, and just generally bad word-of-mouth on social media platforms. The internet is full of users who like to pile on a negative post, even if they’ve never interacted with the object of derision. Don’t believe me? Google the words “Amazon review Haribo sugar-free gummy bears” and read the reviews. There are a lot of creative writers online, and you really don’t want them to target your store. The passive method is a much more common way of firing a customer, and it’s just as effective. The passive methodology involves OCTOBER 2019

changing to a negative tone, unfriendly body language, and generally making Roscoe feel unwanted and unwelcome. Change your usual tone to something less friendly, and Roscoe will surely get the message just as clearly as if you’d taken the active route. Unfortunately, the online results can be exactly the same. No, there’s no good way to fire a customer. There’s no reliable method that will result in the customer happily going elsewhere and still thinking you’re a great store owner. So, what can you do? (I sometimes tell my bride some Roscoe stories. She’s sympathetic to my plight, and she lacks sympathy for our Roscoes. She looked up from her book one night after a Roscoe story and made the comment, “Well, it’s a good thing we live in Mississippi, where I’m pretty sure ‘he needed killing’ is still a valid defense.” For the record, I checked with one of our judges, and it’s not.) Sometimes, your Roscoe may be so bad that you really would be better off without him coming around, so maybe you can gently adjust things so he’ll quit on his own, without being fired. Maybe every employee now has a little less time to listen to his epic tales of wonder and conquest. Maybe you no longer have luck finding him the exact screws he needs for his Russian Strat copy. Or maybe you can steer other customers away from him in a non-obvious manner. Maybe you actually have to pull Roscoe off to the side and sort of break up with him. You may have to resort to telling him, “We have to run this place like a business, and telling our customers they can get it somewhere online with no sales tax and an open-box price doesn’t work for us. I’ll always remember our good times together, and you can keep the ring,” or something similar. Sometimes, just setting some boundaries will fix Roscoe for you. “Roscoe, talking to the customers is what I do for a living, MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

and I have my own way of doing it. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t add to my conversations.” Each situation is different, and if you find yourself at the breaking point where you really want/need/

crave Roscoe to go away, make sure you do the breakup in a way that lets him save face (as much as possible). Hurt feelings, even for Roscoe, can generate ill will locally and online for the store,

and that’s not a good thing. Let Roscoe down easy, help him feel good about being less of a fixture in the store, and you’ll both be better off. Happy trails.


Be a Team Player By Gabriel O’Brien

Empowering people on your staff to manage aspects of your business allows you to focus on what you need to focus on, and it gives your staff something to make their own and be invested in.


I’m not, by nature, a team person. I have five brothers and sisters, and we had one bathroom growing up, which may have scarred me when it comes to playing nice with others. I ran cross country, which is technically a team sport, although everyone runs their own race. Today, much of the content work I do is at times solitary, in that I often am writing blogs or making videos without any kind of team around me. All this is not to say that I don’t like working with others — just that the circumstances and budgets I’m often working with don’t afford larger crews. When I have the opportunity to work with a larger crew, I love it. It’s easy to believe that more voices will lead to more confusion — and sometimes it can — but mostly, it leads to better end results. I really like feedback. In most of the projects I’ve been involved with that have hit stumbling blocks that weren’t time or budget related, feedback was a sticking point. I’ve discovered the high value of teams who provide valuable ideas and feedback, as well as a love of those who are willing to bring ideas and questions to the table when they’re talking to their boss, manager, company owner or peers. People want to feel like they have an impact, like their thoughts and ideas matter to those around them. It’s human to attach our work satisfaction to how we’re valued by those around us, and by how the ideas we present are received. We tend to be a leadership-obsessed culture, so the idea of allowing other people to take the lead is often rejected out of hand, especially among small businesses, where it arguably may be needed most. Many small business owners lead from a place of strength, taking all the responsibility on themselves and making most or all the decisions. But that leads to high stress, sleepless nights, unhappy staff members and mistakes. Traditional leadership to most is having authority over others, so allowing others to give critical feedback or take the lead can feel counterintuitive. OCTOBER 2019

Allowing oneself to instead be a follower and encouraging those under you to take ownership of projects, problems and solutions creates value for them within their job and affords you the opportunity to know something is taken care of so you can move on to the next task. I’ve observed that one of the main reasons business owners and managers struggle with relinquishing control to others is the idea that no one cares as much about your business as you do. That’s correct. They don’t and never will. You cannot expect those who do not have an ownership or high-managementlevel stake to treat a business as though it’s their own. What you can do is expect them to treat the section of the business you’ve given them to oversee as their own, by empowering them to manage it. Empowering people on your staff to manage aspects of your business allows you to focus on what you need to focus on, and it gives your staff something to make their own and be invested in. Trusting them to give you feedback, make suggestions and ultimately reshape the way you may have done things for years can at first leave you feeling defensive or as though things are getting out of your control. Resist that feeling. You cannot manage inventory, lessons, band instrument rentals and customer service at the same time, and do all of them very well. If you do manage all of these things by yourself, I guarantee one or more of them is suffering. It’s impossible to do more than one or two things at a time — at least, if you’re trying to do them right. Any more than that, and your focus becomes too divided and your work begins to suffer. Forming teams is one of the best ways to learn where you can delegate responsibility to others. Regular meetings are a great way to get problems into the open and devise solutions. It’s important to set a tone of constructive criticism, to encourage curiosity and outside-the-box thinking, and to not shoot everything down because it didn’t come from you MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER

or because it isn’t something you would normally do. Be an active listener. Try to ask questions that lead to good discussion points and lead the team toward coming up with solutions. Once those things are put in place, hold those in charge accountable by discussing how things are going and staying open

to making additional changes as problems come up. It’s important to try new things, although you want to walk, not run, toward making changes. Ultimately, it’s important to realize that success doesn’t mean you having every idea or being in charge of every aspect of your business. Success is having a healthy, thriving

business with staff members who want to be there because they can grow, learn and contribute to the company. Be a follower. Allow others to lead, and you will be grateful you did. Have comments or questions? Write to me at gabriel@



Nick, Pat and CJ Averwater

AMRO Music Stores, Inc. 2918 Poplar Ave. Memphis, TN 38111 901.302.3311 Mon.-Thu. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. CJ Averwater, Vice President


It has been almost 100 years since Mil Averwater, a classically trained pianist, and his friend Frank Moorman decided to open their first piano studio in the heart of Memphis, Tenn. The two studied music together in Cincinnati, but, recognizing that the Cincinnati market was already saturated with music studios, they decided to look elsewhere — first, Louisville, Ky., and finally, in what was supposed to be a stopover on the way to Los Angeles, Memphis. Combining the names Averwater and Moorman, AMRO Music officially opened its doors in October 1921, with the two-employee enterprise taking space on the building’s second floor. The lack of ground-level exposure was no match for Mil Averwater’s skill as a promoter, noted his great-grandson and current AMRO Music vice president, CJ Averwater. “He would open the windows on the second-floor studio and play piano as loud as he could,” said CJ Averwater. “When a passerby came up the stairs to see what the music was, Mil would offer a little lesson with the hope that they would sign up for a 30-lesson course.” That ingenuity certainly came in handy over the next decade, as the Great Depression gripped the nation. “He had to move the business from location to location because they couldn’t afford the rent during the Depression,” said Averwater, recalling stories his great-grandfather committed to audio tape. “They would often barter things like chicken, eggs and milk for lessons, just to survive the Great Depression.” Survive they did, and as the studio became more popular, AMRO Music expanded its offerings. What began with piano lessons taught by Averwater and Moorman grew into a variety of lessons programs, ranging from saxophone to banjo and guitar. Recognizing the growing needs of his customers, Mil Averwater began selling instruments as a convenience. That soon became a core part of the business, with AMRO Music eventually operating as a full-line music store selling pianos, organs, guitars, drums, school band instruments and combo equipment to a clientele that included such luminaries as Jerry Lee Lewis, Otis Redding and Elvis Presley. This incredible history and commitment to music-making is what CJ Averwater inherited when he joined the business in 2004. Averwater recognizes the gravity of what his greatgrandfather had built, and what his grandfather, father and uncle worked to maintain — and it was never a given that he would get the opportunity to carry on that tradition. “When my cousin, Nick, and I joined the business, we were told that being a family member in the business isn’t a privilege; it’s an opportunity that has to be earned and comes with a higher set of expectations,” he said. “We had to work our way up and through each department so we could get a good understanding of how all of the pieces of the business fit together.” Today, the company relies more on instrument sales OCTOBER 2019

than lessons, narrowing its focus to key areas in which they excel — band, orchestra and pianos — and operating a team of representatives that ser ves customers in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Kentucky. As for the lessons that served as the foundation of AMRO Music, those are no longer done in-store. “We partner with local music educators to provide tools so they can spend less time on busywork and more time teaching people to play music,” Averwater explained. In fact, when customers first walk into the store, they walk across what Averwater calls the AMRO Music Educator Walk of Fame, which he said “honors local music educators who have devoted their lives to spreading the benefits of music-making within our community.” Giving a nod to the wider community that has helped keep AMRO Music afloat for close to

a century is par for the course for Averwater. He credits AMRO Music’s many years of success to its staff, which has grown to include 70 employees with an average tenure of 11 years. “I think that is pretty phenomenal for retail,” Averwater said of his staff’s longevity. “It’s certainly a testament to the passion and energy that our team displays each and every day. They come in each day fired up and ready to help in whatever way that they can. We wouldn’t be the company we are without their dedication

and passion for music education.” The staff comprises many talented musicians and former music educators, but its success comes as much from each employee’s character as it does from their backgrounds, according to Averwater. “We look for drive and personality,” he said. “We can train for the rest, whether it be salesmanship, basic musicianship or something else. Our internal training system allows us to set the tone and the expectations, and our team holds each other accountable

and constantly encourages each other to grow and improve.” Whether it’s through instrument sales and lessons or recitals and workshops, AMRO Music remains focused on providing a valuable resource to the music community in Memphis and beyond. Averwater hopes to continue building on the foundation laid by his great grandfather to make sure that AMRO Music remains a dynamic force in music-making for many years to come. “Our company has always been focused on helping make more music-makers. We have a great foundation in the business thanks to the family and team members who came before us,” he said. “We will continue to focus on our mission of creating more musicmakers and will look for ways to improve that mission. I’d love to see AMRO passed on to the next generation and would love to see us celebrate 150 years!”

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YOU HAD ONE JOB I was sorting through several threads while considering a topic for this month’s column. But a customer service issue in the heat of the fall school-band recruitment rush convinced me to shelve those topics and rant about customer service and its crucial importance now, just in time for the holiday season. I can’t overstate the importance of customer contact as it relates to the shopping experience. The best prices, products and displays can’t save a bad customer experience. Done well, we can keep a service problem from becoming a goodwill destroyer. Anyone who has served the band and orchestra segment of our market knows how hectic the fall can be. School systems fully 44

embroiled in marching band and drumline at the high school are concurrently running the fifthgrade recruitment push. Dealers scramble to assist and fulfill across a region’s worth of events, complete with parent meetings, instrument “get-acquainted” sessions, and the coordination of books, accessories and rentals. It’s busier than Christmas, and it’s also pivotal to a good holiday selling season, as legions of newbies and their parents encounter a music store, often for the first time. So, there’s everything riding on this period, including the school systems’ satisfaction with dealers and the establishment of customer relationships that can last a lifetime, or at least through several kids’ musical experiences.

By Dan Vedda A lot has to be done in a short time, and it can be a logistical nightmare as reps crisscross a multicounty area while stores see lines forming at the counter. Something will go wrong. There will be disappointments. Forget the euphemisms: Something or someone will screw up. So, then what? Business books have long said that effectively solving a customer service problem can often be an opportunity to gain a customer for life. True, but the flip side of that coin is harrowing. Fail the customer service test and you not only lose the customer, you lose anyone that listens to them, including, perhaps, the entire school system if they have enough influence. We all know

that the complainers have louder voices than the ones who praise. The situation I was faced with stemmed from our rental affiliate status. A customer, who was told she’d have a good experience with us because we were the local rental agent, set up an online rental with the provider and designated delivery to the school. She did this in mid-August, needing the horn in time for a Sept. 4 parent-child “get-acquainted” session. On the night of the event: no horn, no accessories. Distraught and angry, she called us to find out how we were going to fix the problem. Here’s where it gets harder. When the customer set up her rental, she specified school delivery, which cut us out of the OCTOBER 2019

process, and the supplier kept the account (and the money) in-house. So, we had no record, no involvement and no power to fix the fail. Yet, in the customer’s mind, we were the responsible party, because the band director gave us an approval and we were the local rental agent. So of course, I would go to bat for them, even though corporate cut us out of the deal and failed on their own. I called their customer service line while the family was en route to us and got stonewalled. No, I was told, the account was in the system and already had a serial number assigned, so I could not get the account into our portal and issue a horn from our stock of their horns. (Stop right here and realize that this is the simplest solution to get a horn in the kid’s hands on the appointed night when it’s already 6 p.m.). But what really set me off was the rep, who said, “She only ordered it on Aug. 14. We deliver thousands of horns. She should have ordered earlier.” Let that sink in. Their lack of fulfillment was the customer’s fault, yet they never informed her of any delay (keep in mind she ordered three weeks early), while we had horns sitting in our store ready to go (and we also see their education rep a couple of times a week this time of year). So, their logistics were inefficient at best, there was no communication after they took the customer’s money, and we, as their local affiliate, were cut out of the loop. And it was her fault? Listen, big guys: You have one job. It isn’t to meet a rental unit goal. It isn’t to establish a presence in more school systems. It isn’t to reach a particular dollar figure. Your job is to get a horn into a kid’s hands. Everything flows from that. You fail, the rest fails too. Worse, if you fail and try to blame the customer, then you’re dragging my reputation into the mud in the process. But the point of my little tirade is that the way we recover is key. So, I interrupted the support person who was telling me “I can’t,” and said, “No. I will issue a horn from my stock, and I will

document it as normal for online rentals. You will get your education rep to find the original horn and either issue it to them and return my stock or take it back and leave mine with them. I don’t care which, but I expect you to transfer them to our account, because we’re doing the work.” At this point, the entire fam-

ily, including the grandpa, was gathered around my counter. The mom tearfully shook my hand and thanked me, the rest of the family followed suit, and the kid gleefully grabbed his trumpet as they headed back to the school. Now I have a customer for life, but corporate doesn’t. But they could have.

If you have a comment, feel free to share it on the Veddatorial Facebook page. And as always, post an inquiry if there’s another topic you’d like to see covered here. (Please post to the page rather than DM, so others can see the dialogue.)


Yamaha’s Live Custom Hybrid Oak Drum Sets By Brian Berk

Yamaha Corp. of America has so many strong new entries into many MI markets, including guitars, percussion and keyboards, that it’s difficult to focus on just one. But in honor of our percussion issue, we will highlight just that by looking at a product that has turned heads since its introduction at The NAMM Show in January: the Live Custom Hybrid Oak series drum sets. Employing the hybrid shell construction from the PHX series, the drum set’s seven-ply shells are constructed with a phenolic ply between the oak plies, giving players more shell life, sustain and dynamic range, stated the manufacturer. To cut unnecessary frequencies and boost low tones, Yamaha developed the Bass Drum Frequency Control weight. This new process introduces dark-chrome Absolute lug weights that are strategically placed inside the bass drum to provide a stronger low end. Other features include the YES III Tom Mount to allow the shells to vibrate more freely, durable dark chrome lugs and hoops, and Remo U.S. heads. The Live Custom Hybrid snare drums include high-carbon-steel, 25-strand snare wires in the 14-inch by 5.5-inch edition. The hybrid shells, designed for this snare, allow for maximum protection and sensitivity, giving that classic cutting tone that comes with oak wood. The series features five new unique uzukuri finishes: UZU Ice Sunburst, UZU Magma Sunburst, UZU Natural, UZU Earth Sunburst and UZU Charcoal Sunburst. The traditional Japanese “uzukuri” finishing process creates a beautifully textured surface by carving only the softer grain of the wood with a brushing 46

The Live Custom Hybrid Oak series is intended to offer excellent value to customers looking for a quality drum set that performs just as well on stage as it does in a studio. “These drums are made for the drummer that understands a ‘next-level’ drum set should offer something more than a new finish on a past model with slightly updated components,” said Fisher. “The Live Custom Hybrid Oak borrowed some of the same innovative elements, such as the Y.E.S.S. III mounting from the flagship PHX series. Not only do these drums utilize some of the

Steven Fisher

technique, noted Yamaha. “For Yamaha, the sound is the priority, so creating a true hybrid set was done from a sonic perspective, borrowing the shell concept from both PHX and Hybrid Maple drum sets,” Steven Fisher, director of drums and percussion, Yamaha Corp. of America, told the Music & Sound Retailer. “This process is not simply adding an outer ply to an existing shell or blending wood species. The Live Custom Hybrid Oak drum set redefines the sound of a traditional oak shell by adding a center phenolic ply in between plies of oak wood. The hybrid

shell combination gives players more shell life and enhances the sustain and dynamic range by accentuating its attack and projection. In addition, to cut unnecessary frequencies and boost lowend tones, we developed the Bass Drum Frequency Control weight, which introduces dark-chrome Absolute lug weights that are strategically placed inside the bass drum. When musicians play the Live Custom Hybrid Oak for the first time, they will instantly recognize the diverse tonal characteristics that give drummers another sonically unique flavor choice.” OCTOBER 2019

top design elements from other lines, but they also introduce new patent-pending features, such as the Bass Enhancement Weights that attenuate low-mid frequencies, resulting in a tight, focused bass drum sound. “On top of sounding amazing, these drums are beautiful too,” continued Fisher. “By using the traditional uzukuri method of hand finishing the wood shells, the natural oak grain is accentuated. With five stunning uzukuri finishes to choose from, dark silver hardware and black-finished shell interiors, these drums are captivating to the

eyes as well as the ears.” As for Yamaha’s thought process behind the Live Custom Hybrid Oak series, as well as all percussion products, the company seeks artist input from the beginning before it builds drums, and uses these insights to focus on aspects such as sonic tonality in its

products. “With a true pioneering spirit, Yamaha is not afraid to try out new materials and processes,” Fisher noted. “Yamaha was the first company to introduce an oak drum into the market, and also one of the first companies to create a true hybrid wood shell. Yamaha is also uniquely suited to

share knowledge across a variety of departments and industries to improve the quality of its instruments. This vertical integration traces back to the roots of Yamaha Drums using the same knowledge of wood-processing and painting technology that was (continued on page 50)


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AIRTURN.....................................51 ALBERT AUGUSTINE................12 ALFRED PUBLISHING..............9 AMAHI UKULELES...................45 AMERICAN RECORDER TECHNOLOGIES.....................20 AUDIX CORPORATION...........C-III BOURNS PRO AUDIO................51 CHAUVET LIGHTING................10 CHAUVET LIGHTING................11 CHEM-PAK..................................52 GALAXY AUDIO........................3 GRAPH TECH..............................25 GROVER/TROPHY MUSICAL PRODUCTS............52 HAL LEONARD..........................C-II HOSHINO.....................................37 IK MULTIMEDIA........................17 KMC MUSIC................................21 KYSER MUSICAL PRODUCTS...............................16 LAWK STAR GUITARS..............51 MALONEY STAGEGEAR COVERS....................................27 MANHASSET SPECIALTY COMPANY................................6 NAMM................................... 14-15 NEUMANN..................................5 NEW SENSOR.............................39 ODYSSEY INNOVATIVE DESIGNS...................................24 PRO X...........................................23 QRS MUSIC TECHNOLOGIES.....................43 RAPCO/HORIZON COMPANY.53 RAT...............................................22 REMO...........................................26 STEDMAN...................................53 STRING SWING..........................18 TASCAM......................................19 TECH 21.......................................41 VOCOPRO....................................13 WD MUSIC PRODUCTS............8 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 47) used to craft fine musical instruments, like pianos and woodwind instruments. With vast resources and an unrivaled passion for creating the highest-quality musical instruments, Yamaha is able to incorporate the science behind a wide variety of products to achieve sounds unlike anything ever heard before.” The Live Custom Hybrid Oak series has drawn plenty of positive feedback, Fisher confirmed. “Feedback has been incredible, and truthfully, meeting the demand for these products has been one of our biggest challeng-

es,” he said. “Media feedback has been great, with reviewers using terms like ‘perfectly balanced,’ ‘flawless’ and ‘mic-ready.’ User forums and online customers have been raving as well, saying things like, ‘cleanest tones I’ve ever heard’ and ‘worth every penny.’” Current artists playing Live Custom Hybrid Oak drum sets include Jamie Miller (Bad Religion, You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead); the drummers for Snarky Puppy including Jason “JT” Thomas, Larnell Lewis and Jamison Ross; and Ralph Rolle (Chic), to name a few.

“Yamaha has also been fortunate to have a loyal fan base and positive support from dealers who are happy to give glowing written reviews and create highquality and fantastic-sounding video reviews,” Fisher concluded. “Some of the top video reviews by our dealers and fans on YouTube of the Live Custom Hybrid Oak have received upwards of 30,000 views in under six months.” Yamaha Live Custom Hybrid Oak drum sets feature an MSRP of $6,900, while its snare drums are offered at a suggested retail price of $1,140.


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The Retailer: What’s the most fun thing you saw/did at a NAMM Show? Mannion: I got to play with a Rupert Neve Designs 5088 console. I swear I died and went to heaven. I came over to the booth just gushing about what a big fan I was. I told all of my friends as soon as I got home. 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? Mannion: Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rupert Neve and David Bowie. I’d like to ask them about who they are as people. When you listen to someone’s music, you sort of get the feeling that you know them, when in reality it’s just a very one-dimensional, shallow image of a person. I’d like to know how they felt about their lives and what motivated them to be who they are. The Retailer: Tell us about your most memorable experience with an MI retailer (without naming them). Mannion: I traveled to New York City with our high school band once to play some concerts, and while we were there, we had some time to wander about Times Square. I convinced my friends to come with me to a shop, which had a whole floor of beautiful basses. I was sitting, playing for my friends and gawking at an unbelievable Jens Ritter bass. All of a sudden, someone from the store came over and asked if I’d like to play it. There I was: a high

school kid sitting in a boutique bass shop in Manhattan with my friends, playing a bass that was worth more than I was.

The Retailer: What is the best thing about the MI industry? Mannion: The best aspect of the MI industry is its ability to bring people together. Not only are there so many incredible people working professionally in MI, but the instruments provided by the hard work of those people are what unite musicians and friends around the world. The Retailer: Who do you admire most outside of the music industr y and why? Mannion: I admire our astronauts. I have a profound respect for scientists like our astronauts who dedicate their lives to pursuing that goal and pushing the boundaries of our understanding of the universe. The Retailer: What technology could change MI down the road? Mannion: I think machine learning and neural networks will continue to play a greater and greater role in the development and usage of music gear. As we are able to solve more and more complex problems by applying machine learning to them, we’ll be able to focus even more on being creative. The Retailer: If you weren’t in the music industr y, what would you be doing and why? Mannion: In addition to music, my background is in electrical

engineering. I was a part of the LAICE, CubeSat, SpaceICE and CAPSat missions as an electrical engineering student at the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign, and I’m still an active engineer in the aerospace industry.

The Retailer: Tell us about your hometown and why you enjoy living there. Mannion: I’m not originally from Champaign, Ill., but that was my home for the past several years while I studied at the University of Illinois. There’s something about Champaign — the way things quiet down during the summer and life seems to take a pause. I find myself returning there often. The Retailer: What are your most prized possession(s) and why? Mannion: My most prized possession is definitely my Modulus Flea bass. It’s a ’98 model, so it’s got an original Lane Poor pickup in it, and the neck is so playable because there’s no truss rod. Plus, it’s finished in a solid red, which I haven’t seen on any other Flea bass from this era, so I think it may have been colored to order. Every time I see it, I am happy. The Retailer: What’s your favorite book and why? Mannion: Right now, I’m working on Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime,” which details his life growing up in apartheid South Africa. Trevor’s life story is truly amazing, and he inspires me to be a better person. OCTOBER 2019


(continued from page 35) prize, and that store is Makin’ Music. At 24 years old, this retailer is hardly an upstart, but its enthusiastic staff members have the dedication and energy of a brand-new enterprise. I especially appreciated having someone show me a range of instruments. Your MI Spy often finds himself

seeking the guidance of people more knowledgeable than him, and the Makin’ Music salesman was happy to provide it, without attempting to “oversell.” The two instruments initially discussed were lower in price than I had anticipated. This was the case at the Music Emporium, as well. In fact,

it was almost a tossup between those two stores for me, but those additional, slightly more expensive suggestions made by the salesman at Makin’ Music gave this store a slight edge. Choice is always a good thing when making a purchase, especially when a retailer offers rationales for a

range of different offerings. One footnote: A well-established, locally owned music store, Joe’s Music, was near my hotel in Willoughby. From its website, it appears well worth a visit. Alas, your MI Spy visited on a weekend, and the store is closed Saturday and Sunday.


(continued from page 27)

tion and a refined manufacturing process. If anything, sustained tariff increases could potentially accelerate a move toward U.S. manufacturing. The materials and components for each Kepma Elite guitar are currently sourced from almost a dozen countries. Most of the components and material costs already come from the U.S. Bringing the remaining components to the U.S. and manufacturing our guitars here using our established processes could be a potential cost-saving measure, should these temporary tariff increases become permanent.” —Tony Moscal, Kepma USA “Let’s get back to building and selling products in the ‘good ole USA!’ — where we know what we are paying and what we are selling: our merchandise and services for every day, all day long! Mississippi Music Inc., in business for over 73 years, always makes a concerted effort to keep all of the prices on products we sell to our customers current, but with the recent tariff situation, it is virtually impossible to achieve this goal. Who knows what the correct prices really are from day to day? Selling for the wrong prices, regardless of if they are too low or too high, can have a direct or indirect negative effect on a company’s business and reputation. We received price changes in July, changes in August, in September, and now we are receiving price changes from many of those same companies for October. We receive warnings of impending price changes that sometimes don’t happen. In some cases, we receive notices that only certain items the vendor sells us will increase in price, but others will not increase, since they are not affected by the tariffs. Others that tell us there will be an additional fee placed on items we order from a list of products that have been identified as affected by the tariffs. This makes it virtually impossible to explain to our sales associates [that a product costs a certain price], but if they sell that product the cost structure will change after the item has been ordered. We realize that our vendor partners are only doing what they need to do regarding the price changes and tariffs, but this confusion makes it very difficult to run your business with some certainty in the midst of so much uncertainty.” —Mike Guillot, Mississippi Music Inc. “We are not feeling any effect from increased tariffs, and we aren’t worried about it. Our industry is resilient. Retailers and suppliers will both take a hit, but price increases in the amounts projected will not keep our customers from buying. The benefits to the U.S. of parity in trade with China in the long run are well worth the hiccups we may experience now.” —Kim Koch, Saied Music Co. “The tariffs are definitely causing pricing uncertainty in the U.S. market. It is very difficult to plan when the rules are changing by the day. I think what would make a lot more sense was one standard tariff on all Chinese imports rather than pick and choose industries.” —Steve Long, Long & McQuade Musical Instruments “Tariffs are annoying little things that all of us would probably like to never deal with at all. However, when doing retail of international products, you’re likely to come across them at some point, resulting in charges to you when the products arrive at the port of entry. The best way to address tariffs is to find out in advance


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2. Many economists predict a recession by the end of 2020, with many more predicting a recession by the end of 2021. Do you expect we will see a recession? If so, what measures have you taken or will you take to protect your business?

what the tariff rate is likely to be on your imported products, and make sure that your margins are still good when including these added costs. Manufacturers should be aware of these costs, and adjust their wholesale prices accordingly, so it’s still a good deal for both parties. Our manufacturers have been really good about compensating for tariffs.” —Rod Moore, Cool Guitar Shop

“The only influence of a recession would be is if schools and/or individuals had no money to purchase supplies including teaching materials. This would lead to a loss of sales. I don’t believe that a recession will happen in the next two to three years.” —Joe Keith, Musicality “I am not worried about a recession. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 50 years. Gross domestic product is much higher than it has been in quite a while. The economy will ebb and flow, which it always does. New business is the key to protecting our business. We have picked up new accounts and opened a couple of affiliates. Families seem to have more disposable income, and they like to have their children exposed to the arts.” —Peter Ellman, Ellman’s Music Center “I think we will be in a recession.” —Billy Ray Herrin, Hickory Wind Music

“Tariffs are definitely hurting our business and our customers. They are not hurting the Chinese manufacturers we deal with, since the products we source from China are for our global demand. Further, since we are a Japanese-owned company, tariffs in the U.S. have no bearing on the decision of where to source products. We are being forced to raise prices on products as new tariffs hit or existing ones are raised. These tariffs may very well spell the end of some products that become artificially too expensive relative to our other products that are built in Malaysia. We are very concerned about tariffs moving forward, and the constant changes make it very difficult to plan our business for 2020.” —John Powell, Pioneer DJ Americas Inc.

“I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a recession. My sales are already dropping off. I’m advertising more, but it hasn’t helped. Unfortunately, I’m at the mercy of the economy. My business is based on people enjoying life, so the only way I can prepare is to diversify. So I’m now doing some manufacturing to offset the upcoming years’ inevitable decline.” —Mike Taylor, Neal Speakers “Our industry is not so much influenced by recessions. We are more dependent on how many kids enter school and music programs there.” —Gerhard A. Meinl, National Association of German Musical Instrument Manufacturers “I don’t believe anything the so-called ‘economists’ are predicting. So far, the economy has only improved over the last three years and [there is] no end in sight according to other economists. And especially in the area we are located in southwest Florida, the fastest-growing area in the country right now. So, I say hold the course.” —Bill Smith, Fogt’s Music “As far as a recession goes, no one can predict the future. That being said, anyone who is running a company


better be able to lay out different scenarios of possible future events and revisit those scenarios to reflect on changes that come into play in their environment — some good, some bad. It will help not only with executing a quick and effective response, but also will aid in not making an emotional response when a rational one is called for. This also aids with better sleep at night! The world is a very dynamic place, and with ‘instant universal knowledge’ (the internet) things can be abruptly different in just 24 hours. So, with regards to depressions, recessions and boom times, best to have your vessel (your company) in order. Always remember you don’t control the weather, but you can direct your course. Thanks for asking my two cents worth of opinion!” —Paul Allison, The Music Trader “A shift in the economy always seems to surround an election year, whether it is a full-blown recession or simply perceived changes. We have strengthened our business over the years by increasing the service segments: repairs, lessons, appraisals, etc. While no one is exactly ‘recession-proof,’ we’ve been through many in our 68 years and will again. Long-standing ties with suppliers allows for modifications to order requirements, mutual support and an understanding that we are all working toward the same goals … survival, growth and profitability.” —Linda Osborne, Arthur’s Music Store “As far as a recession is concerned, we have noticed a slowdown only recently since the stock market declined. I believe we all have focused on this, and we have been conditioned to hold back when we see a drop in the market. It seems odd to me that the timing always coincides with this. But suggestion of recession is just as bad as recession.” —Luke Furr, Shoreview Distribution “I believe there will be some more slowing of the economy compared to how hot it was in 2018. For that fiscal year, Blues City Music LLC was up 217.4 percent compared to 2017. As for a recession, it would depend upon what the Fed decides to do in regards to interest rates. I suppose we will have to wait and see.” —Lynn Burke, Blues City Music


“I don’t see a full-fledged recession coming like we had in 2008. There will be a slowdown of the current growth and possibly a short-term retraction of our economy. As with any business, we need to be watchful and always have the ability to reduce costs to remain profitable, even through a slowdown. This has been true for Gemini for the past 45 years.” — Artie Cabasso, Innovative Concepts and Designs LLC “It’s a terrible thing to say as a citizen of this great nation, but with nothing that I can do personally to prevent a recession, I think more about what I can do if/when it comes. Worrying doesn’t keep the rent paid, but being aware of my customers’ immediate needs always helps.” —Brian Coates, Music Go Round “I don’t think there is much more we can do. We are always trying new things, and if they work, we double down on them.” —Steve Jones, Kat’s Guitars “We protect our business every day; replacing SKUs at the right time and listing products at MAP prices as delegated by our manufacturers. We give our customers a bit of a personal touch with every package that goes out. You must try and live in a world of positive thinking, and don’t waste a lot time trying to predict the economy. The economy fluctuates often, and we have to adapt to the current market situation. That’s life, and also music is life. I am so blessed to be working around it every day with dreamers and lovers of music.” —Dave Locke, LAWK STAR Guitars “The U.S. economy has always operated on cycles of growth and recession. Companies have to learn to navigate these ups and downs if they want to survive. We believe we are in a position to weather whatever financial storm arises. We partnered with an established international leader in guitar manufacturing with a very strong customer base. The owners of Kepma are financially secure. They have no debt, a paid-for state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, and an innovative and incredibly competitive product line that is being sought after by distributors around the world. Kepma is strategically controlling their expansion within the U.S. market by being measured and deliberate. While no one is “recessionproof,” Kepma has consciously planned


for short-term swings in the world economy. That is one reason why we believe Kepma is a great brand that U.S. music retailers can count on to provide the greatest potential for growth during an economic downturn.” —Tony Moscal, Kepma USA “Long-term predictions are nothing more than trying to create news. The economists that make them know that if it doesn’t happen nobody will remember, or care, that is was predicted a year or two years ago and didn’t happen. They will just make another two-year prediction/guess and hope that their guess is better the next time. I would like to see economists have to put money down on their predictions in the same way businesses put money into their businesses and then have to deal with negative predictions. President Trump will more than likely be re-elected, and with the strength of our economy in the last three years, I would have serious doubts that we will see a recession by the end of 2021. The stock markets are way up, the jobless rates are way down, interest rates are coming back down slowly and public opinion seems to be extremely positive. All of the aforementioned generally lead to a very positive business outlook for MI as a whole. Events that are unwelcome, such as recessions, depressions, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes, are all in one way or the other inevitable, but very few can be predicted with any great degree of certainty — unlike death and taxes. As far as measures we have taken to protect our business, we work as a team to service our customers and provide quality products from top vendors at reasonable prices, we stay informed, we believe none of what we hear and only half of what we see, and we have faith that, by working hard every day to make things better for our customers, we will continue to be strong and profitable.” —Mike Guillot, Mississippi Music Inc.

a business heading into a recession. I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but as far as we are concerned, it is always full speed ahead.” —Steve Long, Long & McQuade Musical Instruments “I find recessions incredibly difficult to accurately predict, given all of the good and bad information out there. I have been hearing that the next ‘big one’ is right around the corner for as long as I can remember, but it’s not here yet. Unfortunately, if a bad recession were to happen, we are largely in the hobby/ entertainment industry. In other words, most consumers do not have to have (right now) what we offer, so a recession will temporarily slow this industry as much as any. One way to make your business more recession-proof might be to focus more of your products and marketing to consumers that have to have your products anyway. An example would be professional/touring musicians and school band students. These groups are still likely to need our products more than most people during a slowed economy. Let’s all hope that we don’t have to get into recession mode any time soon. It is good to always be prepared though. I suppose that if the really big [recession] does arrive, I’ll open an online survival gear store too!” —Rod Moore, Cool Guitar Shop

sion. We estimated that the economy would slow down relative to recent high-growth years, but still grow at a steady rate. However, now with tariffs and market uncertainty, we expect to have a recession by late 2020 or early 2021. We are preparing ourselves with a robust road map of new products that offer greater value at existing or lower price points. We are also working closely with our dealer network to promote our products and clearly present our value proposition to consumers.” —John Powell, Pioneer DJ Americas Inc.

“We feel that, before tariffs were imposed, there was little risk of a reces-

“Recession is a natural part of the business cycle. It can also be a selffulfilling prophecy, so everyone should take a breath. If we do see one, it won’t be like 2008. We are in a stronger economy today, and with better bank regulations in place, we aren’t as vulnerable. We run our business lean and mean anyway. Those are the best protective measures we could take.” —Kim Koch, Saied Music Co. “We don’t do anything differently as



RICKY MANNION Owner/Analog Designer, M House Studios

The Retailer: If you could see any musician, alive or deceased, play a concert for one night, who would it be and why? Mannion: I’m torn here. If I could’ve seen Pink Floyd playing together, I think I would’ve died. I vividly remember the first time I sat down and listened to “Dark Side of the Moon” all the way through. It totally changed my perspective on what music is and what’s possible through music. On the other hand, I was introduced to a lot of great music through my mom’s taste, and she’s always been a huge Bowie fan. We’ve got that in common, and I think it would have been so cool if we had been able to go see Bowie together.

By Brian Berk The Music & Sound Retailer: Who was your greatest influence or mentor and why? Ricky Mannion: I really look up to Rupert Neve. I admire his dedication to doing things the right way and not cutting any corners. The amount of proper planning and development that he’s always done is reflected in the quality and timelessness of his designs. I think Rupert designed the 1073 when he was in his 40s, so I suppose I’ve got about 20 years to put something decent together! The Retailer: What was the best advice you ever received? Mannion: My Opa always says “Nichts von nichts,” which means “Nothing from nothing.” You’ve got to put in the legwork to do anything cool. If you try and skip steps and go too quickly, whatever you’re trying to build won’t have the proper foundation. The Retailer: What was your first experience with a musical instrument? Mannion: When I was very little, I started taking piano lessons. I think that formed the basis of how I understand music. I felt that I could express things through a piano which I couldn’t say with words. The Retailer: What instrument do you most enjoy playing? Mannion: For roughly the last seven years, my favorite instrument to play has been the bass guitar. There’s something so soothing to 54

with other people is more rewarding.   The Retailer: What is the best concert you’ve ever been to? Mannion: The first concert I ever went to was Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field in Chicago when I was about 14. My friend John and I were waving our arms around like lunatics right near the stage during the quiet part of “Let It Be,” and Paul just gave us this look. I think I peaked.

me about the warm tone of a bass and the way it can just tie a song together. I’m always picking up my bass when I have a moment just to noodle around a bit and listen for the tones and harmonics.

The Retailer: Tell us something about yourself that others do not know or would be surprised to learn. Mannion: I’m part musician and part scientist. Besides being a designer and consumer of musical equipment, I’m an engineer in the aerospace industry. Since I dove into small-satellite research during my time as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, I’ve loved being on the cutting edge of technological development. I love to work on open-ended problems because they allow me to develop creative solutions. I think the intersection of music and technology is profound, and we’ve only scratched the surface of the types of high-tech music gear that will come next. The Retailer: What’s your favorite activity to do when you’re not at work? Mannion: When I’m not working or practicing, I play video games. Of course, as a 22-year-old, though, my main priority is spending time with friends. I worry that we’re all growing apart a little bit at a time, and it’s critical that we make a conscious effort to stay connected. You can achieve a lot by hiding away to work on music by yourself, but I think you’ll find that playing together

The Retailer: What musician are you hoping to see play in the near future? Mannion: There’s a few on my list that I’m ashamed I still haven’t caught. My list of folks who need to come through the midwest so I can see them includes Rammstein, FIDLAR, Julien Baker and Anderson .Paak. The Retailer: What song was most memorable for you throughout your childhood and what do you remember about it the most? Mannion: As a little kid, my parents would put on “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie, and I would jump around on the couch with this inflatable air guitar, just rocking out. There’s some home footage of that, and I think it’s hilarious. When I hear that song, it always makes me think of my home and being a kid. The Retailer: What are your favorite songs on your smartphone/iPod? Mannion: My classics are “Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin), “Dani California” (Red Hot Chili Peppers), “Ballroom Blitz” (Sweet), “We Will Fall Together” (Streetlight Manifesto), “Cheap Beer” (FIDLAR), “Elizabeth” (Ghost), “Moya” (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) …there’s so many! I’ve literally always got my monitors in my ears listening to something. Lately, I’ve been on an odd 2 Chainz/Behemoth kick. (continued on page 50) OCTOBER 2019

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Profile for Music & Sound Retailer

Music & Sound Retailer October 2019, Vol 36 No 10  

In the October issue of the Music & Sound Retailer, learn the latest news about the percussion industry, discover what many retailers and ma...

Music & Sound Retailer October 2019, Vol 36 No 10  

In the October issue of the Music & Sound Retailer, learn the latest news about the percussion industry, discover what many retailers and ma...