Why Sell Technology Products? For the Customers, Pure & Simple
When I was in the sixth grade, I started taking drum lessons at my local music store in Louisville, Kentucky. Each week, I walked into my teacher’s studio armed with a new critical problem — how to play the drum beat or fill from my latest favorite song. Almost invariably, mastering the lick never quite lived up to my own internal hype — it just never sounded quite right. Years later, I realized this was because no matter how well I imitated the drummer on the recording, the recording process itself so completely shaped the sound of the drums that I could never make myself sound exactly like whatever drummer I idolized at the time. Even if I had realized the problem then, the idea of trying to make my own recordings was way beyond the realm of possibilities.
All of that, of course, has changed.
When I speak to traditional music store owners who are hesitant to carry music technology products like MIDI controllers, recording interfaces, and software, I always try to speak their language. Look at the growth of the computer peripheral market, I tell them. Consider the possibilities of a whole new kind of product category, I implore. Don’t lose out on the wave that your competitors are enjoying, I nudge. But I’ve recently realized that while issues of margin and balance sheets are relevant, they are not the whole story, because none of that is what ultimately matters to music store customers. And any of us who lose sight of what matters to our customers have lost sight of what matters to our business. What matters to customers is what has always mattered — products that give them the chance to emulate their musical heroes, express themselves artistically, and become better musicians. This is why you should sell music technology products: For your customers.
More than ever before, musicians of common means are able to record and produce recordings of astounding quality. The advances in music technology and computer power have created a world in which local musicians can take charge of the creative process of recording their own work and participate in a part of the musical experience formerly reserved only for the super successful (or extremely fortunate.) Unlike when I was taking my first drum lessons, young drummers can now not only learn the drum fills that captivate them during every waking hour, they can also learn the recording techniques used to create the actual sound they hear on their favorite records (make that mp3s). In short, musical skill makes it possible for them to play like their favorite musicians, and technology makes it possible to record like them. And that is really exciting.
The recording process also provides new avenues for creative self-expression. It is an absolute thrill to hear your own performance on playback in a studio setting. Now take that thrill and double it to begin to understand what you experience the first time you see an audio wave form or MIDI track of your own creation appear in front of you on your computer screen. You apply reverb to what you recorded, experiment with equalization, pan to the left or right. Honestly, the whole recording process is a flat-out rush. I just emailed an .mp3 to a friend tonight to share a song I wrote. She loved it and I loved being able to share it with her. Your customers will love doing this, too.
Finally, anyone who has spent any time recording their own playing or singing knows there’s nothing else like it to improve technique and musicality. Performing live is a great way to learn to interact with other musicians and audience members. Recording, on the other hand, develops an entirely different set of musical skills. Being able to listen to your playing or singing and evaluate your performance on playback reveals a tremendous amount about your strengths and weaknesses. Any tendency to rush, go flat, get a thin tone, etc., becomes all too evident. Great teachers know that there is no better way to judge your own performance skills than through recording yourself. Popular recording technology available to your customers makes simple, high-quality recordings more possible than ever.
If you’re not currently stocking music technology products because you’re concerned about the margins, the learning curve, or the rate of change in the product category, I encourage you to take a hard look at your misgivings. I also suggest that you study the trends — look at the growth these products have enjoyed over the last few years and the business you may be losing out on. In the final analysis, however, experienced business people know that you have to look at things from the perspective of your customers. And your customers are going to invest in recording products because they want to emulate their favorite musicians, express themselves creatively, and improve as musicians.
Matt Frazier is a regional sales manager for M-Audio. He lives in Seattle and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.