Violin Dealer Survey
Dealers Report a Sound String Instrument Market
Three-quarters of music products dealers responding to a recent MMR e-mail survey on violin-family instrument trends are finding the sales and rental market to be ahead or steady in 2007. More than half rank area school string programs as very strong or good. The specter of mass merchandisers selling string instruments has had a considerably negative effect at 42 percent of responding dealerships, but the majority sees the big boxes as either not a serious threat or not a factor at all. A majority report step-up sales up or steady this year, and nearly 80 percent expect business to be good or steady in the near-term future.
The questionnaire was sent to 1,604 full-line, band & orchestral, and string specialty dealers during the first week of March, 2007.
In our area, its not just the non-music mass merchandisers who get these cheap string instruments. A number of pawn shops and even private individuals are able to purchase them wholesale and then re-sell them to the public. These places offer no warranties or service. We are also seeing families rent instruments from the local music store, then return them a few months later after buying these cheap instruments. Fortunately, customers are beginning to see the quality differences as these inferior instruments flood the market. The local school music teachers are losing patience as they are burdened with the task of keeping these instruments playing. The amount of classroom time dedicated to this task seems to be increasing.
Sales and rentals of violin-family instruments over the last year have been
The overall health of school string programs in my dealerships trading area has been
The effect of non-music mass merchandisers selling stringed instruments over the last year has
Sub-standard stringed instruments from China are no different from those imported from Japan in the late 1940s/early 1950s or from Germany in the 1920s. Were always going to see cigar-box fiddles in the market. But a musical instrument dealer whose goal is to stay in business for another few years would be advised to concentrate on establishing a clientele for better quality items. Lets see now … how many years has Mercedes-Benz been in business? And what ever happened to Crosley? People will always buy quality items, so let somebody else sell the rubbish.
Wichita Band Instrument Co.
There is some acceptable import product coming in through the mass marketers and eBay however, there is a lot of JUNK that ends up in the hands of beginning orchestral students via well-intentioned parents. The problem is that there are too many gutless orchestra teachers who fail to be proactive with students and parents in the instrument selection process. Consequently, the student and teacher must live with the problem. Far too often the student ends up dropping out of the music program as the result of an inferior-quality instrument. There used to be standards that determined acceptability. What happened to them? They seemed to have gone out the window when the low prices hit the marketplace. Its kind of sad. We still rent some, but our numbers are down. The industry and individual music stores need to educate the educator.
Rays Mid-Bell Music
Our new rentals over the past several years have been decreasing due to a few schools changing the starting grade for orchestra also due to the Wisconsin Cap on schools, and school budgets continuing to be slashed. Despite this, our step-up and full-size sales and rentals have been growing steadily.
Brass Bell Music
The step-up instrument sales trend over the last year has been
My outlook for violin-family instrument business for the rest of 2007 is
Several schools have growing string programs. That SHOULD translate into increased string business, but as the string programs increase in size, a larger and larger number of students are buying junk violins online (and the teachers dont say anything to the parents, but they do complain to us that they are not happy!), resulting in flat business. We do have a lot more repair business trying to make the junk violins play! Re-cutting bridges, re-reaming pegs, re-drilling peg holes, dressing fingerboards (when we can, if the fiddle has a real ebony board rather than soft white wood painted black!) Its very unsatisfying working on junk fiddles rather than good-quality instruments.
Twin Village Music
Rural schools in my southwest Missouri area must have a marching band for football games, but string instruction is virtually nonexistent. Private lessons are the only string instrument instruction available in these areas. I must create my own need and demand for string instruments. Virtually all of my violin sales are the lowest beginner instruments and the purchasers very seldom progress above this level.
Don Platt Music Supply
Orchestral string sales remain the last frontier for us independent school music dealers. The fact that quality string instruments are made by independent violin-makers means there is not a huge amount of competition on price alone. The consumer is forced to do his homework and shop quality, not brand. The non-music mass merchandisers still have a negative effect though, because the uninformed consumer buys low quality and then the student suffers and, in turn, the school orchestra suffers!
Our institutional (school bid) sales are up a lot this past year, and we expect this trend to continue for the next three to six months. Our rental market is static or perhaps slightly improved.
Nonetheless, were seeing a lot of product of widely varying quality, not purchased or rented from us, that is set up very poorly. Many of these customers would have rented or purchased from us in the past, but theyve found these instruments online.
Overall, however, we are seeing improvement in the quality of the entry level product.
Nick Rail Music
The major problem is that many consumers think (if they can think!) they can go to music shops that dont have trained repair people on premises. Most of the instruments sold from these shops are not well prepared, even though some say factory prepared. Music teachers in this field need to be educated on this point so they can tell students and parents about the importance of well prepared instruments.
Cremona Violin Shop
Quality German-made instruments along with strong service are the key elements to a successful school program and business sales.
Because I am well-known in the area, people are finding me. We are doing very well, but the large low-quality market with department stores and cheap violins available on the Internet have been a challenge. Also popping up are small shops who do not have qualified craftspeople.
Henry Bischofberger Violins
Im in Chicago and I make violins, restore, rent, and repair. I am 32 have been doing this for over 10 years. I have 600 rentals out and about. Its very cut-throat and price matters to the customer. Music stores are like McDonalds — there is one every five to 10 minutes away. I can list four violin shops in an eight-mile radius. The mail-order is a killer and eats away at everything. Somebody brought [a violin purchased at Target] into my shop. It wasnt bad — better than the eBay Chinese $29.99 junk. I feel I have to work harder to keep up and offer the best for the least amount.
Hoffman Strings Ltd.