Blow by Blow: Reeds & Mouthpiece Survey
Reeds and mouthpieces are, of course, essential (and repeat) purchases for players of any age and ability level. With the recent, and ongoing, emergence of new materials and manufacturing techniques in this area, both retailers and end-users today have a greater variety of options – from a seemingly endlessly growing number of suppliers, as well – than ever before.
MMR recently polled over 250 MI outlets to find out about trends in reeds & mouthpiece sales, and what challenges and concerns stores and consumers must wrestle with in the current economic climate…
Compared to this time last year, sales of reeds & mouthpieces are…
“Usually band instrument rentals, sales, and lessons come to a halt in the early summer season. Band camps are pretty much starting right after school lets out for summer break. That has helped us a lot.”
Brandolino’s Encore Music Center
“Student Level Business is up, but Pro is down due to online purchases from end users.”
Island Music Company
“Reeds are doing OK, but step-up mouthpieces are down.”
What price points are doing best?
Do you carry synthetic reeds?
If “yes,” are these types of reeds catching on with consumers?
“There are still the dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists, but a number of teachers and doublers are using them in place of cane reeds. They are perfect when they need something to work right away.”
Mike’s Music and Sound
Fond u Lac, Wis.
“It is difficult to get people to try synthetic reeds primarily because of the cost. We sell very few synthetic reeds, but the people who like them really love them. They are more popular for tenor and bari sax and bass clarinet than for alto sax and soprano clarinet.”
Twin Village Music
“[A synthetic reed] avoids the hassles of bad reeds and also avoids having to have a huge inventory just laying around collecting dust… I’ve trained my customers to appreciate them!!”
“People complain about the cost, even though [synthetic reeds] last longer.”
Brandolino’s Encore Music Center
If dealing with local school districts, do music programs…
“I would have answered ‘both’ to this question, if I could. Most teachers keep a small stock of reeds on hand for emergencies or for students to purchase, but they mainly expect students to have their own supply.”
Brass Bell Music Store
“School directors will purchase reeds for emergencies and mouthpieces for school instruments. They require students to maintain their supplies.”
Universal Music Co.
“Few schools still purchase in bulk as back-up reeds for concerts or trips. The majority of the time, students are on their own to purchase reeds at a local music store.”
Do you have a particular staff member who’s an in-house “expert” on these types of products?
What trends have you been noticing with respect to reeds & mouthpieces?
“More brands, more choice, more confusion.”
Dave St. John
“A better new mouthpiece is always an alternative for someone who can’t afford to upgrade an instrument. This is more profound right now.”
“The least expensive wins in this economy. Only serious musicians and professionals are concerned about brand and quality.”
First Note Music
Cape Coral, Fla.
“Retail stores ‘give them away.’ I can’t make any money on them, especially the intermediate to high-end mouthpieces.”
South Beach Music
Miller Place, N.Y.
“Standard existing brands have always been consistent sellers. Newer custom-made mouthpieces are beginning to sell better due to the quality of hand facing. One new brand of reed could take off due to the quality and price. Existing, high dollar brands are selling well due to quality.”
“[We have been experiencing] better brass mouthpiece sales at all price and quality levels. High-end woodwind mouthpieces have become a tougher sell.”
“The search continues for a good quality reed that we can sell for a profit!”
Columbia River Music, Inc.
The Dalles, Ore.