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Our family reached a milestone this past month, making the difficult decision to downsize to a smaller home. The kids are all grown, grandchildren have arrived, and after 25 years the enormity of the property we have lived at finally led us to this moment of mixed emotions. A bit stressful as well, with machinations in the mortgage markets causing heartburn, and the sheer task of moving or tossing two and a half decades of “stuff.” A 30-yard dumpster was filled to the brim, and even after the move we are wading through boxes and containers of memories. Some are heading to the shredder, others to a new, albeit modest house and new office space I have leased for my companies. During this process, items have surfaced from old business cards to clinic posters and other memorabilia from my 42 years spent in our wonderful business of music products, each causing a pause.

Those “Good Old Days” of Early Travel

My formative years in outside sales began in 1987 at age 27, at that time accepting a district sales manager position with Ensoniq Corp., makers of synthesizers and sampling keyboards. This was my dream job, after working my way up through retail and then a customer service stint at the Malvern, PA manufacturer. The territory stretched from New Jersey to Western Kentucky, and for over a decade this was my stomping ground. Life for a traveling sales rep was quite different back then, with face-to-face meetings and phone calls being the primary way we communicated with our dealers. Part of our responsibility was putting on clinics, and during that span over 400 events took place, with numerous stories to tell about what went wrong (and right). It was a time of learning things the hard way, being far from home with limited resources, and developing relationships that would stand the test of time. To this day I remain in touch with people I worked with during this period.

Forward Fast to Modern Days

Who would have ever thought we would be working out of our home offices so much, ushered in by Covid-19. Video conference calls have vastly outnumbered personal visits in the past couple of years, although in recent months we have settled into more of a hybrid workday. Trade shows have sputtered back to life, but there still appears to be plenty of virus floating around, presenting a cautionary note to those who cannot afford to get sick due to comorbidities or for folks who may be immunocompromised. NAMM has attempted to get back on track by juggling date changes, with April 2023 being the next opportunity to attend what was an annual winter ritual. Meantime, the industry is grappling with wild swings in inventory, and an aspirational musician customer who has seen much of their discretionary income soaked up by inflation. We are living in a data-driven world where a comprehensive build sheet is indispensable, and music stores are finding new ways to reach their customers.

The More Things Change…

Take a deep breath and embrace the changes. At least try to. The current economic clouds will eventually clear, and the winners will be those that never forgot about the basics. Regardless of your role in the supply chain, treat your customers with respect, and make an act of kindness something you think about doing each day. The Musical Instrument and Professional Audio business has been, on balance, quite good to me and thousands of other industry participants. Let us show up for each other, backstop our friends and business associates, and remember to be grateful for the opportunity to work in this creative world of artists, engineers, designers, and content creators. We really are all in this together, “old timers” like me and the next generation that drive innovation.

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