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Challenging times call for creative measures

At the beginning of April, I must admit it appeared that everything was collapsing. Here in my home state of Pennsylvania, we had been on “lockdown” for about two weeks and our business, understandably, had slowed tremendously. The daily headlines and near-panic from some quarters was quite unnerving, and there seemed to be no real end in sight. But by the end of the month, something interesting had happened. Customers were buying musical instruments, and resourceful dealers were somehow finding a way to make things happen. There is no question that having some e-commerce exposure provided a big assist, but I’ve talked to numerous accounts doing curbside delivery and telephone sales, while those offering lessons have pivoted successfully to Skype or other tools to offer continuing education to their student population.

Music merchants are by nature a resilient bunch

It has been my personal experience since entering this wonderful business in 1980 that music merchants are, on balance, quite resourceful. Through wars and recessions, financial crises and now a world pandemic, store owners and salespeople will find a way to keep going. A few years back I penned a tongue-in-cheek allegory about the earliest salespeople, which may explain how our shared lineage allows us to fight against all odds and come back for more. Even in depressing times, people want to make music, as it tends to transport the mind to a better place, regardless of what may be swirling around us at the time. Right now, we are seeing some very good guitar sales, solid movement in home recording, and anything to do with podcasting or setting up for Facebook Live events is off the hook! While we all hope that live events come back soon, it’s really good to see how the industry has responded to this challenge, and from what I have seen there’s a real sense of camaraderie between industry participants during these tough times.

How music brands can help

Some manufacturers and distributors have stepped up in recent weeks, creating programs and special offers that help dealers. Extended terms have helped, along with innovative consumer incentives that reflect where the market has been moving. While everyone is feeling the pain at some level, the vendors that are being creative are getting business and will continue to do so. The empathy and thoughtfulness shown now will pay dividends down the road, so I would encourage everyone in the supply chain to take the long view and help each other get through these unprecedented times. Musical instrument brands and retailers have proven to be resilient, resourceful, and relentless. While not an easy time for anyone, we will make it through this period – together, and stronger from the experience gained. The emotional roller coaster we have been riding will eventually come to a stop, and we can set our sights on better days ahead.

In the meantime, please stay strong, safe and healthy.

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