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pic by Jason Rosewarne

Amid the doom and gloom of the retail world globally, one sector is reporting Christmas-like sales volumes. Music retailers around Australia are telling us that their monthly sales for March were nearing record numbers. Despite some stores closing their doors to physical traffic and those that remain open observing strict instore health protocols, it seems that people can’t do without their music making tools. Greg Phillips reports

For music retailers, trading is problematic at the moment but they are rising to the challenge with creative solutions in order to satisfy their customers’ needs. Rob at Port Mac Guitars in Port Macquarie is one of those who have closed their doors to instore traffic but have ramped up their phone and online service.
“We’ve actually closed the doors now,” Rob tells us. “We’re still trading online as normal though. We’re not having anyone come in but doing localised home delivery and curbside pick up as well.”

Craig Johnson, owner of KCs Rockshop/Keyboard Corner in Boronia, Melbourne says that while the store is still open to the public, their online sales “have gone nuts”. “We are using couriers for deliveries but also doing local deliveries ourselves, trying to get stuff out locally as quick as we can. People can order over the phone or online, whatever they are more comfortable with.”

The story is the same down in Launceston, Tasmania. Mark Barrat of Barrats Music says, “We are out doing deliveries morning, day and afternoon, every day. It is just one of our employees in my car. It’s only a small town, so we can do ten deliveries in 3 hours, but yes we are quite busy.”

The same story is echoed across the Nullabor in Western Australia too. “We have delivered three pianos this week in our own van just locally,” says Graham Hoskins of Concept Music in Perth. “We are still also using a local courier for deliveries, we are doing free delivery over $50 to the Metropolitan area. We are still busy instore and I haven’t reduced my staff at all. The doors are still open and we’ve got all the expected protocols in place. We have a table at the front door that people have to physically walk around and there’s a sign there asking people to sanitise their hands and we are asking people to observe distancing measures, sanitisers on the counters etc. We have added the option of pick up in the car park which some people are doing instead of pick up in store. There’s a big increase in online orders and they are coming in all day, which is a big difference in pattern. It’s heavily biased toward student or learning stuff.”

The reasons for the hive of activity are varied but the music retailers are telling us that there is the student element, where mums and dads are keen for their kids to have something productive and enjoyable to do while home in isolation. Music is also a great alternative to constant TV and video games. Also there’s a section of the community who have always wanted to play music but have never had the time. With companies like Fender offering free guitar lessons for 3 months via their Fender Play app or recording software companies like Steinberg offering similar deals, the timing is right. Then obviously there are the regular customers, the gigging musicians and songwriters who want to stock up on gear and accessories so that they can write, record, livestream and keep their chops up for the moment this period of isolation is all over.

“The trend is that people are saying I have always wanted to play music and I may as well do it now because I am just sitting at home” says Mark from Barrats Music. “A high proportion of it is keyboards, a few electronic drum kits, ukes and guitars they are the main things but more than normal.”

OJ from Better Music in the ACT has a theory too. “It seems like a lot of people are picking up your entry level products, you know … I previously played it and want to get back into it or this is just a good time to pick up an instrument.”

“People are topping up on their accessories, strings, sticks etc, but we’ve sold a lot of expensive guitars too,” says Dom Disisto of Holden Hill Music in Adelaide. People in general are spending on stuff they had been putting off and the government is giving them some money so they can probably afford it.”

For Craig Johnston at KCs Rockshop/Keyboard Corner, he’s finding buying patterns across all product ranges.
“It’s everything, the obvious things are the products for people doing their own webcasting, those trying to sustain an income but it’s across the board really. Recording gear is going really well too.”

It’s a similar tale overseas too. A recent article in the UK Express reported a huge rise in music product sales. “Frustrated musicians who have long-harboured to play an instrument have decided now is the perfect time to make some sweet music after being warned they potentially face months of social isolation. And with a surge in online teaching apps and Youtube tutors experts say there has never been a better time to try your hand at becoming the next Jimmy Page,” said Paul Jeeves of the Express.

As to when it will be safe to resume life as we knew it, nobody knows but at least we can find comfort in the thought that we have time to dedicate a little time to making music, even if you’ve never done so before. Your local music stores will have product experts on phones diverted from the shops if you need product advice. There are plenty of good store websites to browse, delivery to your door service – in this environment we find ourselves in, it’s good to see our music shops are braving these conditions and finding a way to get music gear out to everyone that requires it.



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