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  • The Death of Print Music?

    By Team HC |

    Tredwell Music Centre, the last printed music store in Winnipeg, closed its doors after 80 years of operation.

    Is it a sign of the times?

    by Paige Tutt, MMR Associate Editor




     "This generation has no Elvis, no Jerry Lee Lewis, no Buddy Holly... All these artists and groups, and scores more like them, inspired generations to pick up guitars, and keyboards, and drums, and horns to make music... You can’t play rap or hip hop on any solo instrument; it’s impossible." 


    Daily newspapers, magazines, works of literature printed on paper, greeting cards, graphic artists, the corner quick print shop – these are just a few areas being adversely affected by the age of the Internet. Also struggling to maintain a foothold in today’s climate? Sheet music. Tredwell’s Music Centre of Winnipeg, Manitoba – which was referred to by the Winnipeg Free Press as “perhaps the last retailer in North America to sell strictly sheet music for instruments of all kinds” – closed its doors this past summer. The brick and mortar location has closed, however their online presence remains intact. Tredwell’s connection to Winnipeg, according to current owner Peter Sarmatiuk, can be traced quite clearly to 1933, when Western Music of Vancouver established a branch store managed by Tom and Sadie Tredwell. “They had recently arrived from England,” explains Sarmatiuk. “Tom and Sadie bought the branch in 1956 and renamed it at that time. The Rennie family owned the store for a brief period from 1970 to 1975 and the Sarmatiuk family has owned and operated it from 1975 to present.”




    Sarmatiuk has quite a few accomplishments that he’s proud of achieving over the past 40 years. He has spawned three successful music retailers across Canada: Canadian Choral Centre in Winnipeg; Grenata Music in Ottawa, Ontario; and Cobb/Swanson Music in Regina, Saskatchewan. Tredwell’s was the first Canadian music operation, either retail or wholesale, to use toll-free phone ordering in 1978, and was also the first retailer to offer snake-coil bookbinding as an option to customers. Tredwell’s has been the only Canadian music retailer to offer customers the option to trade in an old book for a new one, and has a unique website devoted solely to out-of-print music books and sheets.



    At the heart of the matter, one can only wonder what was it that damaged the print music industry so pervasively? “I think it’s impossible to answer this without sounding whiny,” says Sarmatiuk. “Starting in the ‘60s we all thought photocopying would be the death of the print music industry… little did we know what lurked in the ether. Photocopying was just a body blow. The Internet was the knockout punch. Keep in mind that print music is dying alongside others in the world of the printed word/note; daily newspapers, magazines, literature, greeting cards, graphic artists, the corner quick print shop.”


    "Photocopying was just a body blow...the Internet was the knockout punch."


    While Sarmatiuk doesn’t have a solution, he does have some sort of an idea of another culprit to blame for the slow death of print – rap and hip hop. “I love rap and hip hop,” says Sarmatiuk. “The problem for the music industry as a whole is that it has turned music into a spectacle. The auditory side of things, the actual music making, has become a very secondary factor to all the visual effects viz. fireworks, laser light shows, dancing, video screens. As a result kids are not being triggered into wanting to play actual musical instruments. This generation has no Elvis, no Jerry Lee Lewis, no Buddy Holly, no Chuck Berry, no Eric Clapton, no Chicago, no Elton John, no Billy Joel, no Beatles, no Eagles, no Phil Collins. All these artists and groups, and scores more like them, inspired generations to pick up guitars, and keyboards, and drums, and horns to make music. The impact of rap and hip hop on print music specifically is even more drastic. You can’t play rap or hip hop on any solo instrument; it’s impossible. Here is a huge area of the pop music world that translates into absolutely zero sheet music or music book sales. Sorry, I don’t have a solution, only an observation. It is my belief, however, that evolution will take care of it. It’s just a question of how many millions of years it will take.” 


    The closing of Tredwell’s marks the end of an era, but Sarmatiuk has plenty to keep him busy. “To date, we have 5,800 books and sheets logged on our website,” explains Sarmatiuk. “There are about 100 banker’s boxes containing tens of thousands of out-of-print books and sheets to be added. This will occupy some of my ‘downtime,’ but I am advised by absolutely everyone who has retired before me that my time will be filled with all sorts of non-musical things… more time with my wife Gwen and our new granddaughter, London, will definitely be a must.” 


    Used with the express written permission of MMR Magazine (Musical Merchandise Review)                                                       




    Paige Tutt is an Associate Editor with MMR Magazine. She has a Master's in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, MA. and received her Bachelor's degree in English, General Literature, and Rhetoric from SUNY Binghamton.

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