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  • The Music Retailer of the Future?

    Phil's thread about the manufacturer vs. direct battle got me thinking, but I didn't want to hijack the thread. I may have mentioned this before, but I think it might need more exploration.

    What if a retailer's model was more like a gym, with a lot of available gear, and a membership? For example, there would be several small studio setups in a small, soundproof cubicles for songwriting and demos (some Windows, some Mac, a couple "Portastudios"), a larger studio for creating projects, a stage for rehearsal or shooting videos, etc. There would be plenty of guitars that, as a member, you could use in recording. Keyboards would be available for setting up on a stand in the studio, as well in a demo room for evaluation as a potential purchase. And, lessons would be available...the same way gyms have personal trainers. These could go beyond guitar lessons to how to record, production and mixing, etc. The computer setups would be updated with the latest software, and a choice of several popular programs obtained via a site license.

    If you took a liking to a particular instrument, you could buy the "used" version at a reduced price, or have the retailer order a new one for you from the manufacturer. Bands could pay an additional fee to rent the stage for a concert and sell tickers for admission.

    In other words, it would be a place for commerce, but it would also be a physical version of "social media" - a place where musicians could hang out, learn from each other, learn from the "personal trainers," etc.

    It seems success would hinge on:
    • A population base that could provide a lot of potential members
    • Having an online way to "book" sessions and know what's available (like a gym, you would run the risk that the equivalent of the Stairmasters or whatever would all be in use at the same time)
    • Being able to sell gear, both second-hand and new
    • Having a relationship with manufacturers - for example, a company comes out with a new MIDI controller that's tested out in several of the studios over a month, and the manufacturer would pay to get the results from this "focus group."

    I could see these starting in college towns where you have a big population of younger musicians with not much opportunity to set up a studio, and who could afford a $50 a month membership fee. Unlike traditional gyms that also charge an initiation fee that hits your wallet harder than the monthly fee, you could set it up so that anyone who buys a guitar, keyboard, interface, computer, etc. over $200 would automatically be eligible to join for the monthly fee...otherwise it would cost $99 or whatever.

    Also note that this would insulate the retailer to a great extent from manufacturers selling direct, because their income would come from sources other than just selling gear.

    What do y'all think...idiotic money-losing idea, or sensible future path for retailers?
    The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

  • #2
    I think in some ways you are talking about the music retailer of the past.

    When I was young, both Ace Music in Miami and Broward Band Instruments in Ft. Lauderdale had sound insulated practice rooms where you could try things out.

    I bought my first and second saxophone at Ace in Miami. First one was used, second one was new. They had a half dozen practice rooms, competing instruments both new and used, and expert help for brass, woodwind and string instruments. I tried out Conns, Kings, Selmers, and a few others. The first one I bought was a used Selmer Modele 26. Later as I wanted something newer I ended up with a new Selmer Mark VI. But I tried out 3 different new Mark VI horns in the practice room with a strobe tuner and took the one with the best intonation. Before that I tried out a Conn, King, and Selmer and decided I liked the Selmer tone better.

    I was just a kid (I thought I was grown up) and the 'old guys' helped and shared their expertise with me.

    The store also offered lessons, repairs, and was a meeting place for area musicians, complete with a coffee machine and places to sit around and talk.

    Anyway Ace was purchased by a chain, Mars Music which was like a forerunner of Guitar Center that lasted a few years and then went belly-up because the care was no longer there, just sales without service.

    If we weren't so fixated on getting the best price for everything we buy, while ignoring the service extras that come with a full-service store, your store of the future and my store of the past with your modern tweaks could be a reality. I'd like that.

    Insights and incites by Notes
    Bob "Notes" Norton
    Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
    Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
    The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<

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    • #3
      When a Mars Music opened up in my neighborhood, they advertised a number of group classes in addition to private lessons. One was "Recording." I stopped in one day, looked around, and asked who was teaching the recording class. They said they didn't have a teacher yet, so I applied. Their audio showroom had a setup like a control room so you could actually record in there.

      They figured that would be the place to hold the recording class, but I didn't want customers wandering in (perhaps with a salesman in tow) during the class, and they didn't want to shut down that part of the showroom for most of an evening once a week. I got them to let me teach in one of the classrooms, and they were amenable to that, and even set aside an ADAT recorder, a Mackie mixer, a pair of powered speakers, and some mics and cables and got a cart so it could be rolled in for the class. After the first week's class, everyone took a turn at hooking up the gear. But they had a drum class that same evening (every evening, for all I knew) and you could hear them anywhere in the store. I gave up after two courses.

      As far as Craig's idea for a new music retailer model, my first thought about it was that it sounded like a well equipped rehearsal space with a sales office attached. I don't think that today's average musician would get enough out of a monthly membership to be worth while. Not enough cash flowing in to support a monthly chunk of cash flowing out, particularly with the occasional large chunk of cash going out that's associated with the facility.

      --
      "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
      Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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      • #4
        No gym. $5 at the door. Access to main areas.

        $15 at the door gets you into the really cool area for an hour of hands-on with stuff not found in area 1. Drums, of course, are down the street.

        Stay longer, another $15. Fee deducted from your $299 & up purchase if you buy today.

        Can't afford admission? Here, sign-up for the bookumdano credit card & get all-access admission. A free 6 months admission when you pile up a zillion on the card.

        Try the VIP admission plan too. $36.99 gets you access to try out stuff during musicians' favorite hours of 11pm to 4am. Everyone knows Marshalls start sounding real good at 1am.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by MikeRivers View Post
          As far as Craig's idea for a new music retailer model, my first thought about it was that it sounded like a well equipped rehearsal space with a sales office attached. I don't think that today's average musician would get enough out of a monthly membership to be worth while. Not enough cash flowing in to support a monthly chunk of cash flowing out, particularly with the occasional large chunk of cash going out that's associated with the facility.
          Think of it as similar to WeWork, which has shown there's a market for people who need to get things done, but don't have the facilities. The issue of where the money would come from is indeed what would mean success or failure. For example, I'm not sure it would make sense in Nashville, where every other house has a home studio...or New York or Boston, even though they are big college towns, because the cost of a space would be prohibitive. I see options like Bloomington, Indiana (164,000 population base with 44,000 students), College Station TX (242,000 population base, 60,000 students), Ann Arbor MI (State College PA, 356,000 population, 76,000 students), and the like as the kind of place where this might work.

          Not only are there students who won't be able to have recording studios in their dorms, they'll need a place to practice. When I went to the University of Pennsylvania, there was literally no place for the band to record or rehearse. I jimmied a few locks, and gained access to a crawlspace underneath the dorms. We rehearsed there until we were found out months later ("where is that music coming from?"). Given how much we were making from gigs, paying a monthly fee for a WeWork-type space devoted to music would have been a no-brainer. And, we could have recorded a demo reel to take to clubs when we were looking for gigs.

          Of course students wouldn't be the only potential customers, but they would make a good base. Also, corporations often need to do presentations, but don't have recording facilities, nor the ability to create a soundtrack. Same with schools that want to hire a remote recording setup, which could also be one of the services, to record a school play.
          The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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          • #6
            Well, move to Bloomington, open one up and see what happens. First, though, you might need to spend some time in a WeWork rounding up some investors. It's great that you were making enough money with your music in college to pay for a rehearsal/recording space if one was available, but most musicians don't. I expect that it would end up being more like a co-op with a relatively small pool of musicians and bands - those making enough money to pay the bills, with the hope that being able to practice and record in a dedicated space will make them more money.

            I don't really see much of an opportunity for a stocking retailer in that environment, though. If you have a community of musicians "professional" enough to want a recording or rehearsal space, one of them wanted to buy, say, a new guitar, he'd want to go to a dealer who could pull six Martin D-28s out of the stockroom and pick the one he liked the best - as several friends of mine were doing at Washington Music Center 30 or more years ago. I don't know if it's different with the new management, but I know that it used to be that Gibson wouldn't sell to a store that didn't maintain a fairly high dollar inventory of their products. That might be hard to do unless the town really needed a full-stocking music dealer. And then it would have to be in a civilized area of town. When I was in Nashville some 20 years ago there were a couple of rehearsal facilities that attracted both local and touring musicians, but they were in warehouse-like areas by the river. That may all be gentrified now, but back then, while inside they were pretty spiffy, but parking lot was fenced and gated, and nowhere near a bus stop.

            I dunno, though. It might work, but I sure wouldn't invest my retirement nest egg in something like this.

            --
            "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
            Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by MikeRivers View Post
              I don't really see much of an opportunity for a stocking retailer in that environment, though.
              Think of it as a physical version of reverb.com more than a competitor to Guitar Center. You go there and end up falling in love with the Rickenbacker bass that people have been using for the past year. So you get a decent discount. The "WeWork" gets money to keep the inventory fresh (and hopefully made money off of the instrument in the meantime), probably enjoys tax advantages through depreciation, and if someone wants a new instrument...well, they buy stuff online all the time. No reason they couldn't order through the "WeWork."

              I wouldn't invest my retirement nest egg in this either without a whole lot of studying and focus groups. But the two things I can think of that follow this model are successful (WeWork was the sixth most successful startup in the world in 2017), so who knows...

              Also remember the window is closing on the days of people owning things...that was part of a different generation. Look how many people in cities don't have cars, they just get Uber of Lyft. They don't buy CDs or DVDs, they stream. Or have no dream of home ownership whatsoever, but just want to rent. Maybe they don't want to spend a lot of money on music tech gear that depreciates fast, needs to be taken care of, and is a PITA to pack when you move.

              And if it was a chain where I could go into the local one when travelling, that would be worth a lot to me.
              The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't know about Bloomington, but in DC, a single WeWork hot desk is $350/month, considerably more than the $50/month membership that you suggest - and that's with zero privacy, not what you'd want for your band practice or recording a demo..

                Also remember the window is closing on the days of people owning things...that was part of a different generation. Look how many people in cities don't have cars, they just get Uber of Lyft. They don't buy CDs or DVDs, they stream. Or have no dream of home ownership whatsoever, but just want to rent. Maybe they don't want to spend a lot of money on music tech gear that depreciates fast, needs to be taken care of, and is a PITA to pack when you move.
                Some people in big cities are giving up car ownership because a convenient place to keep the car when you're not using it is getting too expensive. Living in a condo so you don't have to mow the lawn or shovel the driveway and can walk to work is a viable tradeoff for some, but not everybody, and not struggling musicians who have to get to gigs with their gear.

                There's no need to buy an instrument any more. You can play your computer and when you need a different guitar or synthesizer, you can grab one from the cloud. That future is already here. If you're comparing your proposed service with Reverb, well, that would be more like having a used instrument store where you have an option to rent. You can go into Gruhn Guitars, see a lot of instrument to drool over, try them out, and buy one, but I don't think you can rent one. But there are several places where you can rent a vintage U47 mic, and sometimes you have the option to buy.

                Nah, I still don't think it'll work, at least not in the foreseeable future.
                --
                "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

                Comment


                • #9
                  Well, there may not be enough people who make (or care) about music to make it worthwhile. But these guys seem to be doing fine, and what they're doing is much more ambitious than what I had in mind.
                  The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Maybe business is good around Chicago, but a 5 piece band rehearsing for 5 hours brings in only $125 daytime and $175 at night. If they rehears once a week, that would barely keep the lights on. I think what they're depending on is a 12 piece crew rehearsing all day every day for a week or two in preparation for a tour.

                    It's not clear what their partner arrangements are but I suspect that the studio and co-working/office parts are run as separate operations, though maybe in the same building, or maybe not. Definitely an ambitious undertaking. How long have they been in business?
                    Last edited by MikeRivers; 11-26-2018, 05:50 PM.
                    --
                    "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                    Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have nothing to add, but I must say I am impressed by the music acumen and business savvy being shared in this thread and I am honestly enjoying it.

                      My current role and raison de être here could be described as ‘sponge’

                      Thanks Gents,

                      ‘Keep those cards and letters comin’ folks.’
                      Last edited by Luke17; 11-29-2018, 02:16 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MikeRivers View Post
                        Definitely an ambitious undertaking. How long have they been in business?
                        Almost 10 years...opened in 2009.

                        The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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