When the corona virus confiscated the Americans at home and forced the shops to close, Hale Ryan was preparing for a financial winter. As director of sales and marketing at Metroplex piano In Dallas and a 30-year-old piano veteran, he’d seen other crises – like September 11 and the 2008 recession – that damaged sales. When the blockade began in March, Mr. Ryan recently said in a phone interview, “I thought this would be the last nail.”
Instead, he started asking for instruments. Even when his showroom was closed, economy nose diving and the professional music world were in ruins, he sold pianos.
“It was actually the best three months I’ve seen in retail,” he said.
The piano market includes a wide range of instruments, from handcrafted grand piano costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to factory-made stands, digital pianos and keyboards for young learners. The high water mark of piano sales in America was in 1909 when 364,500 new acoustic pianos were sold in the country. Since then, radio, television, recordings, and instrument technology have changed the way music is produced and consumed. Only about 30,000 new acoustic pianos are sold here every year, but the number exceeds one million if all digital variants are included.
Even an instrument in the lower price range represents a significant investment and can appear as a luxury in times of economic uncertainty. And since the showrooms were closed this spring, potential buyers could no longer test the options. A sale was not only a boon, it was also a leap of confidence.
And yet, interviews with nearly a dozen dealers across the country show surprisingly robust sales suggesting a revival of making music at home just as the live concert scene disappeared. Most retailers saw an increase in demand for digital pianos that allow players to channel sound through headphones. This is an important feature in households where parents who work from home have room with distance learning children. The phenomenon appears to be part of a general linchpin for home recreation, along with increased demand for Fitness equipment and Cycles.
Indeed, a significant proportion of buyers appear to be new to the market. Tom Sumner, president of Yamaha Corporation of America, said in an interview that he had heard from retailers that between 20 and 25 percent of sales went to first-time buyers this spring.
“A good part of the customers are people who have never seen them before,” said Sumner.
According to him, Yamaha sold 60 percent more digital pianos this April than the same month last year. He added that the sales increase was particularly significant, as schools typically make large purchases in a typical spring to prepare for the fall band season. Due to the corona virus, this segment had ceased to exist, so that the increase in sales is likely to come from individual buyers.
Brian Majeski, co-owner of Music Trades, a company that analyzes data on the musical instrument industry, said in an interview that sales of digital pianos across America increased 30 percent in April and May, with the trend apparently continuing in June. He also noticed an increase in acoustic pianos, although it was smaller and was mainly driven by used instruments.
Nevertheless, Mr. Majeski said: “The question in our industry is: will this remain? Are you creating a new generation of players or is it a temporary increase in people who have time to look for things they can do? “
The Piano Guys, a crossover group that has clocked over a billion YouTube views with music videos of their arrangements for pop and classic standards, began selling digital pianos for $ 2,000 to $ 8,000 on their website last December Usually bundled together with proprietary sheets with online learning materials are music. Steven Sharp Nelson, a member of the group, said that a piano was sold every two or three days for the first few months. Demand rose sharply in April and May; On some days the band sold six pianos in one day.
He said it was the pandemic that made many learn to play the piano for the first time. “We are in a cadence,” he said, referring to the moment in a classical concert when the orchestra is falling off and the soloist is taking off on a flight that has failed. “People improvise.”
Amateur pianists and students also saw unexpectedly robust sales of acoustic stands. Kyle Merritt, the chief operating officer of Such piano In Ohio, his company’s total sales increased 20 percent in spring and sales of digital pianos increased 40 percent.
Many of Mr. Merritt’s customers were healthcare professionals. “Radiologists, doctors from university hospitals who bought pianos for their homes and children,” he said. “They always wanted to bring them to music. Now these children were being taught at home and to make music part of it they wanted the right tools. “
Isaac Namias, who sells restored acoustic pianos In Brooklyn, email requests skyrocketed when the virus hit New York. Under lockdown, he said, he sold almost twice as many units per month as during normal times, mostly instruments in the lower price range, around $ 2,500 to $ 6,500. About half of his business was run by piano teachers who referred students. Above all, professional pianists were missing from the customer list. Mr. Namias said: “You want to touch the piano, you know exactly what you are looking for.”
However, the dependence on practical, personal sales seems to have waned. Anthony Gilroy, a spokesman for Steinway, said in an email that while the company saw a decline in sales when the showrooms closed, the decline was less than expected. In response to the pandemic, Steinway for the first time created an option to buy pianos directly from its website. And salespeople who used digital platforms were able to make large ticket sales, including limited-edition Steinways that cost over a quarter of a million dollars.
Mr. Nelson of The Piano Guys compared the trend to car sales. “In my opinion, it’s when people started selling cars on eBay,” he said. “At first, people thought that was crazy. But now a significant part of car sales are done online. “
Mr. Ryan, whose Dallas showroom has now reopened, said he had organized virtual demonstrations of instruments on Zoom. “I never thought that someone would buy a $ 20,000 piano without playing it first,” he said. In this way, he sold several grand pianos, including a $ 200,000 Bösendorfer to a doctor who had worked on the front of the coronavirus.
“He is a pathologist and a serious player and he has always wanted a Bösendorfer,” said Ryan. “He is incredibly stressed and just wants to play the piano again.”