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The death of local ma & pa music stores.

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Gchord
(@gchord)
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Sadly,another music store bit the dust in our area.It has been in town for 35 years and closed it's doors Saturday.I don't know if it was just the Springdale store or all three in the state.Sigler has been here for quite a while and seemed to have every thing for every body.Luckily,there are two ma & pa locally owned music stores that are holding their own with Guitar Center.I thought it would be a cool store,but they don't have anything that appeal me.Sure they have guitars,straps,strings,and other musical items.What they don't have is a repair shop for those of us that can't do it ourselves.I don't like the fact you have to weave in and out of the many that seem to play death metal.I also don't like pushy salesmen,if I can't afford it,I don't buy it.How many of you all prefer a nice quiet ma & pa music store over Guitar Center?


   
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Ricochet
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I've never gotten over my store's closing. I've got no place to hang out with musicians anymore. :cry:

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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notes_norton
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I always buy at my local M&P store, even if I have to pay a little more. For a few reasons:

1) I am a local business (my band) and if I want other people to hire local bands, I figure I should also support local businesses

2) I get to try before I buy

3) EXTRA SERVICES

Let me elaborate on the extra services.

1) My local store lets me try the gear out on the gig and return it if I don't like it. As long as I return it in like new condition it doesn't cost me a cent. I've done this with a Sonic Maximizer and an FX unit (I ended up buying both because they worked).

2) Advice. The owner is a very good and very experienced guitarist.

3) Set up and repair.

4) Loaners when something breaks. The owner of my local store even gave me his cell phone number and told me "If something fails on the gig and you can't get it running, call me and I'll bring something out to make sure you finish the gig" - try that at a big box or Internet store.

Sure, you can get things cheaper on the net, but the extras you get locally can be priceless. And I find I don't really pay that much more (and sometimes less). They know they have to compete with Sweetwater.

So if you want the local M&P store to be when you need them, it just makes good sense to be there when they need you.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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NoteBoat
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I don't think it's time for a funeral yet... in fact, I think in the long run we'll be better off because of the big box stores. In fact, I'm counting on it - it's a big reason I opened my music school. Here's my thinking:

The way people buy things changes over time, and a lot more rapidly than people think. Just 150 years ago, most people bought most things from traveling salesmen in horse-drawn carts. Then railroads were built, and stuff could be shipped inexpensively - which led to the dominance of catalog retailers like Sears. In the 1930s, the combination of the dust bowl and the depression drove people to cities in search of work, and it was more convenient for people to buy at shops - and still more convenient to buy a lot of different things at one shop. That made the dominant players department stores. In the 50s through the 70s people started becoming more affluent; they moved to the suburbs, bought cars, and wanted higher end things. The combination of money and mobility led to shopping malls and specialty merchants... everything from Victoria's Secret to Yankee Candle to your local music stores - most of them were founded in that era.

The 1980s brought new technology. I don't mean the obvious (online shopping), because people don't buy a ton of instruments that way - I mean the ability to collect data about your market and make good decisions. Sam Walton built an empire by knowing what people were actually buying. Your local grocery store probably does the same thing. But how many music stores use bar code scanners to reduce their costs and increase their understanding of what their market wants? The business shifted to those who invested in the future... which is mostly the big box guys.

Overall, that's good for consumers. All that investment means efficiency, and lower cost - good guitars are a lot less expensive than they were in the 70s. And social trends - among them the success of Rock Band and Guitar Hero - have increased the number of potential musicians. More musicians mean more consumers, which is good for the mom & pops. But they have to be smart about it.

The big box guys must survive on volume. Their stores are too big to give space to slow moving items. And that means the specialty items have no home there...

But more consumers also means more demand for the oddball stuff, not just mini-Strats. I see a much larger potential market for mom & pops who define a specialty and serve those customers. You can't do "me too" marketing against Guitar Center. But how many high-end acoustic guitars do they carry? How many left-handed ones? How many archtops? How about bajo sextos or other mariachi guitars?

And that's just in guitars. There's room for shops that specialize and provide the services GC and others don't. If you invest in inventory that others don't carry, market yourself well, and give great service, you'll not just survive - you'll thrive. Where would you go to buy a bagpipe chanter? Or dulcimer strings? Or banjo heads, musical spoons, or a didjeridoo? People do buy those things, and the big retailers will never carry them. But somebody will. And if GC knows you have it and they don't, they'll send you customers.

GC is just 2 miles from our school, so we're not about to try selling mass market guitars. But GC referrals are actually our fourth best source of customers - they know we've got oboe reeds, French horn rotor oil, etc. I'm in their stores often... not to see what they've got, but to figure out what they don't.

One other fact - big competitors don't adapt well to market changes. Sears moved from catalog to department store just fine, but floundered against malls. Dozens of other huge players in every area - from Montgomery Ward to Commodore computers - are just memories.

Business is about competition, and business goes to those who compete well. Most small retailers don't, or they used to and didn't pay attention to changes in the market and the competition. The ones that pay attention and act accordingly are growing. They'll be the ones people complain about in 20 years as having put the local GC out of business!

(I see Notes just posted - and he's right about the service, loaners, expert advice, etc. These intangibles are also things GC doesn't carry; the local store needs to be smart about marketing that fact, because it's a competitive advantage!)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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kent_eh
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Part of me laments the absence of the amazingly good deals you Americans get at mass-market places like GC and Sam Ash, as there is no really similar music retailer in Canada.
There are a couple of national chains, but they don't follow the mass market, high volume lowest price model. They are more like mom-n-pops that just kept growing and spreading.

But that has helped the on-going survival of the smaller shops.
Here in Winnipeg, there are the national chains of course (Long&McQuade, St Johns and Mothers Music) but there are also more locals than I can keep track of.

Including (all storefront shops):
-several multi-instrument shops with 1 or 2 locations
-one that specializes in bluegrass instruments (and hosts jam sessions regularly)
-one violin specialist (custom made instruments available)
-several places that sound a bit like Noteboat's with main focus on lessons, but a small retail selection of things the students need (stopped at one this week, and he offered me a Dano Baritone for $150 - how's that for a deal!)
-And one place that sells nothing but sheet music and lesson books

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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notes_norton
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I think there is a common misconception that the M&P stores are much more expensive than the big-box stores.

I just bought an Multi-FX pedal. The lowest price I found on the 'net from a reputable merchant was $199. I got it for $202 including tax from an authorized dealer with full warranty.

For her birthday last year, I bought my wife an Ibanez nylon string guitar, I got it for $20 less than the big Internet retailers were selling it for. (I forget the exact price and model number.) Before I got it, the tech checked it and set it up properly - it played like a dream from the day I walked in the store. Good deal on the hard case, too. All in all I would have spent more on-line and had to pay someone to set it up properly.

I get my strings and reeds for a few pennies less than GC, WWBW, or MF online, I don't pay shipping, and it gives the M&P store cash flow and small profits.

Most M&P stores will come close to the Internet dealers in price, especially if you go there often enough for them to know that you are a regular customer. Sometimes they will even beat the Internet price.

The only time I go to a big box store or deal through the 'net is if my local store cannot get it for me.

And I get those extra services that you really can't put a price on.

If you want those services, if you want somebody there when you need them, you have to support them.

More extra services. Many years ago I was shopping for a new mic for my sax. The music store owner recommended a Sennheiser 421MD, went to the back room recording studio, gave me one from his studio, said use it on the gig and come back Monday -- if you like it, I'll order one. I loved it, went back Monday and told me to use his mic until the new one comes in.

A week later, the new mic comes in, he charges me $300. I go home and check the catalogs, Sam Ash, Manny's and everyone else was selling them for $300 + shipping. (this was pre-internet).

Come to find out that his advice was perfect. I've seen them on TV, Movies and live concerts used for saxes, brass and drums. Once the Internet came around, I found it is one of the best dynamic mics available for both sound quality and durability. It has no proximity effect, it's been banged and dropped, and almost 30 years later it sounds as good as it did the day I brought it home. It outlasted 3 Sure SM58s that my partner used for vocals, and she just bought one for her voice. Her brand new one looks better, but doesn't sound any better than my beat up one. That's quality.

If my M&P can get it, I'll get it from them every time.

Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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Gchord
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I seen where Guitar Center is having a big Memorial Day Weekend Sale this weekend.I'm not interested in buying a B.C.Rich guitar,even if it is $100. My long hair,hard rocking days have been replaced with a Yamaha nylon string guitar,Takamine steel string,and a Regal resonator.My long hair has been chopped short and the long wide mustach is a trimmed beard.I still have my electrics but I don't feel the need to crank it loud anymore.Maybe I'm just getting old. :lol:


   
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bobblehat
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Just to give my take on the Uk situation.I buy almost all of my gear on-line, guitars,strings,cables even plectrums purely because of the cost.
To give you an example my son wanted a Zakk Wylde Epi Les Paul a couple of years ago.The cheapest I could get it for locally was £700.I bought one on-line for £440.00 including next day delivery.
I ordered five packets of Earnie Ball strings on line yesterday at £4.00 per pack + £1.50 delivery and they arrived this morning.My local store charges £7.00 per pack!

I would like to support my local stores but they carry very little stock and their prices are too high.The only high street stores that are going to survive are the ones with a good online presence to compliment their retail store.

Just my thoughts.

Bob.

My Band: http://www.myspace.com/thelanterns2010
playing whilst drunk is only permitted if all band members are in a similar state!


   
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alouden
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I am fortunate that the only store in my town is locally owned and operated. I have been in Sam Ash and GC both and was not impressed with their selection or service. Not to mention the two guys in GC that were banging metal so loud that I could even hear myself play an acoustic on the other side of the store. I was also surprised at the dearth of quality instrument in the box stores. Not that I am always in the market for a 4000.00 Taylor, but it is sure nice to see and play with them.


   
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Vic Lewis VL
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I don't have a local music store - you'd think a town with a population of over 20,000 would at least have somewhere you could buy strings, but no - I have to go to St Helens or Warrington, either of which costs me £4 in bus or train fares. A packet of strings is around £6, so if that's all I need it means I'm paying £10 for a set of strings!

There used to be a well-established guitar shop in the 70's to mid 80's - don't know why it actually shut down. Then someone opened one in the 90's which lasted about 12 months - it's now a flower shop.

I sometimes wonder why a big chain store like Dawson's doesn't rent a market stall - there's a very busy market every friday, one of the biggest around here. If they only sold strings and plecs and a few accessories, they'd at least have a presence in the town and people might be more kindly disposed to visit their store in Warrington, especially if they gave out catalogues.

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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rr191
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I think another reason M&P shops are hurting is that they are not allowed by manufacturers to advertise anything but the MSRP. This is particularly true with mid to higher end guitars. Thus, it gives the impression that they are expense. In reality, most will give your a very competitive price versus on-line purchases when you factor in your ability to play them in-store, cost of shipping and the level of personal care.

-- Rob


   
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Gchord
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I have been doing buisness with Ben Jacks music ever since I learned to play.Even though Ben has passed away,his wife and children still let it continue operating.They still have a local following and competes very well against the big guitar store giant.I like the fact that the salemen/manager knows my name and my tastes.Blue Moon music is also holding it's own because the owner is a luthier.I also like the fact that they have numerous and afforable used guitars.


   
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Blueline
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You know...I miss the small M&P music (Album and CD) stores more that I do the guitar shops. I used to love going into the small local stores and talking with the owners. They always had the inside edge on new music and would turn me on to bands/musicians that I would never had heard without their advice. When I was younger, I would go into the local shop and beg/ask for the posters on the walls. I got lucky often and had to pay a few bucks once in a while but I always had posters that none of my friends had.

In the early 80s there was a pretty big underground movement where we would trade cassette tapes with each other. It was not uncommon to get a tape that originated on the other side of the country. Many of these tapes were handed out by the bands at local concerts.

Try getting that kind of experience at one of the bigger stores now. With the advent of the internet, most stores do not have a big inventory anyway!

Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.


   
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notes_norton
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You know...I miss the small M&P music (Album and CD) stores more that I do the guitar shops.<...>

I miss them too. And I remember when they had listening booths so you could hear the records before you bought them.

When I was very young, and a neophyte sax player, I walked into the local M&P record store and asked for a good jazz sax record. The owner turned me on to "Focus" by Stan Getz. I'd never heard Getz before and never heard anything like Focus. I've since worn out 4 LPs of Focus, and now have the CD which I hope won't wear out (or get those terrible pits in it).

BTW, Stan Getz is my all-time favorite sax player. He had a way with melody and hid is great technical ability so it sounded easy.

The last vestige of the M&P music shop was a place in Miami I used to visit when working on the cruise ships in the late 1980s. It was a used record shop called "Blue Note" and the owner Bob Perry had some very rare LPs there (including the complete set of Charlie Parker on Dial and the Beatles Butcher cover). If I ever get near Miami and have the time, I'll stop in for a visit and see how he is doing. But Miami is well over 100 miles away.

I still have two small music shops I visit, but no record shop. So I guess i mess the record shop more myself.

Notes

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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Blueline
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When I was very young, and a neophyte sax player, I walked into the local M&P record store and asked for a good jazz sax record. The owner turned me on to "Focus" by Stan Getz. I'd never heard Getz before and never heard anything like Focus. I've since worn out 4 LPs of Focus, and now have the CD which I hope won't wear out (or get those terrible pits in it).

BTW, Stan Getz is my all-time favorite sax player. He had a way with melody and hid is great technical ability so it sounded easy.

That is exactly what I miss. I was turned on to Miles Davis in the same manner. I can't imagine not having that experience in that small shop. How does one go through life not having heard Miles Davis? Without the small record shop, I would have never had the opportunity or would have never picked up one of his albums on my own!

Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.


   
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