Look Stateside

MIN’s resident US correspondent Teri Saccone reports on the latest news from across the pond, and where else to start but with NAMM?

Keeping up to date with events in America is vital for the UK MI trade. Every month we’ll be offering a monthly overview of the expansive US musical instrument market: reporting on some of the more significant trends and providing insight from industry insiders so that you will obtain a factual picture of what is transpiring across the Atlantic.

And, what a vast market it is: comprised of roughly 600 companies with combined annual revenue of two billion dollars, the US music market is the largest in the world. Despite a flat to faltering US economy since 2008, plus a constant stream of new technology competing for attention and hard-earned consumer dollars, the American musical instrument manufacturing sector remains the largest and most diverse market in the world.

Top American brands like Fender, Gibson, Paul Reed Smith, Taylor, Zildjian, Gretsch and Steinway all make up part of the 50 biggest US manufacturing companies – who net the lion’s share (80 per cent) of overall revenue. But the smaller, unique brands – such as boutique drum companies like Pork Pie, and boutique guitar effects pedals – are gaining ground and finding their niche markets Stateside and globally, with increasing online purchases helping boost revenues.

One of the strongest sectors in the USA is the school band and orchestral market, which flourished during 2012, despite national cutbacks in music education in most of the 50 states. While the school music segment of the music product industry was fairly recession resistant over the last five years, the 2012 numbers show an increase over 2011. Imports of school music products are up 28 per cent for the quarter with sales at retail up 4.5 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to Music Trades.

At NAMM 2013, more than 350 manufacturers from around the world will be previewing the latest woodwind, brass, educational percussion and string instruments and the related gear and products to get kids and teens making music.

“Student band and orchestra rentals are still strong and have stayed so over the course of the last four years,” says Rick Young, senior vice president, Yamaha Corporation of America. “This resilience has also been proven in the past recessions. Parents still look favourably on their child learning to play an instrument and we have a constant replenishment of students every year. “Yamaha has been strongly focused on both music educators and school service dealers for many years and not just with our band and orchestra division, but also with keyboard, audio-video, commercial and pro audio and combo divisions.”

No school music program is complete without committed music educators. NAMM Foundation will host Music Education Days during the NAMM Show to offer music educators and administrators an opportunity to preview the latest instruments, products and tools relevant to today’s music classrooms and attend educational sessions designed to strengthen school music participation.

Aside from the education market, how can we expect the overall market to perform in the upcoming year? Industry experts are predicting strong potential growth throughout 2013 and for the next few years.

According to Betty Heywood, director of international affairs at NAMM, the signs are fairly positive for future growth. “Sales of musical instruments, like most consumer products, are impacted by the economic climate. While certain markets in Europe, particularly Spain, Italy and the UK to mention a few, have seen significant downturns over the last year or two, the US has seen a steady, modest increase in many categories, particularly in the school music market. We look at the industry’s sales in the US with careful optimism for the near future. As every year, the NAMM Show will be a good indication of what to expect for the coming year with all indicators showing that this will be the biggest since 2009.”

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