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The Keys to the Kingdom? Synthesizer Module Market a Tough Nut to Crack

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • April 2018
  • Survey
• Created: April 9, 2018

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The synth market in 2018 is an interesting segment. You’ve got old-school purists embracing (or re-embracing) analog modules that broke the scene in the first place, older semi-pros and pros who appreciate the power and versatility of today’s tech, and then younger users who see upside in the lower-priced yet feature-rich models out there.

In fact, a great many who participated in this month’s poll (over 400 MI dealers) noted that a lot of today’s synth customers come from that latter group. “Teenaged, financially challenged,” as Ron Shuff of Shuff’s Music in Franklin, Tennessee categorized the “typical” synthesizer module customer.

While it’s seemingly a fairly static market – with 44.1 percent of those who took part in April’s survey citing “level” sales compared to last year – it’s worth noting that nearly six percent of respondents said that synth sales account for over 75 percent of their overall business. Not too shabby.

The resurgence of interest in analog synthesizers is also clearly a “real thing.” While only just under 11 percent (10.7) polled this month claimed those instruments comprised a majority of synth sales, essentially all agreed that analogs represent a far greater profit margin, so that’s nothing to sneeze at – and I think we’d all agree that a decade or so ago, those analog instruments would have represented a far, far smaller number of overall sales. It’s a wacky, weird instrument segment. Read on to see what trends are shaping reality these days on the retail level…

How would you describe the “typical” synth customer at your store (age, income bracket, experience level, intended usage, et cetera)?

“30-50 years old, £15,000-20,000 annual income, with a home studio.”

David Hopkins

K G Music LTD

Dundee, Angus

UNITED KINGDOM

 

“19-38 years old.”

Woody Kilough

Kilough’s Music

Marion, North Carolina

 

“Generally [they’re] synth lovers from the first days of synths – 1965 through the 1970s.”

Jeff Hashbarger

Jeff’s Morrell Music Shop

Kingsport, Tennessee

 

“Above 40 and not really ‘MIDI-hip.’ We sell a drawbar clone product, so it’s a really narrow market.”

Tom Tuson

Diversi Musical Products, Inc.

Woodlyn, Pennsylvania

 

“20ish years old, poor, weekender players. ‘Wish I had the money.’”

John Sherwin

Mid Rivers Music

St. Peters, Missouri

 

“Late teens to mid-twenties. Mid-income bracket that plays small clubs and parties.”

David St. John

Gard’s Music, LLC

Glendora, California

 

What are the biggest recent or emerging trends when it comes to synthesizers and sound modules – either on the supplier or consumer side?

“Nord started making noise in South Africa.”

J. Feldtmann

Jean Village Music

Centurion, Gateng

SOUTH AFRICA

 

“Tabletop synthesizer modules and Eurorack modules.”

Sam Masuko

Three Wave Music

Hawthorne, New Jersey

 

“Synth people are going the way of the DJs: Getting excited by what they see on YouTube, buying it from you, and then returning it the next day because getting better requires learning and work!”

Anthony Mantova

Mantova’s Two Street Music

Eureka, California

 

“The market is saturated – way too many models.”

Dan Patterson

Roger’s Pawn & Music

Ft. Payne, Alabama

 

“Most synths are wanted for electronic music, with step sequencers and percussion on board. Sound modules are rarely asked for, except by the occasional older, experienced keyboardist. Software synths and looping on the computers have become the favorite habits of the ‘kids.’ It’s easier, and on a platform they are comfortable with.”

Frank Karnes

Lynchburg Music Center

Lynchburg, Virginia

 

“Extreme value for the price paid. Today’s customer is able to purchase a goldmine of sounds and features on a small budget.”

Mike Guillot

Mississippi Music Inc.

Thibodaux, Louisiana

 

“Probably the ‘Moog’ copy analog synths from a few companies for way less money and perhaps lower costs and new products from co-op products like the OB-6.”

Randall Robert Platt

Plattsounds

Lenexa, Kansas

 

“Customers are preferring new technology of sounds over time-tested, used synths.”

John Clontz

Greensboro Music Co.

Greensboro, North Carolina

 

“USB & MIDI connectivity.”

Michael Virok

Bordentown Guitar Rescue, LLC

Bordentown, New Jersey

 

“Roland’s Juno DS 61 and 88 have been the hottest sellers – a workstation at $999.”

Justin Sims

Sims Music

Columbia, South Carolina

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