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Plugging Along… A look at the Increasingly Crowded and Diverse World of Instrument Cables

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • March 2018
  • Survey
• Created: March 12, 2018

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Braided, colored, coiled, switchable, with volume control, Bluetooth-capable, low profile, with gold connectors, DIY cable kits – the options available to end-users when it comes to selecting instrument cables have never been more varied, and the brands offering these products are just as numerous.

“Suppliers are offering great discounts which tells me the competition is heating up,” notes Paul Tobias of Downers Grove, Illinois’ Tobias Music.

Another significant trend observed by many participants in this month’s retailer survey (sent out to over 250 dealers) include a move away from the traditional, standard 1/4” cable. As Amy England of Arthur’s Music Store in Indianapolis puts it, “The biggest trend we’ve seen from customer requests is the adaptability of cables for other purposes than just guitar to amplifier. Instrument cables which go from instrument to USB, mini 1/8” jack, Y-splits, et cetera are the trend as more and more players are going direct into computers and mobile devices, bypassing traditional amps, and even soundboards for live performance and recording.”

Interestingly, a great number of the retailers we heard from pointed to increased business in this market segment not necessarily from traditional MI consumers.

“With less retailers like Radio Shack et cetera, there is great opportunity to profit from all sorts of cables and connectors,” says Philip Leitz of Florida’s Leitz Music Co. “If you have it, you sell it. If not, consider it another loss to the Internet black hole.”

With more brands in this market segment and different materials and manufacturing techniques being used, customers who purchase instrument cables from your store are…

“We have polarized cable sales. Either customers want the cheapest, or the perceived

quality of the ‘most expensive thing you got.’ Very rarely do customers ask specifically for

the mid-range cable. We always offer what we know to be the better quality, best value cable if they don’t ask. Normally that’s a standard Peavey cable.”

Amy England

Arthur’s Music Store

Indianapolis, Indiana

 

“If you carry almost every length and every possible adaptor, and lots of them, you will be

the ‘go-to store’ in your town.”

Mark Magellan

Bill’s Music Sales, Inc.

Stockton, California

 

“Most customers are fine with the old reliable stock numbers, but with a wider variety

in cables (i.e. kill switches, heavier shielding, et cetera). Some customers are asking for uncommon cables.”

Allen McBroom

Backstage Music

Starkville, Mississippi

 

“With everyone jumping into the cable market, customers are more confused than ever. Fortunately, most of our customers trust us to sell them the appropriate quality for their need.”

Ken Cefalo

Main Street Music, Inc.

Tracy, California

 

“It is so important to advise your customer about the difference in price and quality if you want to sell more expensive products. This applies to cables just as much as it does guitars or saxophones. It is imperative to keep up to speed because, with the vast amount of information available online, you can guarantee that most of your customers are very informed. Be the authority on what you choose to sell. As a Brick and Mortar/small dealer it is your best weapon against the Internet monster.”

Tony Harrison

The Cape Fear Music Center

Fayetteville, North Carolina

 

“People are looking for a better grade of cables at a competitive price. Road Hog is a big seller.”

Paul Lewis

Lewis Music Store

Kissimmee, Florida

 

What are the biggest recent or emerging trends when it comes to instrument cables – either on the supplier or consumer side?

“Our private label product is used as a spiff item on large purchases and we offer a lifetime guarantee as well. Very little returns, and the few we have had to replace, are usually accompanied with other purchases, offsetting the COG while still maintaining the excellent customer service we are well known for.”

Jerry Vesely

Vesely Music

Parowan, Utah

 

“More unique audio cables. It is true that with the loss of Radio Shacks, customers are looking for help with many audio needs. Even the guys from Best Buy will send folks our way.”

Kevin Hedley

Uncle Ike’s Music

Dubuque, Iowa

 

“The current trend has been that of the customer looking for a more heavy duty cable. High-end cable sales have increased more than any other.”

John Dees

Dees Music

Visalia, California

 

“Pig Hog’s high quality/low price one-two punch.”

Spidey Mulrooney

The Music Shop

Southington, Connecticut

 

“Domestic made with switchcraft components not Chinese Neutriks.”

Jeff Elias

Interesting Music Shoppe

Wilfrid, Ontario

Canada

 

“The educated consumer is getting tired of gimmicks. [They] just want quality. Customers are willing to pay for quality.”

Dan Patterson

Roger’s Music

Fort Payne, Alabama

 

“Technology-driven changes affect SKUs. For instance, almost no 1/4” insert cable sales, diminished RCA connectors, and increasing iPod style cables.”

Keith Giles

Alaska Music One

Juneau, Alaska

 

“Colored and braided cables seem to be popular on the consumer side. They know that that is ‘their cable.’ Most suppliers are putting ‘lifetime guarantees’ on their cables. Also, coil cables seem to be making somewhat of a comeback.”

Adam York

The Music Store, Inc.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

“Vintage cloth covered cables for instruments and microphones are increasing in sales monthly. Manufacturers are beefing up the appearance of their cables, which seems to be appealing to the consumer.”

Wesley Edwards

Draisen Edwards Music

Anderson, South Carolina

 

“We always try and sell them a good cable with a proper warranty. How many music stores can explain exactly what the benefits of a quad-core cable are? Well…we can.”

Tim Bascom

Morgan Music Services, Inc.

Lebanon, Missouri

 

“Some suppliers are thinking big and showing great wisdom in providing serious profit margins!”

Anthony Mantova

Mantova’s Two Street Music

Eureka, California

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