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As a 13-year-old guitarist in the ‘60s, I would often visit my local MI dealer. The policy of the store was: “You can look at the guitars, but no touching unless your parents are with you.” Needless to say, this was not a very engaging customer experience. A lot has changed… or has it?

While MI stores today, large and small, have an overflowing inventory of instruments, all ready to be played, (no parents required) there are two key points to consider:

Tangible assets, like your inventory, are worth considerably less than intangible assets, like customer relationships and employee talent. As researched by Ocean Tomo, LLC, in 2015 the intangible assets of the S&P500 – the public listing of 500 large companies – represented 87% of its total value.

Pundits keep telling us that for brick-and- mortar-stores to survive a virtual AI powered world of online only box-pushers, the customer experience, or the “wow” factor has to come first, and the product second.

If intangible assets – customer experience, employee talent, process & technology – contribute more to the bottom line than tangible assets like music instruments and accessories, why do most community retailers continue to play by the rules of the online-only box pusher retailers who only have three cards to play: price, selection, and speed of delivery?

Why are brick & mortar stores with an online presence not promoting their physical space where people can gather, learn, share, and be musically inspired? This is kind of like drawing a straight flush, only to throw away the winning card, which is your music store. I recently experienced music instrument nirvana in a beautifully designed space, but unfortunately it was not an MI store. It was an MI museum.

The Musical Instrument Museum, located in Phoenix Arizona promotes itself as “The World’s Only Global Musical Instrument Museum.” For me this was a “wow” for two reasons: 1) the museum offered a dazzling array of global instruments and 2) each instrument was accompanied by a video story creating engaging context.

Want more wow? My VIP tour guide told me if you can’t find an instrument, tell us and we will find it and put it on display. This is a great story. What is your story?

You’re probably thinking that’s all very nice Jaimie, but we don’t have 200,000 square feet of free space to create geo galleries, and we don’t have a collection of global instruments and even if we did, if I can’t sell it, I’m not giving up floor space.

Firstly, you can start small carve out whatever space you can. And secondly, the sales per square foot ROI rule may have to be reexamined. Many of the largest retailers in the world increasingly believe that when designing space, retailers will spotlight the entertainment factor first, and the product second.

Five ‘Storytelling’ Tips.

TIP #1: The Aging Population. MMR ran a story by Victoria Wasylak and Christian Wissmuller in August 2017, about how Michael Kelly Guitars launched a new group of six-pound electric guitars called the “Enlightened Collection.” The increasing demand from an aging demographic with lightweight instruments is certainly worthy of an exhibition. I can tell you that I love my Gibson 347, but when playing standing up, it is heavy.

Tip #2: Science Brings Music To Life. STEM educates students in four specific disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Teaching students about the science of sound waves by using musical instruments is not new. What is new, would be a class field trip to your store bringing the story to life. MIM had a great exhibit on Electronic Music.

Tip #3: Artist Residency Program. Reach out to your jazz history buffs, your classic, or rock nerds and invite them to an “explore big ideas from the first hundred years of jazz, classical history.” Reach out to your music teachers and invite them to your special event. Parents and children are invited.

Tip #4: The Culture of Music Instruments. Partner with the cultural and religious institutions in your market place. Cultural diversity is a hot topic today, more than ever. Using different music styles to provide positive global awareness is of value to school across America. Create a performing and educational event around the diverse cultures in your market place. For example, I blow the shofar-an ancient bugle like musical instrument made of ram’s horn- for my house of worship. If you service this community, why not create an exhibition right before the holidays on the different types of shofars and tips how to blow it? Easy picking for a trumpet player.

Tip #5: Music & Wellness: When my dad lost the capacity to speak and walk, music literally enabled him to sing lyrics and dance. Email me and I will send you the video link of me strumming and my dad singing and dancing. Partner with a music therapist and invite your community.

Start small. Carve out a small space for events and ask your suppliers for help. Tell a great story, and let your imagination go wild and share your unique value.

Jaimie Blackman – a former music educator & retailer – is a certified wealth strategist & creator of MoneyCapsules Value-Builder, which capsule value- building activities into 90-day sprints. Blackman helps music retailers accelerate business value now and maximize value when it’s time to exit. Blackman is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center. Visit to register for educational webinars and to subscribe to his podcasts.

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