Paradise City

Christian Wissmuller • EditorialJuly 2019 • July 10, 2019

Photo by Philipp Birmes

Each July, MMR takes a close look at the MI scene – on both the retail and vendor sides – of a particular U.S. metro area. This year, we decided to shine a light on Austin, Texas (see Victoria Wasylak’s excellent Market Profile). Odds are, you’re aware that the Lone Star State’s capital is something of a boomtown, and has been for a number of years. I first visited Austin in 2006 and it was already a very happening spot: lots of thriving companies

with innumerable start-ups swimming in their wake; young, hipster migrants; trendy cafés, restaurants, and clubs to cater to such new-comers; and just a very palpable “vibe” – there was an energy to the place. When I returned a couple years ago, I was floored by how much the city had transformed in such a relatively short time. Since 2006, Austin has added four major skyscrapers (over 500 feet) to its skyline with 11 more(!!!) currently in the works, and between 2014 and 2018 the city added 12,000 new tech workers to the area.

This phenomenon – urbanization – is by no means limited to Austin. Any regular Summer NAMM attendee or exhibitor can attest to how drastically Nashville has changed in the past 10-20 years and there are similar hotbeds of city growth throughout much of the nation.

Add to that the continuing (and, in most cases, expanding) allure of perennially popular metro areas – NYC, San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, et cetera – and you’re looking at a truly historic shift in how and where folks choose to live.

And this trend is global. In 2015, the International Organization for Migration estimated that roughly three million people are moving to cities each week with over 54 percent of global population being in urban cores – up from 30 percent in 1950. Of what relevance is all this to MMR readership?

Time was, many (hell, most) middle-income houses had pianos. Not only does my modest city apartment not have room for even an upright, but of all my friends and their extended families I can only think of two that have a piano in the home. As more and more people attempt to squeeze into finite spaces, we’re living closer to one another, on top of (or beneath) one another – and, as a byproduct, not only is it our own space that we have to navigate, we also need to acknowledge that our nearest neighbor likely isn’t separated by two large lawns, but by paper-thin walls and ceilings (see this month’s Roundtable on the changing trends in guitar and bass amplifiers on page 42). The days of getting a group of like-minded souls together to bash out some tunes in a garage or basement are long gone for many. Not only is there only one garage on my own street (inefficient use of exceedingly expensive/profitable real estate), if anyone attempted to play live music with any degree of volume (forget acoustic drums) there’d be a neighborhood uproar since we’re all packed in like sardines. Consumer playing (and consequently purchasing) habits are changing to adapt to the realities of city life. Products are already being engineered to better serve today’s musician. Savvy MI retailers will keep up with what gear speaks to the customer of 2019 – not of 1969 or even 1989.

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