Sax Machine: The Saxophone Market in 2019

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • January 2019
  • Roundtable
• Created: January 23, 2019

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It’s the family of woodwind instruments that to the uninformed appears like it should be a brasswind; the instrument that calls attention to itself and drives melodic performances in classical, jazz, military, rock, pop, and beyond; the cornerstone of many a B&O retail department – the saxophone. We recently touched base with representatives from five prominent sax suppliers to get the scoop on how successful MI dealers market and sell these horns, what specific models are in-demand with players, and what the coming months may hold for this market segment

What musical or cultural trends have been driving saxophone sales lately? In the past few months are sax sales up, down, level when compared to the same time last year?

 

 

Matt Vance: Saxophone sales overall in the industry seem to be driven more and more by social media and artist presence in those various platforms. Manufacturers and dealers are utilizing viral videos more and more to promote their new products and artists.

Regarding saxophone sales for 2018 compared to Y-1, our Buffet Crampon 100 Series student saxophones show growth as do the professional sales for the Buffet Crampon Senzo (sold exclusively through Saxquest in St. Louis, Missouri). Buffet Crampon 400 Series and Julius Keilwerth professional saxophone sales are level compared to 2017.

David Benedetto: Saxophones continue to be a sought after instrument across many musical genres. Their unique sound makes them desirable for solo work and as part of many types of ensembles. We participated in a collegiate event aimed purely towards saxophone players. All types of musical styles were discussed and represented, from classical to jazz. At the end of the event there was a concert with an entire stage full of saxophonists….a fantastic sound and an awesome sight.

Ryan Richman: For us, at Eastman, saxophone sales are up compared to the same time last year. We are very fortunate that we have so many wonderful dealer partners that believe in our products as much as we do. I think that one trend that has helped saxophone sales is the amount of social media sharing these days. There are so many creative saxophonists that are sharing their love of the saxophone through this medium. I see people sharing everything from their practice sessions to live performances. It can be very inspiring to see what all of these talented musicians are working on, and with the ease of sharing it on Instagram, Facebook, and I am sure many other platforms, this trend will only continue to grow.

 

 

 

John Richardson: Being able to see any artist at any time on YouTube and other social media has definitely affected traditional styles and genres. Younger interested sax players now have an endless library of the type of music they are interested in or have discovered, furthering their interest in music. Also, seeing players on all different levels of product from student to pro and making great music lets the student know he doesn’t have to own a “pro” saxophone to be a killer player… just practice! We had a big year last year in saxophone sales and we are on track to surpass those numbers this year.

Brian Petterson: The market for saxophones is as strong as it has ever been, from student to step-up and high-end Custom models. The live music scene is as vibrant as ever and it’s fun to hear saxophones have a bit of resurgence in Top 40 radio too. But the main drivers behind the strong market are the teachers that work tirelessly to cultivate the next generation of talented saxophonists. When students start on a high-quality instrument from day one and study with a dedicated and inspiring music educator they stay in band! These students will continue to aspire to improve and this leads to step-up instrument sales and more life-long musicians. It all starts with music education in our schools.

 

 

 

Are there any significant recent developments with respect to the design or manufacture of saxophones?

DB: We continue to refine our manufacturing processes. Adherence to strict quality standards is so important to us. This has created a few back orders during the year, but we’d rather get it right the first time. We are also experimenting with new alloys that will have a positive and enhancing impact on sound, timbre and resonance.

 

 

 

 

 

BP: One of the interesting trends we have noticed in the live music and studio scenes is a trend towards very flexible instruments that give the player maximum control over every bit of their sound. The talent level of these gigging musicians is just incredible and their ability to control and manipulate their intonation, timbre and tone pushes the limits of saxophone design capabilities.

The same can be said for the saxophonists pushing the limits of repertoire right now, learning college-level pieces before they graduate high school. The construction and quality control of an instrument is as important as its design. Every part of every instrument must be precisely manufactured and in adjustment – and stay that way!

JR: The feature on our saxophones that we truly believe enhances the players experience is the adjustable palm keys. I am a player and teacher, so I have seen how this can positively affect the musicians experience.

 

 

 

 

 

RR: I can only speak to things that we have been working on at Eastman; we are always working on better ways to manufacture our instruments. We strive to continuously improve the performance of our products. Eastman is lucky to have a diverse group of endorsing artists and talented instrument makers that work together to make better saxophones. This, along with our team from our specialty brands like Wm. S. Haynes and Backun, gives us the ability to create really special instruments. We have some new products that you’ll see in the coming months that as a saxophonist I am very excited about.

MV: Buffet Crampon is constantly reviewing manufacturing processes to insure quality and more consistency throughout all our brands and models.

For your brand, what are currently some of the “hot” sax models?

JR: Our 1100 series saxophones are without a doubt the best thing to happen to our saxophone lineup. Available in Soprano, alto, tenor and bari, they feature the adjustable palm keys I mentioned above. It is available in gold lacquer finish and silver-plated with gold lacquered keys. Advancing players notice a significant difference in sound, feel and resonance, no matter what student brand they are currently playing.

RR: For us the 52nd Street instruments are the “hot” models in our line currently. It is always a best seller for us.

MV: The Buffet Crampon Senzo alto continues to gain traction in the professional saxophone market and the visibility and promotion of Senzo Artists Preston Duncan from the University of Minnesota and Alex Terrier from New York City have helped us make great strides in capturing more market share. Our 100 Series saxophones are also gaining market share as more and more educators realize the great value in this superb student instrument. 400 Series baritone saxophones also remain a favorite for school bids, given its excellent playability, affordability, and durability.

BP: It’s almost impossible to single out a single model that’s driving sales of Yamaha saxophones. The Custom Z saxes are the horns of choice for gigging saxophonists because of their flexibility of sound. The Custom EX saxes allow players to focus on making music because they’ve got a low end that speaks at any volume and ergonomics that fit your hands like a glove. However, the single hottest models in the Yamaha line have to be the ones that have been the hottest in the line for more than 30 years: the 62 models. You can’t find step-up horns with better bang for the buck!

DB: Our innovative raw bronze models (XR Series) continue to sell very well. These models are in high demand and offering them in alto, tenor, soprano and baritone models means we can fulfill the sax sound spectrum. Our straight alto and tenor saxophones are also selling well….they are tremendous for on stage performance.

For dealers who are especially successful with saxophone sales, what have you observed to be impactful promotion/display/sales techniques?

DB: Clinics that are offered in store along with one of our artists demonstrating/speaking, have been very successful and well received by the dealers, their local community, and surrounding school market resulting in new sales and product interest. The participating dealer then focuses on local promotion to build interest making the day something musicians, particularly middle and high schoolers, mark on their calendar as a “can’t miss” event.

RR: When I see a dealer that is successful with any instrument sales, there are always a couple of similarities. One is a great shop or instrument technician. Being able to service instruments after the sale is something that will keep customers coming back. Another is employing sales people that are passionate about the products that they are selling. It may not be a technique per se, but I think it is much more effective. People can usually tell if the salesperson would actually buy what they’re selling.

BP: The most impactful sales and promotional strategy we see Yamaha dealers using is creating exciting in-store sales events. Events that are well-executed start with months of planning, developing leads, networking with educators, and reaching out to the community. Once the event arrives there are several creative incentives to motivate them to show up, such as confirmed appointments, extra inventory, financing or rebate offers, and clinics. How they were drawn into the store that day may have been just one of those factors, but all of them combined help expert dealer salespeople close the sale!

JR: For us, we have seen that doing A-B comparisons by either teachers or students have led to an openness of what traditionally has been a closed door to intermediate level sales. The 1100 series instruments are a very affordable instrument for advancing players needing pro features at a modest price.

MV: In-store events with our artists is always a successful way to promote our instruments and generate sales. We consider our artists to be our greatest asset when representing our brands and having one of them playing and speaking about our instruments in an intimate setting is the best promotion.

What are your expectations for the sax market in the coming year?

BP: We have high expectations for the saxophone market over the next year and beyond. There is an option in the Yamaha saxophone line for every level of musician and at every price point.

Ongoing research and development projects – like the ones that resulted in the recently-introduced YAS-62III or YSS- 82Z models – are in the works. There is a dedicated, ongoing effort to generate exciting new products for Yamaha dealers to sell that are in demand and will grow their sales.

RR: We expect great things in the years to come for Eastman saxophones. We have a lot of saxophonists within our company and we are all very passionate about the instrument. It makes our development projects personal, since so many of us play. There are many new saxophone models that we are working on and we hope that our new instruments will help us attract additional customers.

MV: The student, intermediate and professional saxophone market grows more and more crowded each year, making quality, consistency and reliability all top priorities. Our goals are to grow each segment across both of our saxophone brands (Buffet Crampon and Julius Keilwerth), with particular emphasis on the 100 Series student saxophones, while maintaining the highest levels of quality, playability, durability, and craftsmanship.

DB: We feel the overall saxophone market will remain steady with our share continuing to increase. We are excited for 2019 as we are launching a new website, catalog and first ever Dakota calendar showcasing many of our endorsing artists. In addition, we have an entirely new booth for The NAMM Show providing another reason to give Dakota a prominent look.

JR: This is a tough question because the saxophone market is being flooded with brands, but I believe we are going to see a wider range of educator accepted brands, which will lead to students having more choices, but also teachers being more careful about what they recommend to ensure success at all levels of playing.

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