After the Shine Wears Off, It Still Comes Down to Quality

by Menzie Pittman • in
  • August 2018
  • Small Business Matters
• Created: August 6, 2018

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Late on a Saturday afternoon, I desperately needed a specific bicycle riding shoe. The good news for me was that the bike shop next to my music store was still open. I called before I drove in from home and spoke with the salesperson, and he was great. Unfortunately, the store did not have my size in stock. So I decided to call the shop in the town where I live. This was my first experience with this particular bike shop and, humorously, I actually had some guilt about this. But in the end, I can say I’m glad I went in because it really made me think about music stores and the differences between one shop and another.

At first glance

The local bike shop presented well. They had known brands, had clever displays, and the girl at the counter was very helpful. She pointed out where sale items were and ultimately I was able to get the things I needed to ride. Thankfully, there was a bike mechanic on duty. Not only was he pleasant, he was also thorough. He freshened up my chain with lube and touched up a few things that needed addressing. At that point I was able to ride that very same evening, as I had hoped.

On Monday when I went in to work, I walked over to my go-to bike shop next to my music store. I purchased some clothing items, and though nothing was on sale, they always adjust my price out of courtesy. While I was in there, though, something struck me: this shop was not as marketing-savvy as the other shop, but their three mechanics were slammed. My “aha” moment was that these were two very different styles of bike shops. No judgment here – just an observation. I wonder what a mom who is looking for a bike for her youngster sees in this store. And I wonder what the experienced rider thinks when he needs a respected mechanic ASAP.

The heart and soul of my business rests with my teachers – my “mechanics.” We have great products and services, but we are known for our unique level of knowledge in music education; we are known for our “mechanics.” And, as the music education waters become more polluted with misleading marketing and artificial offerings, I think the message of quality truly becomes significant.

Behind today’s mass marketing is a sophisticated psychology. It is intended to be alluring and enticing to the buyers. The attraction is so overwhelming that the buying public is often blinded by the pizzazz. It would behoove the general public to be more aware of the real offers behind the glitz. They need to understand that “specialized knowledge” brought qualified music stores to the dance, and we intend to stay. Our “specialized knowledge” truly does serve them.

Observe it in action

I was attending the final performance of a middle school band and orchestra camp. One intermediate strings ensemble in particular really got my attention. The group had two directors who split the conducting duties. When the first director tuned the group, it was very chaotic and the focus of the students drifted in and out; the conductor also seemed distracted by all the commotion in the room. Since the tuning was inconsistent and the chaos was distracting, as the kids began to play, the orchestra’s synchronicity was lost, which resulted in sound problems. This is not uncommon in intermediate orchestras, and we grin and bear it because we know they are learning.

However, in this case there is a plot twist.

The second director was a young man who is new to the region and taking over as director for a few elementary schools. As he silently stepped to the podium, the students became attentive and focused. While the orchestra had been tuning up, he had listened to the first song which enabled him to identify the three or four instruments that needed adjustments. He then quickly moved to make the modifications. Once he returned to the podium to conduct, the group was silent as he gestured with his fingers to his eyes for the group to keep their eyes on him. Once he knew he had their attention, he lowered his head, then lifted it again as he placed his hand above his right breast, and in style akin to Bobby McFerrin, tapped a tempo and rhythm out on his right upper chest. This fresh, young conductor then looked around again to make sure that all eyes were on him and nodded, giving the signal to prepare to play. All of the students snapped to playing position and, with one more nod, the orchestra commenced to play with command and good intonation.

Then the director began to twist and turn and gesticulate, as he conducted, looking as if he was performing a Tai Chi ritual. The students never took their eyes off him, and the group sounded amazing. In truth, these were two different orchestras.

What these two scenarios teach us

As different as the two tales are, they are the same. Our industry is grappling with the invasion of the boxes and the click. I think we can agree there is some mighty fancy marketing taking place, but only some is authentic. Our industry was born from innovators, craftsmen, teachers, and artists. It might be time to reconsider our foundation. We are well-served to remember that music is a craft, and although it is unquestionably also a business, the spirit of it lies in the execution of its mechanics.

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