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In a market segment where the end-user tends to skew towards the conservative and traditional (“staid,” as more than one participant in this month’s survey put it), it’s not especially surprising that the results of this poll didn’t really yield any bombshell revelations regarding the current violin market.
However, while nearly 80% of dealers report that electric violins comprise less than 10% of their total violin sales, with the vast majority noting that they only acoustic models, there were some who reported increased interest in electrics. One survey participant who, regrettably, didn’t want his or her name or store affiliation published, summarized the feelings of the former camp fairly succinctly: “I don’t sell electric violins. Never have, never will. Let someone else sell ‘em.” From the latter group: “Beginning students are showing more interest in starting on an electric violin. I don’t see music instructors caving to that desire anytime soon,” observes David St. John of Glendora, California’s Music & Arts.
A number of dealers claimed that, post-recession, upper-tier violins going well over $2,000 are now selling at a decent clip.
“The average purchaser of a violin is far more educated than the average guitar shopper,” asserts Dan Patterson of Roger’s Music in Fort Payne, Alabama. “They are willing to invest in a much better quality instrument from the start.”
Many, though, report that price (low price, that is) remains the primary factor for consumers. Manor Music’s (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) Dale Fryberger says, “People want the absolute cheapest violins they can find. $125 is max they will spend.”
Another trend that got a lot of traction in this month’s survey was – you guessed it – internet sales. While competing on levels of price and convenience were, of course, cited as points of concern, with respect to online violin sales, many also noted the general
lack of “ready to play” instruments. As Tim Bascom of Morgan Music in Lebanon, Missouri puts it, “Amazon, Ebay, et cetera is a problem… lots of ‘VSO’ (violin-shaped-object ) buying going on. [Parents] buy their kids only according to price and end up with a, shall we say, less than serviceable instrument [that] won’t play properly without a lot of set-up work.”
Have you been noticing any significant trends when it comes to this market segment – on either the supplier or consumer side of the equation?
“Based on my school rental/sales business, which is the largest portion of our violin sales, it seems that most consumers are purchasing based on lowest price only and don’t even want to rent for $20 per month when they can buy online for $69. The majority of our clients give us a ‘deer in the headlight’ look when we try to explain sizing issues and quality over price. We are becoming a very disposable society.”
“Not really. It’s a pretty staid bunch. Only real shift I’ve seen is toward nicer cases with hygrometers.”
“I’ve noticed in regard to our personal situation that our sales have picked up because we have stocked more solid wood violins, et cetera for at or around $200. That seems to really help our customers.”
Bill Harris Music
“The average consumer cares less about where the instrument is made and more about how it plays and sounds.”
PM Music Center
“Customer price limits are increasing. Where our ‘high ticket’ violin sales were maxing out at about $2,000 after the recession, we are finally starting to see customers coming in looking at (and purchasing) instruments above this threshold again.”
Watermelon Music, Inc.
“[It’s] no longer possible to sell an instrument only. Consumers expect a package of instrument/case/bow, so we create them and adjust the price accordingly.”
High Strung Violins & Guitars
Durham, North Carolina
“The Chinese instruments are becoming more acceptable as their quality continues to rise.”
Ted Brown Music
“Schools that stopped string programs 25 years ago are slowing starting to restart them. We are doing lots of rentals as well as sales.”
“Violin sales and rentals continue to be very strong. Most popular price point is $199, which puts in within reach of everybody. There is also a healthy step-up market in the $300 to $500 range from those who continue past the entry-level first instruments.”
San Fernando, California
“We have upped our school rental game by providing upgrade student instruments with better strings and woods. We avoid now the ‘cheap’ that anyone can purchase online. Having full service behind any instrument we rent or sell does sway some customers from buying blind online. A strong partnership with Conn-Selmer has made this change possible.”
Crystal Lake, Illinois
“All internet-purchased instruments are not violins out of the box… Politely, they are shells; impolitely, they are sh__. All instruments absolutely need professional setup before being playable at whatever level.”
Pete Van Alstyne
Pete’s Music Center
Yuba City, California