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A Show of Hands: Hand Percussion Sales in 2019

Christian Wissmuller • November 2019Roundtable • October 29, 2019

Hand percussion instruments: they’re relatively compact (usually), entry-level models are some of the most accessible instruments out there, the learning curve and gentle and forgiving, and whenever Santana has a hit song, sales go through the roof.

How are these versatile percussion products doing in 2019, though? A few years ago, everyone was all about cajons – are they still the hot sellers? We recently touched base with reps from five of the biggest name in hand percussion to take the pulse of this market segment.

For your brand, what are currently the top-selling hand percussion instruments?

Derek Zimmerman: For LP, congas are still king and we continue to grow in the conga market. Cajons are also big contributors to our sales and are a key category for our continued growth.

Gil Soucy: We are seeing strong sales across our offerings, but our patented half-moon tambourines which were invented by Rhythm Tech in the ‘70s continue to be top sellers for us. We are also seeing very strong sales on the new Palma Series range of cajons launched this year at NAMM, including our new djembe which is the only djembe available with a snare “onoff” feature.

 

 

Glen Caruba: Cajons, cowbells.

Adam Anderson: Cajons, cajons, and cajons – specifically our Subwoofer Bass Cajon and the Turbo Slaptop Cajon, which some people prefer since you do not have to lean over to play. Oh, and also our Synthetic Djembes. The classics never go out of style.

Lane Davy: I guess the answer depends on whether you measure “best- selling” by units or dollars. In sheer unit volume, it’s a toss-up between our Synergy congas and bongos or the Colorsound djembes. In terms of sales revenue, the new Jimmie Morales line of fiberglass congas and bongos have rocketed to the top.

Have you been noticing any significant shifts or trends in this market segment – on the vendor, retailer, or end-user sides of things?

GS: Online sales are growing at a higher rate than in past years, but brick and mortar shops are also up. End-users have been more quality conscious and less price sensitive and want great sounding instruments first and foremost.

AA: Versatile instruments. People want items that are not only perfect for their immediate needs, but ones they can and will use for a long time.

LD: The thing I hear most often is that cajons are not the hot commodity they once were. For us, it’s hard to tell. Historically, Toca has not been a big player in the cajon market, but we also sell the high-end Peruvian brand, A Tempo. In that segment of the market, sales are steady.

GC: The market has reached a saturation point for cajons and we are seeing and hearing an overall decline in sales. Typical “Latin” percussion instruments are also stagnant partly due to a robust used market.

 

DZ: There is the obvious migration to online retail and we are seeing that shift in line with other industries. There are many traditional brick and mortar retailers that are using creative and savvy tactics to get people in their store fronts while growing their online presence, which is ideal. I also see that many retailers are becoming more specialized and wanting more and more customization for their customers. On the consumer side, there is a resurgence of “Latin” influence in pop music as well continued growth in the recreational, ritual, and world drumming market. This is a great time for growing our customer base as more folks enter the hand drumming space.

 

What are some best practices that especially savvy retailers embrace when it comes to displaying, promoting, and selling hand percussion?

LD: This question always makes me nervous because retailers spend their days in the trenches and know their business so much better than we do. If I had to pick a couple things, my first thought is to be sure the tunable instruments are tuned and set up correctly. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gone into a shop that has all of the guitars at least in the ballpark of being tuned, but the congas and bongos have almost zero tension on the heads. My second recommendation is pretty basic too: if something isn’t working, let us help you try something different. We have a lot of ways to help mitigate the risk of trying new things.

AA: There are three basic points:

  • Having the largest selection possible, which helps combat the notion that you might be missing something cool online.
  • Making sure the instruments are properly displayed in a way that encourages the customer to try them out.
  • Using social media to promote that you have the selection in stock and that you can have it today.

GC: The best promotions are centered around digital tactics. Videos with quality sound samples are the best way to promote these products through commercials and social campaigns.

GS: We recently updated the packaging across our brand to be consistent from item to item. When all of our products are now displayed together as a group it really looks great and draws attention to the brand. We have many retailers dedicating a good portion of their percussion wall to this “new look” and the feedback from them is, “It’s really helping sales.” For online retailers, expanding video content of the instruments being used as well as “feature and benefit” style videos are producing great results for our dealers.

DZ: For brick and mortar it’s about having a good assortment of hand drums and percussion in all price points along with clean orderly displays. Also, having a well-informed sales staff is key. In the online space, logical upsells and add-ons (“Customers who bought this also bought…”) proves to be consistently effective. Also, having detailed product information, so the consumer can make educated choices will always lead to getting the sale along with great customer service. It really comes down to having the best customer experience. We supply product videos for our dealers to use which is a great sales tool. Those, along with dealer specific product videos, are an additional bonus for the customer.

In your estimation, are sales of these instruments up, down, or level when compared to last year?

DZ: We are seeing increases in all of our product categories and we continue to expand categories to capture new opportunities.

GS: Sales for Rhythm Tech have been up. Despite the entry of many new items in the market from a number of brands, the sound and quality of Rhythm Tech is still highly sought by many professional players and percussion enthusiasts alike. The addition of the new cajons, dejmbes, and our new range of group play “Rhythm Village” instruments have really added a nice overall lift to the brand.

GC: Flat.

LD: Up! It’s hard to say whether this has more to do with a resurgence of the Toca brand or that the market in general. For whatever reason, we’re happy to see sales improving across all categories (yes, even cajons).

AA: Every year since 2006 we have seen an increase in hand percussion and this year is on track to continue that trend. We’re lucky to work with dealers that trust us and are willing to try our very broad range of instruments which stimulates the consumer. Most of the time all it takes is putting it on the showroom floor and [seeing] what happens.

Expectations for the hand percussion market in the coming months?

GS: I think it will continue to grow and look forward to a terrific holiday sales season.

GC: The acoustic market overall is on a decline and we anticipate the hand drum segment to follow that trend.

LD: My biggest concern is really the overall economy and the general wackiness of the macroeconomic environment. So far, consumers have managed to shrug off the daily news and forge ahead. We’re cautiously optimistic that will continue. We have fairly aggressive plans for expanding with new products, markets and programs. As long as we have a little cooperation from the overall economy, we expect continued growth.

AA: We expect the growth to continue. Percussion is not just for drummers and percussionists. It is for everyone – singers, guitar players with a home studio, churches, schools, sound therapy, retirement homes, home school moms and dads, et cetera. Even to people who have no interest in playing music, they just want a drum.

DZ: As we head into the fourth quarter and 2020 we are excited about the offering we have and where the percussion market is headed. In addition to our core customers, there is a resurgence of “Latin” influence in pop music as well as the recreational and world drumming market continuing to grow. These two factors create great opportunities for LP and the hand percussion market.

 

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