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Bringing it On Home: Home Digital Keyboard Sales

Christian Wissmuller • April 2021Roundtable • April 1, 2021

Young musician in wheelchair playing synthesizer at home

At the risk of repeating ourselves, there’s only so much time a person can spend binge-watching television or learning to bake bread, before a desire for other, more creative outlets emerges. As we’ve been reporting within the pages of MMR these past many months, certain MI segments have benefited from enforced or voluntary pandemic-related lockdowns.

Home digital keyboards are one such instrument category, with sales soaring last spring and maintaining a steady clip ever since. We recently spoke with officers from five of the biggest digital keyboard brands to get their insight on trends of the past year, learn what specific models are selling the most, and get their opinions on what the future may hold.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, people have been seeking creative outlets to help relax and fill their time at home.” – Stephen Schmidt, Casio America
“All the Roland piano models have been doing exceptionally well during the pandemic –Bill Erlandson, Roland Corporation

With increased “at-home time” during the past year, certain instrument categories have been seeing sustained spikes in sales. How have Home Digital Keyboards fared during the pandemic and related lockdowns?

Luciano Minetti: We have seen our Home Digital Keyboard sales rise and maintain well over the last year, certainly in-part due to the increase in at-home time.

Stephen Schmidt: Since the onset of the pandemic, people have been seeking creative outlets to help relax and fill their time at home. We’ve seen this shift reflected in our sales over the past year. There truly has never been a better time to take up a new hobby or revisit an old one than during this time at home, and people seem to be gravitating towards music. Not only have hobbyists been more active than ever before, artists have also been incredibly creative this past year, innovating new ways to connect with fans. One of our favorite trends we’ve seen is that digital pianos from our Privia and CDP lines are being used for outdoor “driveway concerts” due to their portability and battery power option. They have been a great choice for artists needing a socially distant way to play. Parents are also finding new ways to occupy and inspire their kids, and our portable keyboards provide an ideal alternative to screen time. Our digital keyboards, specifically our Castiotone keyboards, are a great tool for beginners given the sound quality and prices. Due to these trends, our digital pianos have fared very well throughout the pandemic, and we’re very pleased to have been able to spread some joy during these difficult times. While there have been many drawbacks this past year, seeing people of all skillsets embrace music has been a highlight for sure. 

Bill Erlandson: Pianos are a “hot item” during the pandemic as people look for activities that are both fun and fulfilling. Many people experienced some level of piano lessons as a child and with many online learning options (or just getting the old piano books out again) many people are now discovering, or rediscovering, the joys of piano playing!

Ben Harrison: The Home Digital Keyboard category surged in the spring of 2020 to holiday season levels. While demand has cooled off recently, it most certainly sustained at higher than normal levels through the fall and holiday.

Cory Callies: Our home digital pianos have sold incredibly well during the pandemic, especially our ES and CA digital piano series. In fact, we’ve seen increases in sales among our entire line of acoustic, digital, and hybrid pianos. This surge in sales has undoubtedly resulted from people spending more time at home, along with easy access to live virtual piano lessons and online music courses.

“The ‘COVID Effect’ has been so overwhelming that it is difficult to identify any other trends.” – Cory Callies, Kawai America Corporation

For your brand, what are the hottest models of Home Digital Keyboards?

SS: Our best-sellers have been our Casiotone portable keyboards, CDP-S and Privia digital pianos. Our portfolio of digital pianos includes an option for every player, no matter the skill level. A lot of new players gravitate towards our Casiotone keyboards while our CDP-S and Privia pianos tend to attract more skilled players. No matter the model, consumers know that any Casio digital piano can match the sound quality of a regular piano, giving users an authentic experience with all the benefits of a digital instrument.

CC: Entry-level instruments like our ES Series pianos (ES920, ES520, and ES110) have seen the most significant increase in raw numbers, but numbers are up across all categories. Our CA series that feature wooden keys have resonated with consumers.

BH: Customers of all levels looked at “stay-at-home” as an opportunity to begin or further their musical journey. The “I’ve always wanted to learn how to play” customer was motivated to get started. The “I wish I had more time to play” customer had their wish come true. This said, the hottest models seemed to be all of them. Of course our normal most popular models remained that way, but none of our models experienced down or flat demand. Everything got a lift this year.

BE: All the Roland piano models have been doing exceptionally well during the pandemic, but our award-winning FP-30 (street price $699.99) has been an exceptional seller. We introduced the replacement model for the FP-30 at NAMM Believe in Music Week. The new FP-30X is also receiving a record numbers of orders and its enhanced feature set consisting of even more on-board sounds, line outputs, Bluetooth audio (already had Bluetooth MIDI) and more, has only raised its street price slightly, up to $749.99. We anticipate this will be one of our best-selling pianos ever.

LM: The B2 line is a very popular choice among our customers. It offers a quality weighted key bed, portable form factor, built-in speakers, and Audio/MIDI over USB. It’s a versatile package for any player, regardless of skill level. All B2 models also come bundled with Skoove software for your iPhone, iPad, or computer, making it a great choice for those learning to play piano.

Among our Japanese-made Heritage Series home pianos, the C1 Air is also a consistent top performer. It features both German and Japanese piano samples, our flagship RH3 Hammer Action, and a Bluetooth receiver.

“We have seen a growing interest in entry-level products that have USB connectivity, as they provide great versatility for those learning to play piano.” –Luciano Minetti, KORG

Aside from COVID-19 related sales patterns, have you been noticing any other significant trends with respect to these types of keyboards – on either the consumer or retailer side of the equation?

BH: On the retail side, the shift to online shopping and therefore online selling was dramatic. I believe we will continue to see more weight in ecommerce once the pandemic is behind us than where we were before. On the consumer side, self and remote learning will likely continue to grow and develop.

BE: Connectivity has become a more significant feature for many prospective customers. Roland introduced Bluetooth MIDI on our pianos back in 2015, and that has provided us a broad background of experience. All Roland pianos now feature Bluetooth MIDI and Bluetooth Audio connectivity. This allows customers the opportunity to use the pianos in new and helpful ways, whether the piano is for education or entertainment.

CC: The “COVID Effect” has been so overwhelming that it is difficult to identify any other trends. However, I would say that connectivity of instruments, particularly in relation to online lessons and long-distance learning has been a big factor.

LM: We have seen a growing interest in entry-level products that have USB connectivity, as they provide great versatility for those learning to play piano. They allow for easy connection to music instruction software, MIDI via USB, and easy audio recording into a DAW. This trend is the reason we recently upgraded our LP-380 to include USB functionality.

SS: Both the portable keyboard and digital piano markets are showing signs of stable growth, reflecting that more and more consumers are discovering that they don’t have to spend thousands to own a high-quality instrument. Retail adoption of our recent models has also been high, and with our new approach to training, we are able to support our retail partners in effective ways to help aid growth.

“Customers of all levels looked at ‘stay-at-home’ as an opportunity to begin or further their musical journey.” – Ben Harrison, Yamaha Corporation of America

Do you have any upcoming or recent Home Digital Keyboard product introductions you’d like to draw MMR readers’ attention to?

CC: The recent release of the ES920 and ES520 portable pianos has been very well received both by the dealers and end users. We have some other exciting new products coming but it’s too soon to reveal details.

SS: We recently released this teaser for our upcoming Casiotone models. Our Casiotone models are always a fan-favorite and we’re very excited to add these new models to our portfolio!

BE: We also had the pleasure of our newly introduced RP701 winning a NAMM U Believe in Music Week Best in Show Award. This new model, with an attractive street price of just $1,499.99 (bench included), offers an amazing array of features plus a great range of tone color and an industry-standard Roland progressively weighted keyboard. It’s also available in our new light oak finish, which has been popular with millennials, as well as contemporary black, dark rosewood and satin white.

LM: The LP-380U is the latest addition to our Japanese-made Heritage Series Pianos. This model was just announced at Believe in Music this past January. It has 30 great sounds, a premium action, powerful 33W speakers, and adds USB Audio and MIDI connectivity. The LP-380U also comes bundled with Skoove piano teaching software. This model will be available in five colors as well: matte black, matte white, and rosewood, plus a limited-edition rosewood grain black, and matte red.

We also showed the L1, which is an ultra-portable digital piano featuring our semi-weighted LS action from KRONOS LS. With USB Audio/MIDI functionality, built in speakers, and weighing in at only 13 pounds, we are very excited for this to hit the market later this year!

BH: Yamaha announced the DGX-670 Portable Grand at Believe in Music 2021. This versatile digital piano, helps customers sound pro with innovative Yamaha features, incredible sounds and effects, and built-in learning functions. The on-board song library is expandable with popular titles from the Yamaha You Are The Artist song file and digital sheet music library.

“With the pandemic, people are always looking for new hobbies and ways to connect, and artists have also been channeling a lot of energy into new music, so we anticipate that the market will continue to thrive.” -Stephen Schmidt, VP of Casio Electronic Keyboard Division

What are your expectations for this market segment in the coming months?

LM: We are committed to continued growth in our digital piano category going forward, both in performance of current models, and with the introduction of new models down the road.

BH: I expect demand to remain strong in the category. With a new stimulus approved some spending will likely follow and as the country recovers from the pandemic we’ll see a more happy public, a more employed public, and a celebratory public. I think this will set us up for a prosperous year and strong holiday season.

SS: We feel very optimistic about the future of this market segment. Musicians are starving for a creative outlet, listeners are starving for content, and keyboard instruments like Casio’s are the perfect bridge to unite them. With the pandemic, people are always looking for new hobbies and ways to connect, and artists have also been channeling a lot of energy into new music, so we anticipate that the market will continue to thrive. Additionally, our retail partners have adapted to a new way of doing business and are using creative and effective methods of reaching customers. With these factors in place, we are looking forward to continued success during 2021.

CC: I expect this trend to continue until all/most COVID stay-at-home orders are lifted. Once people can get out and schools resume normal operation, I would expect to see a softening of sales. There will be a pent-up demand for the types of things that previously took people away from making music… organized youth sports for one.

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Kawai Products:

Korg Products:

 

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