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VOL. 116 | NO. 158 | Thursday, August 15, 2002

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Musical instrument business steady

Local musical instrument sales humming


The Daily News

With todays fast-paced world filling lives with instant access to everything from online information to shopping at the fingertips, sitting down to patiently learn a musical instrument can seem overwhelming.

But, despite reports that interest in musical instruments is declining, instrument sales in the Home of the Blues have stayed fairly steady.

Chip Averwater, president of AMRO Music Stores and a board member for the International Music Products Association, or NAMM, said national figures reflect a slight dip in sales for the musical instrument industry, but the downward trend is reflective of most retail industries.

According to NAMM figures, instrument industry sales totaled $7.1 million in 2000, while 2001 sales slipped to $6.9 million.

Despite those figures, AMRO saw growth last year.

Weve seen a 12 to 15 percent growth per year for more than 12 years, Averwater said.

Last years sales growth was not as strong as previous years, he admitted.

The age at which people take up an instrument has not changed too much over the past 5 years.

According to NAMM numbers, most musical instrument students are between 5 and 11.

The association also noted an increase in how many households include a musical instrument player.

About half of households have at least one person 5 or older who plays an instrument, a substantial increase over the 38 percent surveyed in 1997.

While more people are playing, many local stores experienced similar trends that showed a slowdown in sales.

Mike Stoker, string instrument manager at Yarbroughs Music, said the store had a small decline in instrument sales, but expected the drop in light of the current soft economy.

With all of the things happening in the world and overseas with the general economy, certainly we felt a little bit of that, Stoker said.

The local business has been operating for 30 years. Along with items such as guitars, drums and electronic keyboards, it also sells audio equipment and installs public address systems.

The company strongly promotes its music lessons, as well, hoping to foster people who have bought an instrument to learn it, instead of it simply collecting dust at home.

While the store has seen a small decline in business because of todays economy, interest is still strong.

I havent seen a decline in interest in musical instruments, Stoker said.

And one area hes seen a sharp increase in interest is in folk instruments, such as banjos and mandolins.

I have seen sort of resurgence in the folk instrument world, Stoker said, attributing the success of the Cohen brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? which had bluegrass music at its center as a major factor in the current blue grass invasion.

Mars Music general manager Steve Bohata agreed interest in musical instruments is not waning.

There is more interest than ever, Bohata said.

With less people traveling after Sept. 11, more are looking for hobbies to take up at home. He believes music is one of those.

The store at 888 S. White Station Road opened nearly a year ago and sales have been growing.

Guitars comprise about 60 percent of the local stores sales, Bohata said. While there has been an increase in sales over the year, it has been slow.

Here in Memphis, were just scratching the surface. There are so many people we havent reached, Bohata said.

The store still is fairly new and opened during an uncertain market, which makes it more of a difficult sell.

Its been a roller coaster ride, just like any other segment of the market, Bohata said.

PROPERTY SALES 76 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 83 131 1,047
BUILDING PERMITS 190 277 3,028