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musical instruments 101

office supplies

With consumers opting for cheaper instruments and the second-hand market on the rise, is the musical instrument industry in decline? Or is the industry simply changing in ways that your e-commerce business can use to its advantage?

Is music-making in decline?

Despite efforts to cement the status of music within specific countries, many school curricula place greater emphasis on STEM education – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. As a result, 'soft' arts subjects such as music are being snubbed.

Combined with the growth of passive activities such as gaming, TV-watching, and smartphone use, musical instruments and music lessons can be expensive. Can musical instruments still hold children's interest?

But the market is sound

The music world is still full of life. Global revenue totaled US$6bn in 2018 for the musical instruments market, showing a slow but steady 1.2% growth over the last five years. While the US contributes the biggest portion, China ranks second thanks to a lowered import tariff and a preference for high-end instruments. Non-bowed instruments registered the highest import growth from 2015-2016 at 48%. Developments in the global market have led some brands to set up dedicated plants in China.

Item 1

Chinese piano manufacturers are now the market leaders, responsible for 80% of global production and sales.


TIP: Tastes are shifting. Established prestige brands are under threat from new players.

Item 2

There are around 30 million Chinese children learning piano currently, and this number grows by 10% here each year.


TIP: Who is your future potential customer? And could starter keyboard piano be a growth industry?

Item 3

Traditional Chinese instruments such as the zheng have stagnated, taking just 7% of the local market – Western instruments hold 59%.


TIP: Can you bring unusual or popular items to customers in other regions?

DEATH OF THE DOUBLE BASS

In developing countries, like Botswana, a lack of mass production means traditional instruments such as the segaba, or 'one-string violin', must be constructed by knowledgeable craftsmen. While this makes each model unique, it also threatens their survival.

In the UK, the French horn and double bass are similarly endangered as the ukulele's popularity rises, with one in eight schoolchildren wanting to try it.

Conversely, in Iran, the indigenous tonbak drum is thriving among young musicians. This small ancient instrument is rarely heard outside the classical Persian scene, but it is now experiencing a domestic revival thanks in part to Instagram. Make sure you think locally and listen out for regional market trends.

The guitar market grows, acoustically

One established instrument that continues to grow in popularity is the guitar, with 45% of Fender models sold to first-time players. Attributed to a rise in young female artists such as Taylor Swift and Haim, half of those new buyers are now female, infiltrating a previously masculine section of the musical community. Don't assume your buyers are male – diversify accordingly, especially when it comes to your marketing.

As listeners swing towards pop and country over rock and roll, acoustic guitars now outsell electric guitars. While sales of electric models have plunged by half a million units in the last decade, acoustics have grown 36% since 2009, leading to combined sales of 2.6 million units in the USA alone.

The guitar market grows, acoustically

One established instrument that continues to grow in popularity is the guitar, with 45% of Fender models sold to first-time players. Attributed to a rise in young female artists such as Taylor Swift and Haim, half of those new buyers are now female, infiltrating a previously masculine section of the musical community. Don't assume your buyers are male – diversify accordingly, especially when it comes to your marketing.

As listeners swing towards pop and country over rock and roll, acoustic guitars now outsell electric guitars. While sales of electric models have plunged by half a million units in the last decade, acoustics have grown 36% since 2009, leading to combined sales of 2.6 million units in the USA alone.

E-commerce is winning
Brick-and-mortar guitar retailers face the problem of the instrument's durability, with musicians keen to buy used musical instruments over new ones – whether those are prized collectibles for the lifelong fan or second-hand bargains for the novice player.
Consumers can also browse many affordable instruments online, and for Thomann, Europe's largest online retailer of musical equipment, their physical stores only survive due to the success of their website. Using DHL to ship products to over 7.5 million customers, the website has emerged as Thomann's primary source of sales. Sheer persistence and good management has taken the brand from a regional position to global pre-eminence.

Are trends electric?

Musicians are also obtaining their audio-recording equipment online, with digital developments meaning even amateur songwriters can produce professional-sounding tracks at home. Now making up 16% of the market, ahead of orchestral stringed instruments at 15%, MIDI controllers and electronic drum machines show the strongest growth potential for businesses looking to expand their tech offerings.

Are trends electric?

Musicians are also obtaining their audio-recording equipment online, with digital developments meaning even amateur songwriters can produce professional-sounding tracks at home. Now making up 16% of the market, ahead of orchestral stringed instruments at 15%, MIDI controllers and electronic drums show the strongest growth potential.

Digital synthesizers can replace multiple expensive instruments. For example, ROLI's Seaboard resembles a rubber piano but responds to your touch and pressure like a regular one. It can also pitch bend and slide, with fans such as Stevie Wonder and Hans Zimmer validating the technology to wary traditionalists.

Fine-tuning international shipping

With signs of steady growth of global sales as certain instruments strike a chord with consumers across the world, DHL Express offer packaging advice so these fragile and sentimental items are fully protected in order to arrive unharmed after their international journey.

Double up on your defences by tightly wrapping the instrument with bubble wrap – to avoid movement in transit – and place it within a hard case, and then again inside a cardboard outer box for added protection against markings. For more detailed advice on shipping instruments talk to your local DHL Express office.

Whether consumers are choosing to purchase their instruments new or second hand, traditionally made or otherwise, you need a reliable shipping system that can ensure careful handling of these often costly and highly prized pieces.

By partnering with DHL Express, you can be sure of tracked delivery service to over 220 countries and territories.

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