Aug 31, 2012

The day the music died (in store) goes to retail woes

Musicians and music lovers may have a fondness for their bricks-and-mortar stores, but the demise of Allans Billy Hyde shows music is not immune from the changes sweeping retail.

Ben Eltham — <em>Crikey</em> arts commentator

Ben Eltham

Crikey arts commentator

I love music shops.

I can’t play an instrument to save my life, but I’ve long harboured a not-so-secret joy while browsing among the rows of beautiful guitars and drum kits. My sister plays piano very well, and I vividly remember shopping for sheet music at Allans with her and my father when I was a boy. When I got older and got into electronic music and hip-hop, I used to enjoy ogling all the boxes with knobs and pads — the drum machines, the sequencers, the mixers, the pedals … the lot.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

4 thoughts on “The day the music died (in store) goes to retail woes

  1. The Old Bill

    For all of the waffle on discretionary spending, outdated business models etc etc this is a timely warning for many businesses following the Allens / Billy Hyde model.
    First Billy Hyde buys out Allens when it ain’t doing too well, then it swallows up all the smaller specialist stores like ( in Adelaide’s case ) John Reynolds, Derringers. It then cheapens them by having them all sell a load of the same crap, leaving less money to stock and hold quality instruments. Result??? Those looking for bargain crap first play one store off against the other, cutting into the bottom line, or buy it online cheaper, because crap is crap. Those looking for a quality product are sadly disappointed and either buy at one of the few remaining independants with a good reputation, ( in Adelaide’s case Twang Central or similar, ) or on their next overseas trip, leaving the three large stores who are still competing against each other (though they have the same owners) with absolutely nothing.
    The lesson here? True Musicians will never buy an instrument without trying it first. It is bad management and bad quality stock, coupled with aggressive takeovers of good businesses with no real plan for their future that is to blame here.

  2. Wiz Aus

    I have to say I was a bit surprised by the news of Billy Hyde’s/Allan’s closure – after all, I wouldn’t see their business model as massively threatened by online sales, unless that is, schools (who must be one of their biggest clients) have started ordering instruments from overseas (or encouraging/providing means for their students to do so). Interestingly enough I have two small independent musical instrument stores just around the corner from me, one of them that just opened up in the last few months. I also know of at least 3 stores not far from me that exclusively deal in classical string instruments, that have been around for a very long time, and couldn’t be said to be under threat from online sales*. If the demand of musical instruments is depressed currently then surely that is “cyclical” – e.g. schools cutting back on their music programs because of funding issues, or because music for whatever reason isn’t considered a key part of school curriculum currently. Once it picks up again, there has to be a market for an Allans-sized business that can operate as a chain or franchise.

    * What such stores ARE under long-term threat from though is the fact that the technology for making/repairing quality instruments progresses extremely slowly, meaning that today’s violin maker or repair is barely any more efficient than those of 100 years ago. In other words, the economic value of what these professions do hasn’t kept up with the rest of the economy, and hence their wages are going to struggle to keep up. This is even more true of actual musicians (though of course the ability to make recordings and sell them en masse did give a massive one-time boost).

  3. Robert Brown

    I used to hate going into music stores. I love the gear, but the staff always sneered at the non-pro (despite,as we learn here, hobbyists being their “main trade”).

    And why it it that (as with used cars) the sticker price is meaningless? I’m supposed to haggle, but because I’m not cool enough, or buddys with the sales jerk, I know I’m getting ripped off.

    These issues have improved over the last decade or so, thanks (I reckon) to internet – the great equaliser. Online retailers have grown here and in the US because they don’t treat their customers like idiots. I think there are lessons to be learnt here for any retailer that wants to survive.

  4. honest

    My advice is no matter what sales price Allans offers you, you will find another music store in Australia that will better it. I used to pay the “Allans’ tax” 20 years ago when I first started buying quality pro gear but soon learned better. They were called Pallings back then and they were still known for the same high price, low discount policy then. It has always irked me when companies advertise their goods at retail recommended price. I always punnish these companies by researching online, and normally in Australia, and try to give my loyalty to stores that advertise the lowest price. And quite often these music shops will still discount further if you continue to show loyalty. Ellaways has always been one of thse stores to me and thats why I continue to give them my patronage even if they flinch a bit when they see me come in. But not once have they ever been beaten on price and I do my research. I hope that customers will continue to punnish Allans for years to come, no matter what they decide to re-call themselves after the shit hits the fan, for insisting on asking the highest price, next to nothing discounts, arseholes behind the counter and poor service. I have dealt with them at least 20 times in 22 years and had to put up with the lost box or powerpack routine , half a dozen calls never being returned, “sale” that was more expensive than anyone else in Australia with no compromise and the “professional muso salesman” that was just getting over his Kylie covers gig from the night before. I will say it again, if you want fair prices in this country punnish these companies. It is not the customers fault that the economy has taken a turn for the worse after all Allans would of been making a killing of us when things were good!

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details