A current bright spot in music instrument sales also reflects steady support for school music programs. For the fifth consecutive year, summertime sales of school band and orchestra instruments are on the rise. The year-over-year increase indicates that, bedeviled as they may be by budgetary threats, school music programs are tenacious during challenging economic times. As school music sales shift earlier in summer, school music retailers can restock the hottest selling products during Summer NAMM in Nashville, July 17-19.
Back-to-school season retail sales of traditional school band and orchestra instruments including brass, woodwind and strings have consistently risen over the last two decades, short a hiccup at the recession’s peak in 2009. Sales during the July-September timeframe have more than doubled over the last 20 years, increasing another 6.2% in 2013.
According to Tevis Laukat, president of Cannonball Musical Instruments, the school band and orchestra segment continues to be a stalwart feature in a landscape characterized by uncertainly. “We’re busier than we have ever been. For a while, dealers were worrying about music programs being dropped or cut, and how that might impact their businesses. I don’t hear so much of that anymore,” Laukat said. “It is moving in a positive direction. Kids are staying in band and making music a priority in their lives.”
Retailers cite parent’s support for music in schools as key to the segment’s resilience. “School band and orchestra remains a steady division for Amro Music, as well as across the nation,” said Pat Averwater, president of Memphis retailer AMRO Music. “Thankfully parents still believe in the high value of music education.”
Rising school music sales numbers also carry over to other areas in music retail including instrument rentals, repairs, and print music sales. “The instrument repair segment was very strong and continues to be strong,” said Averwater. “We just are training two new woodwind technicians to our staff to keep up with demand.”
Publishers highlight the unique consistency of music designed for school programs. “We note that while the economy affected many segments, school music held steady,” said Paul Lavender, vice president of instrumental publications for Hal Leonard Corporation. “School music seems unique in a good way. It is its own entity.” Lavender notes that the ever-changing roster of artists and songs that appeal to kids and teens injects life into the school market. “Right now, ‘Let It Go,’ all the music from ‘Frozen,’ and Pharrell Williams' ‘Happy’ are really big with student players, as are Internet sensations The Piano Guys and 2Cellos.”
The NAMM Foundation’s music education advocacy efforts from the grassroots SupportMusic Coalition to Capitol Hill aim to provide all kids with access to music education. “Our ongoing commitment and our vigilance to ‘cranking the wheel of advocacy’ via various efforts has probably been a factor in realizing the strength of this sector,” said NAMM Foundation’s executive director, Mary Luehrsen. “It is also important to note that this successful trend during the recent recession provides some indication that children continue to have the opportunity to learn music, which is probably the best news of all.”
Will this summer be another hot one for the school band and orchestra market? Take its temperature at Summer NAMM, July 17-19 in Nashville. Registration is now open to media and members of the music product industry.