In contrast to many other traditional retailers and small businesses, many music gear producers are experiencing banner years in terms of sales following lagging numbers for the past five years. Analysts consider this boom as directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, which found more Americans at home with more free time and the opportunity to pick up a new hobby. As rock music and the vitally crucial electric guitar had remained one of the most dominant popular music forms in American for the past 60 odd years. BY 2007 electric guitar sales had dropped by nearly 30%, according to industry analyst Music Trades.
But now that pandemic stay at home orders are pushing six months, and people are cooped up at home, guitar and other musical equipment sales are steadily increasing, unlike many other traditional industries like brick and mortar retail, food service, and independent music venues. These sales aren’t just to older generations looking to relive their past glory but is comprised mostly of millennials and gen z’ ers who are creating new genre-blending music informed by a pastiche of influences.
Another critical factor in these increased sales is the general sense of uncertainty and hopelessness that accompanies the pandemic shutdown. Learning or playing an instrument is proven to increase positive thoughts, optimism and focus on thoughts other than fear or worry. Famous guitar manufacturer Gibson had even declared bankruptcy in 2018 but was posting record sales by late summer.
While this trend may not last after the conclusion of the pandemic, with that remaining wildly uncertain, the fact is that more people playing music will have a lasting impact on the music gear industry for decades to follow. An unintended by-product of this is the increase in popularity of online and virtual lessons. While people are at home and staying socially distant, they can easily hop on YouTube and find classes for every level of experience and create online communities that give a sense of belonging and togetherness. Music has always brought people together, and now more than ever, its power to do so is evolving. Remote performances have proven to be a popular alternative to in-person concerts, and we are watching markets evolve in real-time.
Another sector that has seen exponential growth is online retail, which, while already popular, has become the norm since March when COVID-19 shutdowns began. Guitar Center, which we wrote about previously, has also seen a significant increase in equipment sales across the board, from recording equipment like mic stands to performance gear. One factor for the increase in recording equipment is that as school and work shifted to distance learning or work from home, consumers needed better equipment like desktop mic stands, which have already gained popularity as podcasts’ popularity has exploded. While we don’t know what the coming months hold, we do know that communities will continue to thrive, whether it’s virtual or in-person, and music always brings people together.