Business of musical sales

Sellers of musical instruments cope with consequences of economic crisis

By Marina Dremova

“Musical instruments have always been in demand,” explain the staff from Muzyka — a music shop which has been in business for 35 years. “However, their range has expanded; we now offer ten different violins, instead of three, with each differing in tone and price.”

A shop assistant from another shop notes, “Belarusians are a musical nation, with parents often keen to see their children learn an instrument. Accordingly, they buy what’s needed. Violins and cellos must be of good quality to ensure they play well. This is necessary to at least become a competent amateur, if not a highly skilled professional musician. With this in mind, people tend to buy the best they can afford. Some people have an ear for music but, without a good instrument, this ability can be quickly lost.”

Shops don’t just display stringed instruments these days; they boast a wide range of instruments, from drums to pianos and sound equipment. The acoustic guitar remains the most popular though. “Our shop alone offers 140 models, suitable for professionals and amateur players,” smiles Marina Sankovich, Muzyka’s Director. “We can also organise lessons for our buyers, delivered by specialists from houses of culture, clubs and schools. We host press conferences featuring famous musicians and beginners.”

To learn about new deliveries and prices, you can simply visit the website of a particular shop. At first sight, it seems that shops have no problem achieving sales, but advertising is still necessary, with posters displayed on the metro. There’s no doubt that the impact of the economic crisis has been felt in the musical segment, as it has been elsewhere. “Shops are closing or cutting their number of branches in the city,” sighs Vitaly, a manager at MuzIN musical salon. “We’ve had to close two of our four shops to remain afloat.”

Shops which have been operating on the market for several years are the major importers of instruments from abroad. Guitars primarily arrive from Germany, Spain and China, while violins are bought from China and Germany. It’s also possible to order an Italian violin but it can take six months to make an individual instrument, with a hefty price tag as a result. “A hundred grand pianos take some time to sell,” says Ms. Sankovich, adding, “It’s impossible to foresee when a buyer of a certain instrument will come, so some sit in our shop for quite a long time.”

Vitaly relies on offering a diverse range of recognisable brands, with 135 guitars in the shop and another 300 in the warehouse — enough for six months. Pre-sale tuning of an instrument is offered as a bonus. “It’s good if I sell one guitar a day but I may sell up to ten! Some people are just browsing of course. Sales fluctuate so we need to keep our fingers on the pulse.”

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