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What the MI industry really thinks about Aldi's musical instrument range

Laura  Barnes
What the MI industry really thinks about Aldi's musical instrument range

This week, budget supermarket Aldi made its first steps into the musical instrument market with an astonishingly cheap range of guitars, keyboards, ukuleles, stands and even music books.

The range went on sale yesterday (Thursday 10th), but many products were available to pre-order before hand, with reports that some instruments had already sold out online before Tuesday 8th.

The MI industry is no stranger to other types of retailers moving in to their territory. ASDA has a range of musical toys, Tesco and a surprisingly large offering of guitars, ukuleles, keyboards and accessories, and Lidl have been selling the odd instrument range here and there for years – and that's just the supermarkets.

While there has always been cheap MI gear, the astonishingly low prices in Aldi’s range may have some retailers worried. For example, it's selling ukuleles for £14.99, acoustic guitars (pictured) for just £34.99, and its range of books for learning how to play these instruments are a mere £2.99 each.
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"It may get more people interacting with musical instruments and raise interest enough that they will look into it properly and get something better from their local music shop.”

Paul Hagen, Active Music Distribution

But should the industry be worried about not being able to match Aldi’s price points, or are there benefits to having these widely advertised cheap ranges that appeal largely to beginners and children?

Here’s what the industry really thinks about the news:

Paul Hagen, director of distributor Active Music Distribution “Lidl have been doing this for years - and I'd have thought that Aldi have also been doing it as well so don't see this as being anything new. Low cost instruments like this have been sold in Argos and the like for years so again nothing new. Shouldn't affect a proper music shop who can offer all the specialist customer service - but it may get more people interacting with musical instruments and raise interest enough that they will look into it properly and get something better from their local music shop.”

Richard Gaya, director of retailer Stompbox Ltd: “The customer who buys a musical instrument from Aldi is not usually the customer who would have bought from a guitar shop. Rather, Aldi may take sales away from Argos, Costco or Toys R Us etc. The fact that, with Aldi stocking and promoting instruments, there is more opportunity for people to start playing can only be a good thing; the concern is more around the quality of those instruments which, if too low, can make learning too difficult resulting in people thinking they are not good enough to carry on. I do not see Aldi's move into the musical instrument market as threatening. Indeed, knowing their business model, it will be a temporary move with non-food 'specials' usually on sale only for around a week.”

Paul Waller, manager at Denmark Street guitar shop Westside MI: “It'll definitely keep their returns departments busy and bring extra business to guitar repairers!”

MI sales and marketing professinal Andy Haldane: "Any venture that encourages the mass market to adopt music over any other social pursuit is surely welcome. Yes, poor quality instruments are a real danger to the possibility of a person sticking with playing, but if even 2% of Aldi buyers continue then the MI industry will be better off as a result."

We should be encouraged that the hunger and desire of children and parents to bring musical instruments into their homes is obviously still there despite a background of funding cuts to school music provision.

Steven Greenall, Warwick Music Group

MI retail professional Nick Ioannou: “The low price point, in combination with Aldi's presence in the mass market, will make these budget instruments a no-brainer for shoppers thinking about getting into music for the first time. As Aldi are currently not stocking perishables such as guitar strings and cleaning products, shoppers will still have to go to a music retailer when in need of specialist advice or instrument maintenance.”

Mike Barnfield, managing director of retailer Mickleburgh: “I believe that non specialist shops selling cheap musical instruments increase the exposure of non players to the idea of playing, which can only be good for the industry as a whole.  Our personal experience is that customers come to us in order to buy a better quality instrument, and expect to pay more for that quality – we sell very few cheap guitars at under £100.00 anyway, so Aldi is not likely to be a serious threat. They will however compete with anyone trying to sell cheap beginners’ products, which is most likely to be the big internet sellers, so good luck to them all!”

Steven Greenall, CEO of manufacturer Warwick Music Group: “We won’t see meaningful growth in the sales of professional level instruments without increasing the base of future musicians. In the “band and orchestra” space, what are the major manufacturers really doing to get children started buzzing or blowing? There remains a reliance on small businesses like Warwick Music Group on the brass side and Nuvo on the wind side to innovate products that teachers and parents can use with young children to create a musical experience, which is accessible, relevant and fun.

“We should be encouraged that the hunger and desire of children and parents to bring musical instruments into their homes is obviously still there despite a background of funding cuts to school music provision. Aldi aren’t selling musical instruments without assessing that the demand exists amongst its customers. We’re stuck in a paradigm which the music industry has to solve itself. We need to focus our passion on the base of the pyramid – how do we get as many children in the world to start an instrument, enjoy it and want to continue – that’s what keeps me awake at night.”

As the biggest MI trade publication in the UK, we believe that the more coverage and encouragement there is for musical instruments the better, and that there is room in the market for all price points.

The industry’s comments about the new player show a market that can take any situation and look for the positives, such as the fact that the people buying these cheap instruments aren’t typically going to be the ones walking into an independent guitar shop…yet.

While some MI publications have reported on the news as “yet another blow for an industry already struggling”, it’s refreshing to see that those who are running and working in the MI businesses see Aldi’s new musical instrument range for what it is: Cheap gear that will hopefully give a budding musicians the taste of creating music before it inevitably breaks, causing them to upgrade to a “proper” instrument from a more traditional MI retailer.

Tags: Retail , musical instruments , Opinion , Aldi , industry , cheap instruments

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