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Musical Instruments & Retro Booming

Musical Instruments & Retro Booming

When JB Hi Fi moved into the musical instruments market 10 years ago it led to a massive falling out with one of the world’s biggest instrument suppliers, now during COVID-19 demand for musical instruments is booming and music stores and the likes of JB Hi Fi are reaping the benefits.

Chief executive officer of online marketplace Reverb.com says there’s been a boom for anything that can be used comfortably in the living room—whether guitars, ukuleles, keyboards, or drum machines.

According to analysts, ‘Never-ending isolation has given rise to a condition known as GAS, or gear acquisition syndrome’.

The affliction has seven stages that are catalogued at the publication Music Radar, beginning with dissatisfaction and desire, and culminating in guilt and relapse. Guitarists are the most at-risk population according to Bloomberg.

JB Hi Fi’s decision to move into musical instruments followed the collapse of Allen’s Music in Australia, many said at the time that they were “mad” to take on this category alongside TV’s and smartphones.

Now “Everything is at top dollar,” according to Phillip McKnight, who has a guitar-focused YouTube channel with 300,000 subscribers. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve never seen this. No one’s ever seen this.”

Also booming is demand for retro products and vinyl and anything associated with the creation of music.

It’s a good time to be a vintage collector, according to McKnight. They’re the ones who bought a 1954 Stratocaster the first year that Fender began production, “They knew that if they parked it for 10 years, they’ve doubled their money.”
Today you can find one of these on Reverb for about $80,000. “Vintage collectors are a different kind of collector,” he says. “They’re the equivalent of a toy collector who never opens his toys.”.

There’s also a growing demand for parts: For about $21,000, you can buy a Fender neck (you supply your own guitar body to attach to it) that’s advertised as being built on the same day and by the same luthier as another guitar neck that ended up being used by Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour. If, while building your own instrument, you come to the realization that using any old screws from the hardware store would haunt you deep down, you can buy $650 screws that came off a 1951 Fender Esquire guitar—and avoid any potential contamination of your instrument’s tone from more recent decades.

Pedals, those colourful little boxes that alter the instrument’s sound when you stomp on them, have become an especially hot corner of both the new and second-hand market. “People have fully gone off the deep end,” says Josh Scott, a collector who runs a company called JHS Pedals, which doubled its staff last year and ramped up production to 100,000 pedals from 48,000 the previous year.

While pondering the state of the gear market earlier this year, Scott, decided to list his #2 Klon Centaur (which actually was the first one ever made) on Reverb as a joke for $500,000; a man in Europe immediately tried to buy it on an American Express card. (The purchase was declined.)

The listing generated headlines—and a good degree of anger as well. “The people that lost their mind over it, they make it too fun, because when they do that, I just want to keep doing it,” Scott says, referring to his outrageous price. He eventually took the listing down because his company’s customer service reps were getting bombarded by inquiries.

Reverb’s e-commerce music instrument platform is built to buy and sell musical instruments, be they new, used or even vintage items.

The company started out in 2013 when founder David Kalt, owner of guitar shop Chicago Music Exchange, grew frustrated with the process of buying and selling guitars on sites like eBay. This frustration inspired him to create an online marketplace tailored specifically to music shops and creators.

The company has seen growth from its very start, and that progress continued last year. After being acquired by Etsy in 2019, the company announced this week that it saw its gross merchandise sales increase 32 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2020. The company’s CEO David Mandelbrot attributes this growth to its dedicated team.

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