Is it better to make your music gear purchase at one of your local music stores or is it better to use an internet or online store to make your purchase.
This is a topic that I have wanted to do an article on for quite some time now but I always kept putting it off to another time.
With the holidays just a few weeks away now seemed like as good a time as any to write about this.
I want to start off by saying that neither I nor Rockhouse is or will in any way say that purchasing anything from an online source is a bad idea or a bad thing. Also I want to make it very clear that I shop for music gear from many different sources including online. This article is simply to weigh out the pros and cons of both methods of purchasing gear. And with that said let’s get to it.
In order for me to get a fair idea how my own local retailers feel about all the different internet sources that music gear can be purchased I went out and interviewed the two local stores that I shop at the most. Now these are not little tiny mom and pop stores, these guys are known all over the state, and they also know most of the musicians in the area.
The first of these two is “ Hames Music”
located in my hometown in Gaffney S.C. I have been a customer at Hames from my very first music purchase at around age 12 so this is a company that I know very well, and they know me. It is also one of the largest if not the largest music retailer in the state.
I spoke with Jason Tucker the current sales manager at Hames he has been with Hames for about 5 years now and here are some of his thoughts on the differences of shopping online or going into a local store.
The very first thing that he made very clear that a person loses by shopping online is the face to face contact between the customer and the sales person. He says that a person simply can’t get the same personal attention shopping online or even on the phone that you get by walking into a store. If you go into his store one of his sales staff and many times he will himself answer any question or concerns that you may have. Also you can spend all the time that you need to with that sales person as well as all the time that you need to try out the product that you are looking to purchase.
Another thing you lose shopping online is service, he says “if you pick up a guitar or an product in my store and anything at all needs to be adjusted or if you might want a different gauge of strings, or maybe the strings may just need to be changed we take care of any of that right away before you make your purchase.” He goes on to say that you lose service after the sale as well. “If you purchase a product from our store and by some chance you have a problem once you get home with it all you have to do is bring it in and we will make good on any problem you may have” And that is something you just can’t get by shopping online, for instance if you buy a guitar online and you have a problem with it, if that guitar is a product that his store is able to service they will service it for you but you will have to pay for that service. Or you can always just pack it up and ship it back to where you purchased it from and in around a month or month and a half you will get it back.
Let’s be honest here, it does not take a rocket scientist to know which of those would be better.
And of course the only money that you might save by making a purchase from an online dealer is the local sales tax, which if I remember correctly here in S.C. is around 7% or 7 cents for each dollar you spend.
He also says that of course he does not have the buying power that many of the online stores have or the warehouse space to store thousands of guitars. But he looks at that as a plus and here is why. They take the guitars out of the packaging and inspect them, make sure there set up correctly and check for any manufacturer defects. And yes on probably 90 or 95% of the items in the store he will match prices you will find online.
The second local retailer I spoke with is Trevor Isetts; Trevor is the owner operator of “BLVD. Music” in Boiling Springs S.C.
Trevor actually used to be the sales manager at Hames Music a few years ago and 3 years ago he decided to open his own store. Trevor has over 25 years’ experience in the music industry, and 15 years of that are in music retail.
Just like Hames Trevor makes sure that every product on the sales floor is in perfect working order long before you ever see it.
Trevor has a slightly different outlook on the internet music sales industry. One of the first things that he said to me is that if nothing else internet music sales have made local music stores a little more honest. They have done this by pricing items at kind of an across the board markup that either a local store can meet or lose the sale. He says there is no more haggling over prices. The internet stores have set the prices almost as low as they can be and still make enough money to turn a profit.
If you go into his store and you look at a price tag the price you will see on it is almost always the same as you will find on the internet. He likes this way of doing business, he says it keeps a potential customer from going to 3 or 4 different stores and getting 3 or 4 completely different prices, and he is right. Some of the younger musicians may not know this but I know anyone that has been in music as long as I have already know that 15 years ago you could go to any given store and get a price on a guitar or an amplifier and drive across town and the price for the same product would be priced as much as a hundred or two hundred dollars more. He likes everyone being on an even playing field.
But he will also be the first to admit that his biggest competition is from internet sales. And this is the same for both stores.
A problem that is happening more and more these days is a customer will come in and want to check out an amplifier or guitar. They will play around with it for as long as they like, and ask all kinds of questions. Before leaving they will tell the sales people that they would like to think about it, and as soon as they get home to their computer they will go online and order the product that they wasted all of the sales staff time playing around with and asking about.
People this is just wrong; it cost money and a lot of. These local stores have to pay these sales people and the reason they pay them is to help customers that shop in their store. When you use an hour or more of a sales persons time and get you finger prints all over their strings and you never had any plans at all of shopping there all you do is cost that store money and this can eventually cause price increases.
Trevor also agrees that you lose personal service before during and after the sale by shopping online. He has a very strict rule in his store, if it is not right he will do anything possible to make it right. And I happen to know firsthand that he is telling the truth. And this is true of both of these stores. I get great service from the both of them.
Another thing that Trevor reminded me about is if you happen to buy a product that maybe you are not all that familiar with, his staff will take the time to walk you through it and help you understand it.
With the holidays upon us one of the biggest selling items are jump start packs. These are like kits that usually include a guitar, a small amplifier, picks, extra strings, and in many of them an instructional DVD. Now if you order one online you may save a few dollars on sales tax but here is something else you will lose. It is never opened before it arrives at your home so you really never know if everything is in working order and nothing has been damaged, and if any of it has you have to pack it all up and ship it back for repair or to be replaced. Both of my local stores sell the same Jump Start packs you will find online but if you come in and make your purchase in the store they will open in right there before you ever leave the store. This way you never leave the store with a problem.
This same thing is true of any item you purchase.
I am sure that this is a debate that will go on for all time now that we have the internet and all of its power.
Don’t misunderstand me the internet is a great tool, and yes shopping at online music stores can also be very helpful and can also be a good experience. I buy things all the time from online stores. Normally it is only items that I buy a large amount of like picks, and strings, or if I need mic, or guitar cable in bulk. Or it could just be an item that I am not able to find at a local store.
Bottom line is that there is no right or wrong way to make a purchase, just keep in mind service before during and after the sale is worth every single penny of sales tax that you would have to pay.
Also please remember this: if you are on the market for something please don’t waste the time of a sales person at a local store only to then go home and order online. At least tell the sales people up front what you are doing, in many cases you will find that they will try very hard to earn your business.
I have found from….. Well let’s not say just how many years, let’s just say many, many years of shopping for and buying music gear of all kinds manufactured by almost every company out there that there is more than enough room for all of us to be able to shop both in our local stores as well as our internet websites.
I have a great working relationship with a few online retailers as well as pretty much every music store within 100 or so miles of my home.
I always get a great deal from both of them and will continue to shop both online and at local retailers, and I not only get a great deal but I have made some great friend’s and if there is one thing that you will need to ever prosper and survive in the music industry it is great friends.
There is always someone out there that can teach you something no matter how good you may be. If you make $10.00 a year or 10 million a year it is just not possible to know everything. If I had learned that lesson earlier in life it could very well be my CD’s everyone wants to buy.
So whichever way you choose to shop do me and yourself a favor, stop and take a minute to make a friend, ask tons of questions, and take in all the advice that you can get because you can bet the bank that today’s beginners will be tomorrows superstars.
I count myself fortunate to call people like Curt and all of the Gang here at Rockhouse friends as well as guys like Trevor and Jason. There is no better tool at your disposal than being able to call up or email a friend when you need answers.
I want to thank both Trevor at BLVD Music and Jason at Hames Music for their help and thoughts for this article.
This is trevor and his wife owners of BLVD. Music
And this is Jason the sales manager at Hames music.
©2009 - 2010 Terry White and Fred Russell Publishing, All Rights Reserved. This article can not be used without permission from the Author. To Contact the Author email curt@RockHouseMethod.com