In a world of online drum lessons, online stores and social media, it is undeniable that the internet has changed the shape of how we do business, and how we manage our leisure time. It's a good thing, as it provides opportunities to everyone at an unprecedented level. It's leveled the playing field in so many industries, and failing to embrace it from a business standpoint is proving risky to many companies. It's here to stay, and it's also fair to say that we have only just scratched the surface of what we can do online. It's exciting.
Whether you choose to buy online through one of the many reputable internet companies (defined as an online retail entity with no bricks and mortar store), or you choose to support your local music store or specialist drum shop, there has never been a time where we, the consumer, have had so many good options. Ultimately, how and where we spend our money is down to us, but we should at least be educated in the available options.
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Online stores are massively convenient in this day and age. We can browse the options available to us from the comfort of our homes, compare pricing, and in most cases, take advantage of next day shipping that is often free. If you are in the USA and you are purchasing out of State, personal use purchases may also be exempt from sales tax. (This differs from State to State, so be sure to check what's applicable in your area). If we don't have a local music store to visit, then shopping online is an obvious choice. But before you click on the number one ranked result from your Google search, consider checking out the websites of some specialist drum shops that have an online store.
Drum shops are usually staffed by drummers. They are typically a fun crowd, and are passionate and knowledgeable about what they are selling. They can give you some practical and impartial advice that some of the internet-only retailers may struggle to match, or just don't have the expertise to handle. If you have read our article on purchasing your first drum set, then you will already know that this can be a bit of a minefield. It is great to have someone that can walk you through the options, make sure you are getting everything you need, and be there for you after the purchase too. After all, you are going to need spares, a repair service, a teacher recommendation - all of which are day to day functions of your local drum shop. Specialist drum stores also do a lot for the education community. Most stores offer in-house teaching (and if you are a regular reader of our blog, you will already know that we are huge advocates for working with local drum teachers), teacher referrals and a drum clinic program. Drum clinics are performances by guest drummers that are usually offered by a store, and are often part financed by the artist's sponsors. Drum shops are a community hub for local drummers, and if you have one near you, they are good places to hang out, look at drums, and talk drums with staff and fellow hobbyist drummers.
In January 2016, a specialist drum store in England closed its doors for the last time, after 20 years in business. DrumWright was a family run drum shop based in Reading, and was a classic example of a business built from the ground up. Chris Wright started selling drums from the garage of his home, graduated to a small shop, and then to a larger showpiece destination store that would literally make your jaw drop the second you walked through the door. Run in later years by Chris' son Ian Wright, DrumWright prided itself on superb customer service, and had a loyal client base that most music stores can only dream of. Above all, DrumWright oozed passion. In fact the company tagline "Passionate About Percussion" pretty much summed things up. The business mix was also very well calculated, with a healthy walk-in local client base, an online store that had been given significant investment, great national ties with schools and colleges, and a national drum teacher database. DrumWright also reached out to the community by hosting drum clinics and educational workshops, and were a big supporter of charitable foundations.
So what went wrong? There can be no question that DrumWright embraced the internet. The online store had been kept current with no less than three major overhauls over the last 10 years, and offered a first class buying experience, with competitive prices, free shipping and next-day delivery. However, the sheer amount of choice available to the online buyer, including aggressive competition from mainland Europe, eventually made the day to day business of DrumWright unsustainable.
While the rise of the internet has given the customer unparalleled choice, convenience and aggressive pricing, it has also made business extremely challenging for the specialist music retail stores - even the ones that embrace technology to the fullest. This is just natural evolution. The internet is challenging everything, and it's not a bad thing. After all; choice, convenience, value, accessibility - these are all things that every consumer desires, and frankly deserves. The sad thing is that even when specialist retailers do everything to "adapt or die", business is still becoming unsustainable.
The internet-only retailers themselves must not be seen as the big bad wolves. For the most part, they are well run, reputable businesses that are pricing according to the market, and adapting to the new way of life. Many of them offer great service too. It's very important to be objective here. They provide the product, service, and price that ticks the consumer boxes, and above all, they give the consumer choice. For my own part, I try and support my local music specialist whenever I can. If I am unable to visit them, I will order from their online store. If we don't, the destination stores that we love to visit will be gone forever. That will be a sad day.
Written by Simon DasGupta.
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