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The Changing Times (Buying New Synths)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:01 am
by Hybrid88
Well. Something I found quite interesting that I thought I'd bring up for some other people's opinions.

So over the years I've never really been one for buying new synths (mostly because of the high prices), and since buying my first V-Synth in 2006 I've gone on a bit of a vintage buying spree - so I've been out of the game for a while so to speak.

Recently out of interest I thought I'd research the V-Synth GT as an upgrade to the now decade old original would probably be a good idea given I use mine all the time (more than any other synth I have).

But here's the thing. Last night I looked on every big to medium sized synth retailer in the country and much to my surprise NONE of them showed the V-Synth GT on their sites. Simply cannot find it. Now I realise they may have things in stock and not update the site, and also that they can order things in if you specifically inquire about it, but still I found this to be a bit strange as they still seem readily available overseas.

To interject the story, my local retailer for Roland recently closed down, which I find a great shame as I used to shop there whenever I could. So now the north of the state has no retailer for Roland gear. Upon going into the only other music shop in Launceston I asked the owner there if he stocked Roland stuff. To which he more or less responded that it was too expensive both financially and space-wise (as Roland apparently require a minimum stock order for retailers to stock their gear). He also said that particularly given the GT is an expensive high-end item that a lot of places would not stock them if there is no obvious local demand.

This makes sense of course, but still I found it interesting as when looking around shops in Aus for the original V-Synth back in the day I remember a lot of places had them. Allans, Billy Hyde, Turramurra, Musiclab etc...

So my main point is, is this the sign of the times? I know Allans/Billy Hyde went into administration recently, are places simply avoiding stocking these more expensive items to cut costs? Is the V-Synth GT just old/been replaced with the Jupiter 80 (that I notice some shops do stock). But I mean technically it is still in production as far as I know.

Perhaps it's the impact of the changing economy? Or internet retailers? Is it a downward trend in market demand for this particular item? The impact of plugins? The resurgence of analog? Or just a combination of all these factors. What's the deal?

Cheers guys. :)

Re: The Changing Times (Buying New Synths)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 11:16 am
by Thirteen
It definitely is a sign of the times. There are a perfect storm of reasons that have culminated in the disappearance of music retailers as well as stores that are in a similar structural position as musical instrument stores - Bicycle and camera stores come to mind. As I have a retail store (non music) and am also a small scale Australian manufacturer I have been watching retail carefully and the signs are that this trend will accelerate.

Firstly there is the simple economic reasons facing all retail stores: Rising costs of doing business right across the board coupled with lower sales meaning lower profits for the owners. Electricity, rents, insurance, wages, superannuation have all gone up and small businesses receive no carbon tax compensation. The increase of Sunday penalty rates to double time mean that wage costs have risen dramatically unless the owner decided to close on Sundays or to just work the store themselves.

The high Australian dollar has of course led to a massive bypassing of Australian retail stores in favour of buying overseas. This has led to the perception that Australian retailers must be "ripping us off". This is too political to get into so I will leave it at that.

The "Wholesale layer". The bane of Australian music retail stores. In America shops usually buy direct and avoid the middle man mark up. Australian stores can't do that. It used to be that wholesalers were an essential part of the Australian musical instrument chain. They imported instruments in bulk and maintained a spares inventory. If a shop needed an instrument they would call the wholesaler and it would arrive in a day or two. If an instrument had a fault a replacement was soon on the way or it was repaired. Things are different now in all sectors, not just musical instruments. Many importers now are a garage operation and they order from overseas as they receive orders from shops. They basically are nothing more than a middle man skimming a cut solely due to their having negotiated the rights to a particular brand for a country. They warehouse almost nothing and that have no tech shop. It takes forever to get a product from them and if it is faulty it may take a long time to get a replacement. Roland Australia was always the gold standard for what a musical instrument wholesaler should be in my opinion. They carry huge inventory and spares and they have staff technicians.

One thing that has gutted the desire of anyone to continue running a music store is that more and more they find their store becoming a "showroom for the internet". "Customers" come in and try out gear and then go buy it online. Then come back and ask for tech support for their new piece of gear. I know of one store that now covers every bar code on the boxes in their store so that people can't scan them with QR readers on their phones an do price comparisons while standing in the store. Your local shop probably has decided that it just can't justify having an expensive synth on display for everyone to try out before they go and haggle a lower price from a shop on the mainland that may get a better wholesale price due to buying more volume. (I don't know whether Roland does this or not but some wholesalers certainly do and it severely disadvantages smaller stores).

Personally I can't see music stores as such being around much longer, however I do suspect that there is still a place for boutique stores selling things that they direct import themselves and that base their business on service and reasonable pricing. Perhaps the larger wholesalers will open their own specialty stores instead of supplying other shops which will allow them to retail their products at prices that compete with the internet? Who knows. The tumbling Aussie dollar will now add a new dynamic that will speed up the demise of shops in a different way - Wholesalers will up their prices to maintain their profit margins and the poor old shops will be faced with the choice of taking a cut to their own slender profits or to try and raise retail prices in an environment where customers expect an automatic 20-30% discount anyway.

Re: The Changing Times (Buying New Synths)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 12:14 pm
by ChrisW
Funnily enough, I was talking with someone about the perceived demise of drum stores and they highlighted 'Better Music' in Canberra (surely not a music scene hotspot) which has massively invested in a refurbishment, with a large floorspace and a decent stock of high end items.
Still, not disagreeing, I think it must be almost impossible to run a music store right now.

Re: The Changing Times (Buying New Synths)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:36 pm
by jkhuri44

More electronic music > Less bands > more laptops > more soft synths = less real synths

Re: The Changing Times (Buying New Synths)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 11:53 pm
by Hybrid88
mm, interesting points there. Whilst I do have to agree 100% with everything that's been mentioned, I continue to be surprised when shopping in Launceston with the frankly ridiculous prices particularly electronic equipment retailers are trying to sell stuff for. I get that the extra costs add to the price, and I actually don't mind paying a bit extra to support the local stores because I understand the importance, but the differences are nothing short of astounding in many cases, and put it completely out of the question to a person on a low wage like myself. But it's a vicious cycle, unemployment is so high here and with every store that closes comes another bunch of people that need to find work.

Really in this economy it's the small cities that suffer most, and dare I say it Launceston is markedly different from even 5yrs ago to the point where it seems there is no life for people here. Young people are moving away in droves more than ever. The local Gov is doing nothing constructive, wasting the little money they do get, and people see staying here as a dead loss and move.

Not only the music store I mentioned but another very prominent audio visual/CD store in Launceston has recently closed after trading for over 100 years, quoting a certain big retail chain, online shopping and high rent as their primary downfall. Now personally I hate said competitor because of their bullying sales tactics that I experienced, and so will not shop there again if possible.

It is sad to see, but it is bound to continue.

Bottom line in my opinion, the wholesalers need to be axed. Particularly I remember trying to get an item (through the music store that closed) from one of their suppliers and was annoyed to hear from the salesman that they were traditionally known to be slow, unreliable, unhelpful and rude (when asked why the hell things were still not there after months - which was the case with my experience). But again, here's the kicker... they are the only supplier of this particular brand in Aus, so what can the music store do but put up with it?

I sympathise, and yet personally I can't stop things from continuing. I'm sure there are many people my age out there that really could not care less. Will be interesting to see what becomes of this place.