Author Archives: Rob Walker

AMA Announces VIRTUAL 2020 Make Music Day Australia

We Imagined Something Like This for Australia – WATCH THE SHORT VIDEO!

We did this last year CLICK HERE for the 2019 program CLICK HERE for a highlights video and lots of other info. And in 2020 we were getting closer to our objective and along comes COVID19. So,

In 2020 by necessity Make Music Day 2020 is Going Virtual

Make Music Day is a global celebration of music making that takes place on June 21 every year in over 1000 places in 120 countries. Unlike traditional music festivals Make Music Day is an open invitation for everyone to make music anywhere and anywhere and register their events, so that they are part of a giant global program. In this COVID19 Year we go online.

It is a DIY music festival. And Australia because of time zones can lead the world on June 21.
We’re encouraging any one and all to come up with innovative ways to make music online and share it from home or any place they can film themselves doing it. Register their performance on the website and add the Tags #makemusicdayoz and #makemusicday and we start the build of a giant database of music from around the world.

We had spent a year organising 2020 Make Music Day only to be stopped in our tracks like the rest of the music industry – but we can go online and that’s what our brothers (including the US, UK, Germany, China, Brazil, Italy, and others, ) in the global Make Music Alliance agreed. Let’s do it together.

We have CreateNSW right behind us to lead NSW in this endeavour, and many other councils and organisations all over Australia and we are calling on our Music Stores to get involved too. It’s been quiet in stores, use the isolation to create a music performance by you and/or your staff – filming themselves and posting – there’d be Australian Musicians all over the world, promoted and exposed. Australia can lead the global event.

In a 24-hour Make Music Day across the world, Australia is first in the program. We are reaching out to present a virtual Melbourne Guitar Show too on Make Music Day and promote Support Act.

And our overall activities are targeted at raising Support Act awareness.
With the NAMM Foundation’s support we have partnered with the Live Music Office and APRA/AMCOS to deliver the event nationally and partner in developing the event globally.

This is an event initiated by our music products industry – it is about anyone making music and being part of a huge global event.

 

An Up and Down March and April During COVID19 Restrictions

Recent data released by illion would suggest that discretionary spending has trended upward alongside the announcement of the government stimulus packages and continued on a steeper curve than essentials, through March but has eased back during April, with spending on essentials being mostly driving retail figures.
Sales of musical instruments have carried on strongly for some through April following a huge March.
For music products retail it’s been business ‘unusual’ but brisk all the same for many retailers, depending on the category. Some categories faring better than others in the circumstances.
Preliminary figures from the Bureau of Statistics show retail turnover had its biggest monthly rise on record in March. Supermarket and grocery store sales rose 22.4 per cent, while sales of alcohol and home office supplies were also strong. This continued in April, but discretionary spending pulled back.
Economists expect a pullback in retail sales as stockpiling subsides and major retailers including Myer extend shutdowns.
Those who were set up well for e-commerce pre-Covid-19 are flourishing, those who lagged behind are learning quickly to get their online services up to scratch to deal with demand and the new trading conditions.
Australian Musician online has reported about music retail being open and doing business, and letting the consumer know. There’s plenty of positive messages coming out of the article from our member retailers. March was akin to Christmas for many retailers we have spoken to and April has continued on that way. Many dealers are naturally giving their focus to their online channels.
When posing the question of “what impacts do you think Self-isolation and social distancing will have on you?” Some interesting responses, were reported by illion too.
More time to do what I enjoy – 36% |Beneficial impacts from reading, creative pursuits, etc – 32% |
Increased opportunity to learn – 26% | all into these music making sits pretty well.
Acoustic piano specialist stores, while seeing more than double their usual digital piano sales, have seen un unprecedented drop-off in floor traffic. On her ABC interview Jenny Ko of Gospel Pianos said she was seeing only a couple of customers during the week at the moment. Online business in digitals had more than doubled, but not close to making up for lost acoustic sales.
Michael Cleves told us that his group of stores, which includes the Australian Piano Warehouses has seen a similar rush for home, with loads of digital pianos selling to go with some softness in the mid range upright acoustic piano market with Grand pianos holding up. “As always with acoustic pianos, you’ve got to do the extra.” “In general MI, entry level gear has been huge in March, we’ve been very busy at Billy Hydes (Vic) and Winston Music (SA) as well as in the Dale Cleves stores. “we are seeing a lot of product sold to new customers during this period, and that’s a positive”
It’s a similar story with Bernies Musicland in Ringwood, Victoria. “Acoustics are quieter but digital pianos are quite busy and portable organs too, the little Hammonds, we’ve been busy with those,” says store owner Bernie Capicchiano. “Most are looking for home entertainment, so we are getting comments like … we always wanted to have the time to play, now we do or we are locked up and need our music.”
Acoustics have seen significant disruption, which is traditional during times of uncertainty. Brass and woodwind sales have also hit the wall, with schools disrupted and complicated by the fact that these instruments cannot be tried out instore by those wanting to trade up or get themselves a better instrument. Fine Music’s Michael Jongebloed saying there was not much selling in his world, besides accessories and print. Michael was enthused however by the online Bands Festival he was doing online as reported last week.
Fears that people are bringing forward purchases they were planning to make down the track were countered with the numbers of new customers taking up music. One supplier saying “we up 300% on entry level guitars, drum kits are up too”. Entry level guitar and amp packs are also struggling to keep up with demand.
Some suppliers and retailers have seen drops in business levels sufficient to apply for JobKeeper wage subsidies despite all the talk of boom times. Although welcome, businesses have been burdened with a cash flow crisis as the lag time between receiving the credits and paying staff salaries widens.
Those dealers that have been working in the online space for while have been able to capitalise.
Macron Music invested its time wisely by improving its online service, not just for the current conditions for into the future. Anthony Ursino said. “Because it has been less busy instore, we have been able to catch up on things that we were putting in place anyway with our online service.”
So, with restrictions at Stage 3, retail has been able to operate. As have logistics. Supplying musical instruments has been somewhat of an essential service during a ‘lock down period’ judging by the level of business. We appear to be in a similar situation with the emergency as New Zealand with its businesses only opening again this week. It has been in complete shut down, but fortunately for our industry, we have been able to continue to trade.
Retailers report that the people issues are a big challenge, the safety of customers and staff. But those with well-developed online infrastructure prospered and so did stores with not such a good online infrastructure! They found ways. Home deliveries, kerb side click and collect, uber, etc!
Marcello Grassi, co-owner at Eastgate Music in Kew is taking the health advice very seriously.
Despite the increased measures to produce a safe environment for customers to shop in, almost universally people are shopping via phone or online and stores are doing whatever it takes to deliver the goods and keep their loyal lientele satisfied. “We do encourage online sales,” says Eastgate’s Marcello. “You are very welcome to call us and we can greet you outside, we can load your car. We can do whatever you want that is required. If you want us to wear mask and gloves, not a problem.”
Suppliers are now experiencing stock shortages, and retailers may be wondering where their sales may come from in the months to come, while supply gets back to normal. But to the end of April suppliers were reporting a big couple of months as people got their music needs stocked up.
“It wasn’t exactly panic buying” said Concept Music’s Graham Hoskins, but [there has been] a huge increase in demand for instruments like keyboards and guitars, even drums, where people are looking for something that’s going to help them get through the situation,” he said.
Craig Johnston too (Keyboard Corner/KC’s Rock Shop) has been one of those to be surprisingly busy and profitable over the March – April months. “Business in acoustic pianos was almost nothing for March but the last 3 weeks we have seen a return to normal sales levels, everywhere else has been way up” Craig said. “What I anticipated could have been the end of many businesses in the industry, mine included, has turned out to be a once in a lifetime opportunity”.
We can only trust that as schools return to some normal and protocols for contact and use of instruments that pent up demand returns in categories like band and orchestral.
The AMA is conducting industry surveys to establish a benchmark for the industry as of now and another in the coming months. Rob Walker said “without a lot of foresight in the current situation, if we take out temperature at the end of April and do it again in three months, we can get a perspective of what the impact has been and is likely to be in the future”.

A Note from the AMA President

First and foremost, we hope you and your loved ones are safe and well at this time.

As a community we have made great strides in combatting the threat of Covid19 and economically we hope that a total shut down will not be necessary, as it has been in other countries.

To this point, our industry has been able to trade and provide musical instruments to a market and community hungry for either home entertainment, home based education or simply a distraction in a world of isolation. Our businesses have been faced with unprecedented challenges, but have adapted to continue to serve customers, and in the case of March purchases/sales it was like Christmas trading from years ago for many MI businesses.

Music making is indeed important at this time, particularly for health and education. We have promoted that the industry is open and operating via our consumer online channels, and we’ve reported on how some members are doing.

A few weeks ago we sent with our best wishes the sentiment, that we as a committee would be a sounding board for the industry during this pandemic. Gladly, it seems that many have been too busy to be needing much guidance in addition to what has been provided. We hope it remains the case.

We have distributed our Covid-19 resources and information pack to both members and non-members. We will continue to seek to find ways of supporting the industry during these challenging times. This week a JobKeeper Guide was sourced from the AMA’s auditors and is on our website.

The Melbourne Guitar Show was postponed to from August to October 2020 and we now have contingency dates reserved depending on the lay of the land for March 2021. We are leaning towards March timing as factory production gets back to full strength and exhibitors will hopefully be on a stronger financial footing.

We’ve used our work from home time to develop the next funding application to continue our NAMM Foundation partnership with the Make Music Alliance and the staging of Make Music Day here in Australia joining others around the world in the development of an event that celebrates music making.

The 2019 Market Report is about to be laid out with the 2019 numbers available on the website, demonstrating a healthy growth in our industry of some 9% over the previous year and 14% over the year before.

Whilst the AMA is operating on the smell of an oily rag and we’ve minimised our activities during the pandemic, we want to be in a position to continue to serve our industry both now and when better times return.

 

Michael Shade

AMA President

Fine Music Launches Online Competition for Brass and Woodwind Instrmentalists

Fine Music has launched a new online solo competition for Brass & Woodwind instrumentalists with the support of its industry partners. With the national band championships in Perth cancelled at Easter we wanted to keep people playing, said Fine Music’s Michael Jongebloed – we’ll have members of the MSO and QSO on the adjudicator’s panel.

It’s an event to keep people practicing while they’re at home. Competitors are asked to video a performance of the set repertoire and send in their link. A panel of expert adjudicators will critique each performance and decide on the winner of each section. Find out more at http://finemusiconlinechampionships.com.au/

 

Forte Supports Piano Teachers with ‘Q & A’ Webinars

Forte Music has launched a new online webinar series to assist piano teachers through the pandemic. Held each Thursday at 11am, owners Gillian Erskine and Paul Myatt felt that there was a real need to support our Piano Teaching community, a community that ranges from being not that techie to quite capable but needing a bit of inspiration and a few ideas on just what can be achieved with a good online set up.

The format was based on the popular ABC series QandA and wanted to produce an entertaining show where piano teachers could ask questions and get answers each week from a panel of expert teachers, some of whom are sharing the journey into this new world with them and others who are more experienced.

“We have become a bit of a lifeline for many piano teachers who are home alone battling to figure this all out. We’ve been swamped by feedback and questions and Teachers tell us they really look forward to each episode and week by week they are feeling more confident and getting better at it all even though sometimes they still feel a bit overwhelmed”. Gillian told us.

Here are links to Episode 1 & 2

https://www.pianoteachingsuccess.com/qanda-episode1

https://www.pianoteachingsuccess.com/qanda-episode2 

We’ve been delighted with the support we have received and the show is being promoted by AMEB, Hal Leonard and Kawaii to name a few.

ATO Releases JobKeeper Requirements

The ATO has now released the requirements in respect of registration, reporting and payment obligations under the JobKeeper Scheme. There are many variables to accommodate specific employee and employer circumstances, but the information pack explains how it will work for most.

The association’s Auditor, Page Harrison & Co has made available the a compehensive COVID 19 Stimulus and Support Measures  information package.

The online application process will be available from Monday 20 April 2020 via the Tax Agent and Business Portals. https://www.ato.gov.au/general/jobkeeper-payment/employers/enrol-and-apply-for-the-jobkeeper-payment/#ApplyfortheJobKeeperpaymentearlyMay2020

If you’re not already using the Business Portal the following link provides instructions on how to create your myGovID and attach it to the Business ABN. Please note that a myGovID is different to a myGov account.

https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Online-services/Accessing-online-services-with-myGovID-and-RAM/

Prior to registering for the Scheme the following steps should be undertaken:

  1. Determine employer eligibility – the business needs to satisfy the decline in turnover test of at least 30% once to be eligible for the scheme however the ATO will require confirmation and details of eligible employees and turnover to be provided on a monthly declaration. Exact details required by the ATO have not yet been released but it would be prudent to maintain up to date accounting records. Please refer to the Employer Eligibility Checklists for qualification criteria.

Employer Eligibility Checklists can be downloaded here

  1. Ensure you have met the wage condition for each eligible employee – the Government payment is a reimbursement and therefore the employer must have already paid these amounts to the employee to qualify. The ATO has made an allowance for the month of April only whereby the employer can make a top-up payment to eligible employees who have been paid less than the minimum of $1,500 less applicable tax per fortnight by the end of April.
  2. Provide each employee with a JobKeeper Employee Nomination Notice to complete and return to the employer prior to 30 April 2020. A copy of this form is attached for your convenience. You must retain electronic or physical signed copies of these forms.  Prior to sending to staff please complete the Employer Section A of the form.

JobKeeper Employee Nomination Notice

After registration every employee must be notified that they have been nominated in writing within 7 days. See attachment titled “Confirmation of JobKeeper Nomination”.

The ATO has advised that the consequence of claiming Scheme benefits when the business was not eligible or improper use of the scheme may result in repayment of the amounts received plus interest and penalties

SUMMER NAMM SHOW CANCELLED

NAMM has announced the cancellation of its Nashville based show scheduled for July 9-11 at the Music City Center, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We sincerely recognize the importance of this annual mid-year gathering for our industry,” NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond and NAMM Chairman Chris Martin said in a statement. “However, the current circumstances make it impossible to hold the show or to undertake the many months of careful planning and preparation that are required to create a secure and organized event.” CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL RELEASE

MUSIC PRODUCTS INDUSTRY POSTS STRONG RESULT FOR 2019

In a world now fully impacted by COVID-19, it is disappointing that our industry currently on an upward trajectory as reported below, will be negatively impacted in 2020 along with many others by the nation-wide emergency we face. Nevertheless, good news is in short supply, so the following should give cause for optimism.

2019 saw an uplift in the overall music products market with a near 9% value increase over 2018, driven by a 9.5% increase in volume. With the currency consistent from year to year ending 2019 weaker at around 70cents against the US dollar and an Import value of well over $322million the highest total recorded in dollar terms. What appeared to be statistical anomalies in 2018 in Other Woodwind and Other Percussion perhaps proved themselves so with those segments returning to normal levels in 2019. A solid year in almost all categories and segments.

In the broad spectrum, Australian retail sales in December 2019 were below hopes and expectations. Multiple reductions in the cash rate in 2019 and federal tax cuts aimed to boost consumer expenditure did not do so with most households said to be using these extra funds to pay off debt or increase savings. The weakness was broad-based and led by discretionary areas. Music retail on the other hand, both anecdotally and supported by this year’s numbers, had a strong year of top line growth.

Led by New South Wales and Victoria, home prices made a recovery and with that some consumer confidence returned. Households were still being forced to curb spending as a result of weak income growth.

GDP growth for the year was modest at 2.8% and still largely mining sector driven but growth nonetheless and Australia could still boast a global record of 26 consecutive years of growth. Increasingly the population is asking where that is ending up as wages growth remains south of the GDP number and has done for some years now.

In 2014 our industry had started the long climb back from the lows of 2012/13. When we compare 2019 to the trends of the previous 5 years, we are looking back at a period of re-build following an economic slowdown and an industry re-organising after a major disruption. The 2019 data shows that we are now nearly back at 2014 levels in volume terms (around 2million units) at over 1.8million and import value has recovered to an all-time high of $332.6million, compared to $237m in 2014. Some of this may be due to data anomalies, but that may over-simplify the situation. An annual average value rise of 47% from $118 to $173 is notable. The AUV did stay almost steady this year, with the dollar figure driven by strong demand.

The 2019 results show another strong performance of the Keyboard category. The category value rose by another 6% to over $66 million. Units dropped nearly 4% driven by a fall in low value portable numbers.

Digitals continue to grow, perhaps at the expense of portable keyboards which fell 9% in volume and over 12% in dollar terms suggesting less leakage from digital pianos after the industry’s focus on correct coding a couple of years back. Digitals were up by 6% in units with the average unit value rising by nearly 5%. Upright piano numbers were down by over 400 units (nearly 9%), but the dollars were up by nearly 6% to nearly $20million. A good result indicating good demand in higher value instruments. The Upright drop in units imported was offset by a big jump in grand numbers year-on-year (of over 25%). Completing a very robust picture was a rise of 8% in value. Average unit value dropped by 14% with consumers preferring the lower price pointed new product to second-hand with those numbers showing no signs of recovery from the reduced numbers of 2018.

The Brass segment was back to a point of two & three years ago when 10,000 instruments were imported. While maintaining a decent average value in brass imports the 14% in extra units imported earned $6.8million. An 11% rise year on year and 14% over 2017!

Woodwind numbers bounced back strongly suggesting last year’s numbers contained some shipment cross overs and anomalies. All the same the numbers show cause for optimism with key segments back above 2017 levels and an 18% rise in value. However the drop in units comparing 2017 with 2019 would still suggest that the recorder trend is still downward. Orchestral strings were steady year on year rounding up a good year for what constitutes a big chunk of the schools’ market.

Percussion was up strongly on the 2018 year after a soft 2017. Drum kits are on fire and have recovered with a 50% jump in both value and units from 2017 and up 23% and 9% respectively year on year. Individual drums down in numbers and maybe some leakage into drum kits occurs in coding, but overall, the acoustic drum result was good.

Orchestral and Other Percussion quite simply bounced back with big increases in value (19%) and units (12.5%). Cymbals were interesting; a 39% jump in value on the back of 9% less units.

Guitars went nice and steady gangbusters! The overall volume in the guitar segment up 12% in 2019 and value likewise was up by 12% and average unit value consistent with last year. The Guitar category should be pleased with the 2019 result.

Electric guitars were up over 20% in units and value in units imported and up nearly 19% in dollars. Last year’s rise in average value continued an upward path and this applied across the category with acoustics up 11% on 2018 and 40% on 2017. With 166,000 units imported and perhaps 10,000 made locally, numbers were back above the record posted in 2017.
The value of Guitar and bass amp imports was steady with a big fall in average unit value from the past two years.

Overall, the electric guitar market bounced back breaking a downward trend of recent years and the other segments posted good results with the value of the guitar market bouncing back 20% when compared to 2017.

In Electronic Instruments we observe another big increase in Synths in 2019, (+20%) while the ‘Other’ segment thought to be driven by e-drums grew in units (+5%) but increased in terms of value (+10%). Turntables showed a decrease in units in 2019 of nearly 10% and Software posted a whopping 34% increase in value on the back of the same increase in average unit value.

Audio & Recording jumped 10% in value and a corresponding 7% in units over 2018. You must go back to 2008 to see $66million in import value for this segment. Speakers leading the way with a 23% import value increase showing a continued migration to powered speakers one would think as self-contained amps dipped in units (-5%) and value (15%). An adjustment from last year’s figures it appears. It was more than made up for by solid increases in signal processors, mixers and microphones.

Traditional products had a good year in terms of value with a 5% rise in 2019, on the back of a steady average import value and a 15% increase in units.
General Accessories, a good industry bellwether, was down a bit after a big jump in 2018, but still at an historically strong value above $24m in import value.

The continuing decline in international online sales would reflect the perceived ‘threat’ to the industry diminishing somewhat, especially with the way the exchange rate finished the year at around 0.70c and with the introduction of a GST on low value imported goods. Our
market is extremely sensitive to international currency trends and the Aussie dollar was on a downward path by the end of the year.

The value of the music retailer to the industry is something the association is keenly interested in promoting. The industry is developing in the online sales space and buying locally is an attractive proposition we believe.

The Music Trades magazine reports that the retail value of the US market advanced nearly 4% in retail value in 2019 year on year. This marked the eleventh market increase in succession after the 2008 financial crisis.

Copyright 2020 Australian Music Association

AMEB Hosts Webinar Series – Break the Isolation – Teaching Music Online

Webinar Series

Break the Isolation

Online teaching is clearly a hot topic at the moment – in response to the disappearance of much of the face to face teaching for the time being, the AMEB has released a series of webinars called Break the Isolation offering to promote online music education.

 

The dedicated Website can be viewed here Break the Isolation webinars here. It links to past episodes on Facebook and YouTube as well as upcoming episodes. The AMEB aims to release the following weeks’ webinars every Thursday at this stage.

 

You can also find links and advice from experts about teaching online and other resources that contribute to the current situation.

A Week is a long time in Covid Land

Monday 30th March

The week that was….

The industry is in a form of lockdown with stores sparsely attended by sales staff, no browsing policies, and limits of those allowed to enter. April fools day came and went with not much to prank or much to laugh about.

On Monday, the federal cabinet banned gatherings of more than two people. According to the ABC News, shops and shopping centres are excluded from the two-person rule, excepting that one must not gather in the shop in groups of more than two.

Several key wholesalers we have spoken to are 100% operating from home, most staff are ‘still’ employed’. There were a few exceptions where wholesalers were forced to layoff some of their workforce.  Music schools largely employing casual teachers are not operating across the country, while others are developing online teaching resources to meet demand. We are still selling, picking, packing, dispatching to our dealers.

In MI, it’s clear that whilst retailers can still operate, with the support of logistics, online MI stores will flourish. We’ve had reports of good online business to March 31. And in fact good business levels all round, as people stock up.

Manufacturers like Cole Clark and Maton are pushing on through and shipping guitars and not yet affected by any halt on their activities and the same. Maton too, continue production.

Retailers were reporting strong ‘Christmas like’ sales levels right through the week on top of a pretty good month. Operations have adapted with daily developments.

Banks will allow commercial landlords with loans of up to $10 million to delay their loan repayments by up to six months, on the condition tenants are not evicted due to the coronavirus crisis was another key announcement of the week. Banks are working with customers to help navigate difficult financial waters. Who’d a thought?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $130 billion package to support the wages of up to 6 million Australians throughout the coronavirus crisis.

The “Jobkeeper” subsidy will be worth $1500 a fortnight. The government will pay employers to pay their employees,” he said.

“Our goal is to protect lives and livelihoods of Australians to protect and preserve the economy that we depend on and to get to the other side as well.” The PM said according to the media this afternoon.

This was great news for workers and allowed businesses to keep operating in a lot of cases.

Australia’s peak retail body will raise casuals’ eligibility for the new jobkeeper payment with the government after unions, Labor and the Greens raised concerns that those with less than 12 months of service are excluded from the $1,500 fortnightly payment.

The Australian Retail Association’s executive director, Russell Zimmerman, Tuesday told Guardian Australia (Tuesday) that casuals’ eligibility was an “area of concern” and the government should consider exceptions for people with less than 12 months’ service but a likely “continuation of their role” after Covid-19 shutdowns.

Overall, businesses could continue to trade, observing strict rules and restructuring their focus. What the next week will be interesting as every day brings something new.

Provided expected ‘shut downs’ will allow online and deliveries music retail can continue to operate.