2020 Industry Overview
2020 was a most unusual year for the world and the industry it goes without saying. In March we were bemoaning the fact that what had been an industry on the rise would be stopped in its tracks by an economic shutdown, particularly in Victoria. As the government stepped in with its rescue plans of JobKeeper and JobSeeker our industry saw demand rise in some product segments, while others suffered.
2020 ABS Import statistics revealed an uplift in the overall music products market with a near 2% value increase over 2019, along with a 4% drop in volume.
Music retail anecdotally reported h a surge in consumer demand for guitars, keyboards, music technology, DJ gear and other GMI. Dealers in traditional and school instruments and PA experienced their biggest single downfall in sales on the other hand with schools largely closed and face to face teaching curtailed. Live music venues, churches and public places closed. If you could play with it at home, there was strong demand.
2020 data shows a resilience in the face of what was an annus horribilus for the world and for business. The challenges were immense, and the industry shone in at first adapting to a new business model, complying with strict restrictions. The industry’s Import value has recovered over recent years to an all-time high of $338.6million in 2020, compared to $237m in 2014 which was a year where units were at nearly 2 million.
The 2020 results showed the keyboard struggled with supply in 2020 in the acoustic categories with expected large deliveries in early 2021. The category value dropped over 3% year on year down to $64.5 million.
Units were only down marginally, driven by drops in uprights and grand pianos – digitals and keyboard maintained their import numbers. Digitals continue to grow, up 4% in value perhaps at the expense of portable keyboards which fell nearly 2% in volume but bounced 5% in dollar terms similar to digital pianos. Digitals and keyboards were scarce at times during the last half of 2020 as supply from overseas was curtailed.
Upright piano imported were down by nearly 18%, with value down 15% as a result. It was a similar story for the volume in grand pianos, although imports of higher value units kept the dollar figure steady.
The Brass segment maintained its high numbers of 2019 with over 11,000 instruments imported. Average value in brass dropped 8% as the volume increased.
Woodwind numbers were softer all round but still 11% above two years prior in units and 14% above 2018 values. All the same the numbers show cause for optimism with key segments well above 2018 levels. However, the drop in units compared with 2019 would still suggest that the recorder trend is still downward. Orchestral strings were well down year on year rounding out a challenging year for the schools’ market.
Percussion imports were down nearly 9% in volume, the only bright light being a rise of nearly 27% in cymbals following a soft 2019. There may have been some crossovers in years here. Drum kits came off its 2018 improvement and 2019 high and the soft schools’ market may have been reflected in an 11% drop in educational percussion.
Guitars were reported to be selling through in 2020 in high numbers. The overall volume imported however, in the guitar segment in 2020 was flat year-on-year. This was the case in all segments. Value was up by nearly 5% and average unit value up 6%. First half imports declined reflecting the disruption to overseas production, but this had largely been made up by the end of the year.
Last year’s rise in average value for electric guitars continued an upward path and this applied to acoustics too, up 10% on 2019 and 21% on 2018. With 166,000 acoustic units imported and perhaps 11,000 made locally for the local market, the category maintained its record number established in 2017.
The value of Guitar and bass amp imports rose 11% and average unit value a similar amount.
Overall, with 2020 demand strong we expect to see some big numbers in 2021 as supply improves.
In Electronic Instruments, Synths numbers maintained their big rise from 2018 to 2019 (20%) and reported around 9,500 units once again in 2020.
The ‘Other’ segment thought to be driven by e-drums grew in units (+10%) but increased significantly in terms of value (+26%).
Turntables were flat year-on-year as was Software in unit terms. However, that segment reported an 18% in value and average unit value.
Audio & Recording marked time according to all the indicators. As reported last year, one must go back to 2008 to see $67million in import value for this segment. Speakers lead the way maintaining the import value increase of 2019 and showing a continued migration to powered speakers.
The live music sector was severely affected by the pandemic with entertainment venues largely closed during 2020. This was offset by high demand in home recording and DAW. Signal processors, mixers and microphones all maintained their 2019 levels give or take a point or two.
Traditional products dropped back a little on 2019 levels.
General Accessories, a good industry bellwether, rose nearly 10%.
Generally, the US market closely mirrors our own, but the retail value of the US market fell back nearly 10% in product shipped in 2020 year on year. This halted the eleventh market increase in succession after the 2008 financial crisis. The US market was badly impacted by manufacturing disruption as well as overseas supply and a worried consumer market.
Things we did have in common were that particular segments did well while others were hit hard.