Ok let’s be honest here… companies are coming to recognize that their name is worth more than their product.  And i’m not talking just of pianos – the Japanese company Sony manufactures many of their products in Mexico… Martin guitars partially the same. Delta, HP… they’re all savvy to the fact that their names bring about reliability amongst consumers.  They then trade their name for cheap labour and high profits… albeit quite often for a short season.  I have a friend who used to always say “In biz, you can either have a quick nickel or a slow dime”…. meaning that you can either sell out, for tomorrow the market may be gone… make the quick money now… or you build a quality product (the slow dime) for higher dollars that require longer to sell and have a smaller market share etc.  So how does this apply to the piano biz? Glad you asked.

In January of this year i attended the NAMM show (the National Association of Music Merchants).  And i took this opportunity to play every piano at the show but also, i talked to each manufacturer and asked what their ‘selling advantage’ is.  Interesting to note that name branding has gone a layer deeper… not only is the piano name a brand, but now the parts are name branded.  Terms are bantered about such as “Roslau wire”, “Abel hammers” etc.  The cheapest of designs (i was told) are copies of expensive pianos.  In fact, i heard on more than one occasion how these pianos were from ‘German tradition’.  Well… i wouldn’t have really cared much until i have started hearing these same catch phrases from consumers.  People like name brands and buyers want confidence – that comes from innovation, design, tradition.  So… me being the skeptic… what happens if those elements are all but smoke and mirrors?  I’m not saying that the parts are not what they say they are but… what happens if those parts don’t equal the whole? If they don’t truly give the entire picture?  Let’s say you’re buying a car.  The motor is great! But what about the frame? What about the transmission? The body? The performance is all dependant on the entire package correct? And so i see the general trends of piano making presently moving towards name branding the significant parts while glossing over other less noticeable ones hoping that consumers won’t somehow notice.  The sad part? Is that most consumers buy it… hook, line and sinker.

So how do you avoid being horn-swaggled? Look deeper into the piano manufacturing… do your homework… talk to performers and technicians, teachers and friends.  Be a smart and edumacated consumer.