2020 might have been the worst year in a century for professional musicians, but the people selling them their microphones, keyboards, drum machines and strings had a pretty good time.
Following a major boom in solitary activities as a result of the pandemic, music retailers and manufacturers across the country are reporting exceptionally high and sometimes even record sales of instruments and music gear.
Fender Guitar experienced a record year in sales in 2020, which CEO Andy Mooney credited to website sales and gear bought by beginners.
‘We’ve done more business than ever in 40 years.’
“We’ve broken so many records,” Mooney told the New York Times. “It will be the biggest year of sales volume in Fender history.” Mooney “never would have thought we would be where we are today if you asked me back in March.” Gibson likewise reported huge sales; Tom Sumner of Yamaha of America said they were selling “more guitars than we know what to do with.”
Even pianos were selling like crazy. “Right about mid-May we made a U turn,” Piedmont Piano Company owner Jim Callahan told KQED in February. “Since then we’ve done more business than ever in 40 years.”
David Mandelbrot, CEO of Reverb told Rolling Stone that the Etsy-owned retailer saw its highest quarter of gross merchandise sales in history in the second quarter of 2020 and their third quarter numbers were up by nearly a third compared to 2019.
Even Guitar Center’s Hollywood branch claimed its sales tripled, even while their parent company collapsed into bankruptcy under the weight of a massive debt load. As we reported in our story on the retailer in January, the company continues to do well in its actual business — ostensibly, “selling music gear” — as it serves as a host for every manner of hedge fund parasite on Wall Street to stuff with consulting fees and billable hours.
But none did better than Sweetwater. The hyper-aggro ecommerce retailer reported sales of the century with $1 billion in revenue from over 1.5 million customers, an increase of 50% over 2019. Sweetwater staffed up by increasing their payroll headcount by 30% — more than 400 new employees altogether, including the ones who send the insistent texts and emails to any poor musician who gets jammed in their sales funnel.