By Sandy Compton
The online music retail industry is seeing a surge in sales, thanks in large part to the abundance of free time many are experiencing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In some cases, these purchases tell the story of musicians breathing new life into an already loved instrument — new drumheads, strings, tuners, polish. Music retailer Sweetwater has seen such purchases regularly in recent weeks, and company CEO Chuck Surack told Rolling Stone that he gets a warm, fuzzy feeling while filling those kinds of orders.
“You can just tell that they’re taking the time to take their guitar apart, upgrade it, hot rod it and make it new again,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch that stuff as I physically pack the boxes [in our warehouse] myself.”
Sales of new instruments have also seen a spike — even more so than during the holidays, according to Rolling Stone. Large music retailer Guitar Center reports that online sales of acoustic guitars and ukuleles — instruments conducive to a quiet, home environment — are seeing a hefty increase. Overall, Guitar Center has seen about a 100% increase in sales since the pandemic necessitated that people shelter in place.
As storefronts reopen locally, one can only hope this renewed interest in making music — whether by purchasing a new instrument or wiping the dust from a rediscovered one — will lead to supporting small music shops across the country.
Rolling Stone also reports that digital music-making software has seen increased traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Google searches for Grarageband have increased 55% and hundreds of thousands of users are downloading free trials of higher-end production applications.
This all means one thing: people are at home, making music. From beginners to hobbyists to professionals, DIY music is finding new life in the hands of people across the world.
As Rolling Stone asks, will this spark a musical renaissance? Maybe. More likely, though, people are simply finding comfort in creation.
Wilburn Custom Shop in Sandpoint has seen some action through its curbside services for both buying music equipment and dropping off instruments for repair. Owner Scott Wilburn told the Sandpoint Reader that he has been taking advantage of the pandemic-induced downtime to get back to his own musical projects. He said he has done more work in the past three months on an album that he started three years ago than he had accomplished in the past two years. He has also recently produced two new music videos.
“I am connected to a lot of other musicians via social media, and many fellow musicians have posted home concerts, solo videos, art and so much more,” he said. “With lots of time on their hands, music is a great way [for idled people] to feel productive.”
Red Simpson, owner of Fiddlin’ Red’s Music in Sandpoint, has also been offering curbside services. The music teacher and multi-instrumentalist said he has been enjoying playing more music at home, and that he can understand why some people are also getting back into the swing of things with instruments of their own.
“People are playing more music at home and breaking out their guitar and violin strings for comfort reasons,” he said. “It gives people good vibes.”
Wilburn shared the same sentiment.
“One can only watch so much TV, eh?” he joked. “But seriously, music has always been therapy, and let’s face it — it has been a scary time for a lot of people. Music has always been a great outlet for people’s emotions, and I believe being creative in a time when so much is uncertain gives people a feeling of stability when nothing else seems stable.”
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