April 15, 2021 I MI Editor I by Daniel Margolis

On Containment

The May issue of Music Inc. was developed during a time that couldn’t help but bring up some severe memories. A year ago, we were in the process of developing our May 2020 issue when the coronavirus became a thing, so to speak. On March 12, 2020, the NBA suspended its season and the NCAA tournament was canceled — all over the pandemic. This is not to say basketball defines our world (or does it?), but it was two among many things at the time signaling that life as we knew it was over, at least for a while. That same day, we shelved a completed cover story to write a chronological, source-driven timeline of the start of the pandemic.

And looking back at that issue, everything in it, save for that article, reflects what some call “the before times.” This included our Ask the Retailer page. I’d asked drum shops, “Are you planning to celebrate International Drum Month?” in May, and people had described things to me that, through no fault of their own, were not going to be able to happen. Rhythm Traders Drum Shop’s Brad Boynton, who has an excellent column in the May issue on page 21 about how the pandemic has changed shoppers’ habits, described to me his store’s annual event: “It’s very social.” Not anymore.

So I returned to the question for the May issue, asking, “How will you celebrate International Drum Month in May, despite the pandemic?” I also returned to Ray Fransen’s Drum Center’s Ray Fransen, who’d also shared his soon-to-be-canceled plans with me a year ago. He was, understandably, on the fence about International Drum Month, and pointed to a reason for this: “I’d be afraid to promote something and then not be able to get the merchandise. There’s a lot of stuff that’s getting hung up in the ports on the West Coast, and there’s even an international shortage of containers right now.”

Shipping containers are oddly the antagonist of this issue. For our cover story on page 26, I looked into how acoustic piano sales have fared over the last year. We hadn’t showcased the piano market on our cover since May 2018, back when pandemic was 100 years in our past, not our present and future. When I talked to suppliers, one of the first things I wanted to ask about was supply chain challenges. Perhaps naively, I imagined these would involve parts of pianos. No, the problem is what you put pianos in — shipping containers. One company after another — Yamaha, Steinway, Kawai, Hailun — brought up containers, in particular a giant blockage at the port in Long Beach, California, which seems to be rising to everyone’s attention. On March 31, a day before the May issue went to press, the Wall Street Journal posted an article titled, “America’s Imports Are Stuck on Ships Floating Just Off Los Angeles,” stating, “Tens of thousands of containers holding millions of dollars’ worth of goods are stuck offshore, within sight of docks jammed with still more containers.”

Our May 2020 cover story noted that on March 9, the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland, California, under coronavirus quarantine. So, a year ago, we were all concerned about a ship landing on our coast, and understandably so. But one year later, we want ships of a different type to dock so we can get product out of them, into our shops and in customers’ hands, in many cases to help them cope with life in lockdown. What a difference a year makes. MI

Daniel Margolis has been a professional writer and editor for over two decades.

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