May 12, 2020 I MI Publisher I by Frank Alkyer

On Mixed Messages

May 1, 2020—It’s Day 42 of sheltering in place for the staff of Music Inc. What we thought would be a week or two has no clear end in site.

We’re headquartered in Illinois where our governor, J.B. Pritzker, has moved the reopen date back to May 30—that’s just to begin reopening, and most of us think it will be later.

Meanwhile, other states began the process this week, or never fully closed at all.

Of course, this fuels the fire of concern, confusion, fear and skepticism. For those working in totally shut-down states, there’s just a hint of jealousy, too.

In the midst of this chaos, we are all looking for silver linings. On April 24, Rolling Stone ran an article online headlined, “Sales of Instruments and Music Gear Are Soaring. Will Quarantine Spark a Renaissance?” From Rolling Stone’s scribes to God’s ears.

In that piece, Sweetwater, Reverb and Guitar Center reported strong online sales following the shelter-in-place mandate. Guitar Center reported that online sales more than doubled, according to the article.

On our website, we reported that Guitar Center was able to reopen its Kansas City distribution center on April 22, giving the industry’s largest retailer more good news.

But that was interrupted on April 27 by a report from Bloomberg that GC is trying to “work out a deal with its creditors after skipping payments on two of its bonds, according to people with knowledge of the matter.”

Bloomberg reported that GC failed to pay interest on its unsecured bonds due in 2022 and its first-lien bonds due in 2021. This triggered a 30-day grace period before the company would be considered in default.

Guitar Center declined comment for Bloomberg’s article and our attempt to follow up. Frankly, who could blame them? Most in this industry are facing serious questions. When will we reopen? How will we reopen? What’s the economy going to look like? And, always, when will the money run out?

We’ve got more questions than answers for a situation that continues to shift by the week, day and minute. What do we do with all these mixed messages? We fight to make sense of them and do our damnedest to create something positive.

Our cover story on Sims Music, page 26, was supposed to be a simple celebration of its 40th anniversary. It turned into a story of resilience and online sales as a star during pandemic times.

Our story on the school music business going virtual, page 32, demonstrates, among other things, how two retailers—Amro Music in Tennessee and All County Music in Florida—used Zoom teleconferencing to connect with music educators in meaningful ways during the shut-down.

Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, a true inspirational speaker for education, served as a special guest for the All County Zoom event, delivering some sage advice.

“I haven’t found anything that offsets time on task,” Lautzenheiser said. “The only thing we can control is the way we approach things.”

For all of us, that means putting on a smile and working in overdrive to connect with customers. For the foreseeable future, that’s going to happen online. MI

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