January 09, 2020 I MI Publisher I by Frank Alkyer

So Long, 2010s

What a difference a decade makes.

For those who were in this industry in 2010, think back to The NAMM Show that year.

The musical products industry came into the new decade limping badly from the worst recession in generations, one that gave retailers and suppliers alike all they could handle and more. During that show, Joe Lamond, NAMM’s president and CEO, lamented that the industry had lost a decade of growth in less than two years.

While there were signs of recovery, no one was ready to celebrate.

“Last year was very dark,” Jon Haber, the owner of Alto Music in Middletown, N.Y., told Music Inc. at the time. “This year, everyone was still bitching, but at least they smiled when they complained.”

Once past issues of the economy, the industry was in the throes of an absolute technological revolution, one that would dominate the 2010s as it did the previous decade. E-commerce came into full swing, and throughout the decade, the pages of Music Inc. were filled with executives touting the new way of business and those calling for a leveling of the playing field.

There is no question that online retailers won the decade. Sweetwater alone went from under $200 million in sales in 2010 to approximately $725 million in 2019. Other online retailers and retail platforms like Full Compass, Kraft Music, Pitbull Music, Reverb and many more also experienced meteoric growth.

Then there’s that little industry competitor called Amazon, which should hit north of $280 billion when the company’s annual results are reported at the end of January. In 2010, Amazon did $15.5 billion in sales.

But the internet also proved to be the undoing of a multitude of retailers as this industry, and all industries grappled with the rapid change.

Especially hit hard have been mom-and-pop combo shops that were slow to adapt, so they quietly left.

On the other end, were businesses that bet big online and missed. In March 2011, Music Inc.’s cover featured a young entrepreneur named Nathan Nguyen who was planning to change school music retail forever with his upstart online company Instrumental Savings. That company is now out of business, according to Yelp reviews.

For its January 2013 issue, Music Inc. featured Hello Music, an online site touting flash deals marketed via social media touting more than 300,000 friends, fans and members. But when Facebook changed its algorithm and the internet became flash deal flooded, Hello Music was forced to say goodbye.

So, who will be the winners and losers of the 2010s? That’s above this writer’s pay grade. But barring a few outliers, businesses not fully engaged online will perish.

Also, look for a seismic shift in retail ownership. Baby boomers who created some of our best-known retail brands will be gone by 2030. Some of our dearest product categories, too, will be replaced with others we can’t even conceive of right now. In other words, business as usual for a new decade.

So, goodbye 2010s and thanks. Let’s buckle up, keep our arms and legs inside the windows and get ready for another fascinating 10 years. MI

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