Online music shops have already taken business away from high street ones but how has people playing musical instruments in lockdown further affected stores? Adam Baker talks to two independent Nottingham shops to find out.
“There have been a lot of people coming to me with guitars they’ve dragged out of the loft after 25 years to be repaired,” says Andy Avison, 60, owner of Nottingham City Guitars about the effect that the pandemic has had on his shop and the way it has changed public interest in musical instruments.
Although the shop mainly focuses on high-end vintage guitars beyond most people’s budget, it also offers a repair service that has been an integral part of business throughout the lockdowns.
Surprisingly, he said the pandemic had not affected his business too dramatically as the stock that is on offer at the shop has not sold in high volumes since the it opened in 2013.
The problems that Mr Avison had with selling guitars existed before knowing the words coronavirus or lockdown because selling instruments online would mean having a website which, as a small independent shop, he cannot afford.
As people have been “looking for hobbies” during the lockdowns, playing guitar has proved particularly popular – something Mr Avison attributes to the portability and accessibility compared to a the likes of pianos.
However, the main issues for Mr Avison’s shop and musical instrument sales in general has only just come to light with the effects of Brexit.
Combined with an economic downturn due to the pandemic, which will mean people will not have the extra cash to splash on a £2,000 guitar, leaving the EU has meant that the cost of imported instruments has increased due to new import duties as a there are a lot of musical instrument sales from countries inside the EU.
With online orders becoming a part of everyday life, there are other music shops in Nottingham that have struggled through lockdown and even before.
David Oldershaw, 71, and his wife Margaret, 75, have owned WindBlowers for 38 years and have both been working tirelessly through lockdown. “We’re literally working for no money,” says David.
Due to both him and his wife receiving the state pension, they cannot claim government grants to support the business how they would like.
All of the staff at WindBlowers are on furlough, so the Oldershaws have been doing all of the work that the rest of the staff usually do.
There was a common theme in the work that both of the shops have seen – mainly repairs. Mr Oldershaw explained the personal nature of buying a musical instrument and, though it’s a cliché, you have to play it before you buy.
Going in and playing the instruments – especially wind instruments – has not been possible for most of this year, so the shop’s “click and deliver” service (as David called it), has been the main form of Windblowers trade.
“I enjoy my job but no one wants to work for no money”
David Oldershaw, 71, Windblowers
He did not blame the coronavirus pandemic for all of the issues though, Amazon is clearly what has left WindBlowers feeling breathless.
Mr Oldershaw called it “death to the high street” on multiple occasions and although they have had a good run, he adds: “It’s gone belly up over the last few years.”
There has been something positive to come out of lockdown for the music world.
Many people have taken to social media to display what they have learnt while they have been at home – videos on TikTok being a prime example of this.
But for people who want to be taught music conventionally, it can now be taught within their homes and although there are limitations to that, it has meant that teachers can give lessons online to people who live a lot further away than they could usually get to.
This extra time and interest is what has kept both Nottingham City Guitars and Windblowers open, even if that has come with its own set of problems.