We take a look at why some musical products are better suited to a tech store

Could your store become a destination shop for musicians?

PCR explores why retailers should know their Cakewalk from their EZPro if they want to take advantage of this market opportunity.

Times are changing. Your music collection no longer takes up any physical space, so why should a fully functioning studio, or a collection of your favourite guitars?

As technology rapidly evolves, the idea of almost anyone creating professional sounding music in their bedroom is soon becoming a reality. No longer do you need to take an expensive course, devote your life to mastering an instrument or try to find somewhere to store mixing desks and microphones.

There’s a new generation of musicians. Maybe games like Guitar Hero and Rocksmith have had a hand in this influx. We all blame Dance Dance Revolution for the hoard of dance groups that descend upon Britain’s Got Talent every year, right? Maybe it’s not even computer games influencing young people, but rather the development of music creation software. Almost everyone owns a personal computer, and with software becoming more reasonably priced (check out our Music Creation Software feature on pages 83/4), parents are more inclined to fork out for a space- saving virtual studio rather than an expensive and noisy real one.

That’s all very well, but what does it have to do with tech retailers? Well, you may think a musician would feel more comfortable going to a music shop to get the best advice. But apart from physical instruments, there’s a whole host of products that are actually better suited to your shop.

Take the humble set of headphones. It’s not just gamers that strive to find the perfect set. In fact headphones are the main thing that keeps the average neighbour from creeping into next door’s teenage boy’s bedroom and smashing his amp to pieces so they’ll finally have a break from hearing the guitar riff from Smells Like Teen Spirit being played wrong…over and over again.

“We target tech-savvy consumers and music lovers who are interested in truly mastering the mixing desk.”

Ken Goodison, JAKKS

And it’s not just teenage Kurt Cobain wannabes that need headphones either. Professional musicians, DJs, remixers, producers and engineers all need them as well.

One example of this is Beats by Dr Dre. They are not just a set of headphones endorsed by a popular artist, but ones specifically designed for sound engineers and musicians. Beats by Dr Dre has also teamed up with HP to produce a range of laptops, ultrabooks and desktops to provide professional-quality sound for those making music on the devices.

And they’re not the only ones doing it. Indie Utopia Computers is currently developing a new line of DJ oriented laptops. “We got in touch directly with professional DJs like Jaguar Skills and other up-and-coming artists and simply asked them what they needed/wanted in a portable workstation,” says director Craig Hume. “I think this is where a lot of retailers go wrong; they don’t ask their target audience what it is they actually need.”

Manufacturer JAKKS has recently launched its new EZPro DJ Mixing Desk and sees an enthusiastic audience for its products. Ken Goodison comments: “We target those tech-savvy consumer and music lovers who are interested in truly mastering the mixing desk.” You could be targeting them too.

Music creation software has come a very long way, and companies like Cakewalk are producing software such as Music Creator 6, which is designed to bring budding musicians and producers into the world of a fully functioning professional studio but for a reasonable price.

In fact, Cakewalk has evolved that one step further to develop software which utilises touchscreens. The company is working closely with Intel to update its SONAR X2 software to become fully functional for touchscreen devices.

“It’ll be interesting to see how artists become more productive and creative when combining music creation with touchscreen devices.”

George Persiantsev, Cakewalk

“We are very excited to work with Intel and be the first to market the touch experience to musicians,” states George Persiantsev, product manager for Cakewalk. “It will be interesting to see how artists become more productive, creative, and have more fun when combining music creation with touch in SONAR X2.”

So who’s going to demonstrate these laptops and software? Music stores? No, not when computing knowledge is so important.

There are, of course, some music stores that are really up-to-date with the latest technology. But it’s more common to find a bunch of drummers running a drum store spending more time watching Gene Kruper DVDs exclaiming ‘I can totally do that’ than actually reading up on the latest drum loop software. Guitar stores can be intimidating for first-time musicians who aren’t really sure what they want and have to listen to Steve Vai blaring out the speakers whilst they timidly ask for a DVD or CD to help them learn basic chords.

The world of technology retail is slightly different. If you don’t keep up to date with the latest tech and if you can’t make people feel confortable in your store, they will go somewhere else.

“Most music stores are going to be able to give basic advice on the type of hardware and software the customer might need. However, if the customer chooses the right IT retailer, then they can get more in-depth advice and can save a lot of money by purchasing the right kit,” explains Hume.

Ronnie Dungan, managing editor of music instrument retailer magazine MI Pro, comments on the evolving market: "Music creation software and recording packages allow musicians to achieve high-quality, near professional, results from their own bedroom. Whilst they will never fully replace the traditional instruments, the range of samples, loops and sounds now available allow music-makers to instantly delve into a huge library of effects and noises to add more depth to their recordings.

“Easier recording means more musicians, which is great news for the musical instrument retail trade, however, with software the challenge comes from the digital space, which means that a lot of retailers find it a difficult line to give range and support to."

This is where technology retailers can step in. There will always be a place for musical stores, as there will always be a demand for physical instruments, but not everyone has the room to own a drum kit or mixing desk, or the talent to master them.

As the world of music creation quickly becomes a more digital one, it is evident that musicians need computers and PC retailers need musicians.

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