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What happened in 1980? #2347483 11/08/14 09:29 PM
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Retsacnal Online Content OP

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Among the recurring themes here on PW is the general decline of the piano in western culture, and how that manifests: fewer dealers, fewer technicians, fewer options for buyers, etc. The piano sales data from a "bluebookofpianos" website has been mentioned a number of times. Out of curiosity, a while back, I pasted it into Excel to look at it graphically.

U.S. Piano Sales:
[Linked Image]

The graph seems to depict strong sales growth right up until about 1980, at which the trend turns decidedly downward. In contrast, however, the sale of grand pianos shows slow but steady growth through the end date of the data (2007).

I wondered if the graph was telling the whole story, and it occurred to me to adjust it for population growth to see if it told a different story.

U.S. Piano Sales per capita (1000):
[Linked Image]

At a high-level, the graph depicts the same down-turn in ~1980; however, it shows a little different perspective in the years leading up to it.

It seems that between WWII and 1980, Americans were buying 1.1 new pianos annually for every one-thousand people. Between 1980 and 2007 those annual sales of new pianos dwindled to 0.1 per 1000 people.

In other words, the demand for new pianos has declined by about 90%.

Interestingly, the sales of grand pianos remains fairly steady, but this definitely seems like a seismic shift in the popularity of the piano in American culture.





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Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347486 11/08/14 09:38 PM
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Things that really started going strong after 1980:

- Cable TV and lots more TV stations
- The VCR, video rentals, and home theater
- The birth of the video industry (bigger than Hollywood today)
- Personal music players like the Walkman & eventually the iPod
- Personal computers coming down to a price accessible to the consumer
- The internet, WWW, etc..
- Cell phones and eventually smart phones

There are just a lot of new ways for people to spend the leisure time these days compared to before 1980. (Disclaimer: I was 3 in 1980)

Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347487 11/08/14 09:42 PM
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Probably a number of factors-

a suddenly more mobile culture- the completion and integration of the Interstates into our daily lives suddenly grew a large class of people with fewer roots, in their community and more travel likely involved in their careers. The 80's was a very "homeless" time, when people called "blank pages" were suddenly falling through and out of the growing corporate landscape, and the emphasis shifted toward the CEOs and away from labor. Unemployment- usually blamed on shifting manufacturing overseas, and financial recession are major themes in 80's culture, as older suburban areas started dying and being replaced by newer ones, and the urban sprawl continued.

Also the rise of electronic keyboard and pianos- the '80s music is known for it's use of keyboards and synths.

When I bought my Baldwin Hamilton recently, I took a mental note of the Baldwin sales, according to the serial numbers, as I looked up the age of my piano (1980)-

their sales seemed to plummet more toward the end of the 80's though, and they finally went out of business.



Last edited by harpon; 11/08/14 09:43 PM.
Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347493 11/08/14 09:59 PM
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I'd be interested in seeing it with electronic keyboards factored in. I'm not sure if that data is available.

My sense is that really bad, cheap new pianos have completely disappeared from the market. I would guess that accounts for most of the decline.

Last edited by phantomFive; 11/08/14 10:01 PM.

Poetry is rhythm
Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: phantomFive] #2347529 11/09/14 12:21 AM
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Some good guesses already. Many folks these days might get a cheap electronic keyboard to satisfy any musical curiosity. Most families today would choose Internet, cable TV, cell phones, smart phones as all being higher priorities in the budget than piano lessons if push came to shove. All of those came after 1980.

More trends might be more activities and classes for kids, longer commutes, more work at home via email demands at many companies, meaning less time for something like piano lessons.

It would be interesting to see the numbers, when setting various price points for digitals. If say all digitals over $1000 today were counted, what might the number look like. How about at $500? I'm guessing that if all the cheap $100 keyboards are counted the numbers of units sold are actually up.

Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347537 11/09/14 01:09 AM
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Ronald Reagan.


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Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347587 11/09/14 06:52 AM
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It was combination of the beginning of the recession which began in 1982 and the end of the baby boomer children taking lessons. The baby boomers were a product of their parent's generation. We all had to learn the piano. When those parents of the baby boomers stopped having children of piano lesson age, the numbers started falling.

Also since I've been in the piano business through several recessions, many of us in the industry have always noted that that we are the first to go and the last to recover in downturns. This past recession started for us in the fall of 2005. One of my long time friends and reps called me and said, "This is going to be a big one." noting that the furniture store parking lots were empty. Sales slowed dramatically for many dealers when the economy seemed ok, especially the mid range pricing.

I was also working for Baldwin in 1983 just after the start of the recession at that time. It is hard to believe now but Baldwin had 500 dealers at that time. I mean every tiny hamlet had a Baldwin dealer and we all watched them just dry up and disappear. I remember a meeting with some of the big cheeses at the time when Harold Smith the then president of the manufacturing area scoffed at a marketing report showing that Baldwin had a huge percentage of the sales in the US. He just said, "We'll, 100% of zero is zero."


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Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347606 11/09/14 08:27 AM
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Some more guesses:

I wonder whether it has a more stressful work culture as well - more 2 income families meaning there was less time spent at home, and children spent less time at home. As well, employers were demanding more from their employees - like unpaid overtime, or demanding a higher output without any increase in hours, meaning people arrived home exhausted - and with 2 parents going to work, meant that they both had to pitch in with chores around the home instead of leisure.

I'm not sure when it happened, but at some stage last century we had more one parent families causing both economic and time-poor reasons.

Maybe the types of music people listened to or played could have affected home piano use?

In Australia, the '70s was the home organ sales peak - not sure how that affected pianos - the dealership I was involved with was selling a few organs most weeks, but I think only 3 pianos in 5 or 6 years.


Alan from Queensland, Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert & Allen Organ (CF-17a)).
Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347607 11/09/14 08:28 AM
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The 80's was the previous big crisis here.. Doesn't say anything about the US though.

Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347612 11/09/14 08:45 AM
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Would it be possible to have that chart revised to take into account fluctuation in population size?


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: phantomFive] #2347628 11/09/14 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
I'd be interested in seeing it with electronic keyboards factored in. I'm not sure if that data is available.

My sense is that really bad, cheap new pianos have completely disappeared from the market. I would guess that accounts for most of the decline.

My guess would be as well that it's digital pianos that have replaced acoustic pianos; and I'd refine it one bit further.

In the bluebookofpianos, and possibly the Piano Buyer's Guide, it is mentioned that spinets and consoles were the most popular pianos after World War II; but have now virtually gone extinct. I'd guess that anyone who bought a spinet or console after World War II would buy a digital piano today; since digital pianos started becoming good in the 80s.

Which is why I'd not only like to see a statistic about acoustic/digital piano sales, but also about sizes of pianos.
My guess would be that the sales of spinets and consoles have plunged, while that of digital pianos rose. The sales of studios and uprights however may not have changed so much.

Last edited by patH; 11/09/14 09:25 AM.

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Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347650 11/09/14 10:25 AM
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The birth rate dropped sharply after the boomers in the early 70's. I was working for what was then the largest piano company in the US. We were pretty shocked at the numbers of sales dropping rapidly by 1979 and there really wan't a digital product out there to account for the drop. The electronic sales consisted mostly of organs, whose demographic was almost completely older people who still had strong ties to churches.


Sally Phillips
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www.steinwaypiano.com
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Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347670 11/09/14 10:58 AM
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+1 to all of the above (including the rise of conservatism).


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Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Silver Keys] #2347680 11/09/14 11:10 AM
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from
Casio history

In 1980 Casio released the Casiotone 201, its first electronic keyboard. As a compact and attractively priced unit that could play sounds from various instruments, this new product drew acclaim from music lovers around the world. ...


That's a virtual "case closed," if this was a murder mystery. I'm sure Yamaha, Korg and other major digital players were right around the same time window.

Again, it would be interesting to see the digital numbers added to the acoustic numbers, at various digital price points.

Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Silver Keys] #2347683 11/09/14 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Silver Keys
+1 to all of the above (including the rise of conservatism).


Wrong again my leftist friend.

1. Huge recession beginning Nov 1979. Remember a guy named Jimmy Carter??? Remember gas lines? Remember 17% mortgages? I do.

Remember 11% unemployment in the U.S. - with 14.5% in places like Michigan?? I do.


2. Electronic keyboards and digital pianos.

All this speculation about life style changes, birth rate declines, snide political comments etc etc etc is more of the same rambling that has taken over this forum in the past year or so.

What a waste of time.

Go practice or do something constructive.






Amateur Pianist and raconteur.
Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347691 11/09/14 11:37 AM
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Despite the early emergence of digital keyboards, the sales were very slow in the beginning. It did not heat up until the much later versions of Clavinova, Roland and Kurzweil started introducing units with much better on board speakers and some version of touch sensitivity. Also the earlier buyers of these were almost always professional bands for whom the portability was a factor. It wasn't until the late 80's that most dealers even carried them. Before that you usually saw them at music stores that catered to the guitar crowd.

There of course were the predictions that the digitals were going to take over the market but they didn't account for the precipitous drop in sales of pianos at that point in time.

Believe me there were many people in our business scrambling to come up with answers. The parents I talked to were younger, didn't value the ability to play the piano, preferred the guitar and like everyone else, were blindsided by the recession.

But even as far back as the invention of the radio, there were predictions about how that product alone was going to kill piano sales.


Sally Phillips
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Piano Perfect, LLC
Steinway & Sons Pianos
Columbus, GA
New Steinway, Boston and Essex pianos
www.steinwaypiano.com
Acoustic Piano Technical Consultant - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
http://www.pianobuyer.com/current-issue/07a-should-i-have-my-piano-rebuilt.html
Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: phantomFive] #2347738 11/09/14 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
I'd be interested in seeing it with electronic keyboards factored in.

Excellent point.

Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: S. Phillips] #2347740 11/09/14 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by S. Phillips
There of course were the predictions that the digitals were going to take over the market but they didn't account for the precipitous drop in sales of pianos at that point in time.

Just looking at the charts, a five or six year decline in the sell of verticals starting in 1980 wasn't anything unusual - by 1985 or 1986 perhaps the selling of digitals took over during what would have been the next upswing of the verticals.

Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347743 11/09/14 01:30 PM
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In 1983, the credit crunch took out Aeolian American, which was a major supplier of cheap vertical pianos.


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Re: What happened in 1980? [Re: Retsacnal] #2347745 11/09/14 01:38 PM
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Yep, looks like there was a recession that started at the end of 1980 called the "Savings & Loans Crisis" in the US.

S&P 500 1975-1985

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_1980s_recession

It seems like when even when we recover from these recessions some habits put in place don't go away. Perhaps at the same time new technology filled the gap cheaper than a piano. Maybe the Walkman around that time. Or maybe because Michael Jackson didn't use a piano in his music.

I was also looking at Yamaha's annual report. On page 48 they have an 11 year summary. You can see that even though most of the world bounced back from the financial crisis of 2009, Yamaha's sales never did. But of course there are other factors.

http://www.yamaha.com/about_yamaha/ir/publications/pdf-data/2013/ann/an-2013e.pdf

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