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What do you make of piano market globalisation? #2523363
03/21/16 08:28 PM
03/21/16 08:28 PM
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Posts: 35
Berlin, Germany
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Dscally Offline OP
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Berlin, Germany
Hello everyone

I'm a Berlin-based journalist, hunting for a new piano in the last months and fascinated by everything I've learned here -- and on PianoBuyer -- about the piano market today.

So fascinated, in fact, that I'm preparing an article for my newspaper. Given that you are all such a knowledgeable (and opinionated!) bunch, I thought I would use my first post to ask for your views -- with a view to incorporating them into my article for the "Irish Times". I hope I'm not breaking any forum rules by doing so.

1. How do you view the globalisation of the piano market that appears to be gathering pace? Inevitable or worrying? Given how we all agree that a piano is so much more than other products - a smartphone, a car - why, then, do you think globalisation has not given it a wider berth?

2. When you read of the latest Chinese takeover - of Schimmel -- is your reaction sentimental or pragmatic? Is this simply the way of the world, or is globalisation squeezing piano-making out of its European birthplace at a cultural cost. Or is that an outdated concept in this globalised age?

3. Is it inevitable that Chinese companies -- with European brand names, parts and know-how -- will sooner or later eventually be able to build a piano of similar quality to a high-end/mid-market European/US piano? (Perhaps you feel they are already doing this?)

Many thanks for your insights on these - or any other - issues. I have some piano-buying questions, like so many here, but I will save them for another post.

Regards from Berlin

D

P.S. If Perri Knize is reading, my deepest congratulations on your book, which I devoured in two long sittings!

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Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2523385
03/21/16 09:51 PM
03/21/16 09:51 PM
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Georgia, USA
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Hello, and welcome to Piano World!

I'm not qualified to answer any of your questions, but you asked for opinions... that is like saying "sick-em'" to a pit bull-dog here on the Piano Forum. smile

When you say "Piano Market Globalization", I assume you mean the transfer of traditional European piano manufacturing to China, Indonesia and other low-cost labor nations. That is really no different than what many other industries have done or are doing.

Here in the US, Carrier Corporation (a division of United Technologies), the giant Air Conditioning equipment manufacture, recently announced that it is moving its manufacturing facility in Huntington, Indiana, to Monterrey Mexico, costing over 1400 US jobs in Indiana. The reason? Cheaper labor and lower manufacturing cost and more profits for the company.

Is this any different than the shift of piano manufacturing to China or Indonesia from Europe or the US? I don't think so...

Personally, I think there will always be some small demand for very high-end pianos to be built by historically significant manufacturers in Europe and the US, but the bulk of the industry has settled in China for now. Why? Lower labor costs.

That is not to say that China doesn't have perhaps a higher demand for acoustic pianos than any other country on earth, or that they cannot build a quality instrument.

Now, what kind of piano are you interested in? smile

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2523390
03/21/16 10:28 PM
03/21/16 10:28 PM
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Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Online content
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The main reason so many piano makers are moving and/or forming alliances with Chinese companies is market size. China is the worlds biggest piano market.

As more robotics supplant hand labor the cost of labor will not be a significant part of production cost. This is true of all industries not just pianos.

The economic displacement of when robots replace working people will hit China and India much harder than older established economies.

The real problem for piano makers is the stagnant and/or declining middle class, the advent of digital pianos, and the stagnant state of piano technology.

Piano makers have not been able to make a case that new designs are better than the traditional ones. And thus they have not given Pianists a reason to replace their old instruments. Almost no innovation has occurred in design, and very little in the way of applications of new materials to advance the utility and durability of pianos. The notable exceptions being Mason & Hamlin which has introduced the most significant change to piano actions with their composite action, and Kawai which has been using some plastic and composite type material in some of their action components.

The biggest competition makers of fine grand pianos face is from rebuilders. And almost all of the design innovation and research on pianos is done by rebuilders and academics. No piano factory has much in the way of significant and successful R&D about how to improve the tone, playability and durability of pianos.

It is a difficult task because no one, (except maybe me), has been able to define in an engineering sense the qualities of great tone and touch. One cannot just hand an engineer a set of quality specifications and let them derive a piano design to meet them.

Hope this helps you begin to frame the state of the piano world.

If you have any interest in studying some of the piano design innovations now available you could start by reviewing my recently patented "Fully Tempered Duplex Scale". You could also look into "Hybrid Wire Scales", and "Light Hammer Tone Regulation".


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2523410
03/21/16 11:59 PM
03/21/16 11:59 PM
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Something to consider for a future article is the population of China and the growing segment of that population that may be placing increased demands for quality instruments within the Chinese marketplace.

I've read that Lang Lang has especially had a significant impact on inspiring millions of children to play the piano.

How has this affected local piano production? Does this at all affect or inspire brand acquisition?

What percentage of Chinese piano production is slotted for overseas sales? What stays local?

I'm under the impression that most pianos produced in China are shipped out of the country. But if there is an increase in demand within China, how is that demand being met?


Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2523426
03/22/16 02:44 AM
03/22/16 02:44 AM
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Auckland, New Zealand
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I have an interest in cars, and it's sad to see manufacturers going out of business or becoming just brand names sharing platforms and engines. Rolls Royce are now owned by BMW, and their big boss is predictably not British. Unfortunately he's also so scary that nobody dares tell him that not only does his presence work against the British image he's trying to force down our throats, he doesn't really suit being on camera at all...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeH3RqNlbAQ
Supposed country of origin is part of a car's image, as is whether or not the car is really a 'lesser' car's platform and engine in disguise.

If you read a brochure for old piano brands now under Asian control, the origins of the brand feel emphasised and the recent history feels like it's written in small print. At some level, they've recognised that people want to buy into an image, so they've bought themselves an image.
If they then decided to start producing pianos with the aim of being the very best, though, it would be interesting to see how such pianos would get branded and promoted. Would they start doing the (final) assembly in the appropriate European / Western first world country, then fly the CEO over to make a video the equivalent of Rolls Royce's?

Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Ben_NZ] #2523445
03/22/16 05:05 AM
03/22/16 05:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Ben_NZ
I have an interest in cars, and it's sad to see manufacturers going out of business or becoming just brand names sharing platforms and engines. Rolls Royce are now owned by BMW, and their big boss is predictably not British. Unfortunately he's also so scary that nobody dares tell him that not only does his presence work against the British image he's trying to force down our throats, he doesn't really suit being on camera at all...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeH3RqNlbAQ
Supposed country of origin is part of a car's image, as is whether or not the car is really a 'lesser' car's platform and engine in disguise.

If you read a brochure for old piano brands now under Asian control, the origins of the brand feel emphasised and the recent history feels like it's written in small print. At some level, they've recognised that people want to buy into an image, so they've bought themselves an image.
If they then decided to start producing pianos with the aim of being the very best, though, it would be interesting to see how such pianos would get branded and promoted. Would they start doing the (final) assembly in the appropriate European / Western first world country, then fly the CEO over to make a video the equivalent of Rolls Royce's?


Wow! Yes he was scary but I think the star of the show was the "coachline". Now if only I could get that famous Berlin piano company to put a red coachline on my new piano 😆 That would be enough to stop me buying from China.

Ian


I'm all keyed up
2016 Blüthner Model A
Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2523464
03/22/16 07:12 AM
03/22/16 07:12 AM
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1. How do you view the globalisation of the piano market that appears to be gathering pace? Inevitable or worrying? Given how we all agree that a piano is so much more than other products - a smartphone, a car - why, then, do you think globalisation has not given it a wider berth?

It always was global market. Just pay the shipping? Why is a piano "much more" than a car?


2. When you read of the latest Chinese takeover - of Schimmel -- is your reaction sentimental or pragmatic? Is this simply the way of the world, or is globalisation squeezing piano-making out of its European birthplace at a cultural cost. Or is that an outdated concept in this globalised age?

A bit sentimental, (1) I wonder if this is going to impact the sound of a Schimmel. (2) I wonder why the german brands can not keep up with modern times. Is there no market anymore for high quality german? Are there no significant differences with cheaper pianos? (significant to the major part of the buyers, that is)

3. Is it inevitable that Chinese companies -- with European brand names, parts and know-how -- will sooner or later eventually be able to build a piano of similar quality to a high-end/mid-market European/US piano? (Perhaps you feel they are already doing this?)

I assume they can. But there probably is not enough request for it. This is why I believe the takeovers are worrying - the chinese may simply be looking for a recognised brand name to make profit on, and pull down the quality that very few perceive apparently.

Last edited by wouter79; 03/22/16 07:14 AM.

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Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT] #2523465
03/22/16 07:14 AM
03/22/16 07:14 AM
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Philadelphia/South Jersey
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Here are my thoughts. Some of them align with Ed's and some do not.

First, I believe that the real reason that these alliances are made is about survival. Although press releases talk about exposure to markets, this is really just a distribution issue. That has never required giving away a significant amount of ownership in return for cash.

Secondly, It is very true that digital pianos, keyboards, etc. have eaten into the low end of the acoustic piano market. These have become a choice for some instead of a spinet or a console. But if we add up the number of digital piano and keyboard sold along with acoustic piano sales in the United States over the past decade, sales have increased dramatically. It is not that people are not playing keyboard instruments.

Lastly, I love spending time in Europe, and particularly in the great European piano factories. The care given these instruments is a beautiful thing to behold in many of these facilities. You can see this case right in your home city at Bechstein, Dscally. Travel East to Braunschweig and see the same at Grotrian, then cross town to Schimmel. A company like Schimmel brought innovative production techniques to the European industry decades ago. They are still beautifully built by artisans, but so much modern machinery/production techniques are used that Larry Fine called them in one of his books "The Yamaha of Europe".

I wish I had more time to flesh out my thoughts but can't now. I may follow up more later.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
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Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2523466
03/22/16 07:22 AM
03/22/16 07:22 AM
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Germany
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Originally Posted by Dscally

1. How do you view the globalisation of the piano market that appears to be gathering pace? Inevitable or worrying? Given how we all agree that a piano is so much more than other products - a smartphone, a car - why, then, do you think globalisation has not given it a wider berth?

2. When you read of the latest Chinese takeover - of Schimmel -- is your reaction sentimental or pragmatic? Is this simply the way of the world, or is globalisation squeezing piano-making out of its European birthplace at a cultural cost. Or is that an outdated concept in this globalised age?

3. Is it inevitable that Chinese companies -- with European brand names, parts and know-how -- will sooner or later eventually be able to build a piano of similar quality to a high-end/mid-market European/US piano? (Perhaps you feel they are already doing this?)


Do you read German? There is a fascinating book on the industrialization of piano manufacturing 1830-1930, called "Vom 'Schwachstarketastenkasten' und seinen Fabrikanten" by Sonja Petersen.
In Europe of 1870, Germany produced the least amount of pianos, 15.000, with UK in the lead at 25.000. In 1913, Germany was at >160.000 with 50% export, UK at 86.000 with 10.000 exported. The US was apparently at double Germany, but almost no exports.

It is my understanding that China firstly makes pianos for China, because there is a massive demand (well, compared to the West). This is because of actually having a middle class now, which is growing fast. And of course the "Lang Lang effect".

On 1.: Globalization is inevitable and it is hard for who is affected. But it is also great for now we can buy things that we could not, before. China can do production at a scale that no one else can, so some things are only possible in China, today. Apple could not produce the iPhone in the current volume at all in the US. And they have lots of robots already.

When you ask "why has Globalization not given the piano a wider berth?" I think you sound hopelessly romantic, in a nice way. What do you think is the job of a piano? Look into the teachers forum: for lots of parents it is about signaling learning, culture and keeping up with the Joneses. Something like the journey of Perri Knize you will not find in 1 out of 50, maybe not out of 100 of parents who buy a piano (really buy, not just look for).

On 2: Sentimental, I think, but I do not have enough details. Schimmel is selling a lot of pianos in Germany, they are a very respected brand. Are they getting China in and staying in the lead? Will they keep the jobs in Germany and even add some? Are they becoming an Apple or Volkswagen like "Designed in Germany, built in China" or is it just about their name?

On 3: In theory, there is really no reason why they should not be able to eventually build something like a Steinway. In practice I think there is the question how much you need to be raised in the West to have the ear for intonation/voicing/tuning to be able to do Schimmel, Grotian Steinweg, Seiler, Steinway level sound. Looking at Yamaha, Shigeru Kawai etc. maybe you can argue it is not the same, but it is on the same level? They have been at it for a while now...

On cars: I have been to the Volkswagen facilities in Wolfsburg two years ago and I was amazed how little robots are involved. When the Shenzen ecosystem will get into the car business, everyone involved will be in for a ride...


Kawai CN35. Daughter wanted a piano, so we got one. Now who'll learn faster? ;-)
Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2523892
03/23/16 02:10 PM
03/23/16 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Dscally

1. How do you view the globalisation of the piano market that appears to be gathering pace? Inevitable or worrying? Given how we all agree that a piano is so much more than other products - a smartphone, a car - why, then, do you think globalisation has not given it a wider berth?


Smartphones are used for a couple of years then thrown in the trash or sold on Craigslist to people who can't buy new. Cars are similar but probably owned for closer to 10 years. Pianos last much longer than that - many here have pianos that are 50+ years old.

Chinese aren't new to making pianos. They've been making them for decades and exporting them to the West. But up until pretty recently they didn't make much of an effort to make the pianos musical so a lot of people still associate Chinese pianos with poor quality. And for some, this reputation is a problem since it will make selling the piano more difficult when they need to.


Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2557162
07/17/16 01:08 PM
07/17/16 01:08 PM
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Boston, MA
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UPDATE: Derek published his story in April. It is well worth a read:

http://www.irishtimes.com/business/...uying-germany-s-piano-industry-1.2621028



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Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2557188
07/17/16 02:54 PM
07/17/16 02:54 PM
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In April Derek posted a link to his story in a separate thread:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubb..._creeping_takeover_of_t.html#Post2533244

Would have made sense to post a link here though, in case someone encountering this thread later was interested in it (as seems to be the case).


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Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2557296
07/18/16 04:30 AM
07/18/16 04:30 AM
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I'm anxious to see developments that enhance and stabilize tone and tuning. After relatively little research and development for over 70 years, I see stabilization as the most immediate challenge. Keyboards are fun and the piano is still my favorite instrument. Yet, the piano is being challenged in today's environment to adapt and join in. Could pianos come with amplifier jacks in the same way acoustic guitars are sold? I'm expecting the growing Chinese market to fuel a lot of improvements, new designs, and changes.


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2621318
03/08/17 01:55 AM
03/08/17 01:55 AM
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Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2621325
03/08/17 03:40 AM
03/08/17 03:40 AM
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As someone who loves engineering and who got a Phoenix piano from Richard Dain, I would suggest you read this:
http://www.phoenixpianos.co.uk/development/

As a not-quite-professional pianist who has played many instruments, I feel that many high end European pianos (along with Steinway, which represents particularly poor value IMO) need to be trying harder to earn their customers' money. Yea, a car is not a piano, but as the years go by, car manufacturers not only make their cars more powerful and more efficient, but they also figure out how to more cheaply give you a better interior and driving experience, all while reducing the price in inflation-adjusted terms. Why have so few pianos gotten better while charging more as time goes by? It's not like the asking prices are chump change either, they are a lifetime's worth of savings or more for most people in the world.

A very conservative example, Yamaha used to charge around the equivalent of 20k USD for a C3 10 years ago in Japan. After adjusting for inflation, the price today is pretty similar, but I think they now make a significantly better product. Without naming names, many European brands that have brought less improvement to the table are not doing as well compared to Yamaha. I think that's fair, and good for the consumer.

As far as Chinese pianos go, I don't know much about Pearl River's management but I do know they have been producing decent instruments for some time. In particular, I was very impressed by a 15 year old or so Ritmuller upright that a somewhat distant relative owns, as well as some grand pianos they produced 10 years ago that are badged with a different name. If something that cheap can be that good, then they completely deserve to take market share away from Yamaha and Kawai.

From China, I think Hailun is a force to be reckoned with, particularly after I learned what Stephen Paulello has been doing and the fact that he works with them is a sign they are not scared to try new things. Paulello's own pianos, regardless of his success, are an example of innovation we need more of. In particular, modified bridge design with less downbearing force and actions with modern materials would make the piano ownership experience much better, because you would not have to deal with the expense of soundboard replacement (once every 40 years comes out to several hundred dollars/euros/pounds per year!) or action rebushing as often. I think that given the people Chen Hailong has hired, there is a good chance Hailun will make the push to offer these technological improvements at a low price, and if it makes a better piano than European manufacturers, I would hope that with the resources and prestige they have, they would be able to invest the money to do even better, and we pianists win.

Last edited by trigalg693; 03/08/17 03:49 AM.
Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: trigalg693] #2621330
03/08/17 04:02 AM
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The only people who get soundboards replaced after 40 years are seriously brainwashed people with more dollars than sense.


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Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: BDB] #2621332
03/08/17 04:10 AM
03/08/17 04:10 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
The only people who get soundboards replaced after 40 years are seriously brainwashed people with more dollars than sense.


Apparently in places with larger humidity swings than here in California where you and I are, the soundboards actually do lose their crown. Why does Mason & Hamlin go through the trouble of putting the "tension resonator" on their pianos?

Also, at dealers, every 1950 or older high end instrument I have seen usually has a new soundboard too. Why would the store pay for that cost upfront if they didn't think it would help the piano sell?

Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: trigalg693] #2621335
03/08/17 04:27 AM
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Sounds like you have been seriously brainwashed. If you bought a piano with that understanding, you have more dollars than sense.


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Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: BDB] #2621338
03/08/17 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
Sounds like you have been seriously brainwashed. If you bought a piano with that understanding, you have more dollars than sense.


What are you trying to do? Give yourself a bad reputation online that will hurt your business? I just pointed out that a lot of people in the industry seem to think what I just described. The reasoning makes sense; with pressure on the board, given that wood exhibits creep, it should flatten to some degree over time.

In fact, having played a lot of old pianos with original soundboards and having a 45 year old Kawai, I personally do not see the need for soundboard replacement in many cases where say the dealer thinks there is a need. However loss of power seems to be a valid criticism of these older pianos.

You don't need to worry about what piano I got, I got that piano because I highly value longevity in action parts and because it was a good deal, to me. Maybe I'm a brainwashed idiot, you never know...

Last edited by trigalg693; 03/08/17 04:51 AM.
Re: What do you make of piano market globalisation? [Re: Dscally] #2622038
03/09/17 09:12 PM
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Reseda, California

Mason's tension resonator improves the stability of the places where the edges of the soundboard attach to the rest of the piano, which is of course a good thing. Humidity acts on the entire sound board, making it swell or shrink. So, the tension resonator doesn't really help where humidity is concerned.



-- J.S.

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