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Posted By: Retsacnal What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 02:29 AM
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.


Posted By: Ben Boule Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 02:38 AM
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)
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 02:42 AM
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.


Posted By: phantomFive Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 02:59 AM
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.
Posted By: Sand Tiger Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 05:21 AM
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.
Posted By: BDB Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 06:09 AM
Ronald Reagan.
Posted By: S. Phillips Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 11:52 AM
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."
Posted By: backto_study_piano Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 01:27 PM
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.
Posted By: WimPiano Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 01:28 PM
The 80's was the previous big crisis here.. Doesn't say anything about the US though.
Posted By: PhilipInChina Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 01:45 PM
Would it be possible to have that chart revised to take into account fluctuation in population size?
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 02:25 PM
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.
Posted By: S. Phillips Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 03:25 PM
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.
Posted By: Silver Keys Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 03:58 PM
+1 to all of the above (including the rise of conservatism).
Posted By: Sand Tiger Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 04:10 PM
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.
Posted By: Furtwangler Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 04:18 PM
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.




Posted By: S. Phillips Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 04:37 PM
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.
Posted By: Michael Sayers Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 06:23 PM
Originally Posted by phantomFive
I'd be interested in seeing it with electronic keyboards factored in.

Excellent point.
Posted By: Michael Sayers Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 06:27 PM
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.
Posted By: BDB Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 06:30 PM
In 1983, the credit crunch took out Aeolian American, which was a major supplier of cheap vertical pianos.
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 06:38 PM
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
Posted By: BrianDX Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 08:09 PM
Originally Posted by Silver Keys
+1 to all of the above (including the rise of conservatism).

One of the reasons I enjoy this forum is the lack of this type of partisan political crap.

Studies have consistently shown that about 1/3 of the U.S. is Left, 1/3 Right, and 1/3 Independent. When you post a comment like this, you are insulting roughly 2/3 of the folks in this Forum.

Not a cool thing to do, dude. frown

P.S. This comment also applies to BDB.
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 10:01 PM
If I had been a piano maker like Baldwin, by the mid-80's I think I might have countered with a smaller and lighter piano somehow-

I'm not necessarily talking a spinet, or anything shorter vertically,

But maybe a shorter piano lengthwise- as existed in the past, I know

Perhaps a 76 key length, because many uprights the outer keys don't sound that great anyway, especially as the piano ages-

but I'd also give lots of thought to the wood thicknesses and the overall WEIGHT of the piano-

Every piano I've owned I've wanted to take a buzz saw too at some level just to make it more manageable- There always seems to be a great deal of wood overhang. I never have.

This Baldwin Studio has a really really thick large piece of wood vertically under the keyboard- I suppose it has a name I don't know-

anyway I think it could really be half as thick
and easier for an older person like me to deal with, without much affecting the sound. Much of the top back and sides could be lighter- even compensate a bit for any loss of sound characteristics in compacting.

A 20 or 25 percent weight reduction would make a piano more viable in a mobile changing world I think.
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 10:12 PM
Tight money could never be good for the piano industry-

a large heavy luxury item-

part of the reason for the vast homelessness that existed in the 80's

was that landlords were then charging a first month, last month and THEN a security deposit to move into a rental unit.

I was living in L.A. and saw a LOT of homelessness all around me-
then I'd go visit the parents in Indiana and read in the paper that homelessness was not happening-

L.A. is largely a rental city, and people did not then have the $1500 + (first last and security deposit} just to get into another apartment.

I ended up floating into another apartment after losing my house in a flood a few years ago. When I finally got back into a house, the management company automatically kept my deposit even though it was clean and undamaged.

Makes you mad.
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 10:14 PM
I just googled a bit in German, looking for sales numbers of digital pianos.
I found several blog entries in German; and they say that digital pianos outsell acoustics by far. One says that three times as many digital pianos are sold as acoustics; another even mentiones 7-8 times as many. Unfortunately there aren't official sources; but I would assume that for every acoustic piano, at least 4 digitals are sold.
http://pianoinforum.blogspot.de/search/label/YAMAHA

This would fit with the graphics above. If we assume that in the USA, 4 times as many digitals are sold than vertical acoustics, then the overall sales numbers of "Pianos that take not too much space" per capita more or less stayed the same since the 60s.
Posted By: Furtwangler Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 10:55 PM
Pat

Over 1 million keyboards are sold annually in the U.S.

I researched it a while back when searching for the answer to this very same question.

I know many, many children who are taking piano lessons who have only a Casio electronic keyboard (or the equivalent) at home. They can be purchased for $399 and fit anywhere.

In Northern California, including Sacramento, I estimate there are approx. 100,000 kids taking piano lessons. I know there are over 2,000 piano teachers.

There is no shortage of interest in music.

There are simply alternatives to an acoustic piano that did not really exist in 1980.

This may be a real negative, however - I don't think that parents realize that by failing to provide a reasonably good instrument for the child, they are practically asking for failure in many cases.

I myself began just 7 years ago as a "mature" ahem - adult. I began on our Yamaha console that was left over from when our kids took lessons some 20 years earlier.

If I had not been able to obtain a nice grand piano after about a year, I really wonder if I would have continued. I am now at the late intermediate/early advanced level.
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 11:10 PM
Originally Posted by Furtwangler
Over 1 million keyboards are sold annually in the U.S.

I researched it a while back when searching for the answer to this very same question.

That is much more than the 250.000 verticals that were sold at the height of the chart. So my theory that digitals replaced cheap acoustics still stands.

I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I believe that a good digital piano (like a Yamaha Clavinova, or a Kawai CN/CS) can be a good entry instrument. I've never played on a spinet piano; but I've read that the action is different from that of a taller vertical, and therefore not as responsive. So I wouldn't be surprised if a good digital was better than a good spinet.

However, I also believe that a cheap keyboard is bad for developing technique. I bought a Casio PX-100 years ago, to be able to practise in the bathroom; but the action is not great. Today I use this instrument only as a MIDI keyboard; meaning: Not often.
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 11:13 PM
Something I just thought of, and which was not adressed on this thread before: Is the chart only reporting the sales of new instruments, or also pre-owned instruments?

Because a new upper-class digital will usually be better than an old battered acoustic vertical, for a comparable price; that would mean that the market for used acoustic verticals would also have suffered because of the advent of good digitals.
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/09/14 11:28 PM
Originally Posted by patH
So my theory that digitals replaced cheap acoustics still stands.

I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I believe that a good digital piano (like a Yamaha Clavinova, or a Kawai CN/CS) can be a good entry instrument. I've never played on a spinet piano; but I've read that the action is different from that of a taller vertical, and therefore not as responsive. So I wouldn't be surprised if a good digital was better than a good spinet.



I grew up playing a Wurlitzer spinet and the $300 Casio I had was way better.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 02:45 AM
Originally Posted by Michael Sayers
Originally Posted by phantomFive
I'd be interested in seeing it with electronic keyboards factored in.

Excellent point.


Per Capita Sales with "Electronic" Included:
[Linked Image]

As others have noted, these digitals weren't selling in large numbers during the time frame for which the piano bluebook site lists data. See the little splash of green on the lower right.

Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 02:48 AM
Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
Would it be possible to have that chart revised to take into account fluctuation in population size?


It should take population growth into account, but not perfectly.
I used the U.S. Census data, but that only gives population once per decade ('40, '50, '60, etc). So for the other years, I just add the average annual growth between the censuses. If you're curious, PM me and I'll send you the spreadsheet (but it's not pretty).
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 02:50 AM
Originally Posted by patH
Something I just thought of, and which was not adressed on this thread before: Is the chart only reporting the sales of new instruments, or also pre-owned instruments?

Because a new upper-class digital will usually be better than an old battered acoustic vertical, for a comparable price; that would mean that the market for used acoustic verticals would also have suffered because of the advent of good digitals.


It's only sales data for new pianos in the U.S. The data came from here.
Posted By: BDB Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 03:14 AM
Another bankruptcy of the time was Baldwin United, the parent company of Baldwin Piano and Organ. They were over-extended in the credit market.
Posted By: Tararex Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 06:03 AM
I'm curious as to the quality of pianos at the time sales started falling off. I remember the late 70's as being an era where "quality" furniture meant vinyl over pressed board. Prices didn't drop with the collapse of materials - and when stagflation hit in the early 80's no one was willing to drop big money on furniture that couldn't survive a single move. Maybe the same problem occurred with pianos?

I remember most 70's neighborhood homes had an organ in the living room. These were played by moms who forbid kids from the keyboard because it was too expensive an item to allow children to touch. Schools also started dropping mandatory music classes so the kids didn't have outside incentives to play. Along with all the points listed by others, what happened was likely a perfect storm against piano acquisition.
Posted By: BDB Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 06:21 AM
When the bottom fell out of the organ market, that must have really hurt those piano companies who were invested in them, like Baldwin, Kimball and Wurlitzer.
Posted By: phantomFive Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 06:27 AM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by Michael Sayers
Originally Posted by phantomFive
I'd be interested in seeing it with electronic keyboards factored in.

Excellent point.


Per Capita Sales with "Electronic" Included:
[Linked Image]

As others have noted, these digitals weren't selling in large numbers during the time frame for which the piano bluebook site lists data. See the little splash of green on the lower right.


Can that be accurate? Digital pianos are such a small piece of the market.
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 06:40 AM
Could the longevity of pianos have something to do with it? Maybe there were new players coming in but since there was so much old stock they could just get a used piano anywhere from a few years old to 100 years old? Not sure if that's already been discussed or if there's any data on that, but pianos last a long time and that can hurt future sales.

Just like the iPad, sales have been declining rapidly but usage is growing. Contrast that to Android tablets where sales are increasing. They figured out it was because iPads "last longer" or that their owners don't upgrade as frequently as Android tablet users. Perhaps there's a good used market as well - but I don't think that was factored in. Imagine if iPads were useful for 75 years instead of 2.5.
Posted By: Vibrato Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 07:15 AM
If one plots the average auction prices of strng instruments for the last 30 years it is likely that it moved in excaly the opposite gradient than that of pianos of similar pedigree or value

I invested in "named" string instruments around the 1980's and at the same time bought a bosendorfer imperial.

My imperial has depreciated since however my violin and viola investment have gone up by many many many folds

Has it got anything to do with sound ?

Has it got something to do with tv , Walkman , Internet or social media ?

I doubt it

Posted By: phacke Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 07:19 AM
Originally Posted by S. Phillips

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.


Greetings, Ms Phillips,

Thank you for your interesting posts, especially about pianos and furniture being early indicators of recessions—I will have to remember that.

Regarding your statement above, well, my understanding from reading Richard K. Lieberman's book on S&S, that radio DID in fact seriously wound the piano industry. Of course, rarely does any factor alone take 100% responsibility, but this factor cannot be dismissed.

Regards-
Posted By: johan d Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 07:23 AM
- internet - 2nd hand market had a boost...?
- People give up a lot faster than 20-30 years ago, everything must go fast and pianolearning is not one of it.
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 10:28 AM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
It's only sales data for new pianos in the U.S. The data came from here.

This looks weird. One possible explanation: With "electronic" pianos they don't mean digital pianos, but pianos with electronic player system.

Unfortunately, the blue book of pianos does not contain a definition for "electronic" piano; and in "piano types" they don't mention digital pianos at all.

So unless "electronic" and "digital" are used synonymously, I will continue to believe that digitals have replaced small verticals.
Posted By: PhilipInChina Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 12:30 PM
Originally Posted by Tararex
I'm curious as to the quality of pianos at the time sales started falling off. I remember the late 70's as being an era where "quality" furniture meant vinyl over pressed board. Prices didn't drop with the collapse of materials - and when stagflation hit in the early 80's no one was willing to drop big money on furniture that couldn't survive a single move. Maybe the same problem occurred with pianos?

I remember most 70's neighborhood homes had an organ in the living room. These were played by moms who forbid kids from the keyboard because it was too expensive an item to allow children to touch. Schools also started dropping mandatory music classes so the kids didn't have outside incentives to play. Along with all the points listed by others, what happened was likely a perfect storm against piano acquisition.


I had forgotten those! You could dial up the left hand from a menu and just pick out the melody. Suddenly everybody could play The Beatles' greatest hits.
Posted By: Rank Piano Amateur Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 01:19 PM
I think that many factors were at work, some of which were already mentioned above. I do not think that the decline in the numbers of pianos sold was caused by the industry itself, however.

Some possible factors include:

1. The cost of credit. When I bought my first house in 1981, the mortgage was almost 15%, and this was the best available for people with good credit. Since many pianos are bought with borrowed money, the cost of credit has to have hurt the industry. It's one thing to borrow money to buy a piano, it's another to pay 15% a year to do it. It took consumer credit prices a long time to recede. By the time they did, people were out of the habit of buying pianos.

2. Pianos are luxury items. You may want one, but you don't need one, not like you need housing and a car, although there was a proliferation of less expensive cars around this time, and the car industry was hurting even though cars are more necessary than pianos.

3. Relative cost. The cost of EVERYTHING went up after the oil crises of 1973 and 1979--parts, transportation, manufacturing, etc. This had nothing to do with Jimmy Carter, incidentally, and costs and prices have never returned to their pre-oil-crisis levels. This had to do with OPEC (1973) and the US oil companies (1979).

4. Changes in how people entertained themselves. The electronic media started to take over our lives. Gradually, through the 80s and 90s, the relative cost of electronics like televisions started on a steep decline, and more and more people had them. Families no longer sat around playing the piano to each other, if they ever really did.

5. The growth of the rock n roll industry. Instead of playing music, kids were interested in listening to it--and it wasn't piano music they were listening to. If they played music, they wanted to play electric guitar. And their parents, baby boomers like me, could afford to indulge their wishes. Everyone's attention spans went down, and how long something lasted stopped mattering that much.

6. When I was in college, we often sat around the common room listening to classmates play the piano. This kind of activity has ended, and students go back to the TVs, etc., in their rooms or to parties. When I was in college, no one had a TV (yes, they had been invented) because we had no money, and parties were rare. College kids these days seem to have plenty of money. . . .And while I am on the subject, I walked barefoot in the snow to school, uphill both ways, when I was young!

Just some thoughts. It is also, in my view, pointless to analyze the piano industry separately from other industries, although I have to admit that I am not sure which industries to pick for purposes of comparison.

In any event, I don't think that the piano industry has been guilty of its own destruction. To the contrary, all the developments with computerized pianos show an industry trying to keep up with modern tastes. As Luddite myself, I would never allow the installation of a computer in my piano, though!







Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 01:52 PM
I always thought that when people began to pay $50,000 for a car it became a real watershed mark. The base price on the cheapest model was only about 4 or 5000 then- a car battery was $30 most of my adult life, and now $100 as the oil companies try to keep the gap between their interests and electrics very wide.

But when some people started paying 50K for a Porsche or Mercedes or BMW, and the American luxury cars had to follow and have similarly priced models, then the cheaper models also started to raise across the board quickly. 5000 quickly became 8, 10, 12 etc. What is it now for the cheapest model new car? About 19 or 20 K I think- more than I paid for my house.

You can blame the foreign cartel, but personally I believe it's largely been that our own oil companies have more taken over the ENTIRE corporate landscape, and cars are a pricey way to extract corporate "taxes" out of their own labor.Also then came mandantory insurance, higher housing costs and a tighter rate system over it all- the CEO mindset.

Retail rent is higher in the post-computer days, and the big corporations control it to the detriment of the smaller independent business person, while the universities only fuel that particular situation with every ambitious class of MBA.

Beyond all that- Yes, I think the proliferation of other instruments- particularly the guitar- which became MUCH CHEAPER through it all, has hurt the piano world, and the rise of world import and exporting there continues to drive the prices down at the lower end.

Posted By: Furtwangler Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 03:41 PM
Originally Posted by harpon
I always thought that when people began to pay $50,000 for a car it became a real watershed mark. The base price on the cheapest model was only about 4 or 5000 then- a car battery was $30 most of my adult life, and now $100 as the oil companies try to keep the gap between their interests and electrics very wide.

But when some people started paying 50K for a Porsche or Mercedes or BMW, and the American luxury cars had to follow and have similarly priced models, then the cheaper models also started to raise across the board quickly. 5000 quickly became 8, 10, 12 etc. What is it now for the cheapest model new car? About 19 or 20 K I think- more than I paid for my house.

You can blame the foreign cartel, but personally I believe it's largely been that our own oil companies have more taken over the ENTIRE corporate landscape, and cars are a pricey way to extract corporate "taxes" out of their own labor.Also then came mandantory insurance, higher housing costs and a tighter rate system over it all- the CEO mindset.

Retail rent is higher in the post-computer days, and the big corporations control it to the detriment of the smaller independent business person, while the universities only fuel that particular situation with every ambitious class of MBA.

Beyond all that- Yes, I think the proliferation of other instruments- particularly the guitar- which became MUCH CHEAPER through it all, has hurt the piano world, and the rise of world import and exporting there continues to drive the prices down at the lower end.



Interesting.

See my comments above. Yawn.
Posted By: Plowboy Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 04:40 PM
The active dismantlement of the New Deal began in earnest in 1980 and continues to this day. This has been pursued by both Republican and Democratic administrations. Pianos being a luxury item are much affected by this. This is in addition to other reasons stated in this thread.
Posted By: Furtwangler Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 04:47 PM
See my comments above - again.

Yawn.
Posted By: BDB Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 05:19 PM
I looked at your comments above. They are still mistaken.
Posted By: phantomFive Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 05:50 PM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by Michael Sayers
Originally Posted by phantomFive
I'd be interested in seeing it with electronic keyboards factored in.

Excellent point.


Per Capita Sales with "Electronic" Included:
[Linked Image]

As others have noted, these digitals weren't selling in large numbers during the time frame for which the piano bluebook site lists data. See the little splash of green on the lower right.


Do you think the data for digitals includes all digital sales, or just those from piano dealerships? For example, would it include $600 keyboards you'd find at Guitar Center or Costco? Because I think those are the ones I see around most.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 05:55 PM
Originally Posted by BrianDX
One of the reasons I enjoy this forum is the lack of this type of partisan political crap.


I agree with BrianDX. Sadly, and to the detriment of the the forums, it seems to be creeping into more and more threads lately.

But let's put political and economic assumptions aside, because they aren't relevant. Why? Because the downward trend depicted starts at the zenith of U.S. piano sales in 1978, when Jimmy Carter (D) was president, and continues through Ronald Reagan (R)'s eight years, George H.W. Bush (R)'s four years, Bill Clinton (D)'s eight years, and George W. Bush (R)'s eight years. The data end in 2007, but I haven't read about a recovery in the piano business since then, so I presume the trend is still the same (i.e. through Barack Obama (D)'s presidency). Sure, there have been economic circumstances that have impacted sales and caused the line to "wiggle" a little, but none is responsible for the overall downward trend. In fact, the downward phase of 29 years is effectively as long as the "steady growth" phase (31 years) that preceded it.

So, to summarize, the downward trend has lasted through times of both recession and prosperity, and through the administrations of both Republicans and Democrats. So, political and economic factors can't account for the overall trend.
Posted By: Plowboy Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 05:58 PM
Originally Posted by Furtwangler
See my comments above - again.

Yawn.


I don't get your point. It's not like it was a hidden agenda. It was the campaign platform of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, etc.

If you think the elimination of support for education, social welfare and the labor movement, with the subsequent movement of jobs overseas had no economic effect, then I don't know what to say.

Quote
So, political and economic factors can't account for the overall trend.


But they definitely are a factor, you must agree.
Posted By: Thrill Science Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 07:15 PM
Originally Posted by BDB
Ronald Reagan.


We need Presidents like Richard Nixon again, who could play the piano!

http://youtu.be/MCsGSMze_6Q?t=1m20s
Posted By: BDB Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 07:21 PM
And Harry Truman.
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 11:41 PM
How about Carlo, from "My Man Godfrey"?
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/10/14 11:52 PM
Originally Posted by Furtwangler
Originally Posted by harpon
I always thought that when people began to pay $50,000 for a car it became a real watershed mark. The base price on the cheapest model was only about 4 or 5000 then- a car battery was $30 most of my adult life, and now $100 as the oil companies try to keep the gap between their interests and electrics very wide.

But when some people started paying 50K for a Porsche or Mercedes or BMW, and the American luxury cars had to follow and have similarly priced models, then the cheaper models also started to raise across the board quickly. 5000 quickly became 8, 10, 12 etc. What is it now for the cheapest model new car? About 19 or 20 K I think- more than I paid for my house.

You can blame the foreign cartel, but personally I believe it's largely been that our own oil companies have more taken over the ENTIRE corporate landscape, and cars are a pricey way to extract corporate "taxes" out of their own labor.Also then came mandantory insurance, higher housing costs and a tighter rate system over it all- the CEO mindset.

Retail rent is higher in the post-computer days, and the big corporations control it to the detriment of the smaller independent business person, while the universities only fuel that particular situation with every ambitious class of MBA.

Beyond all that- Yes, I think the proliferation of other instruments- particularly the guitar- which became MUCH CHEAPER through it all, has hurt the piano world, and the rise of world import and exporting there continues to drive the prices down at the lower end.



Interesting.

See my comments above. Yawn.


As for your comments above, and rude yawning-

YOU are the one who first ascribed a Presidency and meaningless two party focus to the discussion. I'm talking about seasons and movements that I've personally seen. Once any of it breaches the "watch' of any certain like minded rule- the OTHER President's men, Elton John might say- then, There You Go Again talking about your vast perspective from Fox news of Michigan.

Did you remember routinely looking out your window to see people scrounging for food or cans in the dumpster outside, or having to defecate behind it because they didn't have the required quarter to get in a toilet in yuppying Hollywoodland in the '80s when the movie star ruled? I do.
Posted By: phantomFive Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 12:01 AM
Originally Posted by harpon
Did you remember routinely looking out your window to see people scrounging for food or cans in the dumpster outside, or having to defecate behind it because they didn't have the required quarter to get in a toilet in yuppying Hollywoodland in the '80s when the movie star ruled? I do.

I saw that yesterday.
Posted By: BrianDX Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 12:39 AM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by BrianDX
One of the reasons I enjoy this forum is the lack of this type of partisan political crap.


I agree with BrianDX. Sadly, and to the detriment of the the forums, it seems to be creeping into more and more threads lately.

But let's put political and economic assumptions aside, because they aren't relevant. Why? Because the downward trend depicted starts at the zenith of U.S. piano sales in 1978, when Jimmy Carter (D) was president, and continues through Ronald Reagan (R)'s eight years, George H.W. Bush (R)'s four years, Bill Clinton (D)'s eight years, and George W. Bush (R)'s eight years. The data end in 2007, but I haven't read about a recovery in the piano business since then, so I presume the trend is still the same (i.e. through Barack Obama (D)'s presidency). Sure, there have been economic circumstances that have impacted sales and caused the line to "wiggle" a little, but none is responsible for the overall downward trend. In fact, the downward phase of 29 years is effectively as long as the "steady growth" phase (31 years) that preceded it.

So, to summarize, the downward trend has lasted through times of both recession and prosperity, and through the administrations of both Republicans and Democrats. So, political and economic factors can't account for the overall trend.

+10! eek
Posted By: turandot Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 12:47 AM
Retsacnal

Nice topic, opening post, graphics, and patience. It's been fun to read.

My window is pretty narrow and may not even apply, but it is coincidental to a degree.

A shift in US educational priorities started quietly at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It picked up momentum during the Space Race with the Soviet Union, but it didn't really hit home until the late 70's when no one in academia could explain the falling test scores of high school students in the SAT, a college admission test that had been in place since the 1920.s

There soon after came a flood of studies that suggested US students were falling behind students in other developed countries in math and science competency. The research was based once again on test scores. Schools started to rethink time dedicated to the arts (as at least one poster mentioned) and beefed up math and science curriculum. Colleges responded by mandating minimum math and science course completion as a condition of admission.Then came the deluge of honors classes, AP classes, and test prep centers at the high school level, and the ascent of engineering as the college major of choice.

I think the parents of young children at that time, the managers of their children's schedules, began to de-value what their own parents had valued, and as if usually the case, the pendulum swung too far.
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 01:14 AM
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by harpon
Did you remember routinely looking out your window to see people scrounging for food or cans in the dumpster outside, or having to defecate behind it because they didn't have the required quarter to get in a toilet in yuppying Hollywoodland in the '80s when the movie star ruled? I do.

I saw that yesterday.


Carlo, from "My Man Godfrey"
Right?
Posted By: Swarth Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 04:01 PM
Originally Posted by BDB
Ronald Reagan.


For a curmudgeon you are pretty funny.
Posted By: Swarth Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 05:16 PM
Now that I've read this entire thread, I would agree. It was a combination of factors. I see it from my view point which started in 1967 with the arrival of our Baldwin Hamilton. We could not afford one, but Grandma purchased it as a Christmas present. We started lessons right off. I was given a head start because at that time at age 9 you could take lessons on a musical instrument of your choice. I picked the string bass and enjoyed playing it through high school in many community orchestras, of which all were looking for bass players.
When I started high school I was selected as the pianist for our Stage band and Show Troupe. We performed up and down the State about 60 times a year, a big commitment that lasted 3 years. Our high school had a theater and a few Baldwin Hamiltons but no decent grand to perform on. I recieved quite the education playing every old piano at every school, Lions, Rotary, PAL, Sons of Italy, you name it we played it. I got to know which pianos I liked and which I didn't and which were useless. The first time I sat a 9 foot Baldwin it scared me to death, I hated it. By Senior year I had had enough and was able to obtain a used Wurlitzer 120 electric piano. No more playing out of tune broken pianos. My graduation present in 1975 was a Rhodes. By then we had Whipped Inflation Now ( crazy ) and the music program I had started at nine was history. Bill Graham held the SNACK concert. Music education was no longer important. This might be the main reason for the decline. How much of an impact did the lack of institutional sales have on Baldwin? Add in that Yamaha was bringing it in terms of competition. Schools that were buying pianos now had an attractively priced option. Was it an evil plot to turn us all into engineers? Well looking at things today I doubt it..but I regress. My first post high school job was as a "pumper" for Home Entertainment, selling organs! In late '75 they were not really selling many organs and I think the whole business was a front for a money laundering operation. The Prophet 5 was introduced in 1980? I bought one, $4,500 . That began my slide to the dark side, I'm in recovery now. The first real working musicians synth was the Yamaha DX7. However I purchased an upright Young-Chang in 1983? It was cheap and I only had to finance a small amount @ 14%. Take a look where home mortgage rates were to get an idea if many families had extra for things like a piano. I think things have turned around a bit from those dark days that brought us "disco inferno". I wonder if I can use real time auto pitch correction for an out of tune piano with out too much lag? whistle

Edit: Politics might influence all this a bit. October 17, 1979, the day our Federal Government decided that to push their propaganda they needed to "control" all public education. 35 years later I see the wreckage of this decision. Oh yeah for all you political types, It was under a democrat...but seriously in my mind they are ALL the same.
Posted By: BrianDX Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 07:25 PM
Originally Posted by Swarth
Politics might influence all this a bit. October 17, 1979, the day our Federal Government decided that to push their propaganda they needed to "control" all public education. 35 years later I see the wreckage of this decision. Oh yeah for all you political types, It was under a democrat...but seriously in my mind they are ALL the same.

You are SO right about this. I abandoned any political affiliations many years ago. I feel sorry for those who almost automatically try to ascribe anything happening in this country (either good or bad) to one political party or the other.

Its silly, counter-productive, and in most cases, untrue.
Posted By: Piano Practice Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 08:17 PM

After quickly reading through the thread, I gathered there is a waning interest in piano lessons/piano education too... It makes one to wonder, is there a direct correlation between the declining US sales of acoustic pianos and the declining math and science scores of US students? In nations such as Japan or China, where math and science test scores are strong, aren’t piano lessons/piano education extremely popular? Is this true in other countries such as the UK or Germany? I bet there’s a lesson for those of us here in the US could learn from smile.
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 08:24 PM
Those countries have a level of cooperation between their own citizens these days

that we've lost- and mostly during this period.

We've deified competition, and esoteric philosophies of unspoken tripping of "the competition" abound-

please don't insinuate we need boot camps of math-
they are learning and concerned with education

We are about tackling, puking in parking lots

and who's the big shot / big shots who get to call the uninspiring dull shots.

Do they have armed guards at their schools? Doubt it.
Posted By: turandot Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 09:18 PM
Originally Posted by Piano Practice

After quickly reading through the thread, I gathered there is a waning interest in piano lessons/piano education too... It makes one to wonder, is there a direct correlation between the declining US sales of acoustic pianos and the declining math and science scores of US students?


Direct correlations are extremely difficult to prove. When I mentioned the declining SAT scores in the seventies among high school students, a decline that could not be explained away by demographics, I wrote that it might not be relevant to piano sales at all. The piano's problems could have simply been that the presence of pianos in households had reached the saturation point, or that the decline was in fact more gradual than the steep slope in the chart cited here indicated.

However, it is certainly true and provable that the current reliance on standardizing testing in all levels of education in the US -- testing which annually sends hundreds of millions of tax dollars earmarked for education to those whose test instruments are widely used -- has given primacy to math and science at the expense of the arts.

Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 09:43 PM
Like many have sort of mentioned before, I think it has more to do with other options to spend your time and money. In the 80's computers were expensive, several thousand dollars. Many families probably had to choose either a computer or a piano. The benefit to children was more obvious since you could do your homework on it.

1981: The first IBM personal computer, code named “Acorn,”
1983: Apple’s Lisa is the first personal computer with a GUI.
1985: Microsoft announces Windows,
1986: Compaq brings the Deskpro 386 to market.
1990: Tim Berners-Lee, develops HyperText Markup Language (HTML), giving rise to the World Wide Web.
1994: PCs become gaming machines as Command & Conquer, Alone in the Dark 2, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, Descent andLittle Big Adventure are among the games to hit the market.


And then mix in there Atari, Nintendo, Sega, World of Warcraft, etc...

http://www.livescience.com/20718-computer-history.html

Posted By: turandot Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 10:42 PM
Originally Posted by michaelha
Like many have sort of mentioned before, I think it has more to do with other options to spend your time and money. In the 80's computers were expensive, several thousand dollars. Many families probably had to choose either a computer or a piano. The benefit to children was more obvious since you could do your homework on it.

1981: The first IBM personal computer, code named “Acorn,”
1983: Apple’s Lisa is the first personal computer with a GUI.
1985: Microsoft announces Windows,
1986: Compaq brings the Deskpro 386 to market.
1990: Tim Berners-Lee, develops HyperText Markup Language (HTML), giving rise to the World Wide Web.
1994: PCs become gaming machines as Command & Conquer, Alone in the Dark 2, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, Descent andLittle Big Adventure are among the games to hit the market.


And then mix in there Atari, Nintendo, Sega, World of Warcraft, etc...

http://www.livescience.com/20718-computer-history.html



I don't know how old you are Michael, but my gut tells me that you're experiencing the eighties through research, rather than spending time there.

The listed technological advances in computers were much niore important for business than for home entertainment options. Word processing, storage, and especially data processing were the enticements for business Those cutting edge computers didn't replace the piano. They replaced stuff like office typewriters and microfiche.

I was just getting into education then. Teachers started buying Apple products for word processing and storage. Apple in those days directed its marketing toward education and profited well from that early focus going forward. Every year Apple offered special prices and interest free payment plans for teachers. Within a few years all the mimeograph and ditto machines disappeared from teacher workrooms along with the messy stencils, but the school piano in the auditorium lived on, usually hopelessly out of tune.

The computers most people with kids had for home use were the Arari and Commodore types. They were not expensive, but their processors and storage capacity was laughable by today's standards. With those things, you could look at them as an option for spending free time. I know. I frittered away hundreds of hours plugging my River Raid game cartridge into my Atari. grin Gaming was where it was at, not HTML.
Posted By: master88er Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 11:28 PM
Originally Posted by turandot
Originally Posted by michaelha
Like many have sort of mentioned before, I think it has more to do with other options to spend your time and money. In the 80's computers were expensive, several thousand dollars. Many families probably had to choose either a computer or a piano. The benefit to children was more obvious since you could do your homework on it.

1981: The first IBM personal computer, code named “Acorn,”
1983: Apple’s Lisa is the first personal computer with a GUI.
1985: Microsoft announces Windows,
1986: Compaq brings the Deskpro 386 to market.
1990: Tim Berners-Lee, develops HyperText Markup Language (HTML), giving rise to the World Wide Web.
1994: PCs become gaming machines as Command & Conquer, Alone in the Dark 2, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, Descent andLittle Big Adventure are among the games to hit the market.


And then mix in there Atari, Nintendo, Sega, World of Warcraft, etc...

http://www.livescience.com/20718-computer-history.html



I don't know how old you are Michael, but my gut tells me that you're experiencing the eighties through research, rather than spending time there.

The listed technological advances in computers were much niore important for business than for home entertainment options. Word processing, storage, and especially data processing were the enticements for business Those cutting edge computers didn't replace the piano. They replaced stuff like office typewriters and microfiche.

I was just getting into education then. Teachers started buying Apple products for word processing and storage. Apple in those days directed its marketing toward education and profited well from that early focus going forward. Every year Apple offered special prices and interest free payment plans for teachers. Within a few years all the mimeograph and ditto machines disappeared from teacher workrooms along with the messy stencils, but the school piano in the auditorium lived on, usually hopelessly out of tune.

The computers most people with kids had for home use were the Arari and Commodore types. They were not expensive, but their processors and storage capacity was laughable by today's standards. With those things, you could look at them as an option for spending free time. I know. I frittered away hundreds of hours plugging my River Raid game cartridge into my Atari. grin Gaming was where it was at, not HTML.


I think (yeah I know, who cares) that the most significant factors in the decline were:

  • By 1980, most Boomers were out of High School and College and in the workforce - perhaps starting their own families. Their parents, arguably the last generation to have grown up with substantial general music education and appreciation for the arts, no longer had influence over things like piano lessons.
  • At least in California, Prop. 13 decimated the public schools and in particular music education. The economic troubles of the 80's certainly impacted music education during that time, and interest in playing the piano waned.
  • There were very few piano playing pop artists that young people wished to emulate. Other than Elton John, there weren't many prominent music icons at the piano, like the former Ferrante & Teicher, Liberace, John Lennon etc. Everyone wanted to be like John Denver or Crosby Stills & Nash.
  • Starting with the late 70's, the American piano manufacturers somewhat followed GM's model in delivering instruments that were, well, challenged at best. And who could blame children, who grew up playing on an Aeolian or Currier spinet, to never want to touch a piano again, and certainly wouldn't subject THEIR children to that torture.
  • By 1980, the Japanese companies seemed determined to destroy the American piano business, and were largely successful. By the late 1980's, there were virtually no American pianos other than Steinway that a consumer could consider. While the Japanese companies (both Yamaha and Kawai) put significant resources into piano programs for children in Japan, there were no such learning opportunities for children in the USA who could not afford private lessons. With the destruction of the American piano manufacturer, there was no support network for education.
  • Certainly, the proliferation of TV as a family's primary source of entertainment supplanted the desire for a concert by one's 10 year old after dinner. And TV generally shifted from being a source of cultrual programming to sitcoms (All in the Family) and Reality TV (Dallas eek) Gone were the days of station sponsored Orchestras that rivaled any regional symphony, and Lawrence Welk had overstayed his welcome.

These myriad of factors caused a perfect storm resulting in the decline, yet I'd venture that no one item could be deemed the culprit, with the possible exception of the adult American public's disdain for anything cultural. Perhaps one bright light is our growing acceptance of Jazz and a resurgence of young pianists, both in the popular and classical realms, and may result in the trend reversing itself.
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 11:36 PM
Originally Posted by turandot


I don't know how old you are Michael, but my gut tells me that you're experiencing the eighties through research, rather than spending time there.

The listed technological advances in computers were much niore important for business than for home entertainment options. Word processing, storage, and especially data processing were the enticements for business Those cutting edge computers didn't replace the piano. They replaced stuff like office typewriters and microfiche.

I was just getting into education then. Teachers started buying Apple products for word processing and storage. Apple in those days directed its marketing toward education and profited well from that early focus going forward. Every year Apple offered special prices and interest free payment plans for teachers. Within a few years all the mimeograph and ditto machines disappeared from teacher workrooms along with the messy stencils, but the school piano in the auditorium lived on, usually hopelessly out of tune.

The computers most people with kids had for home use were the Arari and Commodore types. They were not expensive, but their processors and storage capacity was laughable by today's standards. With those things, you could look at them as an option for spending free time. I know. I frittered away hundreds of hours plugging my River Raid game cartridge into my Atari. grin Gaming was where it was at, not HTML.


That timeline focused more on the initial release of a major breakthrough. For example, I'm not sure what the IBM Acorn is, but the IBM XT was pretty popular. The IBM AT was fairly capable at playing flight simulators. Or the Apple Lisa wasn't widely adopted, but the Apple II later was. Similarly for Windows 1.0, that didn't catch on but Windows 3 did.

Re: my age. I'm a very late GenX'er, just missed GenY/Millennials by a season or two of Three's Company, but caught up on the reruns. But no, I was fully self-aware in the 80's.

I agree that computers in the 80's weren't as useful as they are today, but I still sunk a lot of time in them even if it wasn't playing games. And I did play quite a few games even on my old 286. And don't forget Solitaire! And I think 1/2 the time spent on computers back then was trying to get the stupid thing to work, or get Windows to boot again.

But most of the fun was on Atari back then, we had one, but had even more fun on the Nintendo. I remember my mom was always yelling my sisters and I to practice piano when we were busy playing Mario.

Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/11/14 11:44 PM
I figured it out!

The Karate Kid (1984)
Probably 3/4 of the boys said, "screw the piano, I want to learn Karate!"
[Linked Image]
Posted By: Jonathan Baker Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 12:11 AM
Noise & Cost:
About 70% of my students purchase and practice on digital keyboards, not pianos. Obviously that could not have been the ratio fifty years ago - it would have been 100% acoustic pianos. The reasons for choosing DPs are both financial as well as practical - they want to keep expenses low, and here in NYC avoiding noise complaints from neighbors is a BIG factor in the purchase of digitals. Is there a significant difference between piano sales in cities versus suburbs, or buyers living in apartment buildings versus free-standing houses?

Space:
A common misconception I hear from beginners (nearly every time) is their assertion that a piano is far too big for their modest apartment. I must explain over and over that if the digital keyboard is in a permanent assigned space next to a wall, an upright piano may be only 3 inches wider (depending on make, of course) and the vertical height is usually irrelevant to their spacial needs. They find this impossible to believe - the picture of a DP shows only a sliver of an electronic gizmo, whereas a picture of a vertical piano shows hundreds of pounds of lumber and metal - so they choose to disbelieve the horizontal numbers.

Attitude:
Among beginners there is definitely the feeling that a DP is less of a commitment than an acoustic piano - they are experimenting with a new hobby and not certain how far they will want to go with it. It is an open question how many consumers are motivated by love of music, or by love of gadgets.

Work Ethic:
I will add that the acceleration of instant gratification as a consumer value undermines the sensibility of developing a long-term craft that is no longer esteemed in American culture as it once was; when my grandmother wanted a dress, she bought the fabric and made it. When my grandfather wanted another chair, he went to the basement, cut the wood and made it. Those days are gone, and with them the idea the work is involved in acquisition.

As an example, when I ask prospective students if they have either a piano or digital keyboard, sometimes the response is, "Why do I have to get a piano, can't you just teach me to play the piano at your studio?" And, of course, "How long will it take me to learn to play the piano?" thus indicating a determination not to invest too much of their recreation time without a reasonably quick return on their time-investment.
Posted By: turandot Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 12:31 AM
Originally Posted by master88er
Certainly, the proliferation of TV as a family's primary source of entertainment supplanted the desire for a concert by one's 10 year old after dinner.


I hate TV, but to he honest, given that choice................ grin


Quote
These myriad of factors caused a perfect storm resulting in the decline, yet I'd venture that no one item could be deemed the culprit, with the possible exception of the adult American public's disdain for anything cultural.


At what point did you realize you shold ber selling snadwiches? grin
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 01:03 AM
Originally Posted by Jonathan Baker


A common misconception I hear from beginners (nearly every time) is their assertion that a piano is far too big for their modest apartment. I must explain over and over that if the digital keyboard is in a permanent assigned space next to a wall, an upright piano may be only 3 inches wider (depending on make, of course) and the vertical height is usually irrelevant to their spacial needs. They routinely find this impossible to believe.

Among beginners there is definitely the feeling that a DP is less of a commitment ...


Well you could fold up the stand and throw the DP in your closet until you find a buyer on Craigslist but can't with an upright. Also the weight adds to the sense of burden, not as easy to move. Perhaps that's why people prefer lighter looking, more minimalistic Ikea furniture than the more traditional solid wood furniture.
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 01:28 AM
master88-

you forgot Billy Joel- had "The Stranger", "52nd Street" and "Turnstiles" albums- GREAT stuff-
Saw Elton in concert in '74, John Denver that same year, and Billy Joel in 78- (Steve Martin too then.)

Loved his song with Ray Charles- "This Baby Grand"- saw Ray at the Hollywood Bowl in '85

Got the first casio- MK 500 in 1987- 49 mini keys and began to learn to play at 33.

but HAD to have a Yamaha soon after - because they had 100 voices, so I got a PSS 480 with synth function and melody record-

and had a few real piano lessons about then- 1988

Used a Commodore 64 in a word processing course, but Atari was the thing for music sequencing then, and I dreamed of a modular midi system with a weighted controller.

Had for awhile an early model of an Akai 7000 sampler, but a pain in the ass because you had to load single voices one at a time with floppy disks- sometimes three floppys a voice- but it sounded good.

also had a casio sk-5 sampler- and still do- the same one, even after it was under mud and water for several hours a few years back. the Yamaha 480 wasn't so resilient- but I just replaced it last week with a used unit from ebay. Great.

Took piano lessons then in Ventura in '92 on class pianos, and then at LA City College in the mid 90's, and rented a piano back then, before getting and old upright I guess the apartment neighbors might not have appreciated.

the 80's may have been a falling away for the piano industry, but it was my start
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 02:14 AM
Originally Posted by turandot
Originally Posted by master88er
Certainly, the proliferation of TV as a family's primary source of entertainment supplanted the desire for a concert by one's 10 year old after dinner.


I hate TV, but to he honest, given that choice................ grin


LOL...

Posted By: Swarth Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 03:24 AM
Prop 13?? You must be joking?
Posted By: lilylady Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 12:44 PM
During the 70s, I was teaching at Baldwin.

Although a classical pianist/organist, I quickly learned to teach popular organs. There seemed to be more sales in pop organs than pianos. Probably half my students (40) were organ students by 1980.

Buy a piano once. Buy several organs (they traded up). Sales must have been reflecting that...

and there were several companies offering pop organ.

My second guess would be the decline in the importance of music as a requisite for young ones.
Posted By: R_B Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 01:03 PM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
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.




Neat trick, to leave the oxymoron upon which this is founded until the last two words of your post.
laugh
Posted By: JohnSprung Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/12/14 08:23 PM
Originally Posted by BDB
Ronald Reagan.


I'd say Reagan accounts for the grands, and digital keyboards for the uprights.

Posted By: R_B Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 01:43 AM
The four letter word may be "SONY"
the various Walk_Person devices, etc.

Golly Gee, however did they let Apple take it all ?
{rhetorical}
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 02:45 AM
"The Final Countdown" happened in 1980,
but everyone in Xanadu is back to splashing zeros again.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 03:44 AM
Originally Posted by turandot
Originally Posted by master88er
Certainly, the proliferation of TV as a family's primary source of entertainment supplanted the desire for a concert by one's 10 year old after dinner.


I hate TV, but to he honest, given that choice................ grin



I hate TV too... but, yeah, there are some things that are worse! grin
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 04:33 AM
I'm kind of surprised that this has drawn such interest. Actually, I kinda thought the interest would go in a different way, but...

People seem intrigued about what caused the drop in piano sales--I assumed it was obvious:

Piano sales dropped off because people don't want them!

That's the sad reality. If people wanted them, they'd buy them. Please don't freak out and shoot the messenger.

Lots of people have mentioned education, but how many people ever really got piano lessons at school? I didn't--I had piano lessons at home. I went to school in the 70's and 80's. We beat blocks, played the triangle, recorders, etc. There were school bands and orchestras. I sang in choirs my whole life. In contrast though, there was a time when the teacher could just ask and someone in class would be able sit down and accompany the class on the piano. Those days dwindled off. My girls are in high school now, and they are both involved in musical activities. And in middle school they were mandatory.

I won't dispute that there was a time when musical education was reduced, diminished or de-emphasized--I was too young to know--perhaps that's still the case. But I don't think that's reduced piano sales. And all the technological advances didn't result in reduced piano sales either.

How can I make those claims? It's simple: because Americans are still making music. They just choose--for better or worse--to make a different kind.

The data on this linked page shows that in 2007 (last year of the piano sales data) Americans imported over $23 million worth of guitars! Assuming a value of $300 each (which is probably high), that's more than 77,000 guitars. And that's only imported guitars--it doesn't take in to account domestic production (and in the same year the U.S. exported $32 million). And that's just guitars--which are probably the most popular instrument--it doesn't account for the sales of drums, keyboards/synthesizers, etc.

So, 77,000 imported guitars, plus domestically produced guitars, plus however many of all the other popular instruments are sold, adds up to a lot of people making music.

This isn't earth shattering news, and several folks above alluded to it in a variety of ways. But the simple truth is that the piano has fallen out of favor. We can speculate about the cause of that, and, again, some people have. I tend to agree with the people who've discussed the generational differences. America's "greatest generation" was passing the torch by 1980. Boomers, who were in their prime had grown up on popular music and were willing to allow or even encourage their kids to pursue that instead of the traditional.

I was born at the tail end of the baby boom--we've been described as baby-busters (things were changing). Ironically, my mom sold our grand piano in 1980 (because my brothers were banging on it too much). I also bought my first electric guitar in 1980, and my brother got drums. These are just coincidences, of course, but I really think that was a generational turning point. Traditional things were falling out of favor and people were embracing what was modern and contemporary.
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 05:28 AM
Perhaps the trend shouldn't be looked at as so year-specific.

The "Rock and Roll" that I grew up listening to only arrived about the same time I did- the mid-1950s, and didn't get rolling full swing until the popularization of the transistor radio at the dawn of the 60's.

Before that, a lot of people experienced music that was piano oriented in films and on pre-rock radio.

When groups started touring more, the piano was left behind largely even more, and the "comeback" the keyboard made in the 1980's only diminished the acoustic piano in prominence.

Then by the age of video music, the whole thematic expression was more of a jet set message- while the piano was still grounded at one's home, or communal venue such as a school.

"Radio, video, Boogie with a suitcase"


video killed the radio star
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8h5OEivJdA
Posted By: backto_study_piano Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 06:05 AM
Another thought - USED PIANOS?

Organs have been discussed - and their values dropped quite quickly, in some cases halved in a few years, worth nothing after 20 yrs - and today I would guess that there are very few organs in existence from the golden age ('70s & early '80s). Similarly with keyboards - schools I worked in bought them in class sets of 20-25 - and many were dumped after a couple of years as not worth fixing.

BUT

Pianos have a much longer life (for practical purposes anyway, with many well worn pianos re-recycled to another owner), and better quality ones rebuilt, possibly several times. Additionally, some would have moved up the line as a family inheritance. And yes, some have been dumped.

The peak sales for pianos of post-WW2 to 1980 would mean that there are still lots and lots of those pianos around. I know many people who, in recent years have bought used pianos in preference ($$$ wise) to a new one.

I would guess that prior to the post-WW2 boom, there weren't heaps of pianos around anyway, relatively speaking to be recycled/sold/inherited.

What would be an interesting (but impossible to get) would be:

1) how many used pianos were sold (including those gifted to relatives etc); and

2) what was the ownership of pianos per capita at various points of the graphed period.

Anyone got any clues?
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 06:39 AM
Originally Posted by backto_study_piano
Another thought - USED PIANOS?

Pianos have a much longer life (for practical purposes anyway, with many well worn pianos re-recycled to another owner), and better quality ones rebuilt, possibly several times. Additionally, some would have moved up the line as a family inheritance. And yes, some have been dumped.

The peak sales for pianos of post-WW2 to 1980 would mean that there are still lots and lots of those pianos around. I know many people who, in recent years have bought used pianos in preference ($$$ wise) to a new one.

I would guess that prior to the post-WW2 boom, there weren't heaps of pianos around anyway, relatively speaking to be recycled/sold/inherited.

What would be an interesting (but impossible to get) would be:

1) how many used pianos were sold (including those gifted to relatives etc); and

2) what was the ownership of pianos per capita at various points of the graphed period.

Anyone got any clues?


C'mon, don't you know you have to read all 3 pages of comments before posting. laugh

Originally Posted by me

Could the longevity of pianos have something to do with it? Maybe there were new players coming in but since there was so much old stock they could just get a used piano anywhere from a few years old to 100 years old? Not sure if that's already been discussed or if there's any data on that, but pianos last a long time and that can hurt future sales.

Just like the iPad, sales have been declining rapidly but usage is growing. Contrast that to Android tablets where sales are increasing. They figured out it was because iPads "last longer" or that their owners don't upgrade as frequently as Android tablet users. Perhaps there's a good used market as well - but I don't think that was factored in. Imagine if iPads were useful for 75 years instead of 2.5.

Posted By: backto_study_piano Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 07:07 AM
Originally Posted by michaelha
Originally Posted by backto_study_piano
Another thought - USED PIANOS? ...

What would be an interesting (but impossible to get) would be:

1) how many used pianos were sold (including those gifted to relatives etc); and

2) what was the ownership of pianos per capita at various points of the graphed period.

Anyone got any clues?


C'mon, don't you know you have to read all 3 pages of comments before posting. laugh ...



Hi

sorry - yep, I'd re-speed-read and saw that, but I was thinking of "maybe" it would be an interesting statistic. Sort of like the "How Many Left?" website which indicates how many of which make and model of car are still in existence in UK.

But (and don't suggest this to government or they will do it), pianos aren't road registered (mine has only 3 wheels anyway), so it wouldn't be easy - unless someone has wiser ideas than me laugh .
Posted By: JohnSprung Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 09:53 AM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Piano sales dropped off because people don't want them!


Looking at the two lines on the graph, it's uprights that crashed. Grands may look flatish at that scale, but a careful look show that they nearly doubled.

The eighties were a time of growth and a return to prosperity. (I went from unemployed to crappy job to mediocre job to good job in the eighties.) So, far more people could afford grands, and bought them. Grands went up.

Uprights took two or three hits: Fewer kids learning piano, and those that did going electronic. A generation that had piano lessons as kids grew up to not demand it of their kids. There was also a huge installed base of uprights with a lot of life left, from the prior high production years, so the used base depressed new sales.

Posted By: Bob Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 01:32 PM
Digitals are now 70% of pianos sold - acoustics 30% according to a piano dealer. They have replaced upright pianos as a starter instrument.

Craigslist has been the biggest piano store in town since the recession.

Inexpensive grand pianos with and without players were widely sold here pre-recession when folks traded up to a larger house and put a piano in it. They are not always played or tuned. Many are furniture.

A percentage of folks still want a "real" piano - but there are many used on Craigslist, or they simply move grandma's old spinet over and call me to tune it, thus taking away from new piano sales.

Sports and computers seem to take priority over music, and the schools are doing a terrible job of promoting music.

Instead of over-regulating everything we do, I wish government would promote things like music. The race for Florida Governor cost 150 million - miss-placed money that could have gone to music promotion.

Posted By: bkw58 Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 02:41 PM
The Carter years (1977-1981) came in the aftermath of the crippling Arab Oil Embargo and consequent runaway inflation (10.4% per annum)was a problem throughout his term, both of which had a devastating effect upon the economy. Sales of luxury products or non-essentials - eg. new pianos - suffered the most. Eventually the economy recovered and sales of luxury or non-essentials revived. New piano sales, however, did not, and continued to go south. Why? I believe the piano was hit with a double whammy. First the Nixon/Carter years debacle. Subsequently, the digital age that has been mentioned through this thread. Most notably, easy availability of less expensive and novel alternatives for one to entertain himself: Keyboards with all of the bells and whistles, the personal computer. Video games. The list seems unending. Will the piano recover? Things tend to be cyclical.
Posted By: BDB Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 04:18 PM
Here is an article about the Baldwin United bankruptcy of 1983.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 04:40 PM

Interesting article. Baldwin had diversified quite a bit by that time. But it says in the 7th (?) paragraph that "Numerous other subsidiaries, including the piano business, are not involved."
Posted By: hogfan Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 04:58 PM



Insurance and financial services?? That seems like such an unlikely path for expansion of a piano company. Not to hijack the thread -- but I'd love to know the back story here -- would any of the former Baldwin folks on PW care to comment? How in the world did the company end up so far from its roots? I'm guessing that Mr. Morley P. Thompson was not much of a piano man ... but really!

What a stark contrast Baldwin's sad history is to the history of some of the top European brands. At the Steingraeber event this past weekend at Pianocraft, I asked Udo Steingraeber (seventh generation piano man) how many European piano makers are still run by the original family. He ticked off six or seven just off the top of his head. Amazing, given that some of these companies date back to the 1800s.
Posted By: hogfan Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 05:00 PM
This also raises another issue I'm curious about: What do the numbers look like in Europe over the past few decades? I assume there's been a similar fall-off in sales of uprights, but is it more/less dramatic than here in the U.S.? (Apologies if this has already been discussed on this thread.)
Posted By: BDB Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 05:13 PM
Actually, Baldwin expanding into finance made sense. Pianos are big ticket items, so they are often financed. It is not a lot different from GMAC, the finance arm of General Motors.

The problem is that the finance industry is heavily dependent on government policies. The change of administration in 1980 brought in radical economic changes that adversely affected many in the industry, as well as those who depended on it.
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 05:51 PM
Thought about this some more and now I don't think it really has that much to do with computers, a little dip in the stock market, some hostages in Iran, crappy spinets/American pianos, the Japanese piano invasion, lack of funding in music/arts programs in schools, California's Prop. 13, etc...

Some have mentioned this somewhat already, it was just a shift in American culture that started in the 60's and cemented in the 80's. We came from this Leave it to Beaver/Wonder Years type culture where perhaps taking piano lessons was a part of growing up to this rock n' roll culture that started in the 60's with guys growing their hair long, smoking pot, dropping acid. That continued to evolve in the 70's - they added glitter, polyester, Qualudes, etc...and by the 80's that rock n' roll culture was fairly mainstream.

People didn't stop listening to music or replace it with watching TV or playing with their Commodore 64. They were just listening to different types of music and the piano didn't really play a role. There might've been a little piano here or there, but it didn't nearly get the attention like the guitar. In a lot of rock bands the lead guitarist was almost as well known as the lead singer.

50's
[Linked Image]

60's
[Linked Image]


70's (Pink Floyd btw)
[Linked Image]

80's
[Linked Image]
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 05:54 PM
Axel has a real feel for the smokes....
or is that Joey Ramone?
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 06:12 PM
Originally Posted by harpon
Axel has a real feel for the smokes....
or is that Joey Ramone?


Are you serious? That's Slash!
Posted By: LarryShone Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 06:32 PM
I blame TV. It birthed the trend for instant gratification, which gave rise to the current 'I want it yesterday' culture. Grands are largely purchased by concert halls or the rich-it is a profesdional instrument, whereas the upright is more suited to home entertainment, and until recent times most homes had an upright. Since the 80s that number will have grown less and less. Nowadays, with the advance of technology, uprights are largely replaced by tuning-free DPs.
Posted By: hogfan Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 06:51 PM
Originally Posted by BDB
Actually, Baldwin expanding into finance made sense. Pianos are big ticket items, so they are often financed. It is not a lot different from GMAC, the finance arm of General Motors.

The problem is that the finance industry is heavily dependent on government policies. The change of administration in 1980 brought in radical economic changes that adversely affected many in the industry, as well as those who depended on it.


BDB, good point. I wouldn't personally finance a piano, so I tend to forget that other folks do. (I was tempted, though, by a local Steinway dealer who recently offered me a Steinway B for just $895 a month -- for twenty years, at 11.99% financing. crazy ) I suppose the expansion into insurance then just seemed like a natural progression.

But the article suggests that the source of Baldwin's problems, at least, was financial mismanagement, rather than economic changes brought about by the change in administration.
Posted By: kapelli Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 07:04 PM
-> Michaelcha,
we are missing the '90 and after 2000, but while in the 90 we should put cocojumbo, then in the current this would be Bieber and Miley Cyrus........ and that's make me shaking!
Posted By: Jean Claude Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 07:05 PM


Originally Posted by michaelha
Originally Posted by harpon
Axel has a real feel for the smokes....
or is that Joey Ramone?


Are you serious? That's Slash!


I`m afraid that I`m not familiar with Mr Slash`s oeuvre, but what a misfortune for a performing artist to have a name so open to doubles entendres. You would have thought he might have changed it, at least for professional purposes.





Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 07:52 PM
Originally Posted by Jean Claude


I`m afraid that I`m not familiar with Mr Slash`s oeuvre, but what a misfortune for a performing artist to have a name so open to doubles entendres. You would have thought he might have changed it, at least for professional purposes.


haha...Just made me look it up and his real name is actually Saul Hudson. Now I see why they changed it. But I'm a little surprised you haven't heard of Slash or Guns n' Roses. I thought they were fairly popular in the mid-80's.

Don't know cocojumbo but thought this was about the 80's. But OK, let's keep going.

90's - Nirvana
[Linked Image]

2000's - DJ Tiesto
[Linked Image]

In the 90's with grunge rock most of the guitar playing skills got even worse.

By the 2000's they gave up on playing musical instruments altogether and found out you could look like a musician by just playing LP's and mixing beats. Maybe there's a similar thread in GuitarWorld that asks, "What happened in the 2000's?"

Also, purposely left out the pop vocalists of every decade. There's always some Barbara Streisand, Karen Carpenter, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, of every decade. I don't think they have much of an impact on people playing or not playing musical instruments.

Edit: 2010's - Now the Technics 1200's aren't cool anymore.

[Linked Image]
Posted By: LarryShone Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 08:42 PM
There are no musicians in the pop world now. Just button pushing record sellers.
Posted By: master88er Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 08:49 PM
A very wise industry veteran (Hi TD) and I were talking about this subject yesterday, and he opined, " Title IX led to the advent of organized girls’ sports. It took a few years to manifest itself, but by the 1980s many young girls who would have simply had a choice between ballet and piano lessons were now playing soccer, basketball, softball, etc. This was huge!"

I thought about that, and it came up this morning while speaking with a customer. The client (grandparents -proud East Coast Steinway grand owners - and mom purchasing for a 7 year old) and I were discussing the merits of buying new vs. a "starter" piano and the subject of piano sales came up. I mentioned this thread and asked their opinions (admittedly in an attempt to guilt the grandparents into buying a new rather than used upright piano), and got a debate going between grandmother and daughter (the mom) that surely "TV, computers, rock music" were the culprits.

Then, I mentioned Title IX, and they unanimously agreed that this would have been a paramount influence on waning piano lessons for young girls, and resultant piano sales. The Mom, who is a rock climber but can't play the piano, related that - even though her father (the grandpa) was a player - she was more interested in sports as a child of the late 80's.

In case you're wondering, the grandparents bought the granddaughter a new Baldwin 243 instead of a used piano they initially were considering.
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 08:50 PM
Originally Posted by LarryShone
There are no musicians in the pop world now. Just button pushing record sellers.


This is the future. LOL.

[Linked Image]
Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 09:18 PM
Now wait a minute.

Alec Baldwin is BANKRUPT?
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 10:23 PM
Originally Posted by hogfan
This also raises another issue I'm curious about: What do the numbers look like in Europe over the past few decades? I assume there's been a similar fall-off in sales of uprights, but is it more/less dramatic than here in the U.S.? (Apologies if this has already been discussed on this thread.)

I didn't find hard data when googling; but I found articles saying that in Germany, now there are 5 times as many digitals being sold than acoustic pianos; and that the German piano industry has suffered in the past decades.

Some manufacturers almost went bankrupt (Schimmel, Bechstein, Seiler), but managed to survive by either restructuring themselves (Bechstein, Schimmel) or being bought by another company (Seiler).

And Blüthner now is also jumping on the digital bandwagon.
So like Bob said, and what I've been saying all along: In 1980 (or to be more accurate: In 1983, the year Yamaha introduced its first Clavinova) the serious digital piano came along, and ate the market part of the cheap vertical pianos.
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/13/14 10:24 PM
Originally Posted by LarryShone
There are no musicians in the pop world now. Just button pushing record sellers.

Right now I am visualizing Lady Gaga, Adele, Delta Goodrem and Emeli Sandé slapping you. wink
Posted By: phacke Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/14/14 01:56 AM
Michaelha,

my rocker beats your rocker…and unlike the other guys, he is still kicking hard.
[Linked Image]

(Steven Tyler...Major piano guy)
image courtesy martin snow pianos.

best wishes...
Posted By: BornInTheUSA Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/14/14 07:52 AM
Originally Posted by phacke
Michaelha,

my rocker beats your rocker…and unlike the other guys, he is still kicking hard.


Yeah, he's got Kurt Cobain beat there. RIP Kurt.

Funny, my wife decided to sing Dream On the other day and really haven't put their stuff on for a LONG time. That song really never gets old (as long as you don't play it 3 times in a row). I didn't really know he was a piano guy, but not too surprised.

Posted By: LarryShone Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/14/14 02:39 PM
Originally Posted by michaelha
Originally Posted by phacke
Michaelha,

my rocker beats your rocker…and unlike the other guys, he is still kicking hard.


Yeah, he's got Kurt Cobain beat there. RIP Kurt.

Funny, my wife decided to sing Dream On the other day and really haven't put their stuff on for a LONG time. That song really never gets old (as long as you don't play it 3 times in a row). I didn't really know he was a piano guy, but not too surprised.


Another overrated, over hyped 'artist'
Posted By: LarryShone Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/14/14 02:40 PM
Originally Posted by patH
Originally Posted by LarryShone
There are no musicians in the pop world now. Just button pushing record sellers.

Right now I am visualizing Lady Gaga, Adele, Delta Goodrem and Emeli Sandé slapping you. wink

Ill allow Adele and the likes of Ed Sheran, but Ga Ga??
Posted By: KurtZ Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/14/14 03:32 PM
Originally Posted by michaelha
Originally Posted by phacke
Michaelha,

my rocker beats your rocker…and unlike the other guys, he is still kicking hard.


Funny, my wife decided to sing Dream On the other day and really haven't put their stuff on for a LONG time. That song really never gets old (as long as you don't play it 3 times in a row). I didn't really know he was a piano guy, but not too surprised.



Dream On was written on the piano as per Steve Tyler in an interview. Great song, one I never get tired of.

Kurt
Posted By: hogfan Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/14/14 10:02 PM
Originally Posted by phacke
Michaelha,

my rocker beats your rocker…and unlike the other guys, he is still kicking hard.
[Linked Image]

(Steven Tyler...Major piano guy)
image courtesy martin snow pianos.

best wishes...


Be still my heart ... that is one sexy piano man! laugh
Posted By: phacke Re: What happened in 1980? - 11/16/14 07:51 AM
Regarding above,
"that is one sexy piano man!"
Is that because of his appearance?

Anyhow, for those who don't tire too much of Dream On, here are three wildly different versions of it on various pianos and keyboards:
(if you are going to watch just one, watch the third)

On a Steinway:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=zthQPe41w24

In Fenway Park with Aerosmith:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ThR0_HTN0E

Dropping in to play in bar in Nashville, on a Korg, I think:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mknxJ-fvQY

Regarding the first, I find it a bit odd to sing this with choir kids, backing him up with vocals, in a church. He sings:

Every time that I look in the mirror
All the lines, on my face getting clearer
(big inhaling sound)

I wonder if people are getting the image of what that means.

In the third, he interjects in the song "thank you daddy," I think (~4:35). His father was a professional pianist and band leader.

I digress.
michaelha, I get your point, thanks for your effort pulling the images.
Lancaster, thanks for making the graphs and your interesting thread.
Posted By: Burnside Piano Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/24/15 11:37 AM
In addition to several of the excellent and more obvious causes already discussed, I suggest another, as absurd as it might sound at first: The cancellation of the Lawrence Welk show in 1982. This was the last regularly aired TV show to prominently feature an acoustic piano (as well as an electronic organ, sales of which also began to plummet at around the same time). The Tonight Show occasionally spotlighted a pianist--usually accompanying a vocalist--but not in prime time, and only periodically. As cheesy as the Welk show was, it could have been, to some extent, a driver of piano and organ sales. I wonder if Baldwin has any research showing how sales were affected by having their instruments so prominently placed in the show.
Posted By: Jeff Clef Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/24/15 02:53 PM
"...and Lawrence Welk had overstayed his welcome..."

Well, maybe with you and me. But here's a news flash for you: The Lawrence Welk Show is still on the air to this very day. I run across it every once in awhile while trying to find something else to watch. But in any case, it was more associated with the dance band than the piano.

True enough, Richard Nixon was known to play the piano. I don't believe he did the piano any favors during the Vietnam War years and the rise of the counterculture. If Murray Perahia had been President, it might have been otherwise.

However, popular music was not all about the guitar during the years before and after 1980. To mention only a few artists who started in the 60's and 70's, and became big and noticeable in the 80's and beyond: Joni Mitchell. Carole King/ Neal Sedaka/ (Gerry Goffin). Laura Nyro. Brian Wilson. Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The Band. You could fold in Lennon/ McCarthy and the Rolling Stones (think about some of their albums during the 80's and 90's) and their big influence Little Richard. And not to overlook Bacharach/David, Aretha Franklin... any music from Broadway and Hollywood (and TV, and a lot of R&B) began its life on a piano, if only to work out the parts for the horn section.

The piano hasn't been hiding anywhere. There is one factor, though, that has favored the guitar and DP with young musicians during those critical years as young adults: you really have to have a house to have a piano. Not that I did! But even I was eventually beaten down into making do with a DP and an Atari.

It is true that the very severe contraction of the economy after 1980, along with the fact that recorded music was a great deal cheaper and more available, had a lot to do with the declining fortunes of the piano. When you encounter that kind of adversity, the only people who hang in are those who are driven by that quality which comes from inside, to the point that they really can't help themselves. It's not as much a commitment as it is that that's who they are.

Put that on a graph!
Posted By: JohnSprung Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/24/15 06:29 PM
Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
It is true that the very severe contraction of the economy after 1980, ....


The economy tanked in the late 1970's and recovered in the early 80's. At least that's what it says on my federal income tax returns.... ;-)

Posted By: harpon Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/24/15 09:25 PM
The first golden age of mass homelessness began when people were classified as "blank pages" and got ejected from the system.

I know, I was living in L.A. with my best old ex-friend Ray.......
Posted By: Jean Claude Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/25/15 08:15 AM
Originally Posted by hogfan
Originally Posted by phacke
Michaelha,

my rocker beats your rocker�and unlike the other guys, he is still kicking hard.
[Linked Image]

(Steven Tyler...Major piano guy)
image courtesy martin snow pianos.

best wishes...


Be still my heart ... that is one sexy piano man! laugh



Sexy or not, other people have to use that stool and it would be a politeness for the gentleman not to put his feet on it.
Posted By: WhoDwaldi Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/25/15 11:25 PM
To Mr. Tyler's credit, at least he has his foot on the bench instead of the piano!

I knew a piano department head at a university who lamented that people prefer to suffer in groups. (Choir practice can be just as miserable as Czerny, but for the social aspects.)

Also, people went a little crazy in the early 80s over the Tylenol poisonings (remember that?), which spooked unrelated, vaguely risky things such as trick or treat to unlit houses, walking home from school, individual lessons in creepy persons' houses, etc.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/tylenol-murders-1982/
Posted By: Rastor Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/26/15 11:45 AM
In contrast to the numbers that opened this discussion, here's a nice article from the Chicago Tribune about how the piano business is currently on an upswing:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-piano-industry-chicago-met-20150323-story.html

According to the article, last year there were 37,200 new acoustic pianos sold and 135,257 new digital pianos sold.


Edit: whoops, I see the article was already posted in a separate thread. blush
Posted By: Steve Cohen Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/26/15 01:34 PM
Originally Posted by S. Phillips
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."


I think that, as usual, Sally hit the nail on the head. The recession coupled with the Baby Boomer demographics were the main factors.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 08/08/18 09:39 PM
Just came across this article with some interesting numbers.
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 08/11/18 01:36 PM
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

When clicking the link, I get the following message:
Quote

www.fosters.com -

Access Denied
Error code 16

This request was blocked by the security rules
2018-08-11 13:34:44 UTC

Your IP78.50.128.65
|Proxy IP149.126.77.28(ID 10876)

Incident ID: 876000480091201426-97862796991791875
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 08/11/18 02:04 PM
Originally Posted by patH
When clicking the link, I get the following message:
Quote

www.fosters.com -

Access Denied
Error code 16

This request was blocked by the security rules
2018-08-11 13:34:44 UTC

Your IP78.50.128.65
|Proxy IP149.126.77.28(ID 10876)

Incident ID: 876000480091201426-97862796991791875

Possibly a country issue (some websites can't be accessed outside of the country they are hosted in). Here is the text of the article:
Quote
Hitting a low note: Pianos becoming extinct in US homes

By Max Sullivan msullivan@seacoastonline.com
Posted Jul 29, 2018 at 3:15 AM
Updated Jul 30, 2018 at 12:16 PM

Once a fixture in the American home, pianos are easy to find for cheap these days and those who own them are having trouble finding people take them off their hands.

Roger Ward of Barrington said he has been trying to give away his Kohler & Campbell upright piano for free for the last two years. He offered it to his Elks lodge and his American Legion post, but they were not interested. He said a former worker of his was “all charged up” to take the piano for his daughter, who is learning how to play, but that never materialized.

The Chickering & Sons baby grand piano in Jeff Curran’s York, Maine, summer home is selling for $150, or best offer, on Craigslist. He has also tried donating the piano to a church and a family friend.

“It’s hard to get rid of one,” said Curran.

Ward’s and Curran’s listings are among dozens on Craigslist and other sites like Facebook, pianos selling for cheap or being offered for free. A trend of unwanted pianos has been felt across the nation for years, according to news reports.

The National Association of Music Merchants reports merchandisers sold 364,500 pianos in 1909, but it’s been a steady slide since, picking up speed in the 21st century.

Chalise Zolezzi, director of public relations and social media for NAMM, said recent data shows total piano sales, including digital pianos, have been at a high for the past 10 years. Still, according to Statista, there were 95,518 sales of acoustic pianos in the United States in 2005 and just 31,530 in 2017.

Not all pianos find homes. Kevin Finkenaur of Liberty Bell Moving & Storage of Portsmouth, said his company hauls dozens of pianos a week, and about one in 10 of those are sent to a local transfer station or are broken down for wood and scrap metal.

Paul Dykstra, who also teaches piano in Portsmouth and who previously sold pianos for Yamaha, said Yamaha sold fewer acoustic pianos as years went by because customers were instead buying electric pianos. He said the digitization of music over the decades, as well as the increase in activities available to young people, has pulled attention away from the acoustic piano and the music for which it was designed.

“The serious kids, the kids who are into serious classical piano, that number has gone down,” said Dykstra. “It’s too many things competing for their time.”

Dykstra believes fewer families with acoustic pianos does not equate to fewer children with opportunities to learn classical music. Rather, he believes it merely weeds out those who are less serious about music meant to be played on an acoustic piano whose interest would have eventually dwindled.

He said budding pianists will always eventually learn that the rich dynamic of an acoustic piano is not easily replicated digitally without buying a keyboard worth thousands of dollars, and even higher-end keyboards are still not quite the same.

“If you want to play Rachmaninoff, you’re not going to be able to do that digitally,” said Dykstra. “There’s still no way out of a Steinway.”

For those students who want to play an acoustic piano, Portsmouth piano teacher John Heath said the low demand for pianos makes now a better time than ever to acquire one.

“It’s a matter of finding a piano that’s in good enough shape,” said Heath, as many pianos on the market are aged and require attention from a piano technician. “There’s tons of them out there.”
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 08/11/18 03:53 PM
Thanks for the text.

But I'm not sure I agree with the message of the article; that people buy less acoustic pianos because the classical culture is in decline.
What the article doesn't mention is that digital pianos have improved considerably in the past decades. I wouldn't be surprised if a modern middle-class digital is more appealing for serious pianists than a middle-class spinet or console from 60 years ago. Plus, you can play with headphones, and have plenty of different sounds.

It is of course possible that the classical "piano culture" is decreasing in the USA; but just looking at sales numbers (acoustic vs. digital) is not enough to conclude it.
Posted By: Markarian Re: What happened in 1980? - 08/11/18 05:30 PM
Yeah I'm gonna weigh in on this again in RE: digitals. I tell pretty much everyone with less than $4000 to spend to buy a nice stage digital and a pair of high quality monitors. Owning a piano costs some serious money to keep it as musically consistent as a modern digital piano. I would rather own my (now worth less than $1500) Kawai MP11 and a $300 pair of monitors than anything but the most serious studio upright. Having a real piano in the home has lost its prestige and is now sadly a burden to many. I have a friend locally trying to rehome his grandma's Chickering console.

No surprise this thread blew up, as it represents a topic that stands at the intersection of so many economic, cultural, and technological conversations. Add a dash of angry politics and inter-generational warfare and you've got a rootin' tootin' five page thread laugh
Posted By: swampwiz Re: What happened in 1980? - 08/17/18 05:09 PM
Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
"...and Lawrence Welk had overstayed his welcome..."

Well, maybe with you and me. But here's a news flash for you: The Lawrence Welk Show is still on the air to this very day.


I can remember being a horny 20-something lad waiting to hit the Town on Saturday night, watching The Lawrence Welk Show reruns on the local PBS station in the early evening, LOL. Now, Lawrence Welk precedes Led Zeppelin in my vast, eclectic music library.
Posted By: LearnEveryDay Re: What happened in 1980? - 08/18/18 07:05 AM

The (classical music) culture of pianos is declined in the U.S., IMHO, is due to the chaotic state of music education in our society nowadays. To understand and to play classical music, one must take years of private lessons which are now way too expensive. The least expensive teachers charge $70 to $80 an hour, and prestigious schools of music can charge up to $120 an hour for private lessons! Given high tuition rates, only affluent members of society can afford music lessons for themselves or their kids. Furthermore, public schools cut budgets and, if any music programs remain in public schools, they are mostly for Strings (i.e. for students to learn violins). (Even for Strings, public schools' programs are merely basic start-up, but that is a topic of a different forum).

For many years now, I have not seen any public schools in my area offer free piano lessons in school to any kids. These combined factors of high private lesson rates and no public schools' promotion of piano learning have reduced the exposure of kids to piano music, especially the kids from poor families. Middle-class families may still try to introduce their children to music; however, given that most parents work a lot of hours a day, they don't have the time to encourage kids to practice lessons. Furthermore, most of these parents themselves have not much knowledge about music instruments, or music in general, much less about classical music. So, when they choose an instrument for their child, they may opt for something "easier to manage" without ongoing tuning or maintenance. And so, they'd choose a keyboard or a digital piano instead of an acoustic piano - mainly for practical reasons.

All -in-all, it's probably "the signs of the time", for lack of better terms. The 80's are now long-gone (though sometimes I missed those happy years when life was simpler and gentler.) Where our society is heading towards, in terms of music or piano music, remains speculative... I hope that one or several of us, who may still be alive around the years of 2050 and 2100, would come back here and share another post about the status of pianos in our society in those future years....!
smile
Posted By: redfish1901 Re: What happened in 1980? - 08/18/18 03:45 PM
I am a sucker for demographic and economic data, so here is some more.

On a popular online forum called reddit.com, the 'piano' sub group has 81,000 subscribers. Other groups with similar numbers are 'handwriting' (80,000), 'poker' (80,000), 'Tatoo' (93,000), 'fountainpens' (90,000), 'lockpicking' (89,000), etc (gathered from redditlist).

In comparison, the 'music' group has 17 million subscribers, and 'violinists' has 13,800 subscribers. 'Jazz' has 90,000, and 'classicalmusic' has 303,000.

Browsing the 'piano' subreddit, I see lots of videos uploaded by young people starting out, most playing on digital pianos.

The interest in piano these days are probably mostly voluntary, and not forced onto them by their parents. I think that's largely a good thing.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/03/18 04:18 AM
The number of pianos per household went down by a factor of 12x between 1978 and 2015. (Annualized, this would amount to a reduction of approximately 7.5% per year vs the prior year, for each of those 37 years.)
Posted By: johnstaf Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/03/18 06:12 AM
In 1980, my generation was growing up and we wanted to be rock stars. We bought guitars instead! eek
Posted By: j&j Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/05/18 06:48 PM
I was an adult in 1980 and interest rates were going up rapidly. 16% for a home mortgage. Pianos are frequently financed or bought with a second mortgage. I’d guess a double digit interest rate might convince parents to have their child taking guitar or trombone lessons. Also 1980 was the golden time for guitar heroes. Piano was considered nerdy. As musical tastes change so do the instruments that kids want to study. Not much keyboard presence in hip-hop or EDM. Vinyl is back. Acoustic guitar is growing again. The world has become so digital, there’s something much more comforting in a completely analog, acoustic piano. I think sales of pianos in the US will increase eventually because sales of pianos in China is very strong and should come back here and in Europe.
Posted By: malkin Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/06/18 02:46 AM
1980? There was an election. There were some political changes & some tax changes. "riding the crest of the trough."
Posted By: johnstaf Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/06/18 07:35 AM
ABBA released The Winner Takes it All, which has one of the most famous piano parts in pop history.

Misha, the mascot of the Moscow Olympics, cried at the closing ceremony, and stole the hearts of the world.




And John Lennon was shot.
Posted By: MacMacMac Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/14/18 02:16 AM
If you look back at the numbers and charts first posted in this thread four years ago ... you might wonder about their accuracy.
The claim is that pianos hit a peak in 1980 and then steeply declined.
And that is from a single source: bluebookofpianos.com

Are the numbers right? I think not. I've read elsewhere that pianos have been on the decline for most of a century ... not just since 1980.

Are the numbers right? I think not. The sales figures for digital pianos seem WAAAAAY low.

I think we need a second and more authoritative source of data.
Posted By: Lady Bird Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/14/18 05:46 AM
What I have come to believe from this forum is since digital pianos
have improved there is a belief that upright accoustic pianos are not
worth the getting .If you want an accoustic piano only a grand is
worth getting. A used grand seems to
have taken the place of upright pianos.
I hope I am wrong because this is a sad error of judging upright accoustic pianos.
Posted By: ando Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/14/18 08:56 AM
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
What I have come to believe from this forum is since digital pianos
have improved there is a belief that upright accoustic pianos are not
worth the getting .If you want an accoustic piano only a grand is
worth getting. A used grand seems to
have taken the place of upright pianos.
I hope I am wrong because this is a sad error of judging upright accoustic pianos.

Yes, this is a common myth that is propounded by the digital piano manufacturers who are constantly trumpeting the idea that modern digital actions are very realistic simulations of grand piano actions, and thus, superior to upright actions. It is mostly marketing spin though. The only digital action I can say is genuinely better than the action in my Yamaha U3 is the Yamaha Avant Grand series and the Kawai Novus NV10 - and that's because they have a genuine grand piano action in them. The rest of them are not as good as the marketing spin suggests.

The same is true of the sound engines. Despite sampling high-quality grand pianos, none of them are as satisfying to play and listen to as my U3. The speaker systems do not deliver on the sound that was recorded, the resonance modelling and action/sound connection simply isn't as good. It is frequently mentioned on the DP forum that "a good digital beats an upright acoustic piano". I don't think that's true for anything but an old clapped out upright. A quality upright is still substantially better to play and learn piano on. Things have been steadily improving in the digital world, but it's got a way to go to match the real acoustic experience.

I don't say this as a technophobe. I'm very enthusiastic and interested in digital piano development. I spend a lot of my time here on the digital forum. I just have to be realistic about digitals' capabilities at this time.
Posted By: Progman Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/14/18 08:53 PM
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
What I have come to believe from this forum is since digital pianos
have improved there is a belief that upright accoustic pianos are not
worth the getting .If you want an accoustic piano only a grand is
worth getting. A used grand seems to
have taken the place of upright pianos.
I hope I am wrong because this is a sad error of judging upright accoustic pianos.


Overall from reading many threads in AB/piano/digital sub-forums, my take is that acoustic uprights have a significant leg up on even the higher end digitals. The 'leg up' being feel of the vibrations (in your body and hands) and the control of the sound - of course, this has been discussed a lot and we don't need to repeat here. Digitals have specific appeal and many of us have both. But I do not see uprights as being disparaged in general in the forum.

Now of course I am an older guy (59) and maybe there is a generational slant also. When I was a bicyclist a couple decades ago, people on the forums would often have the discussion about what is the better bike - steel or carbon? The steel people would often say 'steel is real' (referring the feel when riding). Well, like pianos, there is room for both.
Posted By: johnstaf Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/14/18 10:26 PM
So rim brakes or hubs? eek

The one question guaranteed to start an online bloodbath in the cycling world....
Posted By: Wry Guy Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/15/18 12:20 AM
I totally agree that there is a world of difference between an upright acoustic piano and an equivalently priced electronic instrument. There is simply no comparison at all. Even bargain bin uprights knock the digital models out of the water.

I have owned a fully-weighted 88-key electronic piano for almost 20 years. I purchased it in 1999 for ~$1200. No pianist would ever mistake it for a real piano.

Recently I was in the market for a piano (I recently acquired my first acoustic upright) and I was amazed at how consistently piano showroom floormen would lead me right over to the electronic pianos when I told them my budget was ~$3000. I told them I didn't want an electronic instrument--I wanted the sound & feel of a real damn piano. The only electronic instruments that could come close to replicating the sound of an acoustic upright cost upwards of $15,000 and I could still easily tell that they weren't the real mccoy.

In the end, a private sale from an old dude with a barely used instrument has satisfied my itch just fine.

I would blame the decline on the rise of TV and computers. Just look at the popularity of video games and the Internet... ain't nobody got no time to make music no more.
Posted By: johnstaf Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/15/18 02:19 AM
I mean rim brakes or discs.
Posted By: malkin Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/15/18 02:23 AM
Originally Posted by johnstaf
I mean rim brakes or discs.


You better watch out for the rabid fixie riders!
Posted By: johnstaf Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/15/18 02:27 AM
I have an old upright at home that my grandfather bought. He didn't play, but he bought it because he loved music and there would be plenty of visitors who could play. That was a different world. Nowadays, if nobody in the house played, it would probably end up as a big, heavy, and expensive ornament. There is simply no reason now for most people to buy a piano.
Posted By: johnstaf Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/15/18 02:32 AM
Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by johnstaf
I mean rim brakes or discs.


You better watch out for the rabid fixie riders!


LOL!
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/16/18 06:14 PM
It's always funny to see this thread resurface! smile

I just skimmed through it from the beginning, and see some names that aren't so regular any more.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/16/18 06:16 PM
Originally Posted by MacMacMac
I think we need a second and more authoritative source of data.

Yes! Please post some. I'd love to see less ambiguous data regarding digitals, more recent data for the last decade, and even more accurate data for uprights and grands if the above isn't accurate.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/16/18 06:26 PM
Originally Posted by malkin
1980? There was an election. There were some political changes & some tax changes. "riding the crest of the trough."

I didn't see your comment before Ken edited it, but as pointed out up-thread these changes can't be ascribed to politics. The downturn in the piano's popularity spans many elections, periods of time in which the government was controlled by both parties, and periods of economic recession and prosperity. Plus, the downturn in popularity spans all of western society, not just one country, so a single election in a single country couldn't have such a far reaching impact.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/16/18 06:28 PM
Originally Posted by johnstaf
In 1980, my generation was growing up and we wanted to be rock stars. We bought guitars instead! eek

By coincidence, my family moved back to the US in 1980, and that's when I bought my first guitar. smile
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 12/16/18 06:38 PM
Originally Posted by Wry Guy
I totally agree that there is a world of difference between an upright acoustic piano and an equivalently priced electronic instrument. There is simply no comparison at all. Even bargain bin uprights knock the digital models out of the water.

Yes, and that world of difference definitely extends to the family on a budget. It's sometimes discussed here that for a budget under X amount, that digital is the way to go, but I'd suggest that if your budget falls way below X, then the price of entry for an acoustic is much lower. For example, for the price of just the good monitors mentioned above, a resourceful family could likely have a playable free upright delivered and tuned. I acknowledge that may not be the kind of piano most pianophiles here would want, but it would be reasonable for a family on a budget who wanted to play, or get their kids playing, and a better alternative than a cheap keyboard (IMO).
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 01/26/19 07:55 PM
Piano stores in North America are also slowing going the way of the Dodo in some areas, it seems.
Posted By: Music Me Re: What happened in 1980? - 01/26/19 11:19 PM
It's sad I shutter to think what will become of our beautiful acoustic pianos when there are no more piano technicians to service them.
Posted By: NobleHouse Re: What happened in 1980? - 01/27/19 03:51 PM
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop


A very sad story...
Posted By: Steve Cohen Re: What happened in 1980? - 01/28/19 04:41 PM
In most areas there is no shortage of decent piano tuners.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 01/31/19 05:44 AM
Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
In most areas there is no shortage of decent piano tuners.

I suspect that if you look at North America, in terms of area, that most of it is not covered by any technician's service area.

I met a young man from my university at a nearby PTG chapter's meeting. He's a student in the Business School, and for a capstone project he conducted a fairly comprehensive survey to assess the market because he wants to become an RPT. He shared his paper and survey data with me. It seems that in major metropolitan areas, there are a handful of technicians who have more work than they can handle. One might also interpret that as a shortage of decent technicians. But that dynamic quickly shifts at the edge of town, where practitioners find it more difficult to stay busy in the suburbs, smaller towns and cities, and technicians in rural areas reported it a struggle to even work part time, and had to find ways to supplement their income.

Sadly, I suspect it's just an ongoing equilibrium wherein the piano's decline in popularity is matched with a declining need for technicians. Piano sales and piano service are two industries locked together in a tail spin (at least in the western hemisphere).
Posted By: NobleHouse Re: What happened in 1980? - 01/31/19 12:26 PM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
In most areas there is no shortage of decent piano tuners.

I suspect that if you look at North America, in terms of area, that most of it is not covered by any technician's service area.

I met a young man from my university at a nearby PTG chapter's meeting. He's a student in the Business School, and for a capstone project he conducted a fairly comprehensive survey to assess the market because he wants to become an RPT. He shared his paper and survey data with me. It seems that in major metropolitan areas, there are a handful of technicians who have more work than they can handle. One might also interpret that as a shortage of decent technicians. But that dynamic quickly shifts at the edge of town, where practitioners find it more difficult to stay busy in the suburbs, smaller towns and cities, and technicians in rural areas reported it a struggle to even work part time, and had to find ways to supplement their income.

Sadly, I suspect it's just an ongoing equilibrium wherein the piano's decline in popularity is matched with a declining need for technicians. Piano sales and piano service are two industries locked together in a tail spin (at least in the western hemisphere).


I have also found that there IS a real shortage of decent piano tuners OUTSIDE of major cities. Even if you can find one 40 miles away, they are not willing to come out. "Too far".
Posted By: j&j Re: What happened in 1980? - 01/31/19 03:34 PM
Well, let’s be completely truthful here. The hidden dirty secret that we never want to discuss. A huge chunk of piano owners, including owners of upper end pianos quickly forget about tuning and maintenance. If the piano is tuned once every 4 or 5 years, they think it’s regularly maintained! I’ve sat down at friends and family’s pianos and was appalled by how out of tune their piano really was.
Sadly, we’ve done this to ourselves. I get my piano tuned every six months and discuss with my tech whether some voicing or regulation is called for each visit. I literally dread the day he decides to fully retire!
Posted By: KeepItInC Re: What happened in 1980? - 02/01/19 02:33 PM
From the above mentioned article regarding the closing of Roger Jolly's store in Canada.

"I think a lot of people try the piano business as just a means to make money. And the reality is it is not. It's a way of life. And as a store owner if you don't commit to the performing arts ... you're not going to be that successful. It's about relationships," Roger says.

So true. There was a time when the focus of education in our schools and families could help support a small dealer making a living on the retail side but that ended decades ago. The piano business will live on but it's life blood will be the single location, technician owned (yes, there will be a few techs but only in larger metro areas), love of the instrument and each instruments qualities and individualities, with the capability of conveying that appreciation to the customer, type of business. And hopefully, the phony college/university piano sales with their high pressure, hired gun sales people will be just a bad memory.

The "business" we love is all about encouraging, fostering and promoting all types of piano music and the instruments that produce that and, even more so, the people that, at any and every skill level, love to perform that.

"It's a way of life."
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: What happened in 1980? - 02/01/19 03:15 PM
Originally Posted by j&j
Well, let’s be completely truthful here. The hidden dirty secret that we never want to discuss. A huge chunk of piano owners, including owners of upper end pianos quickly forget about tuning and maintenance. If the piano is tuned once every 4 or 5 years, they think it’s regularly maintained! I’ve sat down at friends and family’s pianos and was appalled by how out of tune their piano really was.
Sadly, we’ve done this to ourselves. I get my piano tuned every six months and discuss with my tech whether some voicing or regulation is called for each visit. I literally dread the day he decides to fully retire!
But it's not as though what you say is something new. I think it's always been that way. So this would not be a cause for any dwindling supply of piano techs.
Posted By: David Boyce Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/20/19 07:49 AM
Quote
Even if you can find one 40 miles away, they are not willing to come out. "Too far".


I think it's not indolence that makes techs say "too far", but that fact that it simply doesn't pay, if it takes you most of a day to: drive to the client, tune a single piano, drive home.

Unless the client is willing to pay for a whole day of the technician's time, or can find two or three others in the same area to get their pianos tuned on the visit.
Posted By: j&j Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/21/19 07:31 PM
Pianoloverus - you are right. Piano owners not maintaining their pianos is an old problem, nothing new. If you combine it with the decline of acoustic piano ownership overall, especially here in the US, it dramatically lowers business opportunities for piano technicians. I hope and pray that trend won’t continue and there will be some acoustic piano renaissance in the future.
Posted By: JohnSprung Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/21/19 07:40 PM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
I suspect that if you look at North America, in terms of area, that most of it is not covered by any technician's service area.


Well, of course. Most of North America is either farmland or desert. There are small towns where you'd have a hard time finding a tech to come out. But in the cities and larger towns you can find someone....
Posted By: kdr152004 Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/29/19 03:52 PM
An acoustic piano renaissance would be great - but I don't see any evidence of that in the US . As the price of a decent-grand eclipses the price of a Honda , acoustic instruments are becoming more of a niche market..... and a large demographic of these consumers, ~60 year old baby boomers, are not gonna be around forever. By contrast, such an event is happening in China, and piano superstars like Lang Lang have catalyzed that among young people. The US needs more people like him.
Posted By: Lady Bird Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/31/19 11:52 AM
To find any answers from this thread to what seriously happened in 1980 to slow down so dramatically the sales of accoustic pianos we need to try pick out some impotant points or event think of new ones.Some of these were from what I remember -
The first keyboards ,now very good digital pianos
The greater focus on popular music(guitars,rock and roll)
Declining music education at school.
Politics
The baby boomers getting on,and the empty nest
Children's envolement in cell phones,video games and technology
The focus on sport for children perhaps taking too much time
I cannot think of more but perhaps we can add these answers together and try and find more meaning.
Perhaps more people live apartments .We know that when less people own thier own homes they have to rely on" silent practice "
with digital pianos.Perhaps the fact that thier parents hardly ever
hear them play makes them not want to practice.Perhaps the tone of the digital pianos is so standardized it takes away the musical imagination of the student.Perhaps the magic of music is lost.
Then there all these used accoustic pianos floating around ????
Why on earth ,someone would say, do you need to spend $11,000
on a new upright when you can buy that grand for $3,000, and it is only 30 years old?
Well why not ,little Sarah has been playing a digital piano for 4years and she is not very musical.(has an undeveloped musical imagination )If she gives up the piano,it will be so much nicer having a grand standing in the living room than an upright !
Posted By: j&j Re: What happened in 1980? - 03/31/19 01:59 PM
As a Baby Boomer myself I have a clear memory of things in 1980. One of the striking issues was that inflation was still a dramatic dilemma. The Iranian hostage crisis haunted the Jimmy Carter presidency like nothing else could. I think when President Reagan came to office, Allen Greenspan was the Fed Chief. To calm inflation the Fed raised interest rates high. It was common to have a 30 year mortgage with a 12 to 16 percent interest rate (OUCH)! Interest rates for car loans were outrageous. It seemed like a loan from a Mafioso boss where interest was compounded weekly. Ok ok, that’s a bit over the top but tons of people had their vehicles repossessed.
Along with all the other changes going on in the music world and music industry, it was a rough time for acoustic pianos of all sizes. Acoustic pianos quickly became a luxury item rather than something nearly every family had in their living room.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/02/19 06:29 AM
It's always funny to see this thread resurface! And the reasons why. smile
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/02/19 06:33 AM
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by j&j
Well, let’s be completely truthful here. The hidden dirty secret that we never want to discuss. A huge chunk of piano owners, including owners of upper end pianos quickly forget about tuning and maintenance. If the piano is tuned once every 4 or 5 years, they think it’s regularly maintained! I’ve sat down at friends and family’s pianos and was appalled by how out of tune their piano really was.
Sadly, we’ve done this to ourselves. I get my piano tuned every six months and discuss with my tech whether some voicing or regulation is called for each visit. I literally dread the day he decides to fully retire!
But it's not as though what you say is something new. I think it's always been that way. So this would not be a cause for any dwindling supply of piano techs.

Yes, the fact that a certain number of pianos are neglected is probably already factored into the job market.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/02/19 06:39 AM
Originally Posted by j&j
As a Baby Boomer myself I have a clear memory of things in 1980. One of the striking issues was that inflation was still a dramatic dilemma. The Iranian hostage crisis haunted the Jimmy Carter presidency like nothing else could. I think when President Reagan came to office, Allen Greenspan was the Fed Chief. To calm inflation the Fed raised interest rates high. It was common to have a 30 year mortgage with a 12 to 16 percent interest rate (OUCH)! Interest rates for car loans were outrageous. It seemed like a loan from a Mafioso boss where interest was compounded weekly. Ok ok, that’s a bit over the top but tons of people had their vehicles repossessed.
Along with all the other changes going on in the music world and music industry, it was a rough time for acoustic pianos of all sizes. Acoustic pianos quickly became a luxury item rather than something nearly every family had in their living room.

I had a 14% car loan on a 1984 VW Cabriolet! But man I loved that car. It was charcoal gray and had massively wide BBS wheels and low-profile tires. I kept it 11 years, and drove it 150,000 miles. Then I gave it to my younger brother who drove it another 100,000 miles! Other than grinding up CV joints, it was an awesome car.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/02/19 08:58 AM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
It's always funny to see this thread resurface! And the reasons why. smile

Did you create the thread that would not die?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/02/19 09:07 AM
Feeding the zombie thread:

Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/04/19 09:00 PM
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
It's always funny to see this thread resurface! And the reasons why. smile

Did you create the thread that would not die?

No, I think that's the Singapore thread! wink
Or maybe some of the long-running threads in the Adult Beginners Forum!
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/04/19 09:00 PM
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Feeding the zombie thread:


Interesting. 30,000 is not an insignificant number.
Posted By: KiraM423 Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/05/19 01:38 AM
I've helped many people looking for pianos to start their children on lessons

The families I know feel buying a piano, even an upright, is a big investment for the great uncertainty of not knowing whether or not you child will like it and want to continue

Many want to get the free pianos on craigslist that are free for a reason. It would be frustrating as a child to learn on something of very poor quality.

Many families choose a digital piano over an acoustic for convenience and lack of maintenance costs. I have gone and helped many friends pick out pianos only to have them end up with clavinova

Who has time to practice these days? If my son does all his homework and does a good job practicing the piano, theres not much time left in the day (if he's going to get any kind of decent sleep). His friends are in an activity every day of week. They dont have time to practice. Their parents are hesitant to drop much on a piano for them to mostly practice only at lessons.

A lot of young kids dont get home until dinner time because both parents work full time. It's impossible to practice and get hw done if you dont start until after dinner
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/07/19 11:39 AM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Feeding the zombie thread:

Interesting. 30,000 is not an insignificant number.

What is missing in this video is: What pianos are sold? Is it only uprights? Is it only acoustics?
But the comparison with China gives away that the maker of that video is not really interested in serious statistics. 140.000 vs. 30.000? In countries that have 1.3 billion vs. 300 million people? That's almost as many pianos per capita in the USA as in China.
If the 30.000 only include acoustics but not digitals (which I suspect), then the statistic is meaningless to evaluate the interest in piano anyway.
Posted By: doctor S Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/11/19 09:07 PM
Looked back to the beginning of the thread. I think the cultural turning point was 1955, not 1980. 1955 was rock guitar music, the color TV, the closing of the tap dance studios. For at least 200 years, the primary household keyboard player in Europe and the US was an (as yet) unmarried female who may have gotten lessons. In ensemble, the males might play violin, lute, flute...something mobile and easy to fake without lessons. The purpose, on both sides, was concupiscence. Parents bought square pianos for the same reason and the same children for whom they bought hope chests. Presumably this purpose did not go away when square pianos turned upright, and self-playing. If you were rich, you could buy a grand for no person playing at all: half of all Steinway grands sold from 1900 to the mid-1930's were reproducers!
Recalling Lawrence Welk beginning in 1955, the kids (mostly) did not watch it. They watched American Bandstand, for the Reason mentioned above. If you wanted to get a guy, you needed a record player and a stack of 45 rpm singles. If you wanted a gal, you needed a car with a radio, or if you were Marty McFly, an electric guitar. The piano was already doomed as a cultural fixture in 1955.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/11/19 09:13 PM
Year-by-Year chart of annual sales of pianos divided into different categories.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/11/19 11:48 PM
The chart is very interesting although I don't have great trust that site in terms of accuracy. I was surprised by the small number of digitals sold in the first decade of the 2000s compared to verticals plus grands. I thought it would be much higher. I think at this point in time (for new instruments) digitals+hybirds outsell verticals + grands, although I'm not positive of that.

It was also interesting to see how verticals way outsold grands for most of the second half of the 20th century.
Posted By: NobleHouse Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/12/19 11:20 AM
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
The chart is very interesting although I don't have great trust that site in terms of accuracy. I was surprised by the small number of digitals sold in the first decade of the 2000s compared to verticals plus grands. I thought it would be much higher. I think at this point in time (for new instruments) digitals+hybirds outsell verticals + grands, although I'm not positive of that.

It was also interesting to see how verticals way outsold grands for most of the second half of the 20th century.


I also found the chart very interesting. From a high of 364,565 pianos sold in 1909 to the low numbers during the Great Depression.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/12/19 11:24 AM
Originally Posted by NobleHouse
I also found the chart very interesting. From a high of 364,565 pianos sold in 1909 to the low numbers during the Great Depression.

As far as I can tell though (checking the legend at the bottom left of the chart), this only includes "U.S." piano companies. But what is a U.S. piano company? One with an office in the U.S.? Or does manufacturing happen in the U.S.? So should I assume this doesn't include, for example, Bösendorfer sales?

Calculating per-capita figures, in 1909, the population of the USA was 90,490,000, while in 2007, it was 301,200,000. With 62,536 sold in 2007, the per-capita annual sales figures are:
  • 0.00403 pianos per person per year in 1909
  • 0.000207 pianos per person per year in 2007

If you are an American in 1909, you were 20x more likely to buy a piano (or something with a keyboard) than in 2007.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/16/19 12:20 AM

That's the same page from which I drew the data.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/16/19 12:27 AM
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

As far as I can tell though (checking the legend at the bottom left of the chart), this only includes "U.S." piano companies. But what is a U.S. piano company? One with an office in the U.S.? Or does manufacturing happen in the U.S.? So should I assume this doesn't include, for example, Bösendorfer sales?

I didn't get the impression that it only included sales of US piano companies, but rather the sales of pianos within the U.S. Anyway, the numbers up to 1959 came from National Piano Manufacturers Association, so perhaps that's the case. OTOH, it could also include sales of foreign pianos, because they'd likely be of interest to the producers, and perhaps also foreign-sourced OEM pianos. Any industry pro's who've have access to those old reports? Or the MUSIC USA publications that later numbers came from?
Posted By: MacMacMac Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/17/19 12:57 PM
The digital piano sales number seem to be nonsense.
Only 10,000-ish sold in 2007? That about 95% lower than what I've seen elsewhere.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: What happened in 1980? - 04/17/19 01:04 PM
Originally Posted by MacMacMac
The digital piano sales number seem to be nonsense.
Only 10,000-ish sold in 2007? That about 95% lower than what I've seen elsewhere.

A fair comment. The legend at the bottom states, "From 1960 to Present: Piano Sales reported in 'MUSIC USA' published by the American Music National Piano Foundation and Conference and the National Association of Music Merchants." I wonder how "MUSIC USA" gets its numbers and how many digital piano manufacturers are members of the National Association of Music Merchants.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: What happened in 1980? - 05/30/20 01:39 AM
A friend posted an article on facebook today that I thought was pretty interesting. It even touches on the decline in piano sales and mentions that the zenith was 1910. Stuff that comes up here from time to time.

The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy (and Quality)

What I thought was interesting is that it also suggests a reason which I thought hadn't been suggested here, but a quick scan reveals that Turandot did touch on it. But this article calls it "the truth," and spells out a motivation behind it. Anyway, I thought it was interesting and relevant to this old thread.
Posted By: patH Re: What happened in 1980? - 05/30/20 09:44 AM
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
A friend posted an article on facebook today that I thought was pretty interesting. It even touches on the decline in piano sales and mentions that the zenith was 1910. Stuff that comes up here from time to time.

The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy (and Quality)

What I thought was interesting is that it also suggests a reason which I thought hadn't been suggested here, but a quick scan reveals that Turandot did touch on it. But this article calls it "the truth," and spells out a motivation behind it. Anyway, I thought it was interesting and relevant to this old thread.
That article looks familiar to me. I'm pretty sure it was already linked somewhere on PianoWorld.

I'm not sure if I already commented on it, but anyway, here goes.

The article is just the opinion of the writer. And I don't agree with it.
Sight-reading is only one aspect of learning music. Capella Scan can do it. Is Capella Scan a good musician?
Measuring the quality of music by variations in timbre, harmonics, loudness is possible; but there doesn't have to be a correlation between complexity and quality. If there was, music by Boulez or Stockhausen would be of significantly higher quality than music by Bach or Mozart.
And in pop music, hit factories writing a majority of pop music is hardly a new phenomenon. In the 1970s we had Chinnichap, in the 1980s Stock/Aitken/Waterman. And I am probably missing a few names.

About the "truth" that it's standardized tests that make schools drop music programs: It's only half of a truth. If music was in high demand, and there were standardized tests for music, there would be music programs. The other half of that particular truth is: The USA are capitalistic and have a market-oriented economy. And complex music does not have the demand as sports or sciences. Henschen even admits it by stating that today's music is designed to sell, not to inspire.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, plenty of musicians from the former East Block were out of work. What did they do? Hopped in trains and started playing in shopping zones of Western Europeans cities. Because this way, they still earned more money than by staying in their now capitalistic home countries.
So another solution to "solve" the "problem" of lesser musical "literacy" might be to also maybe start believing that unregulated market economy is not desirable; or that maybe there are more things to life than short-term profit. But I suspect that in the USA, many people are not open to this idea.
Posted By: j&j Re: What happened in 1980? - 05/30/20 01:05 PM
Originally Posted by patH
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
A friend posted an article on facebook today that I thought was pretty interesting. It even touches on the decline in piano sales and mentions that the zenith was 1910. Stuff that comes up here from time to time.

The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy (and Quality)

What I thought was interesting is that it also suggests a reason which I thought hadn't been suggested here, but a quick scan reveals that Turandot did touch on it. But this article calls it "the truth," and spells out a motivation behind it. Anyway, I thought it was interesting and relevant to this old thread.
That article looks familiar to me. I'm pretty sure it was already linked somewhere on PianoWorld.

I'm not sure if I already commented on it, but anyway, here goes.

The article is just the opinion of the writer. And I don't agree with it.
Sight-reading is only one aspect of learning music. Capella Scan can do it. Is Capella Scan a good musician?
Measuring the quality of music by variations in timbre, harmonics, loudness is possible; but there doesn't have to be a correlation between complexity and quality. If there was, music by Boulez or Stockhausen would be of significantly higher quality than music by Bach or Mozart.
And in pop music, hit factories writing a majority of pop music is hardly a new phenomenon. In the 1970s we had Chinnichap, in the 1980s Stock/Aitken/Waterman. And I am probably missing a few names.

About the "truth" that it's standardized tests that make schools drop music programs: It's only half of a truth. If music was in high demand, and there were standardized tests for music, there would be music programs. The other half of that particular truth is: The USA are capitalistic and have a market-oriented economy. And complex music does not have the demand as sports or sciences. Henschen even admits it by stating that today's music is designed to sell, not to inspire.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, plenty of musicians from the former East Block were out of work. What did they do? Hopped in trains and started playing in shopping zones of Western Europeans cities. Because this way, they still earned more money than by staying in their now capitalistic home countries.
So another solution to "solve" the "problem" of lesser musical "literacy" might be to also maybe start believing that unregulated market economy is not desirable; or that maybe there are more things to life than short-term profit. But I suspect that in the USA, many people are not open to this idea.

I’ll try to answer your post without going into a political debate, which is a bit hard to do. Capitalism didn’t kill music literacy. In fact, if anything after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall came down, several piano makers were saved from extinction by joining the European Union. Some of the reasons schools dropped music classes is because job openings for performing artists in the music industry are somewhat limited and only the most skilled can make a solid career from musical performance. This is exactly the same with sports. I don’t need to be a virtuoso accountant, or a virtuoso plumber to make a comfortable living. I do need to be near virtuoso level guitarist to make it in Nashville. Most of the waiters in Nashville play better guitar than I play piano after years of lessons and practice. The same with sports. The NFL or the NBA doesn’t draft the mediocre bench sitters. So high school and college students desperately need math and science skills to make a decent career for themselves. Plus, without math skills music theory is mysterious and difficult. Try explaining music timing to someone who never learned fractions.

Every year, here in the US, NAMM schedules a fly-in to Washington DC, to support music education in US skills. This effort has been successful. The public schools in my home state still offer free music programs with free instrument rentals. Capitalism isn’t the cause of music education being put on the back burner. Like sports, only the most talented, dedicated and determined can really succeed as performing artists, so it’s a darn good thing the rest of us are trained to find and keep a day job.
Posted By: dogperson Re: What happened in 1980? - 05/30/20 01:30 PM
Doesn’t music in schools depend on the individual school and school district budget? Unlike sports, classes in the arts are one of the first to go when the revenue is lean. It is really a case of ‘can We afford it’.

Want to help out? Donate to Mr Holland’s Opus Foundation which donates musical instruments to underfunded schools

https://www.mhopus.org/
Posted By: Sweelinck Re: What happened in 1980? - 05/30/20 08:10 PM
What happened in 1980 was that interest rates rose well into double digits so that anyone who would finance the purchase of a piano could no longer afford to do so. Couple this with the sharply rising prices and (in my opinion) sharply declining quality of newly made pianos throughout the 1970’s, and the purchase of a new piano was not a very attractive proposition in the 1980’s. At that time, a rebuilt vintage piano was a much more attractive value proposition. And Sitka spruce for soundboards was in short supply. One major piano maker moved to using blue spruce at that time.

The shrinking of the demand reduced the demand pressure on raw materials and quality eventually was restored to many brands of pianos, while production of some pianos or their components was moved to countries with lower labor cost to produce lower cost pianos.
Posted By: j&j Re: What happened in 1980? - 05/31/20 04:26 PM
Originally Posted by Sweelinck
What happened in 1980 was that interest rates rose well into double digits so that anyone who would finance the purchase of a piano could no longer afford to do so. Couple this with the sharply rising prices and (in my opinion) sharply declining quality of newly made pianos throughout the 1970’s, and the purchase of a new piano was not a very attractive proposition in the 1980’s. At that time, a rebuilt vintage piano was a much more attractive value proposition. And Sitka spruce for soundboards was in short supply. One major piano maker moved to using blue spruce at that time.

The shrinking of the demand reduced the demand pressure on raw materials and quality eventually was restored to many brands of pianos, while production of some pianos or their components was moved to countries with lower labor cost to produce lower cost pianos.

Sounds like a good and true historic summary. My hope is just as the electric guitar won’t really replace the acoustic guitar, because the acoustic guitar is real guitar music. Music made on acoustic instruments is pure, unsynthesized, and true. I think most posters on this Forum feel the same about it. It’s always more difficult because you can’t hide mistakes as easily. For me, I like no wait, no settings piano sound. I don’t need an instruction book.
Posted By: johnstaf Re: What happened in 1980? - 05/31/20 06:44 PM
I've never been interested in acoustic guitars -only electric. Pianos should be acoustic though... 😁
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