On 29 September Cremona Musica is hosting the Italian Forum of Musical Instrument, a moment of discussion on the condition of this economic sector, that is very important in the Italian tradition and culture. The starting point will be, as usual, the awaited report Osservatorio Dismamusica, a detailed study on the health of music shops. To have some previews (the data will be disclosed at Cremona Musica) we talked with Antonio Monzino, the president of Dismamusica, the Italian association representing the world of musical instruments production, distribution, and sale.
Mr. Monzino, first of all, what is your report saying this year?
Like every year, we tried to add new information, to offer a more detailed analysis, together with Cattolica University of Milan and the Professor Antoldi, partner of this project. Just releasing the number on instruments that were sold last year, dividing them into sectors, is not enough to have an idea, also because there is a growing online market that it is difficult to estimate with precision. But we can make ourselves an idea about them. The data on the shops suggest a small decrease, after the moderate growth of last year, but we must consider that we cannot have access to the data of the growing online market. In this report there are positive data: the export is increasing, Made in Italy is more and more synonymous of quality for musical instruments, but most of all I think it is really encouraging that music schools are all full, and in compulsory schooling the requests to study an instruments are more than those that the system can now guarantee. Parents are starting to understand that learning an instrument is very important in the education of young people, with good effects on all the life of the person.
Musical education is a fundamental field for this market.
Yes, and fortunately we are experiencing an important shift, even if a little late in comparison with the rest of the world. In the past, in Italy, people used to learn an instrument only in order to become a musician, therefore they did not buy many instruments. Let’s say that 80% of the instruments sold were for professional use and just 20% for amateurs. These percentages are gradually changing, it might soon be quite the opposite, because the amatorial use increasing, even if we are far from the levels of other foreign countries. People are starting to understand they can study music as a passion, and it has positive effects on many aspects of daily life, especially in today’s multicultural society. Playing together teaches to stay together, teamwork, communication. There are researches showing that playing music has good effects on health, preventing and fighting also some serious diseases, and has good effects in preventing small crimes, school drop-out, and bullying.
Many members of the institutions are taking part in your forum, what would you ask them?
I have just mentioned the benefits of music on people, and they remind me of the benefits of physical activity. Well, I do not understand why there are tax cuts for people attendingthe gym and not for those attending music lessons. Or a reduced VAT, as a cultural product. It would be a demonstration of change and civilization. In Portuga,l there is a reduced VAN since 2018 since they recognized that musical instruments are a cultural product. Music shops are places of culture, so we should treat them as such.
Music shops are now suffering from the competition of online markets. What do consumers find on the internet that they could not find in a shop?
It is a trend affecting all the field, not just us. I hope that technologies, that changed our lifestyle, would not cancel human interaction, because isolation is exactly the opposite of what making music together means. People are attracted by the web because of prices, but they are missing much more. Who attends real shops can meet people sharing his same values and the same will to play, can receive advice, is welcomed and retained. The acoustic field in not suffering so much, as musicians rarely are OK buying an acoustic instrument without having listened and tried it.
What can sellers do, nowadays, to react?
There is not a single and easy solution. Observing the good practices, some of them have found their space also in the online market, with good results, or are organizing themselves in cooperatives, but these are just some of the possible solutions. Big and small shops should offer more services, such as lessons, the possibility to consult for free methods and scores, repair, contacts of teachers, spaces to play… The customers should be welcomed in an inspiring ambient, with a smile, should be listened and receive advice for a purchase that fits his needs, even if it is not the most profitable. A satisfied customer always comes back…
The venue where this report is presented is not casual: Cremona Musica
Cremona is internationally known for its prestigious history, but also for the capacity to make that history live again. I think our country should have a national hub of musical instrument, and it should be Cremona. The scope is to gather at Cremona Musica every year, to think about the future of the field, and we will work as an association to make collaborate to expand the fair, with other categories of instruments, to create new moments of information and professional growth for the operators. The success and the evolution of the fair today stand in the capacity to give the professional visitors new knowledge and proposal to face the challenges and the transformation imposed by the market. Cremona has all the credential to play this role.