On occasions, the monthly routine of putting this magazine together is interrupted by a call to my office from a private individual or company representative wishing to 'pick my brains' about certain matters related to this wonderful industry. Usually it is from a 'hopeful' software designer looking to bring out another patch librarian and wanting to know how many CZ-101s or DX7s have been sold in this country. And the answer I give them is always the same: "Sorry but I don't know. Perhaps you could ask the manufacturers...?" One such call recently (from a major manufacturer I hasten to add) left me wondering whether statistics are actually available for the number of UK sales of particular synths, tape machines etc. 'Surely this industry is professional enough to keep such records?', I quizzed myself.
On that very same day, ironically, a copy of an American recording magazine landed on my desk and, lo and behold, what did it contain? None other than an analysis of importation figures of keyboards into the USA conducted by the American Music Conference. And what a fascinating conglomerate of facts it proved to be!
Did you know, for instance, that between 1980 and 1985 US imports of synthesizers, mini-keyboards and organs rose by a phenomenal 890%, from $21 million to $208 million in 1985! Who said this was a declining market? That 1985 sum represents a total of 1,331,000 imported electronic keyboards, 98% of which came from Japan. Despite these impressive numbers, the US synth industry is holding its own. Exports of American synthesizers rose by 21% in numbers of units with the greatest increase of shipments going to (would you believe?) Switzerland and Japan!
My brief research into the UK situation drew a blank. Figures are hard to come by and manufacturers are cagey and reluctant to disclose sales levels of their products in anything other than percentage terms (if that!). Since this industry contains peripheral companies, independent of the majors, who are busily creating and attempting to market associated products such as CZ/DX/JX software etc, would it not be a great help to them if accurate sales totals were openly available so that they could enter the market fully aware of its size? If nothing else, it would help prevent unsuspecting parties from over-estimating their potential sales of MIDI peripherals, software etc, and going bust as a consequence. It may even benefit everyone in the longterm by encouraging more sales of such related goods, since the public's natural reluctance to purchase items that typically fall into the 'here today, gone tomorrow - what about the back-up you promised?' category, is well-founded. Nobody likes to be left high and dry. The 'once bitten twice shy' attitude of the public, created through the general short-sightedness of certain companies, is what currently holds the UK market back. A 'sale' is hard to come by in the present climate, so I am continually being told. Perhaps that is why sales statistics are equally hard to come by?
I shall be pursuing this avenue further and will, if fruitful, publish my findings. In the meantime, if anyone reading this is prepared to supply details of their product sales in any hi-tech instrument/recording field, I shall be only too pleased to receive them.
It's about time we ALL knew exactly how 'big' this business is. So come on, let's be professional and start taking this industry serious!
Editorial by Ian Gilby
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