My last few blog posts have been squarely focused on the current and more recent situation in the musical instrument and pro audio business, much of which called out the challenging times we find ourselves in. Our “aspirational customers” are still sitting it out on the sidelines, there’s way too much fretted instrument inventory in the channel, and uncertainty permeates the dealer community. Add to that a blistering summer, and you can see how easy it is to fall into a mindset of despair. Then something dawned on me when I was asked to perform at a local community day in my old hometown – it had been months since I had picked up my guitar and played.
Music is the Magic Elixir
There is no question that I choose to stay busy. Perhaps too much lately is going on between running my rep firm Reflex Marketing, distribution company Music Ship, launching Bodhi Guitars, and building out what we hope to be a unique “Arts Experience” store in Gilbertsville, PA. Most days are a whirlwind, with barely time to keep up, let alone take some time to myself. But I couldn’t say no to my friend Andy who asked me to set up and play a couple sets of acoustic music in front of his coffee shop, so off I went with my AER Compact 60/4, Breedlove Jeff Bridges Oregon Concerto, and an Audix OM5. The great thing about this rig is how quickly and easily it sets up, without compromising volume or tone. Yes, I am stuck in the 60’s and 70’s so off I careened down memory lane with songs by The Beatles, Moody Blues, The Who, Neil Young, ELP and others that have remained in my set list for decades. And the minute I started playing, nothing else mattered. No racing thoughts about payroll, spreadsheets, budgets, or deadlines. No distractions, just that beautiful feeling that only music can bring.
Paying the Price
It was about the fourth song when my fingers started to scream at me. I had lost much of my callouses and was paying the price. But the show must go on, and playing with discomfort reminded me that I should never have gone this long between gigs, let alone picking up a guitar. But that aside, it was an incredibly enjoyable time, and I felt great doing it. Shocking as it may sound, a listener came up and stuffed a $10 bill into the recessed handle of my AER, and the gentleman insisted that I keep the money, although I didn’t feel worthy of receiving such a generous tip. The moral of this story? Get out and play. Go do your thing, whatever it may be, and experience the inherent joy that playing an instrument brings. This past weekend, I also attended Gearld Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp, where the conversations and interactions with other musicians were quite pleasant.
The “Why” in Our Industry
Without question I spend an inordinate amount of time on my business ventures, but this chance to perform reminded me of why we do this in the first place. It’s certainly not for glory or riches; more likely a young rocker’s dream that veered into musical instrument sales. That was 43 years ago, and I’m still pinching myself that this is how I’ve made a living. And I am also vowing, right here and now, never to let my fingers get so soft again. I can’t do another gig like that, so I’m making the commitment to take some time each day to pick up a guitar or lay my hands on an electric piano at our new lesson studios. Perhaps this was a wakeup call, one that was needed to jolt myself back to understanding what’s important. And on a side note, despite all the obstacles we managed to have a pretty good summer from a financial perspective, with sales coming in from unexpected sectors – I guess you really can “have it all.” I’m grateful to be alive today, and in the position to enjoy my 63rd birthday this week!