April 2012 Archives

Japan Music Trades 2011 Retail Music Market Survey

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102 Music Dealers throughout Japan Respond
The retailers reported that they had felt continuous economic pressure during the year. Some pointed prevailing negative consumer sentiment because of the North-eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami in March, which resulted in shortage of product supply by damage to manufacturing bases of major businesses in the area, and the effect of devastating flood in Thailand in September. However many attributed the stagnant sales to poor political and economic conditions as the primary reason.

The holiday season business from the end of December to the beginning of January kept the level of the year before last as 32 retailers reported no change in their sales. Thirty five retailers commented that their sales went up, which was 6.6% less than the previous year, and 27 retailers reported stagnant sales which was 3.6% lower than 2010.

Probably because of the unimpressive performance of the year end/new year season, 58 retailers, which are more than 50% of the total, view flat sales for 2012. It looks that their reserved comments are much related to uncertainty for future. Though some retailers expressed hopes for additional sales before sales tax increase bill will pass the diet in coming months. They see their business don't move as expected for the time being. Some retailers commented declining store sales as large music chains are expanding business on the net. As a result, they are threatened by increasing price competition.

Acoustic piano sales are back
Seeing the sales results by product categories, piano is regaining strength. The number of retailers who replied increased sales of acoustic piano was the largest in the recent 3 years. Strong demands for Yamaha b series upright piano contributed to the favorable results.

Music teaching studios for adults have been expanded steadily during the decade. Healthy sales growth of acoustic instruments including violin tells that they are largely favored by adult music makers. Acoustic guitars also sold well as Kana Uemura's hit song featured guitar. The retailers reported acoustic guitar generated interest for music playing among women and young users.

Stable school market as well as popularity by amateur players at music teaching studios supported favorable sales of woodwind and brass instruments last year. Twenty eight retailers reported increased sales of them which significantly grew from the previous year.

The music products most supported by retailers last year included large keyboard instruments, acoustic pianos in particular, in higher unit price, wind instruments and guitars. Eleven retailers reported that Yamaha b113 and b113SD upright pianos much contributed to their sales, and 9 retailers commented that stable demands for Buffet Crampon R13 and R13SP continued as a standard model. They also replied increased sales for Kawai upright and digital pianos, and digital pianos of Roland, Casio and Korg.

Kawai has upgraded its top line Shigeru Kawai grand pianos early this year. After the official launch at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California in January, the company organized press/dealer conferences with exceptional response at Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.

New Shigeru Kawai models include:
SK-7 229cm
SK-6 214cm
SK-5 200cm
SK-3 189cm
SK-2 180cm (retail price from ¥2,350,000 to ¥5,900,000)

With SK-EX as the top model of the line, Shigeru Kawai full concert grand pianos are regulated by Kawai's MPA (Master Piano Artisan) technicians. Their warm and thick sounds along with outstanding quality are much appraised by professionals, educators and music students. China has become a fast growing market for Kawai these years as the pianos have won reputation in major music academies.

First introduced in 1999, the company has distributed more than 5,000 Shigeru Kawai pianos in the world markets. Consistent efforts for improvement have been carried since then, however, a comprehensive refinement project started 10 years after the initial launch based on accumulated technological advancement and to reflect customer feedback. The renewed models were designed in pursuit of lighter and easy to control key touch employing longer key length than the conventional models, while maintaining highly acclaimed tonal quality. (photos: Koichi Kawai, founder, left and Shigeru Kawai, past president)  

Improved key touch
Piano keys dip about 10mms when pressed whether it's full concert model or standard type in regular size. But players feel the keys are lighter with full concert piano because the keys are pressed deeper than standard size concert piano. New Shigeru Kawai models have longer keys almost equivalent to those of full concert piano. Making the key a little longer, pianist feels the difference immediately. Shoe Eitaki, manager, Product Planning and Quality Assurance, Piano Division, explains, "General belief is full concert grand piano has heavier, and stiffer key touch. On the contrary, it's easy to control thanks to longer keys which provide larger key stoke for the player. For 12 months, we studied extensively to find best balance of the key length and control. Nevertheless it wasn't an easy task." (photo: Ryuyo factory)

To offset increased elasticity of longer key, the Kawai engineers have examined its thickness and bracing material. Stiffened keys with increased thickness and reinforcement resulted in more flexible speed control of hammers, and wider dynamic tone range. As the key becomes longer, pinblock has extended naturally. The Longer pinblock allows more reliable tuning, and gives piano sound greater resonance well comparable with full concert grand piano. (photo right, Shoe Eitaki, left and Toru Yoshihara)  

New Shigeru Kawai models feature a soundboard with its rigidness enhanced by hybrid hard maple composite rim. While pinblock and rim have been built a little bit larger, the frame comes in the same size. As a result, the total measurement and weight of the pianos remained almost unchanged.

The agraffe employs the same parts used for the EX full concert pianos to achieve improved precision, sturdiness and stable tonality. The SK-5 and upper models come with a box wood bridge like the EX models for upgraded sound projection and brilliant tonal color.

These massive improvements definitely influenced the sound of new Shigeru Kawai pianos. Pianists who tested them before distribution highly appraised their pure distinctive tone, increasingly powerful fortessimo, and comfortable play feel. The piano technicians also cite the new models of their advanced stability of the tuning pins which keeps correct tuning level long after regulation.

Kawai's relentless challenge for quality is rooted in Standard Piano Manufacturing Laboratory in Ryuyo factory, Hamamatsu. Eitaki says, "We have been pursuing ultimate piano as we build pianos with every major parts crafted by veteran craftsmen. All EX and SK-EX full concert grand pianos are built there with meticulous hands of master piano builders. We must be prepared to cope with unexpected manufacturing conditions such as unavailability of materials, or inconsistency in manufacturing. " New Shigeru Kawai models are also built following the tradition.

Late Shigeru Kawai, former president of Kawai, always commented that authentic piano sound that inspires our emotion can only be built by seasoned human hands. How much ever technology advances, genuine craftsmen who perfectly understand natural woods can build the finest quality pianos.

Another refinement of new Shigeru Kawai pianos is specially selected bird's eye maple cosmetic rim employed for SK-3 and upper models, and SK-2 at additional cost. It gives the piano owner pleasure of having artistic instrument.

Contrasting soft piano sales in general in Japan, Shigeru Kawai pianos have enjoyed consistent growth these couple of years. The North-eastern earthquake & tsunami didn't affect the sales performance last year. In fact, they recorded a modest increase. It tells that they are winning support from professional and high-end amateurs. Kawai expects 1,500 total sales of the new Shigeru Kawai pianos in the world markets.

Toru Yoshihara, assistant manager, Public Relations Dept. says, "We plan to increase exposure of the new models starting at our retail shops in Tokyo and Nagoya. Customers are invited to the showrooms of our authorized dealers to try them after April or May. We already started overseas distribution in March. Kawai Music Indonesia which we launched last October will expand our distribution network in Asia. We hope more and more people simply touch the keys and feel elaborate sound of the new pianos."

Founder, Koichi Kawai's philosophy to build the finest piano in the world has been shared by the management and workers for 85 years since the beginning of piano manufacturing at Kawai. Their relentless challenge goes on.