What Makes a Good Music Store

When I was asked to write an article on what makes a good music store, I found myself reflecting on the numerous stores I have visited in my years. Having spent the majority of my life in music stores, I have shopped, managed, and/or been a manufacturer’s representative to countless stores throughout the years. My first real music store was a little shop in the local town where I was raised. Of course this was before mail order catalogs and internet shopping carts. My mother used to drop me off at the local shop while she would go to the grocery store. Though the owner most likely didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, I looked forward to my mothers’ weekly grocery visit with great anticipation. It was in this store I began my education in the music business. From guitars to p.a. systems, it was here I started my life long journey. It became a sort of hub for musicians to meet and exchange ideas, phone numbers, guitar licks, etc. Ultimately, I met other players from there and formed various bands, many of which are still close friends today. I don’t know of many shopping experiences that unravel in such a way. I was introduced to “up and coming brands” such as Ibanez, Crate, Kramer, and others that were affordable to working musicians. This was thinking outside the box before we even had a box. Yes indeed, this was a cool store!

As I continued my journey I found myself seeking music stores in every town I traveled through. Technology was moving fast and the music industry was no exception. Digital processing, MIDI , multitrack recording, and other advancements made for a new, “specialized” store. Gone were the days of guitar guys selling sticks and amps. We needed more than some guy saying, “This guitar has got it”. We had questions, and lots of them! What order should I place my stomp boxes for optimum sound quality? How does the effects loop work? How do I bounce tracks? What is MIDI ?? Yes, it was time for a new breed of stores. I found that store and began harassing them just as I had done years ago. I bought my first 4 track cassette recorder there. They taught me the basics of multitrack recording. I even learned about in-house revolving charge cards! More on that at a later time. Another thing that really made this store the happening place was the local guitar guy wasn’t only gear savvy, he was the cat that knew how to play all those cool chords and didn’t mind sharing them. We went to him for guidance and most of all, approval. If this guy said you were good, then you must be good. With that approval came a whole new world of opportunities. His approval of me landed me a teaching job in that very store. Was this store cool, or what??!!!


Jumping forward many years, I ultimately became the manager of one of the cool stores and tried to remember what made certain shops stand out from the rest. The key factors were obvious. Pricing and selection are important, but alone they don’t make it happen. Finding new products that aren’t yet branded and looking outside that box is an exciting way to attract customers. Remember asking “Who makes those Paul Reed guitars?“ Keep it interesting!! Knowledgeable salespeople are mandatory. If your p.a. guy doesn’t know how to hookup a crossover, you’ve got problems. Strive to make the store a meeting hub for musicians. Promoting local talent can only help your bottom line. Look for that local hero and get them teaching or working in your store. It’s only my opinion, but I think this is crucial. Most musicians aren’t looking for clerks, they’re looking for validation. To use a phrase from a local icon and store owner who recently passed away, “some people come in just to get their cool card punched.” Keep in mind, this is not meant with arrogance whatsoever, though there is a fair amount of truth in that statement. I tried to remember not to focus on big sales solely. It’s easy to forget about ordering that one customers’ single Rotosound low B string, but when he’s been to four other stores and had no luck, who do you think they will remember when you call them and tell them their string is in? Little things can really add up.


There are so many things that make a good music store and I hope some of these help. Try some of them. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to baby-sit a budding 12 year old guitarist once a week while their Mom shops for groceries. Be nice and patient, he may be your store manager someday.

by Trey Childress - United Sales Associates, Inc.

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