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JustinJ
12-09-2015, 03:42 AM
I noticed that several music stores in my area have let their ukulele stock dwindle. I was just in a privately owned large music store and they had very few ukuleles in stock. They had about 5 Dolphins on the wall. I'm thinking these were orderd for Christmas. There were no tenors or concerts. Before they had different brands and even electric ukes.



One trend I've noticed in my area is the growth of acoustic guitars and acoustic electric. There were many more different size acoustic guitars. There were many crossovers, 1/2 size, 3/4, and etc.. I would say that the store I referenced above had a 100 acoustic guitars in stock. This is not guitar center or corporate owned. I was surprised at the number of acoustic guitars.

The acoustic guitars seem to have doubled in the amount they carry. I've noticed this in other stores that I visited. The electric guitars do not seem to be growing from what I've noticed.

Are the ukulele players moving to acoustic guitar?

Are people picking up acoustic guitar instead of the ukulele as a first instrument?

Is anyone else noticing this trend in their area?

I also thought that perhaps many ukulele players are no longer purchasing as many ukuleles or they're having customs built.

70sSanO
12-09-2015, 04:03 AM
I haven't really been following any current trends. But trends follow the music that is most popular at the time. In the mid-60's electric guitars pretty much dominated music stores and acoustics made a return to some extent. And it has gone back and forth from there.

As for ukuleles, except for certain periods of time, such as the 20's and possibly the 50's, they have not been a dominant instrument. There has been the obvious ukulele explosion through the 2000's but I think there has been some decline or at least a leveling off for a while.

As for a first instrument, I was born in 1951 so I went through the folk, surf, british, hippie, and hard rock trends. Trends are what influences kids and I don't think that has changed. I don't see the ukulele really being mainstream. It is what it is.

John

UkieOkie
12-09-2015, 04:25 AM
Since Oklahoma and the middle of the country in general seem to lag on trends I am not seek that much here. As a matter of fact some of the stores around here are just getting more serious about Ukes.

JustinJ
12-09-2015, 04:28 AM
I live in the North East. You make a good point. I was not sure if it was something that was happening in certain regions of the U.S.


Since Oklahoma and the middle of the country in general seem to lag on trends I am not seek that much here. As a matter of fact some of the stores around here are just getting more serious about Ukes.

janeray1940
12-09-2015, 04:50 AM
My local non-corporate shop has ukes galore - pretty much always has. Sales in general on all instruments are down but I haven't seen much evidence that players are ditching the uke in favor of guitar - I certainly have no plans to! At the shop, guitar classes are still more popular and always have been, but the uke classes are going strong too.

spookelele
12-09-2015, 05:01 AM
if only they made "Ukulele Hero" maybe it would be more popular.

Rllink
12-09-2015, 05:07 AM
When I started playing the ukulele, and it wasn't that long ago, absolutely no one I knew played the ukulele. I had several friends that were playing guitars, but no ukes. And in the almost two years that I have been playing ukulele, I've met very few other ukulele players. They are out there, but I'm not finding them. I'm always amazed at people who have hundreds of ukulele players in their clubs. I have found only one other ukulele player who is willing to get together with me to jam. But, I have several guitar players who like to get together, and welcome me to play with them. And, of course, they always try to convert me to guitar, which they are not very successful in doing.

My local music store, the only music store in the town where I live, has lots of guitars hanging on the wall, but not much for ukes. And they never have had much for ukes. They used to have one of the lower end Lanikais in each size hanging on the wall, and a concert size Fender. That was it. Now they have replaced the Lanikais with Amari ukuleles. They have a couple of method books, and they carry some cheapie strings.

Booli
12-09-2015, 05:43 AM
I plan to visit my local shop either later today or tomorrow. They are both a Kala and Cordoba dealer. The last time I was there, about 6 months ago, they had at least a dozen different Kala, and about 6 different Cordoba ukes on the wall, and can order anything from either maker, and it takes about 2 weeks to get. I bought my first uke (Kala KA-T) from them back in April 2013.

So, once I go in there, I will survey the current offerings and talk to them and report my findings back here. Hopefully this can add a data point of some value from here in Northern NJ, USA.

RichM
12-09-2015, 05:54 AM
I don't know the actual numbers, but I'd wager shops sell 100 guitars for every uke they sell, maybe more.

Edit to add: I stand corrected! I reviewed the NAMM Report for 2014, and according to NAMM, about 1.4 million acoustic guitars were sold in North America, versus about 900K ukuleles. That's much, much closer than I would have guessed.

Also interesting: The NAMM report shows a steady growth in Ukulele sales until 2012, when they began declining slightly; based on the number provided, uke sales were about 450K in 2007, grew to about 1 million in 2012, and decline to about 900K in 2013.

Conversely, acoustic guitar sales (in units) declined slightly until 2009, and been increasing slightly since then.

So the numbers seem to bear it out; ukulele sales are declining, and acoustic guitar sales are increasing.

Digging deeper: the 1.4M acoustic guitars represent about $600M in revenue, while the 900K ukes represent about $65M in revenue. That works out to about $428 in revenue per guitar versus $72 in revenue per uke. Seems that the uke volume is strongly oriented towards lower-priced ukes. In market share terms, that means that even though there is not a huge difference in units sold, acoustic guitars represent nearly 35% of dollars spent, while ukes represent only 4%. Seems like acoustic guitars provide quite a bit more value to a shop.

kohanmike
12-09-2015, 06:41 AM
I went into Sam Ash recently in Hollywood, CA and they have more ukuleles then ever, including Kala U-basses, conversely, the Guitar Center right across the street has fewer ukes. In fact, Sam Ash has more of everything than Guitar Center. But for ukes, I go to either U-Space in Downtown LA, or McCabe's in Santa Monica.

Nickie
12-09-2015, 06:43 AM
Thanks Rich!
Very enlightening comments. Numbers talk, don't they?
Seems like a lot of guitar players won't even dream of touching a "baby guitar", or a "toy instrument".
But I talk to someone almost every week who used to play, or whose parent or grandparent used to play, but have no inclination to pick it up now. Lots of people raise an eyebrow or chuckle when they find out I play, but still others go "Wow, that sounds so cool."
I recently met a classical guitarist who wants to take up the uke because I showed her how it can rehabilitate her injured hands.
Our local Sam Ash Music store has moved the ukuleles to a less visible part of the store, from the guitar area to the violin area. The banjos and mandolins still live with the guitars. But they have low end (Makala) to Cordoba to Martin ukes. The only strings they sell are Aquila. They have a few ukulele song books, I think they need more.
Last year I met a boy, age 8, whose Mom I was taking care of. I showed him the uke, which he showed no interest in, and his grandparents bought him an electric guitar, which he took right to. I think a lot of kids still have no idea what the uke is all about, but will jump right into guitar.
I wonder if a band like the UOGB could ever become as famous as the Beatles?

JustinJ
12-09-2015, 07:19 AM
It's very interesting to read what others are seeing. I've not found a lot of uke players in my area. I'm like Rlink in this regard.

*slightly off topic

I use to think of the uke as a small guitar. But since starting guitar 3 months ago, I have had to change my opinion. The uke is its own unique instrument. I've grown to appreciate the uke even more now and it offers a unique sound and is a very versatile instrument. Unfortunately, people think of Tiny Tim when they hear about a uke.

Likewise, the guitar offers the bass strings. You can play fuller chords but there's something about the singing voice of a ukulele that a guitar does not match in my opinion.

I was thinking today that the uke would be a good first instrument for children learning music in elementary school. I remember the recorder but the uke seems like a better instrument. The kids could make chords and do melody. With the recorder, they are only playing the melody.

janeray1940
12-09-2015, 07:27 AM
I was thinking today that the uke would be a good first instrument for children learning music in elementary school. I remember the recorder but the uke seems like a better instrument. The kids could make chords and do melody. With the recorder, they are only playing the melody.

If you're not already familiar with it, you might be interested in reading about the Canadian school ukulele system (https://www.ukuleleintheclassroom.com/). I agree completely with you - and even though uke was my first instrument as a child, a couple years before recorder, for the most part all I recall doing with it was picking out melodies - and soon abandoning it for failed attempts at piano, guitar and bass... until I came to my senses and picked up the uke again in my mid-40s!

Croaky Keith
12-09-2015, 07:47 AM
Unfortunately, ukes look a bit too similar to a toy guitar for comfort, in a lot of peoples perception.

I used to associate the ukulele with George Formby & Alan Randall, neither of whom did anything for my music taste.
(Corny lyrics & comic performances made the thought of playing one just so naff!)

Having re evaluated this little instrument, I now know that it can handle serious music, & I am enjoying learning to play mine.

Regarding guitars, I have always found them to be a handful & rather unweildy, probably why I never got very far with mine.

(The harmonica was another instrument associated with childrens toys, but is also a serious instrument, & difficult to play well.)

70sSanO
12-09-2015, 08:19 AM
Some peolple may not agree, but the ukulele is the best first instrument and... last instrument. All the reasons previously given make it a great first instrument. And it really is easier to learn and master than a guitar.

As a last instrument, it fills a potential void when playing the guitar is no longer fun or has become too difficult. Guitar instrumentals require so much more to cover all the strings effectively with more difficult stretches. With the exception of John King's technique, working through a popular ukulele instrumental is not that difficult. Being proficient enough to play it at a high standard may be a different story, but being able to play it "well enough" is possible for a lot of people. This is what leads guitarists who never quite mastered the instrument, or wore out their hands out to where they can't play the way they want, to the ukulele. There comes a time when we realize that not everyone can be Guitar Hero.

But for a teenager looking a first real instrument with visions of stardom...

John

TheBathBird
12-09-2015, 08:47 AM
Interesting thread :)

I wonder what the more specialist ukulele sellers are finding as regards a decline in ukulele sales. I bought my first uke from our local music shop, the selection was tiny, nothing bigger than a concert and none of the brands that I'd come across on this forum. And the staff knew nothing about ukes. Every ukulele I've bought since (and there have been a few, obviously!) has either come from the marketplace here, or online from one of the few UK shops that actually know about ukuleles and do proper set ups. I guess I'm just wondering whether people are still buying ukes, but fewer of them are buying from general music shops.

Here in the UK Southern Ukulele Store now stock Kanile'a, KoAloha, and Kamaka, none of which were available when I started playing, which would at least suggest that there is now a market for the higher end brands (bearing in mind we pay a lot more for them on this side of the pond). Of course that might just be because we're lagging behind the US uke-wise.

SteveZ
12-09-2015, 09:30 AM
It's all about the marketing,especially the indirect marketing.

When one goes to a concert or views a concert on TV, how often does one see a ukulele played seriously versus how often is the same true for guitar? In fact, other than an occasional beer commercial, I can't recall seeing a uke on TV at all, and that was a humor pitch. The closest I can remember of a uke being viewed seriously among other instruments was when Jake S. used to perform with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band, and Jake was credited and treated as a peer among a bandful of darned good guitarists and others.

Folk need to see an instrument being used seriously to regard it as a "real" musical instrument. That viewing gets the biggest bang-for-the-buck when the uke player is one (or more) in a group with a bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums and, if possible, a horn or two. A uke played solo or as part of a uke-only group is still seen by many as a novelty. Until that changes, the on-the-shelf market will remain limited since stores usually display what sells the fastest.

johnson430
12-09-2015, 09:36 AM
Guitar instrumentals require so much more to cover all the strings effectively with more difficult stretches. With the exception of John King's technique, working through a popular ukulele instrumental is not that difficult. Being proficient enough to play it at a high standard may be a different story, but being able to play it "well enough" is possible for a lot of people. This is what leads guitarists who never quite mastered the instrument, or wore out their hands out to where they can't play the way they want, to the ukulele.

John

John, you bring up some great points. I started out as an acoustic guitar player then moved to uke. After almost a year of uke I thought I had the guitar bug so I waited for a good deal on a scratch and dent classical...
and here it sits.

More often than not I find myself grabbing one of my ukes instead of working on my classical guitar though, for the very reasons you have stated.
(and the fact that my 2 year old takes up quite a bit of my 'free' time)

I am glad I have it and I put some good strings on it but I am honestly more interested in perfecting my uke skills at this moment.
Perhaps I can start to work in more time for guitar when the new year starts.
But we all know how that goes.


BTW, JustinJ, this is an interesting topic and I have enjoyed reading everyone's posts.

Rllink
12-09-2015, 09:51 AM
If the subject comes up, when I tell someone I play the ukulele, I seldom get much of a reaction at all. Most people just don't say anything. Most of my guitar playing friends are studying classical guitar. They like to talk about it a lot. It seems that the studying is as much of the experience as the playing, and it seems to be a solitary activity, as close as I can tell. None of them have every expressed any interest at all in my ukulele. Often times they ask me if I am going to take up the guitar, and I usually say no, and ask them if they are going to take up the ukulele. The rest of my guitar playing friends are into folk music, blues, and bluegrass. They are more into putting their heart into their music and are quite a bit more social with their music. They seem to be less concerned with the technical aspects of the instruments, and tend to just see my ukulele as a different voice. None of them have given my ukulele much more than a passing interest. I do have one friend who plays guitar and ukulele. He plays a baritone. But really, I'm not seeing very many people who are interested in playing the ukulele.

Dejekt
12-09-2015, 11:10 AM
Unfortunately, people think of Tiny Tim when they hear about a uke.



Why is that a bad thing? :( While a lot of his music was comedic in nature, the man was amazing.

Rllink
12-09-2015, 11:33 AM
Why is that a bad thing? :( While a lot of his music was comedic in nature, the man was amazing.I don't take offense to people bringing up Tiny Tim. With all the talk about the popularity of the ukulele, which as I said before, I've not seen outside of the ukulele community itself, why is it that most people's exposure to the ukulele is based on a guy who played the ukulele in a 60s comedy variety show? Anyway, sometimes people ask me if I can play Tip Toe Through the Tulips, and my response always is that don't know the words, but I can figure out the chords if they want to sing it. I've never had anyone take me up on it, but I always get a laugh from that.

70sSanO
12-09-2015, 11:51 AM
Why is that a bad thing? :( While a lot of his music was comedic in nature, the man was amazing.

Not to turn this into a TT discussion... Yes, in some circles, but for someone who was in their teens at the time, it is difficult to connect with Tiny Tim when compared to Cream, Allman Bros, Santana, Led Zeppelin, CS&N, etc. For decades the ukulele was associated with him, regardless of his talent, the mainstream never took him seriously and he became synonymous with Laugh-In.

John

mds725
12-09-2015, 01:03 PM
For what it's worth, Tiny Tim played a plinky sorpano ukulele that he kept slightly out of tune for comedic effect. He was actually a talented musician with a very nice non-falsetto voice, and he was very knowledgeable about music from the 1920s, when the ukulele became the darling of the Tin Pan Alley musicwriting crowd (Singing' In The Rain, while associated with Gene Kelly, was written for the ukulele and was introduced by Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards), and the 1930s and 1940s. It's hard for me to believe that after several years of Jake Shimabukuro and other modern-day ukulele players, people are still strongly associating the ukulele with only Tiny Tim.

In my own ukulele journey, I have migrated a little bit to baritone ukulele and tenor guitar with Chicago tuning (DGBE, like a baritone uke) in search of a more acoustic guitar-like sound for songs where the ukulele 's voice doesn't feel quite right. It's possible that other ukulele players are looking into other stringed instruments for additional music challenges or variety, that the ukulele market has become a bit saturated, or that there's simply an uptick in the interest in acoustic guitars that's independent of the ukulele's popularity.

70sSanO
12-09-2015, 01:15 PM
People associate the ukulele with Tiny Tim and not Jake because most people are not on UU and have never ever heard of Jake Shimabukuro. I have yet to meet a non-ukulele person who has heard of him. This site is an anomaly when it comes to any familiarity with the ukulele and its artists.

John

Doc_J
12-09-2015, 01:50 PM
Few things move in straight line. Looks like Ukulele sales were up in 2014 to over a million ukes sold. About +5% over 2013 sales.

http://www.statista.com/statistics/448450/number-of-ukuleles-sold-in-the-us/

I've certainly contributed to the sales stats! :)

hollisdwyer
12-09-2015, 05:05 PM
On the subject of 'Uke Awareness', here is a list (alphabetised of course) of the Uke playing people or groups that I am familiar with after first picking up my first Uke two years ago:
Danielle at the sandwich
Jim Beloff
Zooey Deschanel
Eddie Vedder
George Formby
Arthur Godfrey
Aldrine Guerrero
George Harrison
James Hill
Daniel Ho
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
John King
Wiiam H Macy
Madonna
Paul McCartney
Herb Ota
Lil’ Rev
Jake Shimabukuro
Roy Smeck
Heidi Swedberg
Tiny Tim
Ukulele Mike
Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
Eddie Vedder
Victoria Vox
Walk off the Earth

I probably missed a few but I could name more guitarists and groups where guitars are the central instrument.

I guess that Ukeland is still a sub-culture. I don't know if that is a good or bad thing.

cpmusic
12-09-2015, 05:28 PM
For what it's worth, Tiny Tim played a plinky sorpano ukulele that he kept slightly out of tune for comedic effect. He was actually a talented musician with a very nice non-falsetto voice. . . .

This is true. His voice was a bit of an acquired taste, but he knew his way around a song, as shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=969slmpQgK8

cpmusic
12-09-2015, 05:36 PM
As for the ukulele's popularity, I don't think it can be judged from local music stores. As much as I'd like to buy locally, I've never seen many ukes in brick and mortar stores.

I come from playing guitar since childhood. My skills don't match the years (I'm a perpetual intermediate) but I've always enjoyed it, and now I'm on my way to being a perpetual intermediate ukulele player. I've actually played very little guitar over the past year or so, but that'd due to having a uke or five on hand.

My long-winded point is that I don't think there's any reason to be concerned. The guitar, at least in the acoustic realm, goes through cycles, and there's little doubt the uke will too, but the number of choices available today far outpaces what existed even ten years ago.

hollisdwyer
12-09-2015, 05:40 PM
... My skills don't match the years (I'm a perpetual intermediate)...

Love this!

AndrewKuker
12-09-2015, 08:37 PM
Interesting thread. Thinking of the state of the instrument had me think of this guy Peter Kemper. He’s a writer from Germany that came down a week or two ago. Done biographies on the Beatles, Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix, helps with the annual Frankfurt jazz festival among other things, just a super cool guy. One interesting fact he shared with me, before his death Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis signed a contract to record an album together. The studio time was booked and everything! Tony Williams on drums! No!

Anyway, to my point, Peter came to Hawaii to do research for his next book being published in 2016 called "How the ukulele has conquered the world”. He interviewed us and some uke makers as well as Jake and other performers. (also bought his 40th uke)

I mention this to say it would have all seemed really odd to me even just 10 years ago. But the growing popularity of this instrument all across the world is something I witness daily now, and it seems perfectly natural.

Think about this, most of the ukes that sold in the last 10 years are still out there being loved. All the while newcomers and enthusiasts alike keep buying them. It’s not a fad. It’s a musical instrument, and it’s here to stay.

Okay, back to setups for me. As far as this discussion I can share one fact. Lots of people will be getting an awesome new ukulele in a few weeks! Cheehee!

Steveperrywriter
12-09-2015, 09:43 PM
People associate the ukulele with Tiny Tim and not Jake because most people are not on UU and have never ever heard of Jake Shimabukuro. I have yet to meet a non-ukulele person who has heard of him. This site is an anomaly when it comes to any familiarity with the ukulele and its artists.

John

Last time I looked, Jake's version of George Harrison's guitar anthem had well over fourteen million hits on YouTube. Bohemian Rhapsody, at TED? Five million.

I didn't realize there were that many UU members ...

Tiny Tim's version of ... Tulips? Three-and-a-half million views for the featured Laugh In performance.

Tim's act, however educated he was musically, was a comic novelty, and nobody I knew in the Sixties wanted to be anything like him. It was embarrassing to watch, if you were grooving on the Beatles and Rolling Stones and Clapton, and ... well, almost anybody else. I believe Tim set the set the ukulele back ten years among young people who wouldn't be caught dead with a uke, for fear of being associated with that falsetto and those antics.

There are people who have considered the ukulele a real instrument all along, of course, but certainly more of them after watching Jake than who watched Tim.

wayfarer75
12-10-2015, 02:32 AM
People younger than I am (nearly 40) have next to no idea who Tiny Tim is. I think they would associate the uke with musicians who have a cooler image or with Hawaiian music.

RichM
12-10-2015, 02:46 AM
I guess I've never cared how the ukulele fared against the acoustic guitar-- any more so than I cared how it fared against the bassoon, the tympani, or the didgeridoo. It is its own instrument and exists without comparison to other instruments.

I guess I've never cared what the public perception of the ukulele is. I enjoy playing it, and that's all that's ever mattered to me.

I guess I've never cared about whether more and more people are taking up the ukulele. If they enjoy it, they should do it. If they don't, they shouldn't.

I guess I've never cared how artists like Tiny Tim or George Formby affect people's perception of the ukulele. Other people's perceptions don't affect me in the least. And George Formby is awesome.

I guess I've never understood the notion of "competition" between ukulele and guitar. They're both good instruments. They both have their own sounds. I play both, love both.

I guess I've never seen playing the ukulele as a competition that needs to be won. Music is a gift, in whatever form it comes.

70sSanO
12-10-2015, 04:33 AM
I guess I've never cared how the ukulele fared against the acoustic guitar-- any more so than I cared how it fared against the bassoon, the tympani, or the didgeridoo. It is its own instrument and exists without comparison to other instruments.

I guess I've never cared what the public perception of the ukulele is. I enjoy playing it, and that's all that's ever mattered to me.

I guess I've never cared about whether more and more people are taking up the ukulele. If they enjoy it, they should do it. If they don't, they shouldn't.

I guess I've never cared how artists like Tiny Tim or George Formby affect people's perception of the ukulele. Other people's perceptions don't affect me in the least. And George Formby is awesome.

I guess I've never understood the notion of "competition" between ukulele and guitar. They're both good instruments. They both have their own sounds. I play both, love both.

I guess I've never seen playing the ukulele as a competition that needs to be won. Music is a gift, in whatever form it comes.

^ +1

But I have to be honest... I prefer that it is not so mainstream. As long as ukuleles are continued to be made, individual luthiers are offering to make them, and string mfgs continue to improve the strings, I'm happy. I have no need to be validated by the general public.

John

Rllink
12-10-2015, 05:41 AM
^ +1

But I have to be honest... I prefer that it is not so mainstream. As long as ukuleles are continued to be made, individual luthiers are offering to make them, and string mfgs continue to improve the strings, I'm happy. I have no need to be validated by the general public.
John+2. I like being a little different.

SweetWaterBlue
12-10-2015, 06:07 AM
I agree with Wafarer that most people under 40 have never heard of Tiny Tim, and I would probably extend it to 50. I am 65, so I remember him. I am not sure whether Tiny Tim did more damage to the thought that the uke as a serious instrument than the kazoo (often played with a uke in novelty acts) did or does today.

This forum is a very uke-centered world. I don't know why people worry about such whether retailers sell more guitars or ukes. In my experience jamming with all sorts of groups with guitars, basses, and even a few brass instruments, no one thinks twice about what instrument you play, as long as you can make the group sound good. After a 40 year hiatus, the uke got me back into playing music because it was cheap and looked easy to play. Lots of kids on YT seemed to make it look fun and easy. I suspect they influence the younger generation more than old entertainers, but if they take the bait, it will probably be a gateway instrument to more varied purchases, unless they have physical problems preventing them from playing other instruments. A lot of guys I've met in uke jams used to play the guitar, but arthritis or other ailments keep them from doing it anymore.

The problem is there are few complete instruments if you want to play popular music. The guitar and piano probably come closest. The uke lead me to playing the guitar again, and even the bass (UBass). As new ukulele players grow in their abilities, I think many of they begin to want a more complete sound, which means they will want more bass, more percussion, and other sounds, as well. This doesn't mean they will quit playing the uke, because it is a serious instrument in its own right, but they may augement it in group. This is especially true if they are in a group that isn't the typical 30 people playing the same chords in unison on the uke once a week.

In sum, there is a reason music stores sell more than one type of instrument. Its takes all kinds to make an orchestra, or even a mall ensemble.

Once I got a uke, I rapidly bought a lot of them. As my tastes led me to want more varied sound, I acquired a few baritones. That lead to a few guitars, and then a few basses. That would seem to fit the market trends of a surge in ukulele sales, followed by purchases of other instruments. At some point, I may even return to my middle-school roots and buy another brass instrument. Its all good.

Rllink
12-10-2015, 06:26 AM
I guess if we are just comparing sales, that is pretty cut and dried. I mean, we got the numbers. But what do sales mean? Does it have anything to do with the popularity of the instrument? It seems to me that there are a lot of sales to people who already have ukuleles. Same with guitars. Those buyer's interest is already established, and those sales do not represent popularity, it just represents a sale. At the same time, how many ukuleles and guitars end up in the basement, in a closet, pawned or sold at a garage sale, because the interest in them was short lived? The sales of those instruments do not represent a trend in popularity. It is hard to quantify popularity, and while those numbers mean a lot to marketing people, they really have no relevance beyond that.

Joyful Uke
12-10-2015, 06:59 AM
A few months ago, I went to my local Sam Ash and Guitar Center in search of ukulele strings. While there, I noticed that the ukuleles have all but disappeared from those stores. I was surprised.

There is a store about an hour away from me that used to sell Kamaka and Kanile'a, among other brands. I look at their website every now and then, and have noticed that for at least a year, they list some nice K brand ukuleles, but when you click on the instrument, it says "out of stock". It appears that they haven't bothered restocking them, since they've been out of stock for so long. They have one Kanile'a that has been there for over a year now.

It looks like ukulele sales in my area aren't booming, to say the least.

Garydavkra
12-10-2015, 07:30 AM
I've noticed that the Guitar Center in Fort Collins, CO has fewer ukes as of late. Are ukulele players moving to ukes? Well, in my own experience I've purchased two new guitars in the past two years compared to one custom built uke and the uke was a baritone. I find myself wanting to get back to that warmer tone of the guitar although I still play my ukes just as much as I did before. So, if my desire is any indication, maybe people are starting to move back for various reasons. It doesn't matter though. Making music and having fun is what it's all about, in my opinion. Besides, I'm willing to bet that the majority of uke players in Hawaii also play guitar.

janeray1940
12-10-2015, 08:07 AM
Last time I looked, Jake's version of George Harrison's guitar anthem had well over fourteen million hits on YouTube. Bohemian Rhapsody, at TED? Five million.

I didn't realize there were that many UU members ...

Tiny Tim's version of ... Tulips? Three-and-a-half million views for the featured Laugh In performance.

Tim's act, however educated he was musically, was a comic novelty, and nobody I knew in the Sixties wanted to be anything like him. It was embarrassing to watch, if you were grooving on the Beatles and Rolling Stones and Clapton, and ... well, almost anybody else. I believe Tim set the set the ukulele back ten years among young people who wouldn't be caught dead with a uke, for fear of being associated with that falsetto and those antics.

There are people who have considered the ukulele a real instrument all along, of course, but certainly more of them after watching Jake than who watched Tim.

Anecdotal evidence: I'd say over the years I've been playing, probably more people have immediately mentioned Jake over Tim when they learned I play uke, as those are the two reactions I most commonly get. Close, and maybe because I always clarify that I'm an instrumentals-only player, but I think the "You mean like Jake Shimabukuro?" reaction has been more frequent. But then I live in a big city with a lot of musicians and work in technology with a lot of internet users who see and talk about anything that goes viral, so... that accounts for at least part of it.

'Course when I mention that rather than Jake, John King is my ukulele hero, well... blank stares and radio silence :)


People younger than I am (nearly 40) have next to no idea who Tiny Tim is. I think they would associate the uke with musicians who have a cooler image or with Hawaiian music.

Even though I'm... uh... a bit older, in my field I work with a lot of under-40s. I've definitely never gotten the Tiny Tim comment from any of them, that's for sure. From the younger folks, the associations I've gotten have mostly been Train, Amanda Palmer, Beirut, Zooey Deschanel, Jason Mraz, and (cringe) Kate Micucci. I used to try to clarify that what I do is nothing like any of that, but... now I just let it go.

SweetWaterBlue
12-10-2015, 08:54 AM
As far as people who aren't ukers I meet go, I would say that the most common acknowledgement of famous players is probably still Iz. They don't always get his name right, but they do associate ukes and him.

wayfarer75
12-10-2015, 10:01 AM
I don't know why people worry about such whether retailers sell more guitars or ukes.

I don't either. They're different instruments. Might as well worry about mandolin sales affecting uke sales or saxophone sales affecting flute sales.

Rllink
12-10-2015, 10:18 AM
I don't either. They're different instruments. Might as well worry about mandolin sales affecting uke sales or saxophone sales affecting flute sales.
It is something to talk about. That's all. If we don't talk about stuff, there isn't a forum.

kypfer
12-10-2015, 10:18 AM
I suspect a lot more ukuleles than guitars are bought as presents simply because they're deemed to be fashionable and consequently desirable. As an extension to this premise, there are probably a higher percentage of ukuleles lying about unplayed than there are guitars. Second-hand guitars with little or no mileage on the clock possibly turn up more often simply because, being bigger, they're more likely to get in the way. A ukulele can be lost in a cupboard or on a shelf or given away to a young neighbour without very much being said.

Just my tuppence worth ;)

JustinJ
12-10-2015, 10:56 AM
From several peoples' posts it appears that some of the stores are not carrying as many ukes. Although there were a few posters who said that there were more ukes in some of the strores.

Are the stores carrying more ukes located in retirement areas?

Another good question in my mind, are people who have played a while upgrading to custom ukes now instead of purchasing factory made ukes?

From the past history on UU, it seems that the K brands were the next step up. Now it appears that the custom market has taken this niche market.

I've enjoyed reading everyones responses.

hollisdwyer
12-10-2015, 01:28 PM
....Another good question in my mind, are people who have played a while upgrading to custom ukes now instead of purchasing factory made ukes?......

This was my pathway. I had two factory manufactures, the 2nd better than the 1st, and then purchased my first custom 2nd hand.

It wasn't that many dollars more (contextually, I could afford it) and was a revelation to discover how much better of an instrument it was. Making the financial commitment to a fine instrument was parallel to my growing commitment to improving my skills. I'm glad I did as I have been having a hell of a lot of fun playing the Uke.

PS. I thought that I should add: that to afford my custom Uke acquisitions over the past two years I sold a number of instruments that I rarely played. These included various guitars, martin mandolin, banjo, etc. So, I guess that I have exhibited the opposite behavour of buying more Ukes than guitars or other stringed instruments. The last 'roundup' saw me carrying my Boat Paddle, MM 4 and 6 string tenors back to Australia. I used to do the same buying trip with guitars in the past. How civilised are Ukes with their smaller sizes. None went in the hold, all were carry on's. QANTAS is very Uke friendly.

bookoo
12-10-2015, 05:58 PM
I live in the Chicago area, and the selection available at stores here is paltry, always has been. I've been to several GC's, Sam Ash, some big local guitar/music stores and many smaller stores. The big stores top-out at Lanikai and Kala U-basses. I know of one store that has some Flukes and Fleas. I don't know much about the high-end brands you guys talk about, because I've never seen them. I've seen many dozens of Gibson archtop guitars from the 1940's and 1950's. Probably 100's pre-CBS Fenders. Six figure pianos, new and used, Steinway, Bosendorfer, etc. A Selmer Mark VI for you saxophone players. But a good solid-top ukulele? Kinda rare. If anybody knows a good uke store in the area, let me know.

hollisdwyer
12-10-2015, 07:15 PM
How many custom Ukes has anyone seen in any music store?

Also if music stores are only carrying very small inventories of factory built instruments, where do the broader population buy their factory built instruments from?

I've noticed, that in the Perth, Western Australia area, that the large music stores carry the smallest selection of Ukes and that the small, maybe family run music stores, have a much larger selection of factory built Ukes. I know of one who even carry some of the K brands.

Context: Perth is a city of about 1 million people.

70sSanO
12-11-2015, 04:29 AM
But a good solid-top ukulele? Kinda rare. If anybody knows a good uke store in the area, let me know.

They are around, but maybe not that local to your area. I live in Southern California and there are a number of shops with a good selection of higher quality ukuleles. None of them are just around the corner but within an hour or two drive that will get me to a decent selection from about McCabes to The Blue Guitar. And then there is Island Bazaar and Hale Ukuleles. If I want to make a serious drive drive up to Northern California there is Sylvan and Gryphon. Fortunately, there are a lot of sources for ukuleles in California. I have to drive to them, but we don't have to fight the snow out here.

But, I have found a lot of higher quality ukuleles when I have been on vacation... and none of them have been at Guitar Center or Sam Ash. But even then I'll drive to check something out, such as going from Denver to Colorado Springs to Tejon Street Music where they have Palm Tree ukuleles, stopping here and there at any small stores along the way. Sometimes it's a bust and sometimes not. It is part of the adventure.

In your not so local area is Elderly Instruments. Maybe not a winter drive, but doable in good weather.

John

Django
12-11-2015, 04:49 PM
Some of us here, including myself come from a long affair with the guitar. I still enjoy the guitar, but I find the ukulele to be more fun. It is a little quirky, but that is part of it's charm. I also feel that more people want to play a guitar, but that most of them would have greater success with a ukulele. A steel string guitar is a lot to get used to. The ukulele can be as simple or as complex as you like and the nylon strings are easy on the fingers. I guess that my point is that the guitar may greatly outsell the ukulele and be more popular, but that means nothing unless you can learn to play and enjoy it. The numbers do not always tell the whole story. Given the choice, I usually pick up the ukulele these days.

janeray1940
12-11-2015, 05:22 PM
Another good question in my mind, are people who have played a while upgrading to custom ukes now instead of purchasing factory made ukes?


Done that, been there, and - lesson learned, I'm sticking with factory ukes (specifically Kamaka at present but as always, subject to change!). I didn't really find the custom I once had made to be much of a step up from what I already had. It was really cool to have something made by an individual and to have been involved in the planning process, but in the end I liked my garden-variety factory Kamakas better.

phil_doleman
12-12-2015, 01:23 AM
When I started playing uke (about 13 years ago now) you couldn't buy a uke in a shop in the UK. You might spot a vintage banjo uke in a junk shop. I remember Ivor Mairants shop in London having a display of Ovation Applause ukes a year or so later (in loads of different colours, most no longer available), but that was your lot. Strings? Cases? Forget about it! Since then I've seen it go from that to pretty much every music shop having some in, and some shops selling some pretty high end stuff (that previously would have had to be imported, usually via Music Guy Mike).

I wonder how many mandolins or banjos pop up in music shops? They're certainly no more common than ukes in most UK shops, and the ones that you do find are, on the whole, budget, entry level models. I tend to lump ukes in with those, more than guitars. Guitars are iconic, they are the staple instrument of many, many popular music styles. The uke isn't, at least yet.

Guitars continue to outsell ukes by a pretty large margin, but to be honest it doesn't worry me in the slightest. I play guitar, uke, banjo, and I play them because I like the sound they make, not because one is easier/ harder/smaller/bigger. If ukes became unpopular again overnight, I'd still play one.

wayfarer75
12-12-2015, 02:58 AM
Done that, been there, and - lesson learned, I'm sticking with factory ukes (specifically Kamaka at present but as always, subject to change!). I didn't really find the custom I once had made to be much of a step up from what I already had. It was really cool to have something made by an individual and to have been involved in the planning process, but in the end I liked my garden-variety factory Kamakas better.

I agree. A custom isn't necessarily an upgrade. If upgrading means bling, I can get a plain custom uke and a fancy factory uke. If upgrading means sound, that depends on the quality of the factory uke, and the sound you like.

wayfarer75
12-12-2015, 05:16 AM
I live in the Chicago area, and the selection available at stores here is paltry, always has been. I've been to several GC's, Sam Ash, some big local guitar/music stores and many smaller stores. The big stores top-out at Lanikai and Kala U-basses. I know of one store that has some Flukes and Fleas. I don't know much about the high-end brands you guys talk about, because I've never seen them. I've seen many dozens of Gibson archtop guitars from the 1940's and 1950's. Probably 100's pre-CBS Fenders. Six figure pianos, new and used, Steinway, Bosendorfer, etc. A Selmer Mark VI for you saxophone players. But a good solid-top ukulele? Kinda rare. If anybody knows a good uke store in the area, let me know.

Check out Randee's, Hix Bros, and Wonderwall/Sitar Emporium.

seneystretch
12-12-2015, 10:54 AM
Digging deeper: the 1.4M acoustic guitars represent about $600M in revenue, while the 900K ukes represent about $65M in revenue. Seems like acoustic guitars provide quite a bit more value to a shop.

Sad, but true. Guitar business is 1 Billion+ in North America, I'd be surprised if uke sales were even 25 million today.

My corner of MI had a few uke classes but even that petered out. My goal was to play in senior buildings and nursing homes for the fun of it. I do it as a group of one on occasion. I play along with utube videos, but that's really it.

The local school districts still teach recorder and mouth organ. I suggested the uke to a school principal but I've gotten nowhere even with the endorsement of a couple of local band teachers. I even offered to pay for a few dozen ukes, not like that's a lot of money. No dice. What to do?

Since the Sinatra Centenary is here, my fave Oh rite song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_zhVeZphwE

clayton56
12-13-2015, 10:49 AM
they say that 10% of beer drinkers buy 90% of the beer, and that may be true of ukes, too. If you get one and aren't serious, you play the one you got. If you get serious, you experiment and buy several. I bought several Ponos when I started out, to learn about the different sizes and find what I prefer. This was in lieu of being able to try them in a shop. Then I tried a couple other brands, and then got into ordering ukes of various woods. This was during the years 2008-2012, but I haven't bought a uke in three or four years. I did my experimentation and sold my extras, and still have a good number of ukes, and I play them more than anything else. But I'm no longer buying.

I've played other instruments and none leads you to multiple ownership like ukulele does. If a number of players got into uke in the early 2000's, that would explain a buying surge. Just don't expect a surge to continue unabated forever.

Ukulele Eddie
12-15-2015, 03:55 AM
they say that 10% of beer drinkers buy 90% of the beer, and that may be true of ukes, too.

The first statement is directionally correct. The second is not. Most people who buy multiple ukes move up from <$100 instruments and, in terms of units, the uke market is mostly very inexpensive ukes. Using approximate numbers for 2013 from the NAMM report, the US market is roughly $65 million and 950K units. That's an average retail price of around $70.