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View Full Version : Interesting perspective on the uke market from Collings retailer



Doc_J
06-18-2016, 02:55 AM
Just saw this interesting commentary from Acoustic Music Works about the uke market selling craze as "over"....

What do you think? As they sell ukes for a living, they should know.


"We read recently where there is a “Folk Boom” and a “Ukulele Revival” going on.

Well…Who Knew??

Well, I guess that kills it. As we like to say, once the mass media discovers something, that is usually a sign that it has already peaked and is in recession. Since we at AMW kind of live the “folk” thing every day and have been selling ukes since Hector was a pup and Tiny Tim was getting married on the Tonight Show. I guess we missed the initial memo about the new Folk Boom, the Revival, the Renaissance, and the Craze. We’re more Pete Seeger and Carter Stanley and John Renbourn here than Mumford & Son (no offense to the Mums!) but you get where we are coming from.

We tend to view Roots and Folk Music in a sacred continuum, rather than in pop-infused peaks and spurts….

Enough about that. Whi le the five ukes per day selling craze of 2013-2014 may be over, the high end of the uke market, for discerning players, seems as strong as ever.

Yes, the ukes are here to stay!"

http://acousticmusicworks.com/ukuleles/new-collings-ut1-k-koa-tenor-ukulele-1755

Ukulele Eddie
06-18-2016, 03:05 AM
That is interesting to read. What he seems to be saying is for them the entry part the market has slowed but the high end remain strong. I wonder if there is a lag affect? That is, fewer entry Ukes today means fewer higher end Ukes later since the pool of people upgrading has waned?

However, the market data published by NAMM (latest report (https://www.namm.org/files/ihdp-viewer/global-report-2015/25FF24A6E7431147F8F4505BB0555478/2015-GlobalReport.pdf) is 2015, which covers up to 2014), still shows incredibly strong unit sales. Not quite at the peak of 2012, but 2014 was the second highest year and up 100% on a six-year trend (p. 12). And this quote from page 10 talks about the increase (slight) of 2014 vs. 2013 which was the first year/year decline since 2009:

"The ukulele market also rebounded, allaying fears that what’sbeen called the “third ukulele boom” had run its course.Simple, easy-to-play fretted instruments have apparentlyretained their appeal."


So while 2015 may very well show decline when the next report comes out, it will still be historically very strong.The point being, ukes sales still have to fall a long, long way to return to pre-2009 levels.

Mivo
06-18-2016, 03:20 AM
In an email exchange with Andreas David (musician and owner of gute-ukulele.de, a German ukulele shop), he mentioned that he's just had the best sales month ever. He's also selling some instruments before he can even put them up on the store page (to people who stop by or directly ask about something, like I did with the Pono baritone). But he's mostly offering mid and upper range ukuleles, so that would match the observation made in the cited post: the higher end market is fine.

I'm not sure how relevant the entry level market is. It's fad driven, and many of the cheap ukuleles are more toys and decoration than proper instruments. Or rather, they are bought as toys or novelty products, with little or no serious interest behind them. Not for the purpose of learning how to make music and be a musician, but out of a perfectly valid desire to goof around and have fun making noise. Some of those customers probably do stick with the instrument and then upgrade as they look for better quality (from the $25 toy to the $150 musical instrument), but it's probably a small fraction. I can also see how a $25 plywood ukulele can someone permanently turn off of the ukulele and reinforce the belief that it's not a serious instrument, so the hype quietening down could be a good thing.

On the flip side, it was only due to the boom, and ukes being a fad, that they showed up on my radar when mid-life crisis caused me to explore my untapped musical side and look for a portable, affordable, and allegedly easy to learn proper instrument. (Only the first of these three points turned out to be true for me! I'd probably have spent less if I had bought a $300 classical guitar, but those aren't as portable and I still have no real interest in guitars. I like the ukulele's underdog status.)

Whichever way the market develops, it'll be fine, I feel. :)

hawaii 50
06-18-2016, 06:51 AM
Mivo say Hi to Andreas for me I met him 2 years ago when he came for a visit...I got to watch him and Corey record together at HMS....

China really starting to get into the ukulele high and low end market now.....they have a lot of people and folks in Europe getting interested too..with Andreas' help....HMS as busy as ever and they ship all over the World....I think the Ukulele more popular than ever around the World now and the US may be slowing a little.....but for me that is hard to see....

my 2 cents

Rakelele
06-18-2016, 07:12 AM
Very interesting observations. I have a feeling the US market may be slowing down a little (less traffic here on the forum than a couple of years ago), but Europe and Asia are still growing.

Croaky Keith
06-18-2016, 07:29 AM
I reckon it takes a newbie like myself a few ukes to get a feel for what you really want/need to satisfy your tastes, especially when you don't have any shops & have to purchase online.

Since mid last November, I've bought a few ukes, & I'm really only now learning what I need to satisfy me, & it's not what I though back then.

I think U.A.S. runs it's course with a lot of people, then they sell off or pass on their basic ukes & concentrate more on the music.

bearbike137
06-18-2016, 08:08 AM
Makes sense. A lot of people have tried out "uking" over the past few years - usually entry level instruments. Those that have stayed with it are moving up to higher end instruments.

DownUpDave
06-18-2016, 08:15 AM
Makes sense. A lot of people have tried out "uking" over the past few years - usually entry level instruments. Those that have stayed with it are moving up to higher end instruments.

This makes a lot of sense and is quite logical (from one of the gang, inside joke). Over the past two years of attending three regular uke jams most people that have stayed with it have purchased higher quality ukes.

Rllink
06-18-2016, 10:08 AM
I didn't interpret that statement to mean that ukulele sales were down. I interpreted it to say that high end ukulele sales have taken the place of low end ukulele sales and that they are as strong as ever.
Yes, the ukes are here to stay! I don't know, it seemed like a pretty positive statement to me.

Joyful Uke
06-18-2016, 10:29 AM
My local Sam Ash and Guitar Center have pretty much given up on ukuleles, from the look of it.

But, a friend just told me that her tween aged niece and friends are very into ukulele, and the young lady on America's Got Talent might help inspire some to take up ukulele, so I don't think that the ukulele is a thing of the past just yet, even for the low end ukuleles.

From the looks of things on UU, high end ukuleles are still selling well.

Jim Hanks
06-18-2016, 01:10 PM
the high end of the uke market, for discerning players, seems as strong as ever.
If Hodge's buying habits are any indication, that statement is certainly true. ;) :shaka:

stevejfc
06-18-2016, 03:26 PM
I've thought that the low to middle end of the market hit the satuaration point about 18 months ago. I agree with Hodge that the high end is still strong though we are "descerning". Most of us seem to know what we want, and will wait for it. And I know in my case, I am far less likely now to buy on a whim.

Ukulelerick9255
06-19-2016, 06:29 AM
I think it's getting harder to just measure manufacturer sales because more and more players are buying custom made Ukes from individual luthiers which are untraceable and would also contribute to a decline in sales by mass producers.

kohanmike
06-19-2016, 06:47 AM
My ukulele group gets a new player about once every couple of weeks, we're up to about 115 registered members and about 30-40 attendees two days a week. I've also noticed that in the last couple of months, the Hollywood Sam Ash store on Sunset and the Guitar Center in West Los Angeles both have added more $100 to $300 ukes of all configurations, including baritone.

Ukulele Eddie
06-19-2016, 07:04 AM
I think it's getting harder to just measure manufacturer sales because more and more players are buying custom made Ukes from individual luthiers which are untraceable and would also contribute to a decline in sales by mass producers.

The number of customs are a teeny, tiny fraction of the overall market which is dominated by inexpensive Ukes. So, mathematically, it would have very minimal impact on unit volume of the market.

Soundbored
06-19-2016, 07:13 AM
Our neighborhood public school here still has the ukulele as the 4th grade instrument for everyone.

jollyboy
06-19-2016, 08:27 AM
Firstly I'm glad to hear things are going well for the industry (by the sound of things).

I got into uking just over a year ago. I had no idea that there was a 'boom'/'fad'/'craze' thing going on. It's not as though people were coming up to me in the street and going "hey - I just bought myself one of these new fangled ukulele things - ya gotta get one dude - everybody's doin' it..." :p These days I'm mostly entirely oblivious to what the cool kids are into anyway. Like Mivo above, it was more of a midlife crisis/bucket list kind of thing. Basically, I figured I really ought to have another go at learning to play a stringed instrument before shuffling off this mortal coil. The first thing I looked at was the strumstick - but I decided that I didn't want to pay the asking price for something that was likely to end up on top of the wardrobe in the spare bedroom.

Reading through this thread, I guess I was having some thoughts about why the current uke boom may not be the same as previous booms (or even a boom at all)...

So firstly I would like to say "yay internet!" - yes, it may possibly be the Great Beast of Revelation, but it sure is handy for finding out about stuff. And for buying nice new shiny things. It has to be a big contributing factor in the growth/sustainability of the current uke market surely, right? Would specialist retailers, like say Mim, even be able to exist without it?

Also...

I wonder at the availability of 'step-up' ukes in days of yore. Did such things exist? I kind of have the impression that back in the day you pretty much just had your cheap plastic novelty ukes and your high-end 'proper' instruments. And not much in-between the two. Is that right? Someone above mentioned stores increasing their stock of slightly-more-expensive mass produced instruments. Seems significant to me.

Also...

I did a sort of thought experiment a while ago - you know when people say "hey, I wish I'd done this years ago..." I wondered what it would have been like if I had tried to get into ukulele playing twenty years ago instead of just last year. Where would I have even bought an instrument from? What learner resources would have been available? Would it have been all friction tuners and nylon strings? (blech ;)) Would I have had to learn how to tune it by ear? (gaaahhhh!!!)

Anyway, just me rambling :)

Rllink
06-19-2016, 09:13 AM
Firstly I'm glad to hear things are going well for the industry (by the sound of things).

I got into uking just over a year ago. I had no idea that there was a 'boom'/'fad'/'craze' thing going on. It's not as though people were coming up to me in the street and going "hey - I just bought myself one of these new fangled ukulele things - ya gotta get one dude - everybody's doin' it..." :p These days I'm mostly entirely oblivious to what the cool kids are into anyway. Like Mivo above, it was more of a midlife crisis/bucket list kind of thing. Basically, I figured I really ought to have another go at learning to play a stringed instrument before shuffling off this mortal coil. The first thing I looked at was the strumstick - but I decide that I didn't want to pay the asking price for something that was likely to end up on top of the wardrobe in the spare bedroom.

Anyway, just me rambling :)I didn't either. I started playing the ukulele two years ago in April. I did not know anyone else who played the ukulele. I saw Jake playing one on the internet, and I thought, "that guy's playing a ukulele." So I told my wife that I was going to get a ukulele and learn how to play it, and she said, "Like Zooey Dechanel," and I said, "Who the heck is Zooey Dechanel?" But even now, I don't know but a few people who play the ukulele around here. So I if there was one, they kept it hidden well.

Nickie
06-19-2016, 02:07 PM
I guess the Tampa Bay Ukulele Society could be seen as a microcosm of the ukulele world. From where I sit, UAS is alive and well, new members keep joining and seasoned members keep upgrading. Some people don't give a rip how good a uke plays, or sounds, as long as it's purty. Other people have a discerning ear, and will buy and buy looking for that "perfect" tone having ukulele. We have several brand loyal ukers (LoPrinzi) and some dealer loyal ukers (Mim and Uke Republic). I told one friend she must be putting Mike McQueen's kids through college. She has bought at least 8 or 9 ukes since I met her 2 years ago.
At every jam session I lead, we begin with a show and tell of new purchases/acquires. Every time, there's at least one. Then we cheer and clap.

VoiceofTJ
06-19-2016, 07:30 PM
Cocobolo are so in demand they have a purchasing lottery, but that may be more about the quality/value ratio of their product than overall market trends.