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View Full Version : Some anecdotal evidence that ukulele sales (and popularity) remain strong



mds725
01-17-2014, 11:47 AM
There was a recent thread in which it was suggested that ukulele popularity has peaked and is waning, based on what was perceived by the OP and others to be a sluggish secondary (used) market for ukuleles. In some of the posts, people wondered whether there were any data indicating whether the ukulele's popularity was decreasing. I've seen a few articles recently that suggest that, at least this past holiday season, retail (new) ukulele sales were as strong as they've been in the previous few years, suggesting that the ukulele remains very popular, and reporting that people who are new to music or who have been away from music for a while are finding their way to the ukulele. Here are two recent articles.

This one, posted today on CNN's website, features a video of luthier and UU member Mike DaSilva.
http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/17/smallbusiness/ukulele-sales/index.html

This one appeared a few weeks ago in the Sun Sentinal (Palm Beach and Broward Counties, Florida)
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/fl-ukulele-clubs-popular-20131231,0,1807399.story

RichM
01-17-2014, 11:54 AM
Wow, thanks for posting that CNN link! The Mike DaSilva video was great, and wild props to CNN for talking to Mike about this story; it's rare that a big news service gets it right, but Mike was just the right guy to interview.

The other thing worth noting is the NAMM numbers mentioned regarding the explosive growth in the ukulele market from 2010-2012. That means that NAMM does track these things, and should have statistics on whether 2013 was a growth year in the market or not. Anybody have the right person to call at NAMM to find that out?

Uke Republic
01-17-2014, 12:00 PM
Excellent! Great post Mark. I'd say ukuleles are getting more popular from my experience. Still running out of certain models due to demand.

SailingUke
01-17-2014, 12:26 PM
What I find interesting is not only the boom in general, but the numbers of high end instruments. ($1,500 +)

kohanmike
01-17-2014, 12:44 PM
I'm a member of the CC Strummers in Culver City, CA, out of the Culver City Senior center. The group was formed by Cali Rose two years ago, a full time uke performer and teacher. I started with them about five months ago. We meet twice a week with about 40-50 participants. The last couple of weeks another half dozen have joined.

jackwhale
01-17-2014, 01:12 PM
Thanks for the links Mark. This is one of the first times in my life I've hung with the 'popular' crowd. :)

In the SF Bay Area, one could find a welcoming uke group to play with nearly any day of the week...never have to drive more than an hour. Can't do that with guitar.

Ukulele Eddie
01-17-2014, 01:27 PM
Thanks, MDS725. I was the one asking about data. I will be at NAMM next week and I'm sure they'll have a booth as well. I plan to inquire about data availability. My gut is that it's primarily a supply-side issue. There is a lot more supply now than there was five years ago. But I'm a data junkie and I'd like to see how true this is and if it differs by segment (e.g., low priced vs. higher priced ukes).

PhilUSAFRet
01-17-2014, 01:40 PM
Thanks for posting. I really enjoyed those links. Guitar snobs can eat their hearts out.

Steveperrywriter
01-17-2014, 01:48 PM
Unless NAMM breaks them down, the numbers would show sales numbers. I dunno how many of these would be to folks who didn't have an uke versus those buying multiple instruments. I also wonder about small-shop luthiers who make high-end instruments, and if they are included in surveys. Surely somebody who sells a thousand-dollar custom counts for more real interest than Costco selling a dozen hundred buck models played twice after Christmas and then become wall-hangers?

The wave may have peaked, but I am seeing a lot more ukuleles than I used to, and not just as TV or movie props. Of course, evidence is not the plural of anecdote ...

Steve

caukulele
01-17-2014, 02:19 PM
Thanks Mark, great post....

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-17-2014, 02:29 PM
Unless NAMM breaks them down, the numbers would show sales numbers. I dunno how many of these would be to folks who didn't have an uke versus those buying multiple instruments. I also wonder about small-shop luthiers who make high-end instruments, and if they are included in surveys. Surely somebody who sells a thousand-dollar custom counts for more real interest than Costco selling a dozen hundred buck models played twice after Christmas and then become wall-hangers?

The wave may have peaked, but I am seeing a lot more ukuleles than I used to, and not just as TV or movie props. Of course, evidence is not the plural od anecdote ...

Steve

Great story and video with Mike. Those sales numbers seems awfully low to me. (I think Kala alone accounts for a big part of that number.) I wonder how many builders are not a part of NAMM and who's numbers have not been counted. My guess is that the real numbers are at least double of those mentioned in the article for 2013.
With new builders popping up like toadstools I see no evidence of any waning interest.

mm stan
01-17-2014, 02:42 PM
Aloha Markie,
Sales to me have been strong as well as the ukulele craze....those who report on these things have no clue how much forward the ukulele has come.

bborzell
01-17-2014, 04:06 PM
Best anecdotal evidence I have seen so far is this:

April 1st 2013 - Bob has no ukes.

January 1st 2014 - Bob has 5 ukes.

Uke sales look good on this end.

hawaii 50
01-17-2014, 04:17 PM
there is a huge explosion of high end ukes being sold to Japan Korea,Hong Kong,Taipei.Thailand,Singapore and now the Phillipines getting in the picture too...
not to mention Canada,Germany,Australia,Brazil,Argentina...etc

the UU is only a small part of the ukulele World....I speak with people from all these countries and the ukulele seems to gaining momentum!!
many of them want Hawaiian made ukes...with the right kind of word of mouth...ukes built on the mainland(US) should sell too....

my 2 cents..

kohanmike
01-17-2014, 08:03 PM
Even American Idle is on the bandwagon (pun intended) with at least a couple of ukes so far, and the season just started.

Pippin
01-17-2014, 08:42 PM
Since I have been publishing Ukulele Player Magazine, we have seen a steady increase in the number of performers that are playing ukulele as well as guitar. The economy is slowly growing and guitar sales have picked up a little, but, uke sales are still growing steadily. We can thank Ohana, Kala, Lanikai, and other makers in the price-range. Barrier to entry is low for someone wanting to play ukulele. For those who have stuck with it, the upper-end ukes have picked up sales volume, but the real growth is at the low to mid-priced ukes spectrum.

From the long-term player perspective (I've played since the 1960s), more ukulele talent and more available ukes makes things much more interesting for me. Guitars in the lower-priced import market are selling in pretty good numbers, too, by the way. The investment in a new uke versus a new guitar has kept ukes moving strong and most of the growth in the guitar market at the low-end.

kohanmike
01-17-2014, 09:20 PM
I can say that I'm definitely part of the new low cost uke movement. In the six months I've been playing, I bought 8 ukes, sold two, and gave one away (I made room for six on a shelf and don't want to reconfigure it), all great prices under $200 US, some blems, some direct from China and some on sale.

It's been great fun collecting, and playing, and maybe when I get better (and get my inheritance) I'll opt for a $1000+ or custom uke, but I have to say, I'm pretty happy with the ones I have, and so looking forward to the arch-top steel string that's on it's way (going to learn "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on it from a Jake iPad tutorial).

http://www.kohanmike.com/images/archtop style.jpg

The Old Gig Bag
01-17-2014, 09:48 PM
I have to agree with SailingRed. Ukes come in all sizes and kinds not to mention the pricey price tags some have hanging on them. And WHY is it we all feed the need to own more then one? Growing up I owned one bike, one car, one home and yet I have a little collection of Ukes around the place. Even have a special one I take when I go out in the car.

Doc_J
01-18-2014, 01:31 AM
..... And WHY is it we all feed the need to own more then one? Growing up I owned one bike, one car, one home and yet I have a little collection of Ukes around the place. Even have a special one I take when I go out in the car.

That is a good question. I think it is the incredible variations in available ukes. To me each uke I have sounds, looks, and feels different. Different sizes, shapes, woods, features. Some are reentrant some are linearly strung. Different tunings, C,B,D. Some have 4,5,6 or 8 strings. You can have electric, acoustic, resonator. The variations go on and on. Isn't that wonderful!

cigarfan
01-18-2014, 01:47 AM
I certainly did my share to boost the 2013 numbers. 10 months and 10 ukes.

bborzell
01-18-2014, 03:39 AM
They are small, take two.

strumsilly
01-18-2014, 05:29 AM
hmm,but it does seem I'm having more trouble selling my used ukes. thanks for the articles. I/m going to find a group to jam with next time I'm in So. FL

dkcrown
01-18-2014, 05:38 AM
Thanks for posting Mark. I always love to see videos and articles like those.

dkcrown
01-18-2014, 05:39 AM
Best anecdotal evidence I have seen so far is this:

April 1st 2013 - Bob has no ukes.

January 1st 2014 - Bob has 5 ukes.

Uke sales look good on this end.

Excellent study Bob! :)

Nickie
01-18-2014, 02:31 PM
thanks for these articles! I liked em so much I posted em to TBUS' FB page....

Kevin B
01-19-2014, 02:01 AM
Our local CBS affiliate WINK TV in Fort Myers, FL just aired a report about uke sales while I read this thread! They reported that word from NAMM is that sales are soaring.

kohanmike
01-19-2014, 09:39 AM
I wonder how much of those sales are due to UAS? If it's anything like visits to a web site, the count of individuals rather than ukes will be lower. I mean in six months, I've purchased 8 ukes (sold/gave away 3, bought 3 more), and if the people on this forum are any indication, most have quite a few.

sarastro
01-19-2014, 12:15 PM
I've had one guitar for 40 years and 5 ukuleles in 3 years. I'll probably always have 3 or 4 ukes at any one time, lots of different styles and scale lengths.

As far as used ukes go, all of mine are in the $100 to $200 range. In this range, a used uke in excellent condition costs nearly as much as new so I would rather pay at bit more and buy new and know it's properly set up.