Marketing brass band instruments

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by David Mann, Sep 24, 2010.

  1. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    There was a lot of heat about celebrity endorsees recently, and other threads have discussed new instrument launches. Given that some instruments in a brass band are also used in other ensembles, how would you market the "brass band only" instruments? How did Schilke become the sop of choice? Which instruments are more frequently bought by individuals and which by bands? I've argued on other threads that once you have decentish equipment the best investment is time spent practising and taking lessons, but how do you decide what is decent?
    Thinking about my accumulation of instruments, I have:

    Besson New Standard sop - from eBay but I had a perception it would be well built and play well - which it does.

    Virtuosi Regency trumpet - enough people had told me they were worth a try and the company let me play several options before I bought - and it's great value.

    Conn 8H trom - again a word of mouth thing, I knew several great players who used them and I'd played 8H and 88H in bands.

    Slightly tangentially I also have a Fender P Bass, again you see loads of bassists using these but it's not until you actually play one you realise why..

    So what influenced / would influence you? Personal recommendation? Chance to try? Glossy advert? Super low price? Something else?
  2. tenortuba

    tenortuba Member

    I would not even consider buying a new instrument unless endorsed by a Welsh banding dynasty and it would have to be a mouthwatering prospect, or at least some sort of eminent preference.
  3. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Interesting you say 'marketing' and not 'sales'. To my mind the only people who are in sales for brass instruments are the guys in the music shops and on the trade stands. As I have said before in other threads, marketing and sales are two different things - a manufacturer can stick the face of top player A or B on their adverts but I still maintain that all that does is raise the manufacturer's profile - so anyone with any sort of sense will drop in at their local music shop and ask for a trial on an instrument because they have seen the adverts, not because they believe it'll make them sound like the endorsee. I guess the usual next step is for the customer to take the instrument away for a trial to see if it suits them. Despite what some will have you believe here IMO the sales created just because that famous face is in the adverts must be in low single-fingure percentages.

    So, that said how do you market the instrument? Well I think if you can get the great and the good to play on your instrument then you're maybe a quarter of the way there. But its intersting that you mention the Shilkie sop. I'm no sop expert, but I believe the Shilkie is basically a refromed Eb trumpet. So when they launched the sop is was the only instrument that was 'acceptable' to brass bands but played fairly well in tune. Basically it was the best instrument on the market, so despite the high price it became (and still sort of is) the default choice.

    It's the same for the sovereign instruments of the 70's and 80's. Word got around that they were the best available so bands and players bought them purely on word of mouth recommendations. Just think, it took probably half a decade of Besson making really badly put together instruments in the 90's for their rivals to get a decent sniff of the market.

    Another example (and one I'm more familliar with) is the Bach Strad flugel. When it was lauched - what - 20 years ago there was nothing anywhere near as good on the market. Sure you could spend a similar amount on a good 40 / 50 / 60 year old Cousenon, but equally what you got may be a real crock. And the Strad came with a trigger! Its still a well wanted instrument, despite the fact that IMO there are much better flugels on sale for the same money. Its probably worth saying that these 'better' flugels have taken the Cousenon / Strad design and improved it.

    So then. long post but shortish answer. To market a brass band instrument the best thing to do is to build something that plays in tune, sounds good, is well built, keenly priced and looks the part, and then let the brass band rumour mill do its work. A celebrity endorsement may help get the name about, but if the instrument is fundementally a crock of **** then people are not going to buy it.

    BTW I had to smile when I read 'celebrity endorsements'. I had this notion of Melanie Sykes marketing baritones, Ewan McGregor markenting tenor horns and James Corden marketing cornets.
  4. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    the Schilke sop story... from The Schilke Loyalist..

    "The Schilke E flat cornet, which has no model number and is simply called the E flat or soprano cornet, has been the largest selling Schilke cornet, much prized by the English brass bands for its fine intonation and tone quality. It is a striking elegant design. It shares the mouthpipe with the Schilke P5-4 piccolo trumpet, has a 0.450 medium bore with slight expansion at the valve bows, and the small bell it shares with the E3L.

    Howard Snell, former principal player with the London Symphony, who earlier had pioneered the use of the Schilke four valve E3L-4, was also present at the creation of the E flat cornet. Dave King, a former Snell student, tells the story of its origins:

    I was playing for a brass band called Desford Colliery which was conducted by Howard Snell. At this time the national brass band championships were sponsored by Boosey and Hawkes. Howard had always used a Schilke three valve E flat trumpet in place of a soprano cornet as the tuning was much better. Boosey and Hawkes, fearing that this might catch on and harm sales of their own soprano (which was awful! ) banned the use of trumpets for the championship. Howard then phoned Mr Schilke himself and asked him to build a soprano cornet. Schilke said that he had never tried but would have a go. Nothing more was heard until a year or so later, wrapped up in brown paper and packaging, arrived the little gold plated soprano cornet. It was the finest soprano cornet ever built and Schilke soon started selling one to every major band in the country."
  5. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    Marketing was deliberately chosen. I believe the average person probably picks an instrument / new car / set of golf clubs / whatever from a personal shortlist of 2 or 3. The marketeers job is to get their offering into that shortlist and hope that the salesman does their job when the customer comes to try things out.
    Looking at the Bach brand, and I'd probably include Rath here, these are brands that don't necessarily need the brass band market, and aspiring players can reference from top orchestral players and jazzers. If you want to market a tenor horn or baritone, you are pretty well only going to be targeting brass banders. So you can try "this is the best tenor horn and played / developed by xxx" or "we make the best instruments generally so our tenor horn must be pretty good"
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010
  6. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    That's interesting, a case of good technology driving out bad perhaps.

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