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#908757 - 03/06/02 10:51 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Derick Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 3290
Loc: New York
Dairmuid,

You said:

 Quote:
This isn't worth pursuing, it really isn't but calling something an opinion doesn't preclude it from being a criticism, or having critical overtones.


According to the Thorndike Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary the definition of opinion is:

1. what one thinks; belief no so strong as knowledge; judgement. 2. impression; estimate.

Apparently you cannot deal with any opinion that differs from your own.

I just realized that you said my car example wasn't a fair comparison. Excuse me now while I find a corner to sit and sulk.

Derick

[ March 06, 2002: Message edited by: Derick ]
_________________________
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

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#908758 - 03/06/02 11:29 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Diarmuid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 219
So a "judgement" cannot be a critical judgement? It's implicit in the phrase "What one thinks" that that cannot be critcal e.t.c. Saying something is "an opinion" is a very general statement that allows plenty of scope for a critical element. It's my opinion that Bin Laden is mad. Is that just an opinion or a criticism? It's both. It's an opinion that is also a criticism.

And I can deal with different opinions. That's why I didn't single you out and criticise your prices. My point is that you're criticising me for being unrealistic when I fully admitted from the start that I didn't know what a realistic price was for a manufacturer. I was just having a wild stab for the fun of it and you got all real and serious on me. I didn't think that was fair or in the spirit of Norberts original question.

And now you're getting even more serious.

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#908759 - 03/06/02 11:36 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Stanza Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1458
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Pianos are no different than any other consumer item. The law of diminishing returns applies. Is a $42k Steinway TWICE as good as a $21K Charles Walter? I think not! Once you start getting into the higher priced pianos you really aren't getting much bang for your buck. Keeping it in the realm of piano, lets say you had your eye on one for $25k. One coud argue that you could also find one you also liked pretty well for $20K. If you spent the $5K difference on: A year of lessons (50 weeks x $50 =$2500); a music cabinet, metromnome, lamp ($500); Henle editions of your favorites ($500); for variety, practice, and the kids ...a Yamaha p80 portable pro-grade digital piano with stand and external powered speakers, headphones ($1100), 10 piano CDs ($150), tickets to a concert ($100),etc, etc. You would get much more "piano enjoyment" and you would play better (with the lessons and a good, silent practice instrument)for that 5 grand than what might be an extemely slight difference in sound, look, or especially "status or name recognition".
_________________________
Estonia L190 #7004
Casio PX 310
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#908760 - 03/06/02 01:03 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
BrulBruce Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/28/01
Posts: 332
Loc: Long Island
Whew, the last few posts! Wow.

It's as if Derick and Diarmuid are aliases for Larry and Good Will.

It may not yet be over.

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#908761 - 03/06/02 01:06 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
I think the bang for the buck in expensive instruments depends on your playing ability. For your average pianist the bang for the buck is low. For a professional who needs or wants those less tangible advantages the bang for the buck is probably higher.

Ryan

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#908762 - 03/06/02 01:29 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
Sorry, I admitted that I don't know the market for Steinways. That is because A) why buy a Steinway when a CW is built as well, can deliver equivalent sound, and costs half as much , and B) the best Steinway built today has Mason & Hamlin on the fallboard. ;\)



Norbert, if that dosen't jump start this sucker, there ain't a cow in Texas! \:D
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Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

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#908763 - 03/06/02 01:37 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Stanza Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1458
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Ryan, I fully agree. There is a big difference between those who are: "I have always wanted to play piano and now want to start (or re-start)lessons..."or "my 8 year old daughter really likes piano..." etc. versus "I am in my 3rd year studying piano at the conservatory and..." . One must do a self-evaluation first and then put the information gathered from this board an elsewhere into that context.
_________________________
Estonia L190 #7004
Casio PX 310
Yamaha NP 30

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#908764 - 03/06/02 02:29 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Derick Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 3290
Loc: New York
Diarmuid,

I don't want to get into an argument over semantics on this, but when I say something is my opinion, I mean it is my impression, or it is in my estimation. There is no right or wrong.

I did say that I felt your prices were unrealistic, but that was not meant in a negative way. Inherent in any opinion is a judgement. But that judgement can be critical and negative, or merely an expression or statement of how one feels.

My statement about your prices was intended to be akin to the latter.

Derick
_________________________
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

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#908765 - 03/06/02 02:58 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Diarmuid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 219
Fair enough. That was my point. Calling something "an opinion" does not preclude the possibility that it was a criticism.

If you feel my prices were unrealistic that's ok, but I didn't mean them terribly seriously and I didn't claim to really know anything about how much pianos cost to manufacture. People seemed reluctant to contribute, so I was just entering into the fun of things with a "lower limit" type of list.

I still think Faziolis are crazily priced though ;\) Lovely pianos (I played seven of them last year) but Ryan, do you know many discriminating pianists who can actually afford one!! (Angela Hewitt and Nikoli Demidenko don't count. I heard they got big discounts ;)).

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#908766 - 03/06/02 03:17 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
All very well......but I can't drop 'the big'
one without more figures.

A lot more.
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#908767 - 03/06/02 03:18 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
No, I don't personally know any descriminating pianists that could afford a Fazioli, or a Bosendorfer 225, or a Yamaha S, or a Steinway D, etc. etc. I would love to upgrade to a high quality grand, but I just can't afford it.

Ryan

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#908768 - 03/06/02 03:55 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Penny Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2943
Loc: San Juan Capistrano, CA
Excuse me for being a butt-in-ski, but the title of this thread is, "What SHOULD a new piano cost?" (emphasis mine) Should is a bvery subjective term, even has an air of morality to it, doesn't it?

From the manufacturers' and dealers' standpoint -- as much as the market will bear -- and maybe thensome!

From a consumers' standpoint -- free! Or darned near close. (Or, to the socialist consumer's point of view -- free, a piano in every pot and to the capitalist's poinit of view -- as high as the market can bear and God bless the people who have earned the money to buy a Fazioli ;\) to the Coffee Room posters!)

A piano should probably wholesale for twice as much as it cost to build it and market it and retail for twice as much as that.

How's that for obtuse!

penny, doubtful that this is how it really works, especially in the case of S&S, Bosendorfer, Bechstein and Fazioli

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#908769 - 03/06/02 05:19 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Derick Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 3290
Loc: New York
Well if we are talking about a Baldwin piano it SHOULD cost enough to cover Karen Hendricks severance BONUS. Thank God Karen can afford a Fazioli. As you can see from below, she certainly earned and deserves it.

--------------------------------------------

Baldwin’s fortunes began unraveling in 1996 under the leadership of CEO Karen Hendricks. She presided over a major exodus of management, a series of costly blunders, including investments in a Brazlian piano plate making operation, and the alienation of the Baldwin dealer network. The company’s finances deteriorated rapidly, and she spent most of the past two years selling off assets just to meet basic obligations. As the company racked up losses of over $17 million in the last three years, the Baldwin board of directors were unflagging in their support for her. At the time she announced plans to resign late last year, the board awarded her a $1.3 million severance bonus.

Derick

[ March 06, 2002: Message edited by: Derick ]
_________________________
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

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#908770 - 03/06/02 07:17 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
It is an interesting observation in the piano business that anything can be discussed without punity.Save a few scuffles.

All...except prices. Direct and icecold.

It's like asking your date [after telling her/him your whole life story!]..directly for...... sex!

It's the very moment of 'truth'. And guts.

Any more guts out there to name[your]prices?

Let me show you later....why I asked.

Chances are....you'll be amazed!!

[Nothing sexual...promise!]

[ March 06, 2002: Message edited by: Norbert ]
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#908771 - 03/06/02 08:22 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Jim Lob Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/02
Posts: 115
Loc: Maryland
In the interests of full disclosure, I used to post as "Jim L." My e-mail address changed, and I no longer am able to post as "Jim L." -- hence the new name for the forum.

Many of you know that Rich D. and I raise money for a Maryland charity by helping people to find good deals on pianos and by helping people to sell their pianos. I base the opinions below -- and they are just opinions -- on several assumptions: (1) good prep work (though not extraordinary); (2) reputable dealer. Many other factors play into the calculation, such as whether it is worth extra $ to buy locally, the quality of the prep work, the overhead costs in a particular metropolitan area, and the used piano market in that area.

The prices below are what I would consider in the "fair" ballpark -- that is, the buyer is not getting ripped off, and the seller should be able to stay in business. They are by no means the lowest prices that one can pay for such pianos, and they can be beaten.

Mason Hamlin 5'8": $30k
Mason Hamlin 7': $40k

Steinway B...................$58k (and way too much -- ever see someone try to sell a Steinway that's less than 10 years old? OUCH!)

Schimmel 6': $25k
August Forster 7'2": $33k (and an awesome value at that)
Charles Walter 6'4": $23k (though I still am waiting and wanting to see one that I like (with all due respect to Jolly and Jody);
6'3" Estonia: $20k
7' Bosie Conservatory: $48k

Best values available: high-end European pianos that are less than 25 years old. They are hard to find, but given the general public ignorance about these pianos, they can be awesome deals.

Finally -- and I'm sure that Larry will once again mock this suggestion if he ever reappears, though I have seen a dealership that does it -- dealers would have a much easier time convincing customers of the fairness of the requested price if the dealer disclosed the basis for that price -- wholesale cost of the piano, overhead, salaries, prep, and insurance, profit. A customer at that point should feel that he/she is being treated fairly by the dealer. When dealers do not do this, they risk having themselves thrown in with the legions of slimebucket, high-pressure shops who always promise the lowest price and seldom deliver it.

Finally, if you're in the Boston area, the best benchmark of a "fair" price there is at the Piano Mill, where all of the prices are placed, nonnegotiable, on the pianos. I estimate the markup there is 40-50% over the wholesale cost of the pianos. It may not be the least expensive shop in the world, but the customers should know (at least in my experience) that price-wise they are not being taken to the cleaners.

Jim Lob

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#908772 - 03/06/02 09:23 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
It has been my understanding that a dealer has to average 40% above wholesale cost in order to stay in business.

Correct figure??
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www.coffee-room.com

Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

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#908773 - 03/06/02 10:13 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Guys:

I have CONCRETE evidence that several manufacturers [importers] are observing this thread right now with considerable interest.

It is YOUR chance to speak openly,loud and clear what YOU think a 'fair'price should be.
The men in the dark suits reading this are making notes.[ Even if they may NOT follow suit and chances are...they won't anyways]

BUT:

Make your points now! For better or worse.

It's your [our!] chance.

To give them "an earfull" !
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#908774 - 03/06/02 10:40 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Matt G. Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/01
Posts: 3789
Loc: Plainfield, IL
So, if what Norbert says is really the objective here, then I will offer my simplistic, but evenhanded answer.

A new piano should cost enough money so that the companies that produce the pianos and the people who work for them make enough to live off of, pay for R&D to make their pianos better, pay any shareholders enough that they continue to invest in the company, and produce enough profit that the company has the incentive to continue making pianos.

A new piano should cost enough money so that those organizations responsible for distributing and selling pianos and the people who work for them make enough money to live off, pay their business expenses and make enough profit in the endeavor so as to be an incentive for them to continue distributing and selling pianos.

A new piano should cost as little as possible given the above constraints so that the final sales product is not so grossly inflated in price that there is no incentive for the consumer to purchase that new piano. Yet the price should not be artificially lowered by compromising on the quality of either the materials or labor. The price of the new piano should be an accurate reflection of the costs for the materials, labor and craftsmanship in the manufacturing process along with the musicality and attention paid to fine detail of the finished product.
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Sacred cows make the best hamburger. - Clemens

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#908775 - 03/07/02 12:28 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Derick Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 3290
Loc: New York
Excellent Matt G.!!! I, the socialist (haha) completely agree and can't think of a thing to add (for once!).

Derick
_________________________
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

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#908776 - 03/07/02 12:32 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5484
norbert,
if what you say is true, i do have a message for the manufacturers, and it is not about price. it is about music.

dear manufacturers:
please remember that you are in the music business. music is the reason we are interested in your products. please do not try to take shortcuts that sacrifice the musicality of your instruments in service to the bottom line, or to enhance efficiency, if it will harm the musicality of your instruments.

i am very happy to pay for quality, AND, i know quality when i hear it. hint: quality has nothing to do with marketing or sales spin. it has nothing to do with high or low prices. it has to do with the tone and touch of the piano.

where i think some manufacturers get into trouble is when they try to b.s. people about the caliber of their instruments so that the customer will pay more for less and like it. i do have a manufacturer or two in mind here.

not only are the individual customers hurt when companies do this, but MUSIC is injured. a certain standard of performance and quality is being eroded because of greed and the bottom line.

most of the people who are reading this are not fooled by the b.s. they trust their own ears. and if they don't, they will soon learn how to from the rest of us. \:D

fakers have much to fear.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#908777 - 03/07/02 01:29 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
T2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/01
Posts: 341
Nice post, Pique. I agree wholeheartedly. 'Cept I capitalize.

Pianos are a recession sensitive durable good whose market is not growing much over time, if any. Hit hard by a recession, sales revenues are down, and manufacturers are probably asking themselves questions like: What could we be doing differently?

To think of it from the perspective of a manufacturer: You have high overhead, rising costs and pricing conditions resembling a price-seeker's market, i.e., you don't necessarily know the slope or elasticity of the demand curve you're facing.

In addition, manufacturers must generally use a network of piano dealers to bring products to market. This dealer network has a high degree of variability in quality, and unfavorable impressions created by dealer frequently also make lasting negative impressions on a manufacturer in the minds of consumers.

First, it doesn't sound like piano manufacturing is very profitable business. I think we ought to thank many of them just for hangin' in there and sticking it out.

One word of advice: Maintain standards of quality, both in your dealer networks and in your products. The Internet has the ability to amplify any problem into bigger issue simply by informing thousands of people. These are people that are probably in your target market.

T2 \:\)

[ March 07, 2002: Message edited by: T2 ]

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#908778 - 03/07/02 07:16 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
JBryan Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/02
Posts: 9798
Loc: Oklahoma City
It is hard to quarrel with the sentiments expressed by Matt and Derrick but the question is who is the final arbiter of these values. In our (capitalist) system it happens to be a disinterested party called the free market and imperfect as it is it works rather well even if some can point out anecdotal cases where gross inequities have occurred. The bottom line (so to speak) is there has to be a disinterested element involved with no axes to grind or hidden interests of their own. Anything else ultimately degenerates into a form of tyranny. Now back to our regularly scheduled piano forum. \:\)
_________________________
Better to light one small candle than to curse the %&#$@#! darkness.

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#908779 - 03/07/02 09:22 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Anonymous
Unregistered


 Quote:
Originally posted by Norbert:
Guys:

I have CONCRETE evidence that several manufacturers [importers] are observing this thread right now with considerable interest.

It is YOUR chance to speak openly,loud and clear what YOU think a 'fair'price should be.
The men in the dark suits reading this are making notes.[ Even if they may NOT follow suit and chances are...they won't anyways]

BUT:

Make your points now! For better or worse.

It's your [our!] chance.

To give them "an earfull" ![/b]


I have always assumed that the manufacturers probably had members on Boards like this and that they monitored them anyway. Most other industries monitor the better Boards which affect them. I have also always assumed that one the the roles of the dealers on here was to gather marketing information for the manufacturers they represent.

Given the fact that this thread was specifically about price, it obviously was different than what is probably going on regularly here. This thread basically makes us a focus group, which is fine.

I would like to urge the manufacturers to start thinking about expanding their customer base. They need to come out with a sub $5,000 piano, perhaps even a sub $3,000 piano. Not going to be very high quality, of course. Not going to be highly regarded by the more elite in the piano community. But it will make it possible for parents and others who do not have a lot of money to go to the store and buy a piano they can learn on. Hook them on playing, and they will be there for a long time, bying the more expensive pianos as they become more hooked. A good thing for the future of the dealers as well.

They also need to sell them in places other than the typical piano dealers. Most dealers showrooms are intimindating to the average, non-piano playing, uninformed, consumer. No matter what the dealer does, the very fact that he has so many pianos and of such a price makes it intimidating for the person who simply wants a simple instrument to walk in and feel comfortable that they are not being taken for a ride. I would suggest such outlets as Sears, Penny's or even the lower end furniture store chains.

Finally, I would recommend these manufacturers start donating pianos to schools. I would assume low-end ones, and subsidize piano teachers for the kids. I would assume these would be uprights or spinets because of space requirements. But if they want a future generation of people interested in pianos and playing pianos, the more the kids are exposed to the piano, the better chance they have.null[/b]

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#908780 - 03/07/02 10:03 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I'm with George on this one, and think his ideas are valid.

The piano market is shrinking. In large part, this is because there are few options at the low end, entry level, and shopping for a piano can be a very unpleasant experience. Why should manufacturers be surprised to discover that they aren't building up a new market? They are doing virtually nothing that I can see to make the idea of playing and purchasing a piano a pleasant experience.

Where are the outreach programs? The marketing to new audiences? School programs? The "signature" artists who play concerts in affordable venues, subsidized by the manufacturers? (Our Steinway series programs are definitely NOT directed at the mass market, with tickets starting somewhere in the $30 range, and always at evening performances in elegant halls.)

I recognize that it's not the full responsibility of the manufacturers to "fix" this situation. I think lack of funding for school arts programs is deplorable, and also to blame. BUT, the manufacturers could do more and pick up some of the slack. And they could afford it by providing a more affordable entry level piano and increasing their market that way.

Just my 2cents worth (and I swore I'd stay away from piano politics in my postings!)

Nina

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#908781 - 03/07/02 11:27 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
I've already given some of my views on pricing about specific instruments, so I will constrain these comments to pricing levels.

I agree with George about the inexpensive piano. The problem that we on this board have, is when somebody is looking for information about buying 6 year old Suzie her first piano, we immediately (myself included) jump to $6000 verticals like CWs, K50s, U1s, etc. It's nice to have this level of quality for a beginner, but not essential. A decent, musical 2-3k piano is all that is needed.

Another level of piano that inspires competition is the 6k baby grand. Many people buy this size (around 5') only or primarily for furniture. Believe it or not, most can deliver a good looking piano at this price. Most don't play as well as they could. Perhaps upping the prep level at the factory would only have a negligible impact on cost, yet give the dealer a better playing piano to sell.

Next level - the magical 10k grand. 10k, along with the 15k and 20k pricepoints, tends to be the dollar figure mentioned over and over again by piano shoppers. If the manufacturer can deliver a mid-line, playable, musical, 6' grand, suitable for average home use, at the magic 10k number, I think he has a winner, NO MATTER WHERE the piano is made. We on the board tend to be a bit more cognisant of all the brands out there in pianodom. If we took a poll, using every consumer that walked into a piano store for the first time, and asked him to name brands of pianos, how many could he name? Yamaha and Steinway, maybe. So the challenge is A) to build that piano at this pricepoint and B) get your name fixed in the public mind.

Next pricepoint is the 15k grand. This piano appeals to the person who either plays well or plays well enough to appreciate a better grade of piano. Actually, there are some pretty good pianos in this range. Yamaha Cs, Kawai RXs, Petrof, Estonia, and others. People who tend to buy this range of piano are probably more aware of what is available to them and are willing to sacrifice "name brand" for sound.

The 20kish piano. This where things really begin to get good. There are pianos that are available at this pricepoint that will give yeoman musical service for a lifetime. The challenge for the manufacturer is to build a world class instrument for the home and keep that price within the top range of the average to better musician, which I think is around 20k and not too much more. The problem is that there are too many pianos out there with 30k or more pricetags, that are no better than the 20kish piano. I also think at this pricepoint the manufacturer faces a steep upward climb. Yes, a better piano can be produced, but at what price? And how many can be sold at the higher price to justify production? I've often wondered about the buyer's profile of the typical 40-60k piano buyer. Most musicians I know simply cannot afford a 50k piano, yet many are sold. Who buys them?
Just a few of my disjointed thoughts.
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www.coffee-room.com

Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

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#908782 - 03/07/02 11:34 AM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Samejame Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 808
Loc: NL, Canada
I wonder if the global prices asked for pianos depend on where you are on the planet. Apart from the obvious transportation demographic, would the prices be affected depending on the cost of living and the relative wealth, or lack of it - and thus the ability to afford - prices which are inflated. I say this because last fall I returned to Canada from a trip to Poland (I posted earlier about certain aspects of this trip dealing with 9/11, which is where I was on that fateful date.) I was astounded by the prices of certain established manufacturers. If some of you will recall, I posted the example of a new Feurich grand (208 cm) for about 20K Canadian (39,400 Polish zloty). Now, a Feurich in this neck of the woods (Canada or US) would probably fetch twice that amount. But I wonder if the fact that it was being sold at that price in Poland, where labour rates are cheap, and cost of living relatively high, is a reflection of the local (Polish) shopper's ability to buy. Is this making any sense, and is this truly a demographic, or a figment of my imagination?

Jamie
_________________________
"A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" Oscar Wilde.

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#908783 - 03/07/02 12:36 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
Norbert, if you have distributors reading this thread looking for ideas, I just hope they can remember that there is a reason NASA doesn't ask for space shuttle advice from focus groups of people who like airplanes. ;\) Some of the suggestions I've seen made in this thread, while sincere, are downright frightening.

As a dealer, I cannot comment on prices. But I can talk about the industry. Lately there has been a lot of discussion on various threads about capitalism, socialism, free market trade, price fixing, Evil Corporations, greedy CEOs, etc. Then there has been the discussions of slimy dealers, unfair pricing structures, how much a dealer should make, and a huge focus on what a dealer's profit margins should be. As I address this, bear in mind that most of the time my posts are written to either be entertaining and add some levity, or to seriously address issues where I think I can add to the discussion. I only bite when I've been bitten. This post falls in the category of trying to seriously address the issue, not to "bite" anyone. So don't anyone take any of this personal. Everything is written in a general sense, with no one in particular in mind.

I'm sure those of you who are attorneys are occasionally amused when you hear those of us who aren't trained in the legal system discuss how to handle a legal issue. Those in an engineering career are amused when people who aren't trained in this field talk about building a bridge. So too do those who are businessmen (or women) get amused when people who have never been in business talk about how business should run.

It has been suggested for example that all piano manufacturers should build models of pianos in the 3K range to accomodate those who can't afford their higher quality products. If we follow this train of logic, then Rolls Royce ought to build Geo Metro equivalents. The problem with this logic is it fails to take into consideration the fact that no business can be all things to all people. You focus on one end, the middle, or the other end. If you try to do it all, you do none of them well. There are lots of companies building products in the 3K range already, and they are focusing on that price point. If you want a 3K piano, don't ask companies building pianos in the 50K range to build them, shop where the 3K pianos are.

It was also suggested that manufacturers start selling them in furniture stores, Walmart, Texaco gas stations, anywhere you can find an empty space on the floor to set one. The idea put forth was that this would put more pianos in front of the public, and more people would be able to own pianos. To someone who has spent their life in the business of pianos, this is like an attorney hearing someone suggest that the way to cut down on the clogged court system is to give the litigants clubs and have them settle it outside. Selling pianos in furniture stores was an idea tried back in the 50's and 60's, maybe even before that. What manufacturers found was that they sold quite a few pianos initially as the furniture stores bought 3 or 4 pianos each. Then they spent the next 20 years trying to clean the market up of all the crappy out of tune unserviced pianos sitting in furniture showrooms instead of selling more pianos. There was practically no sell-through. Walmart has already tried to sell pianos. Twice. They failed miserably. Why? Because while it is nice to theorize about things one thinks might work, reality cuts with a sharp edge. People will not buy pianos the way many of you think. You are basing your idea of how people buy pianos on how *you* buy them. The vast majority of people require someone to teach them, to hold their hand, and ultimately, to nudge them into it. Pianos will not sell by simply lining them up in a row in Walmart and putting price tags on them.

Slimy dealer tactics abound, that's for sure. But there's very little discussion about slimy consumer tactics. The idea that you are entitled to have piano prices set at across the board prices simply doesn't factor in what keeps business in motion. And if you don't have a system that keeps business in motion, it soon stops. When it stops it doesn't matter how prices are determined, because there's nothing being sold.

No one so far has tried to determine how much it costs the manufacturer to build the piano and demand that they show you what their costs are so you know how much they are making. They are marking their product up too, you know. Maybe a good way to determine the price would be instead of requiring businessmen to show you their guts on the floor would be to simply take the socialist position to its ultimate - and require each customer to provide their financial records so as to determine what they are capable of paying, and then making you pay based on a percentage of what you are worth. Those of you who have more than others must pay more to cover the losses incurred from selling them to people who have less. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" and all that.

For the record, lest anyone think I'm trying to defend a practice of gouging customers, I have a one price non negotiating price structure - I give my customers a signed contract which says even after they've bought a piano if they should find it somewhere else for less I will refund the difference. Having said that, you (the general, nonspecific "you") are trying to reinvent the wheel. No matter what is being sold, how much the product costs is not the public's business. How much Wendy's pays for the syrup in a cup of coke is none of our business. The system works when you learn how much the same sized coke sells for at McDonalds, and you make a decision who to buy the coke from based on what you learned. It is not McDonald's responsibility to prove to you how much they made on the coke, or whether or not they earned it. They will learn soon enough when they begin to lose business because they are charging too much. And they might not lose any business even with a higher priced coke, once the whole meal is taken into consideration. That is how business has to work. Trying to say pianos are somehow different just doesn't address reality.

So having written this tome (and I'm holding back.....) I would like to add my answer to the question of how much a piano should cost. Here it is:

Whatever it happens to come to once a consumer's research and a dealer's goals have come face to face, and both parties have agreed on a number that both are satisfied with[/b].

If a dealer is selling things so cheaply that he can't make a profit, he shouldn't whine to someone else. If a dealer is trying to gouge people he shouldn't whine to anyone else when he finds he has no customers. And if a consumer doesn't do their due diligence before they write their check, they shouldn't whine about the system and claim they were cheated. And don't try to claim you can't do your due diligence for lack of available information either. The information you need to make an informed decision on price is all over the place.
_________________________
Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless

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#908784 - 03/07/02 01:11 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Stanza Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1458
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Great post by Jolly, as usual.
There is no need for piano manufactures to re-invent the wheel. Being high ticket mechanical items, many parallels have already been drawn between pianos and automobiles. Learn from the automakers!
GM makes Chevys to Cadillacs. They build to order and make deals on previous years production. My suggestions:

1) Have 3 or 4 lines of pianos with different names, and possibly different size ranges. Have the "guts" be of good quality across the line, but maybe use a better cabinet or other better features in the higher end line. Maybe have a "Parlor" line 5' to 5'8" a "Performance" line 5''8" to 6'10 and a "Concert" line 7'and up.
Why build a high end 5 foot grand, or a low end 9 foot one?

2) Maybe the Chinese are going in this direction, because the piano hasn't evolved in many years. Cars certainly have. Maybe it is time for some R&D and some risk taking.
There may be a definite market nitch for a piano that was made from newer materials or at least a hybrid...assuming good sound and performance. The use of teflon, nylon, titanium, graphite, and polyester may not only replace, but improve sound and performance while making production cheaper.


3)Factory owned stores (sorry). Order your piano based on what you like in the showroom. It gets delivered to your home from the factory. Local tuners under contract come to prep it. If you don't like it they swap it or take it back guaranteed. This cuts out the middleman somewhat and the factory doesn't have to build on spec. so you can get a better deal yet.

4)No haggle pricing (like Saturn).Less time shopping around. This would also lead to quicker sales.

Just some thoughts
;\)
_________________________
Estonia L190 #7004
Casio PX 310
Yamaha NP 30

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#908785 - 03/07/02 01:28 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
Steve Miller Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3290
Loc: Yorba Linda, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larry:


the way to cut down on the clogged court system is to give the litigants clubs and have them settle it outside.
[/b]

What a wonmderful idea! ;\)

Great post, Larry.
_________________________
Defender of the Landfill Piano

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#908786 - 03/07/02 01:29 PM Re: What should a new piano cost?
fmelliott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/01
Posts: 894
Loc: Virginia
Here is my 2 cents for Norbert. At the moment, I can't afford a really good piano. I hope to some day. Still, it will probably never be one of the fine European ones because of their prices. Bosendorfer has done very nicely in starting a Conservatory series. I would love to see something of theirs in the $30,000 range. I might put the kids up for sale if they ever did that. If the great European companies want our business in a BIG way, they will have to sell something more of us can afford. Boy I hope they can. Meanwhile, Weber has a good 6 foot grand for an unbelieavable $10,000 and Estonia and Petrof are right in there with prices that work for us and pianos that can make you drool.

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