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Rather sad really, for those of us who lived in York [ or the few cultured ones remaining anyhow].. For a good couple of centuries, in York;  at first at the end of a cobbled street called Stonegate, and then few hundred yards over the way, [Lendal] Banks Music & Son was a mainstay for those who liked to know their musical stuff.  The staff were for many years really knowledgeable, and interesting characters - the sort you rarely get these days!  They would go out of their way to make you feel like you mattered as customer; or let you know if something [ maybe record, CD] could interest you.  They published their own music publications, and even often seen helping in local concerts, with the manuscript books for the performers, of which most of the staff at Banks were themselves also [ good musicians].


I shall colour the characters briefly, for illustrative purposes - a small pleasant little man [with little round glasses on] used to serve me often at that shop, very obliging, in a nice way.  There was their boss, an older gentleman, likewise very knowledgeable.  And then one of the long-term staff upstairs; a slim man with upright character, and then a smaller man whom I still very occasionally glimpse in York's busy streets [ now much more stooped in posture].. very quiet and attentive.  Real people working in a truly great business.


The shop at Lendal was later renovated, and I used to like to go in to simply look at the instruments displayed behind display cabinets [ like a sort of museum really].

Or go upstairs to look through the hundreds of music books, with instruments displayed up on the walls nearby, and wonderful view over the York rooftops from a window at the far corner.  When you came out of Banks music shop - you really felt quite proud to carry your sheet music, or record, in your hands; because it was a quality good old-fashioned store, with exceptional business acumen.


Then several years back they sold the lower floor to another business [ that used similar name] and they no longer supplied unusual or varied range of instruments - instead going for the mainstream choices.  And so gradually their USP [ unique selling point] was lost; they no longer supplied a unique niche in the market.


And now they are gone.  the other day I had to get new stuff for my musical things, and went over to a more sort of glorified warehouse place that sells musical items [ shall remain nameless] .. but there was no rapport, and staff looked rushed off their feet, and flustered, and the whole process gave me the impression of a mass production factory place.  Instruments were coming in, in boxes, through their doors all the time, and all you did was select off a screen [ like a catalogue shop] until your order was handed over with little ceremony, or encouragement to want to go back again.


So, if you still have that local music store wherever you are - for heaven's sake keep promoting it to others, and patronise it as much as you can, because art is supposed to be all about communication, and people, not purely about selling a product mechanically .  And if you do [pay a bit more for that special place- then do it, because you are keeping that local place in business through your goodwill... of which I believe, at least, we all need much more of in the world, at the present time.




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Man, that's a deeply unfortunate and terribly common tale these days. Most mom and pop music stores have disappeared here in America too, and the only choice left standing tends to be Guitar Center, which is a miserable place. 


I was really terribly saddened when Button Box closed here in Massachusetts. I'd been wanting to visit the place for a long time, but I lived 3 hours away until 2020 when I moved within an hours drive of the Button Box. But by then, covid had struck, they were closed to the public and by appointment only, and things were hard. Ultimately they closed and I never even got a chance to visit the place. I was so excited to be living so 'close' finally, only for that elation to be snatched away. 


The Button Box is irreplaceable. There's nothing quite like that place in America anymore, let alone in the North East. 


There are some things I absolutely love about online shopping, but the power to move cheaper instruments on the internet, the lack of faith folks have in mechanical service from technicians, and the poor perception of value consumers have been programmed to have has ultimately made the internet the undoing of small musical instrument businesses. Not to mention that income plays a massive role in this and inflation and cost of living has risen dramatically. 


I hope that more music stores open again, but right now it's looking grim. I was a bicycle mechanic for small bike shops for over a decade and its the same thing in that industry as well, exactly the same.

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Happily, here in Western Australia, we still have Zenith Music - billed as "the best music store in Australia since 1969". The staff range in age from teenage music students through to more senior (in both age and status!). They are always happy to chat even if there is no sale imminent.

I call in whenever I am in the area, mainly to browse the instruments - everything from grand pianos to jaw harps - and try out any concertinas that they have in. 

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As a person that has worked in music stores in the past.


Let's just say that woking retail can really suck, generally. 


But, a music store specifically is another animal. 

Because, what it really amounts to, is it is a toy store. You might take that any way you like. But, for @ 99% of the customers. What is sold there is NOT an essential. It is Not the tools used to pay the bills. While some may make a bit here and there playing, it is not their main source of income.


The Pros (the people that make their primary earning from playing). by and large, are given instruments to market their products by the mfrs. And, only rarely do you get a pro level person (or more commonly their "people") in a store. And buying products is generally limited to incidentals that were lost on the last tour stop. 


So, you are generally (80%) dealing with people that don't know anything about what they are looking at or for. Who generally, don't care that much. And see no value to the person they are talking to, or the store that has been there 50+ years, other than getting the information they need to put the right item into their Amazon cart. Then come back a month later to tell you that what you told them to buy was not right.  and Want YOU to take back the item they bought elsewhere based on YOUR reccomendation. 


the 15% or so, that are reasonable players and buyers, that you can actually interact with can be nice to deal with.


It depends on the pay structure. But in a down economy.. trying to make anything other than the base pay (commission) in a non essential product store is a killer.



But, my experience was way pre covid. Most local music stores made a large % of they money by giving lessons.


I suspect that Covid drove most of these store out of the lessons business and into being an online shops  Just to survive.


Those that could survive and possibly even thrive (niche and specialties like BB)  maybe realized it was a heck of a lot cheaper to cut some staff, NOT play for high rent on a street level shop in the "nice" part of town. And rent a small warehouse space with no sign above and a computer with internet access and a shipping app. could be as, if not more profitable.


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Yes, Cambridge (UK) has recently lost its remaining general music shop (Millers) which had been in the centre of town since 1856. It remains (much smaller) just as a piano seller. It had previously taken over and assimilated competitor Ken Stevens from which came my first concertina.


There remains PMT which seems to sell mainly guitars, drums, keyboards and DJ kit, plus a couple of specialist outfits - Cambridge Strings, and "Wood Wind and Reed" which despite its name doesn't seem to acknowledge the existence of free-reed instruments.


So as far as I know, there is now nowhere in a city/region of some 300,000 people for a budding musician to drop in to a general music shop and find a concertina.

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Yes, I got my first concertina ( 20 key Kligenthal made one).. through the music store of my article ( Banks music shop)..and the 30 key one( I still use to this day)..

Sometimes it is also through almost incidentally browsing in shops, that you can come across items, almost by chance,( that you may seem to be able to do online.). but it is never the same as seeing and handling the real deal, in a living setting.

The music retail unit I criticize in my post here is exactly one of those (soleless) outlets a bit like a catalogue shop in reality, with hundreds of displayed items, and that computer terminal with bored looking employee waiting to grab your cash.



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It's not just Banks. York has lost the physical Red Cow Music store as well. However, there are all sorts of outlets around York catering to all sorts of squeezables. Acorn Music - mainly accordions - is at Stillington. Red Cow is up at Thornton-Le-Dale. There's Squeezebox Marketplace at Boroughbridge. A little further afield is Hobgoblin in Leeds. So the death of Banks is not a total disaster.

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