Mom-and-Pop Music Stores Lose Out as Sweetwater's Sales Exceed $1.1 Billion a Year

mtarrani

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However, there are plenty other retailers that will give you a much better deal. Drummers Superstore, Daytona Beach Drum Shop, Arizona Drum shop, Chicago Music Exchange just to name a few. I’ll continue to give my business to the ones I mentioned above, who will easily beat Sweetwater’s prices all day long and still provide great customer service. Keep your candy Chuck !!!!
Daytona Beach Drum Shop carries drums and cymbals and not much else. Total Entertainment in Daytona Beach is better unless you are purchasing a drum, kit or cymbal. Of course, Sweetwater carries a wider variety of brands in drums, kits and cymbals than both of those combined. I almost never shop locally because those two shops never seem to have what I want. To be fair, Sweetwater is limited in some areas too, but not nearly as limited as the local shops. I did purchase a kit from Daytona Beach Drum Shop a few years back, but I think that was my only local purchase in the past decade. Sam Ash, Amazon and Musician's Friend have been my sources of gear (heads, sticks, brushes, etc.) because they carry what I want and I usually have my order if three days or less. The locals just cannot compete.
 

MrDrums2112

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Love Sweetwater. IMO, they know what they are doing, have great customer service, and they consistently have what I need.
 

dcrigger

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Yup, not much of a problem if you ignore the role music stores have played in many of our lives:

-- As the place many learned to play drums.
-- The spot where you run into fellow musicians, former and future bandmates and local pros.
-- As a flexible workplace that understands you're being called away for gigs in faraway cities.
-- The store that let you chat for long stretches with people who know more than you about gear, value, etc.
-- The place where you fall in love with a cymbal or a snare that's way out of your price range, but, somehow, you can work out a trade on some old gear, a bit of cash and a few afternoons of pushing a broom.
-- The place that hosts drum clinics.
-- The store with the room filled with drumheads signed by touring drummers.
-- The stories about the time Joe Morello stopped in right at closing for new heads or something.
-- Your favorite place to hide away when the wife wants you to go to her Mother's or, worse yet, Costco.

Yup, world's changing. Not for the better, but, screw it, it's "progress" we're contributing to. Get with it, chimney sweeps and retailers who care. You're old news.
I get all of that.

And I lived in LA for years - and so enjoyed just about the best world had to offer in that regard. In other words, not "a" dedicated pro drum store - but actually a good handful. Plus a number of stores with good selection, etc...

But then I moved out of LA 15-16 years ago - and started seeing what folks outside the big markets had access to. Yikes! I found myself regularly driving an hour to get to a Guitar Center - and was thankful for it.

Sure I remember what my local music store was like growing up in Orange County - but sheesh, that was 45 years ago. At a time when there like 4 or 5 types of drumheads - 2 or 3 makers of sticks - etc.

So sure it was cool - if you happen to live one that was cool. But for years I traveled all over the place and I can't say I ever went to a decent store - outside of a major market - that had anything other than entry level stuff - certainly no cymbals that anyone would be saving up their money for. Obviously you had different experiences.

As far as drum lessons, stores aren't needed for that - small music academy type places have been springing up all over the place for past 20 years or so.

In any case - I'm not saying this is a great trend - I just don't know that is disastrous either.

Sure it used to be the place to meet players, etc. - but kids don't need that these days. "Drive halfway across town to a store where there might or might not be anyone of interesting to see???" Why? You know there's Instagram and Reddit. And YouTube. And Zoom and FaceTiming. Kids in Iowa can hook up and exchange parts, ideas and tracks with kids across country, or in Japan, or in Europe.

Sorry to not be that sentimental about it. But the world changes... And for me as a musician, there are scores of very concerning changes to worry.... the possible demise of the mom and pop music stores isn't even on my list.
 

Deafmoon

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I don't know about Sweetwater specifically, but it's been common practice since box stores came into being, that municipalities cut them sweet tax deals to base themselves in town. They're also numerous other federal and state programs and tax incentives for them if they hire veterans, African Americans, women and other groups that the small guy cannot get. It's all in the box stores favor right now, and it's not by accident.

So my guess is Sweetwater gets a lot of federal and municipal tax breaks.
Great Point. They must also have much better shipping carrier rates that the little small business store just cannot get close to.
 
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Deafmoon

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Some find the concept of mom and pop to be an outdated and distasteful bourgeois sentimentality .
Benny: I've been in both store and corporate retail since the 70's; Bambergers, Macy's, FAO Schwarz, J.Crew, Saks Fifth Avenue, Hudson Bay Company (Canada) & Lord & Taylor. Neither myself or any of the customers or co-workers (including CEO's & Presidents) I dealt with in my 40 years used the term to demean or be derogatory toward small business owners. That said though, we should strive then to refer to the business as Small Business versus Large. Maybe this is best? Lou
 

mkelley

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Niche stores will always have a place. Instead of a music or drum shop, you have to become more specialized to compete. Vintage drums, high end and bespoke drums that’s how drum businesses survive. Steve Maxwell is a great example of this philosophy.
 

ScottGunshore

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Popped up on my YT feed a few days ago… I was waiting for the Sweetwater discussion. I like their operation and have purchased several items from them. IMO it’s a great shop for the home studio / recording drummer. Hopefully they maintain the elements that got them to this point. Time will tell.

 

DanRH

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I’ll shop at my local drum shop first. If they don’t have the item, I’m buying at Sweetwater. Great customer service and I love the candy. Also, the follow up. When I first started getting into bass guitar, I purchased a bass guitar that I ended up returning just because I wanted a different model and this was after three weeks. It cost me their cost for shipping back to Indiana from California and it was $16 and we’re talking about a year ago. They continue to win my loyalty.
 

ppfd

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You're almost right. I worked at Lentine's from 86-91 and was a rep calling on them until the end. They went under on their own. You ARE right about them expanding to fast, which did a lot of damage, not to mention three Guitar Center's coming to N.E. Ohio. At the time -- around 2005/6 -- Sweetwater wasn't anywhere near as big as they are now, didn't sell drums at all, and had only recently started selling guitars. They were mostly PA and recording. Sweetwater bought out the balance of Lentine's inventory after they had declared bankruptcy, and hired Mike Lentine along with his right-hand man, Vern Crews, who both pulled up stakes and moved to Ft. Wayne. They maintained the Lentine's website for awhile, but let it die on the vine. All six stores closed. I think Vern still works at Sweetwater. MIke left Sweetwater and came back to Akron a few years ago. I don't know what he's doing now.

So were you around from 86-91? I ran the drum department in Akron then moved on to be the manager of the first branch in Cleveland. In 1991 I quit and became a rep for LP and Zildjian.
Hey Doug,
I was born and raised in Akron and left the area in ‘91. I started taking lessons with Tom Hanna back in the early ‘80s in the old store and then down at the new store as well. Over 10 years with him and Lentines. Is Tom still around?

Yeah I spent a lot of time bugging you in the drum shop! :laughing5: Remember how you expanded the basement dept and carried just about every major brand and were the place to beat for price and service.

Ran into you few years back at a drum daze event in Columbus when you were still repping I believe? I’m guessing that event is no more?
 

L300burn

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Drum Center of Portsmouth started as a very small operation and is now one of the best (if not the best) drum shops in the country. His on line presence is enormous and I'm sure it shows in his yearly sales numbers. He may not be a Sweetwater, but he is positioned to compete for every dime out there.

Since I don't really have any music store near me, if I need something, I just call them. The price is always right and they usually ship that day.
If you like DCP you might wanna check out Bentleys Drum Shop in Fresno. Also really nice people with good prices but slightly less known.
 

swarfrat

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One other gripe. Their packaging is way oversized. I'm kinda surprised but I guess their leverage gets em a price structure that means it's not such a penalty. But my wife's purchase radar is based on package size. And my kid is a packrat when it comes to cardboard forts.
 

Gcort49

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I read somewhere that their location is a campus of buildings...from professional sound and recording rooms (audio and video), to classrooms where employees are constantly attending school curriculums on all facets of the music/recording/performance arts.
It would be worth working there just for the 'education'.
Sounds top notch.
 

zenghost

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I have consistently found Sweetwater's (and DCP for that matter) pricing to be high compared to SoundPure out of NC, which also has great service (but no candy). I placed a Paiste order a short while ago and shopped a bit on pricing. SoundPure was 20% off MAP on Paiste and (25% off MAP on Yamaha hardware pack) with free shipping and no tax, which made it an easy decision. SP also has been great to deal with on custom orders in communicating with manufacturers.
 

ludwigmod72

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I have consistently found Sweetwater's (and DCP for that matter) pricing to be high compared to SoundPure out of NC, which also has great service (but no candy). I placed a Paiste order a short while ago and shopped a bit on pricing. SoundPure was 20% off MAP on Paiste and (25% off MAP on Yamaha hardware pack) with free shipping and no tax, which made it an easy decision. SP also has been great to deal with on custom orders in communicating with manufacturers.
Fully agree Zenghost. There is no argument from me about Sweetwater’s inventory and customer service they’re both great. However, like you I’ll shop elsewhere and get a much better deal on the same item and SAVE. I don’t get why someone would want to pay more at Sweetwater. I’m guessing Chuck’s gotta pay for that candy somehow. I know everyone raves about their customer service which I agree is great. But don’t be fooled, it’s strictly a marketing tact to make you feel warm and cozy inside and important so they can sway you to buy again. I don’t need some “Drum Tech” who’s half my age trying to tell me over the phone for 15 min how good a Zildjian Cymbal or Remo head is and why I need to buy more. Furthermore, when I inquired about a Ludwig Classic Maple Downbeat kit they had in stock, the “Tech” spent another 10 minutes trying to tell me that their price is very competitive and I won’t find a better deal. HAHAHA that’s why I got it for 200.00 less from Chicago Music Exchange a day later. I apologize to everyone for this rant on here. I love all you guys and appreciate your passion for drums, your guidance and input we share with each other every day. However, I refuse to pay more for something when I can get it cheaper and STILL get decent customer service. Again, keep your candy Chuck !!!
 

mtarrani

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Fully agree Zenghost. There is no argument from me about Sweetwater’s inventory and customer service they’re both great. However, like you I’ll shop elsewhere and get a much better deal on the same item and SAVE. I don’t get why someone would want to pay more at Sweetwater. I’m guessing Chuck’s gotta pay for that candy somehow. I know everyone raves about their customer service which I agree is great. But don’t be fooled, it’s strictly a marketing tact to make you feel warm and cozy inside and important so they can sway you to buy again. I don’t need some “Drum Tech” who’s half my age trying to tell me over the phone for 15 min how good a Zildjian Cymbal or Remo head is and why I need to buy more. Furthermore, when I inquired about a Ludwig Classic Maple Downbeat kit they had in stock, the “Tech” spent another 10 minutes trying to tell me that their price is very competitive and I won’t find a better deal. HAHAHA that’s why I got it for 200.00 less from Chicago Music Exchange a day later. I apologize to everyone for this rant on here. I love all you guys and appreciate your passion for drums, your guidance and input we share with each other every day. However, I refuse to pay more for something when I can get it cheaper and STILL get decent customer service. Again, keep your candy Chuck !!!
I, too, don't need a drum tech trying to tell me about stuff that I know better than he or she. But my view of their excellent service isn't about that. It's about the few times when I had to return an item and how painless it was - and no questions asked to boot. Or the fact that even though they are halfway across the US from me, I get my orders in about three days. I can always find better prices (or even items that Sweetwater doesn't carry - which are many), but I have yet to find the service I just mentioned anywhere else. And that type of service and level or service are not free. That is what you are paying a little extra for. I recognize the value and gladly spend a few dollars more because I know I can return stuff that has issues and my rep will jump through hoops to make it happen. Case in point - I purchased a JBL speaker that turned out to be defective. I had already disposed of the packaging. My rep had a replacement immediately shipped to me, and I placed the defective one in that packaging and used the included shipping label to return it. That along guaranteed my loyalty. I am sure it cost Sweetwater a pretty penny to make my customer experience positive. I've dealt with other companies who sold for less and when I had an issue pretty much cashed my check and told me to pack sand. The money I saved by shopping for price was not a real savings.
 

MrDrums2112

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I guess it depends on who you talk to.
True - I should clarify that I do not shop them exclusively, and for some things I definitely go elsewhere. My overall experience with them has been solid and positive. Given the choice, I’d give all my business to the local small shops, but they are just not around here, unfortunately. I miss that.
 


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