How To Work In A Music Store

Hello friends,
Carolyn recently reached out to us exploring ways to improve our role at Music and Arts. I felt I would do better organizing my thoughts in print than I would talking to you. First, I commend Carolyn for communicating with us. I have been with MA more than 5 years and it is the first time management has asked for my opinion regarding the store. I would like to give you my thoughts about how to work in a music store. Please understand I am not saying you are or are not doing the things I will mention. In fact, I am only at the store two days a week and I am teaching in the back room usually so I don’t observe your interaction very much. These are simply my ideas, nothing more.

First, I would like to say a few words about how I got where I am today. I graduated high school in May of 1973. In July I got a job at Armco Steel as a laborer. I also started taking guitar lessons and studying music at the local college. About a year later I joined an apprenticeship program at Armco Steel to become a motor inspector (electrician) at Armco. I graduated the program in 78 but the entire time I was still taking guitar lessons and studying music. I did not like working at Armco and I wanted to have a career in music. In 1979 I answered an ad in the Greensheet, a local newspaper, (no internet in those days) for a music store needing a part time guitar teacher. I answered the ad and got the job. The store was Garlands Music on I45 next to a new small furniture store called Gallery Furniture. It was a family business owned by Elaine and Gene Garland, a brother and sister team. After a few months of teaching Elaine asked me to work for her full time as a salesman. I accepted the position. There was an economic bust in the early 80s and many businesses folded, including ours. I was laid off, but I got a job as a salesman at another music store. In 1984 Elaine and Gene opened the store again but this time in Humble. Elaine offered me a sales position again but I told her I wanted to teach instead. She hired me as a teacher. I have been doing that full time since then. I said all that just to say I have been in a music store most of my life.

The following is what I have learned. I don’t claim that I do these things perfectly, but I know I should.

Communication: We need to communicate with people. Something that Elaine taught me is people love to talk about themselves. If someone plays guitar they love talking about the guitar they own or want to own. They love talking about their passions. We need to try our best to know our customers. Learn their names. How do we do this? If a young man or woman walks up to the counter with guitar strings you know they or someone in their family plays guitar. That gives you the opportunity to get to know them. Here are some questions you may ask. Do you play guitar or are these for someone else? How long have you been playing? What style of music do you like? Are you in a band? Do you take lessons? We have teachers here if you need lessons. Carolyn does repairs if you need help. What is your name? My name is Brian. Get to know your customers. Most of my best friends are people I have met in the music store.

Create an atmosphere: When I was young, I bought my first good guitar at Parker’s Music in Pasadena. There was a young man about my age that was a salesman. When I came in there he knew me by name. He was hip. He always knew about the newest hot song and he knew about old hot songs also. He kept a record player going and the record that was playing would be propped up on the counter so you knew what was playing. He was an authority to me and his love for music inspired me. When I needed picks or strings I was going to go to him because I liked him. I remember once I had a gig with a band and he came to see us and visit with us afterward.

If I were in charge of music at the store I would attempt to have quality music playing constantly. It may be Django Reinhardt from the 30s, Chet Atkins from the 50s, The Beatles from the 60s, Bruno Mars, or something current. Try to have historically significant and interesting music playing continually.

Know your products: The history of Gibson and Fender is amazing. There is a great book called The Birth of Loud that discusses the rise of Fender and Gibson. They started the guitar craze. Understanding the history gives you talking points with your customers. I recently made a list of 15 great movies relating to music. I can share those with you if you like. Here it is: 15 great movies.

First impression: When someone is shopping for a guitar and the salesman picks up a guitar, and strums a chord, that is the most important moment. It can mean a sale or a lost sale. If the guitar is out of tune the customer is not impressed. I can’t over emphasize how important it is to have the guitars always in tune and clean. When there are no customers in the store we should be cleaning and tuning all of the instruments. You only get one first impression! If the customer hears music coming from the instrument instantly that is likely to make the sale.

Being available: Typically, our interaction with a new customer may be something like this: (me) Can I help you? (customer) No thanks, I am just looking. He may just be looking but you still need to be available. If you resume looking at your cell phone, that sends a message that you are preoccupied and a discussion probably won’t occur. But if you are close by cleaning or arranging guitars you can strike up a conversation and may even make a new friend.

The cell phone: The cell phone really changed everything drastically. If you are going to look at the cell phone while you are on the clock, it really should be kept to a minimum.

Doing your very best: Working for MA is different than being self-employed. We rarely meet the people that are in upper management. It may feel like we are just here to get a check but the truth is that this kind of thinking has the potential of ruining our whole career. Conversely, doing our very best has an array of benefits to us.

First, when we care for what we do, we also get to enjoy what we do and our life becomes more pleasant. When we try to get better at what we do, our job turns into a personal training course where we learn from our own experience as well as from what others do and from our interaction with them. We’re not burning time but we’re using it for our own personal growth and benefit.

If we pay close attention to what we are doing, we get to know who is who, and we develop relationships that may become important to us and might last forever. And foremost, when we do our best, we create a reputation that is going to be with us wherever we go. Not only our former boss can give us a future recommendation, but random people who observe what we do may also give information about us or even may come to us with unexpected offers. When new opportunities arrive, the people in charge of filling up positions think first of those they know or may ask their friends if they know someone with such characteristics. And if we have made an impression on our clients, and we have developed a relationship with them, they may come back to us and take us to higher levels in our career. So, when we are helping a costumer or even a random shopper, we never know if that interaction could eventually be considered an interview.

Your word: Make sure your word is good as gold. If you tell someone you are going to call them, make sure you do that. Make people know they can count on you. You will do very well if you always keep your word.

Exceeding expectations: If you are ordering something for someone and it takes three days but sometimes five, tell the customer you can have it in five days. If it comes in three days they are happy because it came early. But if it is late they will be annoyed. Try to exceed their expectations.

Knowing your products: You can find reviews of everything on YouTube etc. You need to be an authority on your products. Customers need someone to help them selecting the correct product to fit their needs. If they see that you are knowledgeable they will come to you, a trusted source. They want someone to help them make the correct choice. If they don’t find that resource in you, they may go somewhere else to find it.

Talking points: WHEN A CUSTOMER LEAVES THEY SHOULD KNOW ABOUT EVERYTHING WE HAVE TO OFFER. This is the biggest thing I learned from Elaine. She had a list of talking points every customer heard when they walked in the door. When you left you knew everything the store had to offer.

Here is a checklist of few things we offer, and we need to tell every costumer:

One free trial lesson
Lessons for every instrument: Elaine also talked about the teachers and their experience. (Of course, I loved that).
Band rentals
Discount offers
Upcoming sales
Upcoming events

Manners and appreciation: Good manners are essential. When someone makes a purchase, always say thank you, at least. It is nice to add “We appreciate your business.” I am old enough to remember when it was considered rude if you didn’t do this. It feels awkward to me when I buy something from someone and they don’t express gratitude for doing business with them. Here is a short story for you. One day I was in my yard when the garbage truck drove up to pick up my garbage. One of the workers jumped out of the truck and walked over to me and said, “I just want to thank you for doing business with us. If it weren’t for you we wouldn’t have a job”. I shook his hand and thanked him. I was so impressed by him. When I am in the yard and they pass we always wave to each other. I like doing business with him. I feel I am doing business with a friend.

Stress and insecurity: When business is not going well people become stressed about their finances. Stress makes us irritable. We may become irritable with people around us and be easily annoyed. I remember one day I was driving on the freeway in route to see someone close to me in the hospital. My mind was occupied with that and I changed lanes in front of a car accidentally. The driver was very irate and shouted a few choice words my direction. I thought to myself you never know what someone is going through. So always be kind to people regardless of how they treat you. If you are kind you may diffuse a tense situation. If someone is cranky it is most likely not something you have done. It is something in their life not relating to you at all, so don’t read into it as something you have or haven’t done.

Music Students: Students come in once per week. They should get to know the staff and become friends. They might come to you to ask questions or buy accessories. Try to get to know them well and use those opportunities to become a trusted source, so when they need help, they will want to come to you.

Summary: Communicate. Know your customers. Make friends with them. Know your products. Be a reliable source. Keep your word always. Have good manners. Express appreciation. HAVE TALKING POINTS CONVEYING EVERYTHING WE HAVE TO OFFER TO EVERY ONE THAT WALKS THROUGH THE DOOR.

Thanks for taking time to read this, Brian Turner


Ok, I admit it… I used AI to help me with the following part. Nevertheless, it is accurate and if we know it well, we could use it as a subject of conversation with costumers. It would make them reflect about the benefits of taking music lessons, and feel the need for it. Then, we have to make sure to offer the service in order to fulfill that need.

The Benefits of Music Lessons
Music lessons can significantly accelerate your learning rate. Also, music instruction guides you to learn the right way so that you don’t have to go back and re-learn.

Here are some great reasons why music education is beneficial for you or your child:

Cognitive Benefits:

Improved Memory: Learning and playing music involves memorizing patterns, notes, and rhythms, which can enhance overall memory skills.
Enhanced Brain Function: Playing an instrument engages multiple areas of the brain, promoting neural connections and cognitive development.

Emotional Benefits:

Stress Reduction: Music has the power to evoke emotions and can serve as a therapeutic outlet, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
Expression of Creativity: Learning an instrument allows individuals to express themselves creatively, fostering a sense of accomplishment and self-discovery.

Motor Skills Development:

Fine Motor Skills: Playing instruments involves precise finger movements and coordination, contributing to the development of fine motor skills.

Discipline and Patience:

Practice and Persistence: Learning to play an instrument requires consistent practice, teaching discipline and patience as students work towards mastery over time.

Social Benefits:

Collaboration: Group lessons or ensemble performances provide opportunities for collaboration and teamwork.
Communication Skills: Music often involves communication through non-verbal cues, contributing to improved communication skills.

Academic Improvement:

Enhanced Academic Performance: Some studies suggest a positive correlation between music education and academic achievement, particularly in areas such as math and language.

Boosted Self-Esteem:

Sense of Achievement: Mastering a musical piece or skill provides a sense of accomplishment, boosting self-esteem and confidence.

Cultural Awareness:

Exposure to Diversity: Learning different styles of music exposes individuals to diverse cultures and traditions, fostering cultural awareness.

Lifelong Learning:

Continuous Growth: Music is a lifelong learning journey that encourages individuals to continue learning and growing throughout their lives.

Enjoyment and Recreation:

Personal Fulfillment: Playing music can be a source of joy and personal fulfillment, contributing to overall well-being.

In summary, music lessons offer a holistic approach to personal development, encompassing cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of well-being. Whether for personal enjoyment or pursuing a professional career in music, the benefits of music education can extend far beyond the music itself.

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