Are you buying a piano based on name alone?
Did you pick out a piano because it was recommended by someone you know, like a family member or a piano teacher, or someone you don’t know on the internet?
Are you sure you’re choosing the piano that is right for you and your family, or is it possible that you are just one of the many, many consumers who got hooked by the massive marketing machines of a couple very, very large corporations?
See, the piano manufacturing world is–for the most part– a quiet and reserved industry of old-school piano craftsmen and old-school companies. Most of these manufacturers don’t have massive marketing arms and entire teams of marketing experts doing anything and everything to get you to remember the name of their piano, and then purchase said piano.
The key word here is most.
Ask anyone who works in the piano industry what brands customers mention (or even know) and you are almost guaranteed to hear the same 3 or 4 answers.
Steinway, Yamaha, Baldwin, Kawai (perhaps Chickering if they remember playing on grandma’s piano way-back-when!).
If you’re reading this, those are probably a few of the brands you know as well!
Why is this?
Is it because these brands are the only piano companies still around? Absolutely not! Is it because they make the best pianos in the world? Not exactly! Is it because these are the best-priced pianos out there? Nope! Is it because these companies devote a massive amount of time, money, and manpower to marketing their products to you? Yes!
You see, there are tons and tons of piano manufacturers out there, and many (if not all) of them produce very high-quality luxury pianos. But we are willing to bet that many people haven’t ever heard of most of them, even if they are some of the greatest musical instruments in the world!
And don’t get us wrong, we sell and have sold every one of those pianos mentioned above. Sometimes they are the exact right choice for a customer, and sometimes they aren’t. But in the world of pianos, we almost never recommend making a buying decision based on brand name alone.
So, why are these brands so widely known and the other 90% of piano manufacturers are almost completely invisible to the general public?
The internet is partly to blame. There are countless blogs and websites and forums where one can find very subjective answers to questions like “Which is better, Steinway or Yamaha?” or “Is Yamaha the best piano to buy?” or “Is Steinway the best piano in the world?” and on and on.
There’s a lot of marketing going on here, some of it on the surface, and much of it behind the scenes. Over the last 50 years, certain brands have made a very concerted effort to place their products in every music studio and teaching school that they possibly can, betting on the fact that most young piano players and teachers are more likely to remember and recommend the brands with which they are most familiar.
But you will never see a Super Bowl ad for a Seiler piano. You won’t ever see a billboard on the highway for a Brodmann or a Fazioli. You won’t open a magazine and find an advertisement for an A. Geyer. Your piano teacher likely won’t recommend a Ritmuller or a Story & Clark.
Please understand that this isn’t the fault of the consumer, the piano salesman, or the piano teacher (we absolutely LOVE piano teachers– You are essential!). This name recognition, or lack thereof, was done by design, and the few piano companies who decided that marketing was going to be a large part of their business operations have mostly been rewarded for that choice.
And there is nothing inherently wrong with this. We sell and recommend every single one of these pianos mentioned above– for the right person. But as a consumer, it’s very important that you remember that in the piano world, just because you’ve heard of the brand does not mean it is the only, or the correct, piano for you.
For the vast majority of piano brands that are less well-known, there is more emphasis put on quality and craftsmanship than on marketing. This in and of itself does not necessarily mean better or worse, it’s just a different way of doing business. Some of these companies make thousands and thousands of pianos each year, and some make fewer than 80!
When we sit down with someone who is in the market for a piano, we want to get to know as much as we can about who you are, what your needs are, who will be playing the piano, what kind of music do you play, is the color important, what size can you fit in your home, etc. For some, the name on the front is very important. Some people want a piano brand that they know, and that’s okay! Some are thinking about the future and considering how the brand name will affect resale value. Some just want a particular style and aren’t caught up on brand name, and some just want the very best of the best.
Everyone is different, and that’s why this is so important. If owning a Steinway piano has always been your dream and now you have ample funds, the space, and the willingness to pay a bit more for a well-marketed piano, then go right ahead! But perhaps you have a young family and you want to get the kids started on piano, but you aren’t necessarily ready to invest a huge amount of money? Then what? Or maybe you like a good deal and want an extremely high-quality piano at a much, much lower price than some of the more recognizable brands?
Boutique pianos might be for you. Or they might not be.
Pianos range in price from completely free to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and everywhere in between, and it’s always going to be an investment, no matter what you spend.
There’s no one-size-fits-all piano option, and it’s important to consider that sometimes name-recognition comes with a higher price tag, and that higher name-recognition does not always mean higher quality (in fact, sometimes the opposite is true!).
So, if you’re dead-set on a certain brand, have at it! If you tell us that you want piano brand X and absolutely nothing else, a good piano salesman will help you find it.
But if you think you want a piano just because you’ve heard the name and don’t necessarily know the difference between a Yamaha G-series piano and a Yamaha C-series piano, or whether or not all Steinway pianos are good pianos, or whether Samick makes good pianos, or the difference between a Shigeru Kawai and a Kawai KG-series, or whether Essex pianos are as good as Boston pianos, then who knows, maybe you will fall in love with the quality, the look, the price, and the name on the front of a boutique brand.