THERE'S an exception to every rule, of course, but according to the Associated Press this much is certain: Asian-Americans are buying new pianos in record numbers, a phenomenon that is giving newfound hope to a domestic industry in decline. The passion for pianos among Asian-Americans is inspiring piano makers and vendors to come up with new strategies for winning back converts to a musical education.
"Our research shows that Asian Americans are buying new pianos at seven times the rate of the general population," Terry Lewis, vice president and general manager of the keyboard division of Yamaha Corp. of America told the AP. Yamaha is a Japanese piano maker that expects to ship 150,000 pianos worldwide this year.
The Asian-American buying pattern reflect that in Asian countries. In Korea, for example, a nation of roughly 40 million, some 200,000 new pianos were sold last year. Koreans bought new pianos at 12 times the U.S. rate.
Many urban piano vendors now have salespeople who speak Asian languages. And, somewhat belatedly, American piano companies -- whose sales have tumbled 70 percent in the past 15 years to 103,000 units last year -- are awakening to the marketing opportunity presented by Asian-American buyers.
For example, Steinway & Sons has hired the Asian advertising agency Amko Advertising Inc. in New York to create print ads for Asian-American newspapers to help it sell the 2,000 pianos it makes each year. A sample ad appearing in Japanese-language papers: "Steinway has arrived. The family is so happy. Papa is very proud of it."