I HAAATE Music Stores…

We’re going waaaay back.  Fifth grade.  My best friend played the guitar (so naturally I wanted to as well).  My mom did the logical thing and signed me up for guitar lessons at a music store.   I took my little electric guitar to the store every week.  I did what the teacher told me.   I went home and hooked up my amp, cracked open my Mel Bay music book and plugged away at “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary had a little Lamb”.

It.  Was.  Awful.

My teacher was getting me to read music (which was soooo boring and difficult – for ANYONE, let alone a fifth grade kid).  I dreaded going to that music store – crowded with other kids (playing much better than me) – it was embarrassing.  I didn’t feel like I fit in.  Not to mention the sketchy older guitar players sitting in the corner and blasting out distortion-laced riffs.  It was weird.  Alien.  And after two months of lessons… I was done.

Fortunately, I picked up the guitar a few years later and haven’t put it down since.  But my disdain for music stores has only grown stronger over the years.  And there are four main reasons for that.  Here they are…

1. The Staff

Ok.  Before I sound like a total jerk… I understand that music stores are staffed like most other retail store (i.e. by people whose ambition is not necessarily to become a retail clerk).  The staff is comprised mostly of folks who have ambitions to play music (not sell or teach music).  I’m totally cool with that goal – but it makes my customer experience at music stores less than stellar.

On the flip side – if it’s not a musician that I’m dealing with, it’s a salesperson – whose goal it is to sell.  Beware of overly pushy or overly friendly salespeople.  The bottom line, is that these folks are trying to make a sale, which brings me to the second thing that grinds my gears…

2. Prices

There have been countless times that I’ve had a last minute lesson or gig and  needed an extra string.  Or set of picks.  Or a capo.   I’m fortunate enough to live in an area where there is a music store just minutes aways.  So convenient!  But I pay for the convenience.  The mark up on the accessories is only a few bucks more, but it’s enough to add up over time (and get on my nerves).  That’s only compounded by the merchandise itself…

3.  Merchandise

Ok.  I’ll admit it.  I’m spoiled by the internet.  I can get pretty much whatever I want (and generally for better prices than any brick and mortar retail chain).   There is no way that a physical store can compete with the infinite options of merchandise that the internet provides.  No competition here.

4. Customers

Lastly… the customers.  Those sketchy guys in the corner with the distortion cranked up plugging out riffs or scales so loud that it’s bound to intimidate any new musician – especially kids – but adults too.  I’ve had many people tell me that they just don’t feel comfortable going into a music store.  Which is really a shame.  Even now when I go into a music store, my head is down and I am focused on what I need to buy.  In and out.  That’ sit.

Niche Music Shops: The Exception to the Rule

Of course, not all music stores are bad.  There are exceptions.  Generally, those are the niche music shops that specialize in specific types of merchandise – designed to serve a very specific type of customer.  Though the prices here may be high – the merchandise is good quality.  The staff and the clientele know their stuff and will gladly answer any questions (whether you’re a seasoned musician or a new player).  Sadly – my favorite shop closed down a few years ago.  I guess it’s tough to compete with the internet and those large music store chains.


(Photo Credit: Ben Husmann)