Monday, July 30, 2012

Creative Destruction: Acoustic Pianos, R.I.P.



From yesterday's NY Times, comes an excellent illustration of the economic concept of "creative destruction," which has been described as the "accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism."  In this example, it's the acoustic piano that is literally being annihilated in many cases, as older used pianos are increasingly being discarded in dumps around the country, or even burned for firewood.  As a pianist, piano technician, and owner of a 1918 Steinway Model O grand piano, it's kind of a sad, but inevitable ending for many magnificent instruments that were produced in large numbers by a  once-thriving American industry that supported hundreds of American piano manufacturers and more than a thousand piano brands, including many "stencil pianos" (different makes of pianos produced by the same factory).

Here's an excerpt of the article:

"In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before radio and recordings, pianos were the main source of music, even entertainment, in the home. They were a middle-class must-have.
So from 1900 to 1930, the golden age of piano making, American factories churned out millions of them. Nearly 365,000 were sold at the peak, in 1910, according to the National Piano Manufacturers Association. (In 2011, 41,000 were sold, along with 120,000 digital pianos and 1.1 million keyboards, according to Music Trades magazine.) 

The average life span rarely exceeds 80 years, piano technicians say. That’s a lot of pianos now reaching the end of the line. 

The value of used pianos, especially uprights, has plummeted in recent years. So instead of selling them to a neighbor, donating them to a church or just passing them along to a relative, owners are far more likely to discard them, technicians, movers and dealers say. Piano movers are making regular runs to the dump, becoming adept at dismantling instruments, selling parts to artists, even burning them for firewood."

Accompanying the article are the video above and this slideshow see first slide below).


11 Comments:

At 7/30/2012 6:43 PM, Blogger kmg said...

Once iPads and other touchscreen devices expand to 3-foot-wide sizes, pianos will be software apps only.

 
At 7/30/2012 6:44 PM, Blogger kmg said...

Once iPads and other touchscreen devices expand to 3-foot-wide sizes, pianos will be software apps only.

Much like calculators and music players have become on-screen software apps.

Much like solitaire does not need a deck of cards anymore.

 
At 7/30/2012 7:03 PM, Blogger bix1951 said...

"real" pianos will be obsolete around the same time as "real" violins or "real" symphony orchestras. which to me sounds like not any time soon.

 
At 7/30/2012 7:29 PM, Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

my sister who was forced for years to take piano lessons (which she despised) might crack a smile seeing those pianos hauled off to the dump.

 
At 7/31/2012 9:29 AM, Blogger Cluemeister64 said...

I think the major reason that creative destruction is sad is because it closes a chapter in life. Nobody wants to go back to having pianos in their house and no electronic keyboards, but they love the memories that the piano represents, knowing that chapter in life is closed.

 
At 7/31/2012 12:16 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Well I wonder if we're sort of the last generation of who have or will purchase real pianos...

I know, have known several many keyboard mussicans who are paid for their talent...

Without exception after they start making money they first buy a house and before they even buy 'new' furniture the first real expenditure (even before a new vehicle) is a real piano and in some cases also a real Hammond B3 organ...

 
At 7/31/2012 3:56 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

juandos

"Without exception after they start making money they first buy a house and before they even buy 'new' furniture the first real expenditure (even before a new vehicle) is a real piano and in some cases also a real Hammond B3 organ..."

I suspect that particular market for pianos will exist for a very long time. bix1951 has nailed it.

 
At 7/31/2012 4:05 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

kmg

"Once iPads and other touchscreen devices expand to 3-foot-wide sizes, pianos will be software apps only.

Much like calculators and music players have become on-screen software apps.

Much like solitaire does not need a deck of cards anymore.
"

Not sure there's any need for larger sizes. If I can learn to type on an iPhone qwerty keyboard, I can probably learn to play the piano on one as well. :)

 
At 8/01/2012 3:15 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Ron H., GarageBand for iPad has a keyboard with a double keyboard option.

 
At 8/01/2012 8:12 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jason:

Ron H., GarageBand for iPad has a keyboard with a double keyboard option.

Oh wow. And I thought I was joking. That's funny.

Do you think some of the theatrics might not be as impressive as with real instruments? Somehow I doubt that Hendrix would be as big a sensation playing an iPad behind his head, or lighting it on fire. Pete Townshend would look downright silly bashing his iPad repeatedly on the floor, and how about Jerry Lee Lewis playing iPad with his foot?

I'm HOPING this idea never catches on. :)

 
At 8/01/2012 8:35 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jason

Would you pay to see this performance on iPads? For those in a hurry, forward to 3:00.

 

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