In 2020, more people bought musical instruments online than ever before. It was a challenging year for many in the musical instrument industry, but a bright spot was knowing that people were making music at home and that many retailers have been able to support their businesses through consistent online sales.
In fact, according to The Music Trades, from October-December, online sales accounted for more than half of all musical instrument sales in the US.
While many are quick to point out the rise in enthusiasm for gear such as acoustic guitars, ukuleles, and other fretted instruments, synth and drum machines were also really popular with musicians and beat-makers looking to explore new sounds. In fact, on Reverb.com, overall searches for drum machines were up 330% year-over-year, while searches for analog synths were up 50% year-over-year.
One shop that took advantage of this interest in synths and the power of online sales was Signal Sounds in Glasgow. Signal Sounds specialises in Analogue and Digital Synths, Eurorack Modular equipment and Music Recording Equipment for home and studio use.
Q: Tell us a little bit about Signal Sounds? What do you specialise in, how long have you been established?
We’re a small independent store based in Glasgow specialising in unusual electronic music instruments and Eurorack Modular Synthesizers. The company has been in business for five years, but I’ve spent about 30 years in music retail, and even longer on the electronic music scene in Glasgow. I went from DJ-ing to working at a record company, but realised that my real passion was in speaking with people about music gear.
Signal Sounds has been in business for five years, we’ve been selling on Reverb.com for around three years. I had always done international mail orders, so when I met Iain Butterwick – Reverb.com’s EMEA Territory Manager – at NAMM a few years ago, I came onboard to Reverb.com.
Q: What are the benefits of being a Reverb.com seller?
Signal Sounds has always been about starting discussions on synthesizers and chatting with customers to help them create their perfect modular set-up. The store started as a collection of my personal gear for people to come get their hands on vintage synths. There’s even a booth in the store where you can go and play, and I try to show people the evolution of the synths over the decades, from the old Moog and Buchla systems to the new Make Noise and Qu-Bit modules.
Now with Reverb.com, I’m connecting with a high-quality consumer base from around the world and helping people from Japan to Indonesia to Poland to get their modular rigs set up. I find that the quality of customers is higher because they’re more educated about the gear they’re buying. Reverb.com has cultivated a great community of buyers and a well-designed, easy-to-use selling platform.
Reverb.com customer service is also superb, especially when compared to what is offered from other, much larger sites. Iain was great at helping us set up our online shop in the first place, and now our Account Rep, Mark Packham, has been very proactive about helping our online shop grow. While other marketplaces also have dashboards to help you track your sales metrics, there’s nothing that helps your business move forward. Mark has been a partner in helping us grow our sales through suggestions like where we can add more monthly SKUs.
Q: What was your biggest challenge in 2020, and how did you overcome it? And what do you feel is the biggest opportunity for your business in 2021?
Even with lockdowns, I saw a lot of new customers taking an interest in synths, specifically Eurorack. I’m good at keeping track of old customers who have been with me since the beginning, but new customers who have found us through our Reverb.com shop are also really valuable, in particular the Eurorack enthusiasts.
I’ve had new customers from all over the world find me online, and it’s nice to see them keep coming back and asking, ‘Are you still open, are you still shipping?’ and I can cultivate a relationship with them.
In 2021, I want to keep communicating directly with customers and letting them know that we’re still open for business online. Our particular niche of the music industry is exploding with new brands, talent, and products like the Make Noise Strega, Moog Werkstatt, and Mutable Instruments’ Blades filter, and bringing them to a wider audience is a challenge but also a lot of fun. I’m excited to get these new products in front of customers and help them evolve their love of modular synthesis.
Q: What is the ultimate long term goal for Signal Sounds?
It’s been exciting to see the uptick in interest in musical gear in the last year. Signal Sounds is a destination stop for Eurorack enthusiasts, and I want to continue to cultivate those relationships amongst the synth community. With that in mind, my goal is to help as many people as possible make their music, and to help small brands and manufacturers break through and be successful in their own right.