Industry Voices: Yamaha Music London

History, in-store performances and Learn To Play are just some of the things covered in Matt’s conversation with Stephen Davies, Manager of Yamaha Music London, where we had the pleasure of holding our recent reception welcoming new NAMM CEO John Mlynczk. Four of Stephen’s favourite albums are by one band, can you guess which?

Yamaha Music London Storefront

We have been delighted to host two receptions in Yamaha Music London’s historic piano showroom, and what a fantastic venue it is.  Tell us a little about the history of the building and when and why Yamaha took it over as the only dedicated retail space outside Japan.

Located in the heart of London’s Soho, famous for its’ music scene and with the legendary Ronnie Scott’s just round the corner, Yamaha Music London is perfectly placed to reach out to all musicians from beginners starting to learn to play, as well as hobbyists and established pro-musicians.

Yamaha Music London, Yamaha’s flagship music store in Europe, originated from the Chappell of Bond Street music store, established as Chappell & Co in 1811 on London’s Bond Street. Chappell of Bond Street was an acoustic piano maker and the world’s biggest publisher of street music.

Yamaha has owned the business since 1980 but continued to use the Chappell name until 2014 when the decision was made to stock exclusively Yamaha branded instruments and home audio

In November 2007, the remaining Chappell of Bond Street store relocated from its Bond Street basement premises to the vacant 160 Wardour Street building, originally built and designed by the Novello & Co Music Publishing company around 1905.

In 2015, the store underwent a major refit and was re-launched as Yamaha Music London.  Located in the heart of London’s buzzy Soho, with the world’s best film production companies and Denmark Street just round the corner, Yamaha Music London is perfectly placed to reach out to all musicians from beginners starting to learn to play, as well as hobbyists and established pro-musicians.

Image taken from MIA Drinks Reception with NAMM CEO John Mlynczak

You’ve been busy making as much of the space as possible. What changes have you made to the store, and how do you feel they enhance the customer experience? 

The store has three floors of instruments, music gear and accessories housed in a Grade II listed building, which has challenges of its own.  The theatricality of the store, the pillars, sweeping staircase and of course, the incredible wood panelled piano showroom is listed which means that we are very limited as to any changes we can make to the fabric of the building.

Space is always at a premium and we have a balancing act juggling the amazing range of instruments and AV that we make in a 10,000 sq ft store.

However, we continue to evolve and to keep our retail offer fresh.  Last year we introduced a dedicated AV room where customers can experience the latest in Yamaha audio and home entertainment in a luxury lifestyle setting.

All our instruments and gear can all be viewed online but nothing beats the in person experience.  Yamaha Music London is an amazing retail environment where customers get hands-on with a vast selection of award-winning instruments, supported by professional advice from our team of experts.

We have a try before you buy policy and nothing illustrates this better than our professional music and sound stage on the lower floor, ground floor performance space and of course, the legendary first floor piano hall where the likes of Jools Holland, Jacob Collier, Jamie Cullum, Beverley Knight and Okiem have been known to drop by and play.

Yamaha Music London has been designed to support and cater to all music lovers and musicians from beginners starting to learn to play, as well as hobbyists and established pro-musicians. We also have an impressive range of sound solutions from PA to home cinema. 

What activities and events do you put on beyond opening the shop each day, and how are they important to the business?

We are always keen to support new and emerging, unsigned young London artists.  Last year we partnered with music industry magazine Headliner to run a successful competition and we didn’t find one Ambassador as planned but three!  We were blown away by the high standard of entries, the talent and musicianship.  The judging panel included Grace Chatto and Yasmin Green from Clean Bandit and Ashley Dutton from EMI.

The Ambassadorships were awarded to artist and multi-instrumentalist Bertie, singer/songwriter, guitarist and piano player Beth Keeping and Nina Fine, soulful singer/songwriter and musician. In addition to their performance and musical skills they each demonstrated a clear passion for music.

The prize includes representing Yamaha Music London at events including performing at some of London’s prestigious music venues, Yamaha music instruments, a recording session and mentoring.

Yamaha Music London and Headliner are joining forces again this September to learn the search for Music Ambassadors for 2024.

We are planning instore customer events and free live music which will take place during the countdown to Christmas.

We are also open to collaborations with other partners from the arts and music industry.  We like to support live music and earlier this year we held the premiere of a very exciting genre-bending, classical meets metal rock opera at Yamaha Music London.

Learn To Play ’23 is coming up on 7th-8th October.  Yamaha has long been a supporter of this initiative, why?

Yamaha has supported LTP for many years because we are committed to nurturing creativity and self-expression by providing happy musical experiences, no matter your age or ability. Playing an instrument can bring so many benefits to your health and well-being no matter where you are on your musical journey.

What are your plans for Learn to Play ’23?

This year it will be a chance for newcomers or returners to discover the new tweaks to the store as well as joining in with the Learn to Play weekend on Saturday 07 October from 10.30am – 5.00pm and Sunday 08 October 2023 11.30am – 4.30pm.

As you would expect from Yamaha, the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments there will be a great selection of high-quality instruments to choose from instore over the weekend. Lessons will be offered, subject to availability on Yamaha electric, acoustic, and bass guitars, piano, saxophone, trumpet, violin, and drums.

Many of Yamaha’s team of experienced, music teachers are pro-musicians, and they will host 30 minute 1-2-1 taster sessions on a first come, first served basis. The sessions are aimed at beginners who have never played a musical instrument or rusty musicians who just need a little encouragement and a few pointers!

We expect to give over 200 free lessons away over the weekend so it will be a memorable weekend for all concerned.

What was the last concert you attended?

I’m in the very fortunate position of having a front row seat, right here in the store, and can enjoy many impromptu concerts from some of the world’s top musicians. Artists like Jools Holland, Jacob Collier and Okiem just drop by and play. We had West End Music legend Beverley Knight jamming with Okiem in the Piano Hall just the other day!

If pushed, what would you say is your favourite album or recording?  If you need to mention more than one, recommendations are always welcome. 

I would recommend any of Queen’s first four albums, particularly Queen, Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack which were recorded just down the road from Yamaha Music London at Trident Studios.

Thanks to Stephen for this interview. If you would like to share the story of your MI business, including any current developments, please drop me (Matt) a line.

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