The Music PeopleFollowing an apprenticeship as a jet engine metalsmith at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, young Jim Hennessey became sheet metal draftsman for Kaman Aircraft. While working on a project for the company’s Ovation Guitar division, his talents caught the eye of Charlie Kaman, and soon he was transferred to Ovation, where his broad range of technical and creative skills suited him to many roles including design, marketing, and endorsements. In 1979 he focused those newly honed talents on The Music People, a company he founded and initially ran from his basement. Since that modest launch, the company has grown, diversified, and established an international distribution network spanning 80 nations on every continent but Antarctica. Offering more than 800 SKUs in product categories spanning drums, cables, cases, bags, stands, tuners, microphones, and lighting, TMP is recognized as one of the industry’s leading manufacturer/distributors.
From the humblest start, an accessories powerhouse rises
Starting with two brands, On-Stage Stands and Hot Wires, Hennessey imported tuners, cables, and accessories while designing and manufacturing stands (literally) at home. His original concept was to meet the growing market demand for multi-guitar stands, and he quickly gained a foothold by producing them at an increasingly affordable price. Early on, TMP implemented refinements in product development, packaging, graphics, and other areas that are the norm now but were rare or non-existent in the accessories business of the ’80s.
At his first trade show in Europe, Hennessey learned that distributors could not buy a 20-foot container of just mic stands. It was clear that, along with offering the best prices, diversification was vital. Today, The Music People’s proprietary brands include On-Stage Stands, On-Stage Gear, Hennessey Guitar Parts, On-Stage Sticks, DrumFire, HotWires, and most recently On-Stage u-mount and On-Stage Audio. (Recently it began standardizing its brand names and logos to include the “On-Stage” tag, such as On-Stage Drumfire, On-Stage HotWires, etc.) With a catalog that is both broad and deep, TMP gives its dealers the tools for exceptional efficiency and profitability. “First and foremost,” says Hennessey, “they can cover all accessory categories with a single distributor, greatly simplifying their supply chain. Second, they can realize significant savings by filling a 20- or 40-foot container from us. The margin on that kind of volume can’t be beat.”
Several factors contribute to The Music People’s growth. The longest standing and most reliable is that more and more retailers are seeing the value in TMP’s ability to consolidate freight, save time, and provide customer service to dealers and end-users. More recently, accessories have become a bigger component of music retailers’ bottom line compared with big-ticket items, a trend that has furthered TMP’s already growing market share in categories such as instrument/equipment cases, electronic guitar accessories, guitar parts, drums, and drum accessories. Starting in 2012 it answered the wave of current consumer demand with successful additions to the tablet, powerbank, and Bluetooth audio accessories categories, for the first time expanding its reach beyond the m.i. business. “The u-mount tablet mounting system,” Hennessey notes, “is a whole new take on the iPad case, designed from the perspective of a musician who uses the tablet computer for gigs, but also for every other facet of his or her daily life. That second consideration makes it desirable for parents, teachers, students, athletes, writers, chefs, and countless others who have little direct connection to the m.i. industry.”
With Jim Hennessey at the helm, the TMP’s export team includes Senior Vice Presidents John Hennessey and Sharon Hennessey, Director of Business Development Tom Tedesco, and Strategic Accounts Manager Allison Honeyman, who attend three international trade shows a year to actively recruit importers and distributors around the world. International distributors who sign on with The Music People are provided with an extensive online support services from a dedicated export department.
The Music People has benefited from reaching out to consumers through its Facebook pages and YouTube channels, and the company actively develops strategies to increase web traffic and brand awareness. Through its primary website, onstagestands.com, TMP keeps its customers and partners in the loop with a wealth of product information and news. Dealers also have comprehensive access to their accounts via the company’s portal, a feature that has been embraced by many dealers and continues to expand. New internet technologies have made TMP’s global partners just as “connected” as its local customers through real-time presentations and conferencing. Information sharing has also greatly streamlined the process of getting product info and marketing materials to retail customers for their own websites.
Reorganized offices at the company’s Berlin, Connecticut headquarters maximize resources and collaboration of talent. Meanwhile, new state-of-the-art facilities are being constructed to double its office space and provide a footprint for expansion for many years to come. The build-out includes new offices and work spaces, interactive conference rooms, a product demonstration room, and an audio/video production room.
Jim Hennessey’s greatest skills—and The Music People’s greatest strengths—can be summed up as first identifying, and then meeting, the needs of consumers—and then raising the visibility and perceived value of the products his company sells. Hallmarks of the line, says Hennessey, are “good quality, low price, and great margins for our dealers. It’s a company goal to make our in-house products unique in at least one of the following aspects: design, pricing, and/or packaging. Some designs are time-tested and found throughout the industry, so we work to develop price points and slick packaging that help our dealers move what are essentially commodities in the m.i. accessories market. For example, we developed packaging that makes the stands easy to display and therefore easier to sell. We take full advantage of our in-house engineers and creative team to develop brand new products and build on existing ones. We’re one of the most responsive and nimble product developers in the industry. For The Music People, innovation and uniqueness require a comprehensive approach from the drafting board, to CAD, to manufacturing, to the dealer, to the stage.”
Subscribe to The Music Trades today!