JHS MusicThe “Beat Boom” saw the birth of a new musical age and provided the springboard for John Hornby Skewes to start his eponymous company in 1965. Previously, he had been a successful sales representative for a variety of consumer goods manufacturers. John Skewes, now in his 79th year, still enjoys his involvement in the business he started nearly 50 years ago, but day-to-day management is now in the hands of an experienced team, led by Managing Director and son-in-law Dennis J Drumm, a 40-year industry veteran.
Proprietary Brands For A Value-Conscious Market
JHS is the U.K. and Ireland’s leading independent music products distributor, responsible for a diverse array of lines including HK Audio, Fishman, Italia, Studiomaster, Carlsbro, Kustom, Dunlop, String Swing, Danelectro, Qwik Tune, Seiko, Guitarras Manuel Rodriguez, Calato/Regal Tip, Rhythm Tech and many others, and is presently number 148 in The Music Trades’ ranking of the world’s 225 largest music products firms.
At this year’s NAMM show, JHS will be aggressively pursuing export growth for its growing line of proprietary products, tailored to meet the needs of an increasingly value-conscious consumer. Drumm explains, “Our commercial agenda is to drive business by building a price/value/specification proposition, which is impossible to argue against, whether the product sells for $199, $699, $1,599 or $4,999. This approach is clearly working, as we get consistently ecstatic press coverage, have highly satisfied U.K. domestic customers, and distributors in 72 markets enjoying good business in a highly competitive marketplace.”
With products aimed at every price point and playing style, every fretted instrument in the JHS lineup reflects this emphasis on value. Designed for the discerning player, the flagship Fret-King line is the work of renowned guitar designer Trev Wilkinson. Built from premium woods and outfitted with superlative hardware, Fret King guitars are used by many international artists including Jerry Donahue and Gordon Giltrap.
The Vintage electric guitar line, which is currently played by Ure Midge, Paul Weller, Thomas Blug, and Dave “Bucket” Colwell, offers an appealing combination of vintage quality, contemporary features, and exceptional value. With both the Fret-King and Vintage, Drumm and Wilkinson have taken the view that whatever the list price, every guitar has to over-deliver and create genuine pleasure and surprise for distributors, dealers, and players. “We are committed to demonstrating what can be achieved when the focus is squarely on producing the best,” says Drumm.
JHS has placed a special emphasis on its entry-level Encore line, because, Drumm remarks, “the most important guitar anyone buys is their first one, and why shouldn’t a beginner guitar be a ‘keeper?” He adds, “Encore offers amazing playability, outstanding pickups, and a unique vibe at a very competitive price point.”
The fine range of Vintage acoustics, including notable signature models from respected players such as Gordon Giltrap and Paul Brett, supplements JHS’s electric guitar offering. For classical players, the Santos Martinez range is supported by signature models from the likes of renowned English guitarist Raymond Burley. On a whimsical note, the company also offers the SpongeBob SquarePants Real Musical Instruments range, proving that licensed instruments can be good enough for pros and fun for kids at the same time.
Drumm says he’s often asked about Vintage, “Why do you build so much in at such a low price?” He answers, “Because we can, and because we should! Young players who wash cars, borrow a few bucks from their parents, and save up birthday and Christmas money, are not saving up to buy a guitar; they’re saving up to chase their dreams. They deserve more than a commercial compromise. They deserve the absolute best instrument we can deliver.
“What we deliver is great for kids, sure, but the consistently amazing reaction we get from real players shows we’ve got it right. The involvement of players including Jerry Donohue, Graham Oliver, Gordon Giltrap, John Verity, Geoff Whitehorn, Thomas Blug, Dave “Bucket” Colwell, and Mick Abrahams testifies to the quality of our instruments,” he concludes.
The JHS guitar lines are supported by complementary accessories as well as spare parts in retail-ready packaging and a wide range of Wilkinson-branded Guitar-Tech hardware. Drummers aren’t left out of the equation, with a similar range of fast-turning accessory items offered under the appropriate Drum-Tech moniker.
For the percussion market, JHS has applied the same value-oriented approach with the PP DRUMS selection of world percussion, accessories, and drumkits. These products are complemented by the successful line of Kinsman bags, cases, stands, cables, mics, and instrument amplification. For the school market, JHS offers the Antoni orchestral stringed instruments line and Odyssey brasswinds, designed by renowned technician and production expert Peter Pollard. Drumm says both of these product lines prove that design expertise combined with premium materials and careful quality control yield instruments that “get beginning players off to a faster start.” Last but not least, JHS offers an acclaimed harmonica line under its “The Blues” brand.
Drumm concedes, “Economic trends haven’t gotten any better for the last two years and are arguably the scariest they’ve been for decades, with consumers holding back, public sector spending squeezed, and the financial sector still repairing itself. In this climate, more value is being sought by dealers and consumers. As brand proprietors, we have to work harder, give more, deliver a better product, and build a better mousetrap, if you like.” A growing roster of distributors worldwide confirms his approach.
He concludes, “With a proposition strong on real value, we’ll just carry on doing the right thing, taking advantage of opportunities, looking after our customers, developing our brands, making products that players want, can enjoy, can afford and which leave our competitors wondering how we do it!”
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