The Music People’s innovative design capability is reflected in the popular u-mount
tablet system, for musicians who use an iPad in a gigging environment.
The Music PeopleFrom humble beginnings in Jim Hennessey’s basement, the Music People has evolved into a leading global accessory manufacturer and distributor with facilities in the U.S. and China. Despite the widely publicized economic woes, the company has also managed to sustain a torrid double-digit growth pace by offering innovative products, backed by an exceptional level of service. Based just outside of Hartford, Connecticut, The Music People actually operates three distinct divisions. The proprietary accessory division markets more than 400 SKUs under the On-Stage Stands, On-Stage Gear, Hennessey Guitar Parts, On-Stage Sticks, DrumFire, HotWires, Audio Spectrum, and On-Stage u-mount brands. TMP Pro Distribution represents more than 160 top brands, including Audio-Technica, Crown, EV, JBL, Korg, QSC, Sennheiser, Shure, Tascam, and Yamaha. And a newly formed On-Stage Distribution division represents top m.i. brands including Korg, Schaller, Fender, TC Electronic, and more. Collectively, the company manages nine proprietary brands and distributes close to 200 top brands.
The “One-Stop” Shop For High-Profit Accessories
Responsibility for managing this diverse enterprise falls to founder Jim Hennessey who remains The Music People CEO. However, the company is very much a family affair. Jim’s son John and daughter Sharon serve as vice-presidents and are actively engaged in all facets of management, supplying 49 international distributors, representing 70 countries including Japan, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland, and China.
Like most entrepreneurial ventures, the Music People was launched with an innovative product idea. Jim started off as a sheet metal draftsman for Kaman Aircraft in Bloomfield, Connecticut. While working on a project for the company’s Ovation Guitar division, his talents drew the notice of Charlie Kaman. He was soon transferred to Ovation, where his broad range of technical and creative skills led to his involvement in product design, marketing, and artist endorsements.
At Ovation, Jim had a mandate to design, advertise, and promote guitars based on the needs and recommendations of the ’70s top acts including Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Loggins & Messina, The Doobie Brothers, and The Rolling Stones. Based on discussions with the artists and his own observations of how instruments were displayed on stage, he saw the need for double and triple guitar stands. With his background in metal fabrication, he began designing stands in his spare time. In 1979, after perfecting a double guitar stand, he left Ovation, launched his own company, and put the stand into production under the On-Stage banner.
To augment his fledgling stand business, Jim began distributing imported tuners, cables, and other accessories. Then in 1985 he made his first foray into the pro audio business, distributing Shure microphones. Based on the success with Shure, he ramped up the audio distribution business, rapidly adding product lines.
A primary goal at The Music People is to make every in-house product 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 engineers work to develop price points and slick packaging to help dealers move what are essentially commodity accessories. The MS7201B is a prime example. It’s a basic round-base stand, similar to countless others on the market. However, it is distinguished by attractive packaging that makes it easier to display and easier to sell. On the other end of the spectrum, the new u-mount tablet mounting system is a unique take on the iPad case, designed from the perspective of a musician who uses the tablet computer for gigs, but also for everyday activities.
This comprehensive product strategy is the result of an in-house team of engineers working closely with a creative marketing team to develop unique new products as well as spur sales of traditional ones. Jim states, “We are one of the most responsive and nimble product developers in the industry. For us, innovation and uniqueness require a coordinated effort, from the drafting board, to the dealer, to the stage.
Innovative products are supported by a high level of service. The Music People’s global strategy is to offer a comprehensive, one-stop solution for high-value American-branded music instrument accessories. Top-selling products that are proven money-makers are augmented with an industry-leading combination of logistics support, marketing support, and award-winning packaging. These comprehensive support functions are handled by a dedicated export team that knows the ins and outs of international business. A recent push in its marketing has been initiated to better coordinate the messages and aesthetics across the company’s catalogs, booths, and websites to further brand recognition.
Sales at The Music People have been trending upward despite the general economic conditions. Jim attributes this to the fact that accessories have become a bigger contributor to retailer bottom lines. “Dealers are making their money in the margins provided by our products, which are still highly affordable even in a sluggish market,” he says. Retailers have also given the company more business because of its ability to consolidate freight, save time, and provide comprehensive customer support.
After building its proprietary brands in the U.S. market, The Music People has more recently turned its attention worldwide. A favorable exchange rate allows it to offer international distributors a complete package at a very low cost. This cost advantage is supported by a highly sophisticated logistics capability and a company-owned Chinese distribution facility. International distributors who sign on with The Music People are provided with an extensive online image bank, product catalogs, individual product sell sheets, editable print advertisements, and specialized support from the dedicated export department. Customers can also use a “container build order form” that allows them to select the products and the quantities they want and quickly calculate the cost of 20-foot, 40-foot, or LCL containers from one of four ports in China.
Having built a thriving business with stands, The Music People is looking to other product categories to fuel future growth. Applying the same formula of innovative design, aggressive pricing, and appealing packaging, the company is gaining market share in instrument and equipment cases, electronic guitar accessories, guitar parts, drums, and drum accessories. Another major push by The Music People is to increase its profile as a player in multiple product categories. Though microphone and instrument stands have been a major part of the company’s success, The Music People enjoys ever-growing market share in categories such as instrument/equipment cases, electronic guitar accessories, guitar parts, drums, and drum accessories.
Jim attributes the company’s impressive 33-year record of sales growth to a combination of hard work and innovative thinking. He’s particularly proud of the fact that it has been voted a “Top Workplace” in its home state of Connecticut. He adds, “It reflects the attitudes here that make our customer service stand out.”
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