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MMD > Archives > December 2007 > 2007.12.19 > 01Prev  Next

Player Pianos Are a Labor of Love
By Andy Taylor

I read with interest the discussion thread about how player pianos
are practically worthless.  On the surface that has always been true,
except back in the 1950's when some notable people were giving pennies
on the dollar for reproducers and orchestras and then generating
interest in them through publications.  Those people did make money.

Personally, I have always had another venue for my main living.
Arranging and selling piano rolls has always been a hobby business,
and so has rebuilding and retrofitting pianos.  As with any hobby,
I have always been able to sell a player with around 35% profit.
But I would simply starve if I relied on it alone.

Anything this old is considered obsolete by the mainstream.  However,
there will always be the group of people who enjoy antiques, and the
way it "used to be".  The Internet is a mixed blessing.  We can find
countless pianos and rolls, both old and new by a simple search.
Conversely, it has also caused a over-saturation of this already
limited market.

In my humble view, the only thing going for me and a few others
arranging music is that the arrangements are new.  Practically everyone
who owns a player has heard "Barney Google" and other period tunes like
that so many times that they are sick of it.  That is the reason that
a new arrangement sells.  Although QRS has many excellent arrangements,
I think I have heard about all of them, and some of them I never want
to hear again.  This is not a criticism of QRS either.  I seldom want
to hear my own arrangements because by the time I create and edit them,
I'm sick of those too!

Focusing on the bottom dollar will lead to disappointment.  But if we
look at this as a labor of love, striving to preserve the remaining
examples for our own enjoyment and the generations to come, then it has
served its purpose.  These machines are fun to operate and listen to,
and entertain.  That is their function.

There has, and there always will be, people who will try to capitalize
on any hobby for whatever dollar they can possibly milk out of it.
Although there is nothing morally wrong with that, it seems that these
individuals are the very ones who view the old machines as worthless,
unless the owner is willing to spend five grand or more.

As far as storing the pianos is concerned, that depends on what the
rebuilder wants to do -- it's his money and time, I may add.  If it
makes them happy, it's not for me to judge.  People tend to collect
things they care about.  But just because a dollar cannot be
immediately made from the battered upright in the dark corner of the
garage doesn't mean it's worthless.  Maybe a child would love to have
that piano.  I've given more than one upright away to someone who would
cherish and use it.  In doing so, I've created a new tuning customer
that brings in more revenue than I could have ever sold it for.

Old automatics have both sentimental and historical worth if nothing
else.  These are entertainment devices, and that was what they were
created for.  Some people like antique radios, even though newer and
far superior sound system exists.  But the fact is that they are
enjoyed, and they are fun, pure and simple!  It's not the price of
the toy -- just ask any child.

Isn't this what this is supposed to be about?  F U N ?

Andy Taylor

(Message sent Thu 20 Dec 2007, 02:58:04 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Are, Labor, Love, Pianos, Player

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