Music Store Manager
How To Become a Music Store Manager
Tylor Fischer is a Music Store Manager at Dave’s Guitar Shop in La Crosse, WI. “For me, it’s really a multi-tasking, wearing-many-hats type of job,” he says. “Our shop is unique in that we do a large amount of business but we keep the staff pretty small. So I end up doing everything from back room financials, purchasing, employee management and answering customer questions. A typical day consists of coming in and answering emails, making sure all the orders and questions from the night before have been answered, following up with vendors, checking incoming inventory, and helping customers throughout the day.” Music Store Managers work in a supervisory role when customers visit the store and often ensure that online or phone orders are completed and shipped out successfully. In their daily work, they spend much of their time on the floor with Music Store Salespeople. They may also buy used instruments back from store customers or purchase product from Instrument Sales Reps who supply stores with new instruments and gear or from Musical Instrument Builders who sell directly to the shop. The store may also have Instrument Repair and Restoration Specialists on staff.
Most Music Store Managers began their careers on the floor as Music Store Salespeople. They may also have worked their way up from an Assistant Manager role. Advancement in this career can mean many things. Depending on the size of the store and the positions available on staff, the Manager may go on to take an office position which would require fewer hours on-call and a more regular work schedule. He or she may also put down money for a store and become a Music Sales Owner. For others, advancement means gaining the prestige of working at a well-known shop with a famous clientele.
Education & Training
While Music Store Managers do not necessarily need to have a college degree, many do. Desirable majors vary, but many come from a Retail Management, Music Merchandising, or Performance background. Fischer himself has a BS in Art and Photography and was hired because he possessed a skill set and knowledge related to guitars, IT, and photography, all of which could be useful for a business that does an increasing amount of business with customers around the globe. (This is often the case for music specialty stores these days.)
When asked about the education and training essential to his role, he says, “Retail training and personnel management are very important, but most important is a passion for what you are doing.” He adds, “This is going to depend greatly on the shop you are working at. The structure [of the store] could require different training,” based on what’s required of the Manager role.
Experience & Skills
Obviously, a Music Store Manager must have considerable knowledge and experience with musical instruments and related gear. He or she must know the pros and cons of multiple instrument manufacturers and their products. He or she must also have many years of experience in the retail sector. Fischer says, “The most important thing is being able to relate to people on a real level. The MI [Musical Instrument] industry is strange. It’s much smaller than many people believe. Everyone kind of knows everyone. Customers talk, stores talk, vendors talk. The important thing is being real, transparent and helpful in whatever way you can. Time and again you see people come in and try to apply outside business technique to the MI industry and it almost always falls flat.”
Music Store Managers must be passionate about instruments and gear. They must also be responsible, hardworking, and able to handle the financial/math side of the job. Says Fischer, “I think it’s important to be able to relate to people. Be a ‘people person’, but you need to be able to step back and look at things analytically as well if you are going to be successful.” This is important not only in managing staff but in dealing with customers.
“This is going to vary hugely [based] on the shop,” Fischer says in regards to the work lifestyle of a Music Store Manager. “Here we have a very relaxed environment and more ‘old school’ hours. We aren’t open evenings or Sundays and are closed the traditional six major holidays. I work about forty to forty-five hours a week, but it really is a relaxed and enjoyable environment. We are very flexible with leaving early if needed, etc.” At other stores, Music Store Managers must sometimes deal with late nights, closing up and settling the books for an hour or so after the shop has closed for the night. They must also sometimes open the store in the morning, cover for an employee if they call out sick, and work extended hours during the holidays. If the shop is big enough, an Assistant Manager may help out by splitting some of this time commitment. As is the nature of retail, staff are expected to work weekends, although the Manager may, for example, cover Saturday and an Assistant cover Sunday.
Most people work their way up to a role as a Music Store Manager, Fischer says, simply through “work experience. The best thing is to get in it and understand it.” Most people do this by first landing a job as a Retail Associate or Music Store Salesperson.
How can a job candidate stand out to potential employers? According to Fischer, passion for musical instruments, people skills, and a palpable enthusiasm for the work are the biggest factors in deciding whether to hire someone new.
“It is a salaried role,” Fischer says of his work. “Again, this is going to be hugely dependent on the shop. We are in [among] the larger shops in the nation.” Smaller shops may not do enough business to offer the same level of financial security, but generally speaking, Music Store Managers will be salaried. If the store is big enough, they may also receive benefits such as paid time off and health insurance. At smaller stores, this may be an hourly position with a higher wage than that of the sales staff, in accordance with the higher responsibility of the position.
Unions, Groups & Associations
“Resources are pretty limited in the field. It’s really going to depend on the shop and area you are looking to get into,” Fischer says. One thing aspiring Music Store Managers can do is keep up on the latest products by checking out gear review sites and magazines. Although there’s no professional organization dedicated specifically to Music Store Managers, stores and their owners may be members of AIMM, the Alliance of Independent Music Merchants, Independent Music Store Owners, or the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). NAMM, in particular, is great for networking and educational opportunities since many of the world’s top music retailers, manufacturers, and artists attend the annual conferences and shows.
- “Get [an entry-level] job in the industry.
- Be open to learning and always look for ways to improve. It’s a changing industry. You have to be willing to change with it.”
- Stay up-to-date on new instruments and gear by checking out instrument-related publications and blogs.
- Spend time playing and getting to know your chosen musical instrument so you can answer all levels of questions that may arise in a retail situation.
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Be passionate about the product and listen to people. Seek to grow.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Trying to apply outside business practice to the musical instrument industry. It’s an odd industry. Learn the industry: the vendors, the customers, the people who work in it.”
What is one thing I should have asked which I didn’t?
“I can’t really think of anything that should have been asked. It really just comes back to passion about the products and being a capable and understanding person. Most shops (and even manufacturers) in the industry are smaller and tend to buck convention. There is a lot do with multi-tasking and filling multiple roles. That’s really the most important thing.”
Tylor Fischer is the Sales Manager at Dave’s Guitar Shop in La Crosse, WI. Established in 1982, Dave’s Guitar counts legends Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Joe Walsh (Eagles), Pink Floyd, Vince Gill, Eric Clapton, Def Leppard, and the Rolling Stones as customers.