fiveminuteswith_headshotIn the wake of an economy that’s been turbulent since 2008, music products retailers like you have begun to emphasize products like picks, strings, sticks, bags and, of particular relevance here, books and media. And that’s where Alfred Music comes in. Boasting a nearly 100-year history, the company has entered a phase of incredible innovation, the result of which is a portfolio of products and brands that can make a huge difference to dealers’ bottom line. Here, The Retailer speaks to Alfred Music’s VP of Sales, Antonio Ferranti, for a fascinating discussion about his deep personal connection to music, the company’s passionate dedication to nurturing its relationship with dealers and the various ways in which Alfred Music distinguishes itself. I know you’ll enjoy it.

The Music & Sound Retailer: Let’s start by discussing your own background. Touch on the highlights of your personal story as it relates to the music products industry, as well as simply to music. Tell us about the career path that you’ve traveled, bringing us right up to the present day.
Antonio Ferranti: My background in music and music education started from my earliest childhood memories. My parents came over from Italy, where music and the arts are very important and were highly encouraged for my two sisters and me. In Italy, my mother was a professional ballerina in her youth and my father grew up in the church and was a very good organist. I was lucky that music was always in our home. I know that not everyone is so fortunate.

But one life-changing event set me on the path of music education, which I am still on today. When I was five, I walked home from school one day to learn that my sister was involved in a tragic car accident. She was walking on the sidewalk coming home from school. A car lost control, swerved off the road and accidentally hit her. She would be in a coma for three months. There was not much hope that she would emerge and, if she did, she would at best be brain-damaged and near comatose for life.

For several months, I lived with a family friend while my mother spent day and night in the hospital praying over my sister.

Miraculously, after three months, my sister emerged from the coma. The brain surgeon who performed the multiple surgeries over the course of those months recommended that my sister take piano lessons. The act of coordinating her hands, eyes, ears and brain (along with her spirit) would be the best therapy and part of his prescription for her recovery.

Ferranti with Alex Ordoñez (VP Marketing) and Renee Cunning (VP Sales & Marketing Operations) at the NAMM show.

Ferranti with Alex Ordoñez (VP Marketing) and Renee Cunning (VP Sales & Marketing Operations) at the NAMM show.

So, at the age of five, I went from being a piano student to being a piano tutor. The piano teacher at our church recommended Alfred’s Basic Piano Library. As fate would have it, several decades later, I became a Sales Representative and, eventually, VP of Sales for Alfred Music. I guess that is one of those fateful connections in life that has defined me, my work and my purpose.

The Retailer: Describe your day-to-day duties and responsibilities as Alfred Music’s VP of Sales. What’s the best part of working at Alfred Music?
Ferranti: My day-to-day responsibilities at Alfred Music include an intense combination of both strategic and tactical initiatives. I personally manage four B2B Sales Managers who oversee educational and consumer market Sales Reps located in our offices in Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville and New York. Those Sales Reps serve many thousands of retailers domestically and internationally. I also interface with our overseas offices in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Additionally, I work closely with our editorial and production teams, providing sales and market feedback and direction on forthcoming products. They, in turn, produce thousands of products each year for all markets and sales channels. The days are long and the work is challenging, but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ferranti and Ron Manus (CEO) jamming at RPMDA.

Ferranti and Ron Manus (CEO) jamming at RPMDA.

The best part about working for Alfred Music is the noble mission and the oneness of our purpose. We know who we are and whom we serve, and that feels great. We are musicians and educators creating innovative products for musicians and educators. As we say, we help people experience the joy of making music. Whether you are learning, teaching or playing music, we want to help you. We want to be a part of your musical experience.

The Retailer: Let’s talk about Alfred Music in broad strokes. Provide a 10,000-foot overview of the company, summarizing its history and discussing some of the key characteristics and qualities that the company embodies. Share details about Alfred Music’s growth and development, and give us insight into its corporate culture.
Ferranti: Since its founding in 1922, Alfred Music has built an incredible legacy that is stronger than ever after 90 years. By 1928, the first generation of the Manus family, Sam Manus, was publishing sheet music for the popular Tin Pan Alley songs of the day.

By the 1950s, Sam’s son, the legendary Morty Manus, was directing the business and had refocused the company from publishing popular music into developing educational music publications. Since then, Alfred Music has been defined by its bestselling instructional methods for piano, guitar, ukulele, accordion, drums, band, orchestra and just about every instrument, format and style imaginable. This set Alfred Music on a course to becoming what we are today.

In the 1970s, Alfred Music moved its headquarters to Los Angeles and kept its state-of-the-art distribution center and printing presses in New York, where we operate and distribute from today. In the 1980s and 1990s, Alfred Music began expanding its global reach and opened offices in the United Kingdom, Germany, Northeast and Southeast Asia, and Australia.

In 2005, Alfred Music was poised for further growth and acquired Warner Bros. Publications, as well as signing a long-term publishing deal with the Warner Music Group. In a sense, Alfred Music was back to its original focus of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, publishing the popular music of the day. And we continue to acquire the publishing rights of major artists, movies and shows.

We are fortunate to represent many of the biggest artists of all time, including John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and hundreds more. We publish the best classic and modern musicals, such as “The Wizard of Oz,” “Once,” “Kinky Boots,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Pippin” and so many more. And our movies, TV and entertainment catalog includes “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and Indiana Jones and James Bond offerings, just to name a few.

In 2013, we acquired the popular Jubilate sacred choral line from Word Entertainment; welcomed Mark Cabaniss, one of the most respected names in sacred music publishing, to the Alfred Music family; and opened our Nashville office to better serve the sacred choral market. Additionally, we signed a distribution agreement with MakeMusic for the best-in-class Finale music notation software and the Garritan sound libraries.

With all this growth, we try never to become distracted from our primary mission of music education. We are here to help people experience the joy of making music, period. We utilize popular music where appropriate to help in that endeavor, but our mission of music education always comes first.

The Retailer: When you look at Alfred Music as it currently exists, what are you proudest of? What makes the company—and the company’s expansive range of offerings—stand apart? How do you differ not only from direct competitors but, more broadly, from most companies in the music products space?
Ferranti: I’m most proud of Alfred Music’s commitment to innovation and our constant striving to do better. It would be easy to rest on our laurels in music education. It would be easy to become intimidated by the world of free media, free content and illegal downloading, and not strive to innovate. But innovation has always been the key to Alfred Music’s success, the success of our dealers and the success of the hundreds of thousands of students and teachers who rely on and grow with our products every day.

Alfred Music’s quality is evident from its earliest publications, which were built with a comprehensive approach that has become the mainstream standard of musical pedagogy today. The methods that we are releasing today are as groundbreaking as ever and are evidence that we will continue to produce publications that will be the standard of music education for many years to come.

Sound Innovations, available for band, orchestra and guitar, for example, was pilot-tested in all 50 states by many of the most respected music teachers and directors in their communities. And what’s more, we have an online platform for band or orchestra directors to customize each book to the needs of their students and order direct to their school, involving our dealer network in the process! This kind of modernization for the musician and care for our dealer network is uncommon in the industry and sets Alfred Music apart.

We’ve also noticed the growing trend of having the option of interactive media content available on tablet, laptop and smartphone. At the same time, books are stronger than ever, which says to us that a learner wants to study from the book at home, but also wants the option of mobility. Alfred Music was proud to launch our DiY (Do-It-Yourself) interactive series for guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and ukulele. It is a series of books with streaming online media. In addition to the obvious benefits to the student, our dealers will love being able to integrate digital media with physical product sales.

These are the kinds of innovations in our expansive range of offerings that make Alfred Music stand apart. We view our competition as any discretionary dollar spent on anything other than learning, teaching or playing music.

The Retailer: Over the past two years, I’ve repeatedly heard the degree to which accessories, add-ons and low-cost/high-margin items have become music products retailers’ bread-and-butter sales. Have dealers started to lean more heavily on educational, reference, pop and performance materials, in particular those from Alfred Music?
Ferranti: Yes. I once heard it eloquently put that a person may invest in one instrument per year (whether rental, first purchase or upgrade purchase), but our dealers run stores 365 days per year. What then? What is going to keep a musician coming back for more every day? You need accessories to maintain those instruments, and you need books and media to learn how to play those instruments.

Better musicians make better customers for a lifetime—and we help make better musicians.
Although we do everything we can to get the word out, the best-kept secret of the top retailers seems to be that media and accessories products earn some of the highest profit margins in the industry, and at the highest volume of sales.

Media products keep your customers coming back for more. It should be the first recommended product with an instrument or accessory sale, but also think of all the music released throughout the year that students, teachers and performers want to learn. There are thousands of dealers domestically who get that; and, to the music stores that do not carry media, they are simply missing out on selling what their customers are already buying elsewhere.

The Retailer: Shine a light on some of Alfred Music’s most recent launches and initiatives. What products and categories are you pushing most aggressively right now? What’s in the pipeline?
Ferranti: We have several standard-setting products that we have recently released, which deserve our most aggressive sales and marketing efforts. In band and orchestra, we have released Sound Innovations, a revolutionary method that is being adopted all across the country. In addition to being authored by a dream team of band and orchestra educators, it was pilot-tested in all 50 states to confirm what we already knew: we have released the band and orchestra method of the future. Additionally, an educator can go to our Web site at and customize the method to meet the needs of their students and schools. Schools will be adopting this method and our competitors will be trying to catch up to this level of technological innovation for many years to come.

For new musicians and the gift-giving market, we have released musical instrument packs for adults and kids, which come complete with a musical instrument, a case, a method book, a CD, a DVD, interactive software and the accessories necessary for a beginner—all in one attractive box! The popularity of these has been sensational. Our ukulele pack, for example, is the industry’s number-one-selling instrument pack on the largest e-commerce sites. Dealers will love the fantastic margins and insatiable popularity of these packs.

For beginning musicians who want to benefit from the instruction of our books but also want to have the mobile convenience of streaming laptop, smartphone and tablet access to our audio and video content, we have just released the DiY series for guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and ukulele. And our dealers can now confidently be a part of the mobile content that customers want to accompany their progress through our books. It’s a win/win/win situation, and a level of innovation of which we are extremely proud.

For the budding rock bands, rock schools and music camps out there, we have released Alfred’s Rock Ed. series, which combines the best in play-along technology with the rite-of-passage songs that all bands need to learn. From the British Invasion to Led Zeppelin to modern rock, we are working tirelessly to provide bands and dealers with the very best music in this fast-growing category.

Alfred Music is also a proud distributor of some of the finest product lines in our industry. In 2013, we were pleased to become the exclusive distributor of MakeMusic, including Finale music notation software and Garritan sound libraries. For 25 years, Finale has set the standard in music notation software, and we at Alfred Music are proud to be a part of this wonderful legacy and represent this product to music dealers worldwide.

The Retailer: Detail Alfred Music’s philosophy as it relates to working with dealers and through the dealer channel. Is working closely with dealers a big part of your fundamental approach to business?
Ferranti: One doesn’t get to 90 years in business in this industry without a strong dealer network built on partnership and trust. Working through our dealer channel is our lifeblood. Everything we do in the marketplace includes an earnest effort to strengthen our dealer network and dealer reach.

Our Web site,, captures consumer interest and orders, and then we feed those orders to our dealers.
Our exclusive dealer resource Web site,, offers free marketing and business tools to help our dealers profit more from our products and services.

Our program offers print-on-demand sheet music for our dealers: a no-cost way to offer hundreds of thousands of titles to their in-store and online customers.

Our Digital Video Retailer Program offers hundreds of video lessons and DVDs for sale through our dealers: another no-cost way to offer in-demand titles to online customers.

Our custom-print-on-demand band and orchestra method, Sound Innovations Director’s Choice edition, includes dealer commissions for the sales.

Our Alfred Music VIP programs for band, orchestra, choral, guitar and piano dealers offer the co-op opportunity to advertise our newest products to over 100,000 educators and to have the traffic and demand routed back exclusively through our dealer network.

Every year, we conduct over 100 fully sponsored in-store clinics, hosted at our dealers’ retail stores, domestically and internationally.
We attend local MEA [Music Educator Association] and MTA [Music Teacher Association] shows in all 50 states, and allow our dealers to profit from our direct efforts, workshops and promotions.

You get the idea. We are all about our dealers.

The Retailer: Is there anything the dealer channel could be doing that would be helpful to Alfred Music? Do you have any suggestions for the dealer channel that would help retailers themselves, in addition to helping the company?
Ferranti: Yes. Media can seem like a daunting category. The major music publishers offer hundreds of thousands of titles combined, and that can seem intimidating. But, to a savvy retailer, it’s a great opportunity to profit. Media products and accessories can account for more in-store and online traffic, better search engine optimization, better social media posts and in-store promotions that are current with the headlines and artists of the day. But, to be successful, a dealer needs to merchandise it well to take advantage of all the benefits. It’s not hard, but it is necessary.

The top book and media retail sites in the world report that 66 percent of all products sold have at least a cover scan. These days, customers also demand a look-inside feature, and the best retailers include audio and video content, as well.


Alfred Music and MakeMusic, Inc., celebrate exclusive distribution agreement.

Alfred Music provides all the assets needed to be a great media retailer, free of charge, to our dealers. There is no need to have a Web site with empty cover scans, no look-insides, no audio or no video commercials. Customers these days are very tech-savvy and reward dealers that know how to inform them and keep their interest with this additional content. And Alfred Music gladly works with our dealers to help them take advantage of these resources that we have developed for them.

The Retailer: Looking back at the economic difficulties of recent years, to what extent has economic uncertainty affected Alfred Music? What proactive, preventative steps did the company take? How did the recession affect the trajectory that ultimately brought the company to its current position?
Ferranti: Being an international company, the recent global economic difficulties that started around 2008—and extended through 2012—impacted Alfred Music in various ways. Now, as an organization that was founded in 1922, we can say that our company and our industry have survived two Great Depressions only to emerge stronger than before.

When faced with economic uncertainty, it forces us all to rediscover our core strengths and our personal brand. It demands that we improve our productivity and increase the value we provide to our customers. By re-doubling our focus on innovation in music education and investment in our products and services, we were able to survive the global recession and thrive in the years following. We have been very pleased by our growth throughout 2013 and into 2014.

We are a stronger company and a better global brand because of the challenges that we have faced and overcome.

The Retailer: What can those who are watching Alfred Music anticipate for the rest of the year and beyond?
Ferranti: Those who follow Alfred Music in any category certainly won’t be disappointed. For the back-to-school season, we are proud to expand our offerings of Sound Innovations for Band and Orchestra, Suzuki, Finale, Garritan, and world-class performance and choral music.

For the holidays, we will have all-new musical instrument packs, including Teach Yourself to Play Banjo, Teach Yourself to Play Mandolin, Teach Yourself to Play Classical Guitar and a Kids’ Drum Pack that will be perfect for home or classroom use. All those instrument packs will include a high-quality instrument, case, accessories, instruction book, a CD, a DVD and everything a beginner will need to play—and all for the best value in the industry.

Just this year, Alfred Music launched a line of acoustic and electric guitar strings, as well as band and orchestra instrument-care kits with highly competitive pricing and margins for our dealers.
It promises to be a great year for Alfred Music but, more importantly, for our dealers and the customers they serve.



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