If you’ve ever asked anyone who works professionally in music how they feel about their job, you’ve likely heard something to the effect of, “I’m so lucky. I get to do what I love every day!” The same goes for those weekend warriors who will work all week and then gig all weekend instead of taking their hard-earned rest. Why? Simple: They love it.

And we’re all familiar with the kids and teens (and sometimes adults!) who can spend hours of their free time sitting in their local music store noodling on any and every instrument they can get their hands on. The reason? You guessed it. It’s the same reason each time. It’s that indescribable love — that emotional connection — that attracts them to music as strongly as gravity keeps us grounded.

It’s this same love that drives the MI industry and all of the businesses therein. This force is what brings people into stores and compels them to buy, collect, play, trade and sell instruments and gear. It is the lifeblood of the industry.

Industry stakeholders vastly agree that one of the main goals of the industry as a whole is to create, foster and develop these lifelong music makers in order to continue to allow the industry to thrive. However, buried within that statement, there is a key component that has been largely ignored, yet should be a vital element in today’s world. And it’s one that, if given some attention, can help give MI retailers an additional leg up on getting customers to continue to patronize their stores and lesson programs. It asks not how we can create more lifelong music makers, but rather, how can we help music makers continue to do what they love for longer? How do we actually facilitate music making as a literal lifelong activity? This key component? Health and safety within music (which includes playing, performance and production). And it’s about time that it be recognized as something vital to the continued growth of the MI industry.

Let’s be honest: Health and safety is not a sexy topic. Pairing it with an industry like music might seem like pairing peanut butter and tuna fish. However, as I said earlier, our customers do what they do because they love it. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, if we can help them do it continuously throughout their lives (outside of just supplying them with products and instruction), then we are providing them with an invaluable service — one that is good for business and the industry overall. So, while not necessarily sexy, it should be taken seriously. The longer your customers are able to play and participate in music making, the longer your business can continue to serve and sell to those customers, adding dollars and cents to your bottom line. And isn’t that the goal?

So, there are two questions that I’m sure you’re wondering about: What kind of health and safety issues need to be addressed, and how is a music retailer equipped to address them? These are loaded questions. Let’s tackle the latter first.

There’s a good chance that you, your staff and your lessons program teachers are already addressing health and safety issues during the course of the day without even realizing it. While these sometimes may seem like minor details, approaching them with emphasis on the customers’ health will communicate a sense of concern for their well-being. This kind of personal attention is what will keep your customers coming back to the store. Allow me to give an example from my own experience that, while seemingly trivial, illustrates the point perfectly.

I teach many students on numerous instruments. When I teach beginner guitar students, they often hold their pick the wrong way. They usually don’t understand, or frankly, don’t care why it matters how it’s held. The easiest thing to do is show these students the right way to hold the pick, mention that it will allow them to play more advanced techniques in the future and leave it at that. I don’t leave it at that. I tell these students that, while it might seem insignificant in the beginning, bad technique will lead to fatigue, discomfort and even pain in the wrist. This will hamper their ability to play and may even cause them to stop playing altogether — all of this from the way the pick is held. I then ask my students with a chuckle, “Is your ultimate goal to stop playing guitar?” The response is the obvious “No,” but more importantly, the lesson is well learned, and my students understand that I care deeply about their well-being and their ability to play long into the future.

This example is something that you and your staff can implement immediately, not only in the lesson room but right on the sales floor. If you see a kid trying out a guitar and he/she happens to be holding the pick the wrong way, take a minute to show him/her the right way and explain why it matters. It’s likely that there’s a parent standing nearby (who also happens to be the one with the wallet) who will appreciate the extra care and attention you gave his or her child. As we all know, these seemingly inconsequential and costless moments often lead to making a sale, creating new customers and keeping existing ones.

This guitar pick example falls under the category of ergonomics, which is most certainly a sub-category of health and safety. There are many similar examples that you can address in your store where this approach can be applied.

Remember, as a retailer, you want your customers to know that you provide them with the right products, an excellent staff with great service and first-rate customer support. This is the minimum expected these days in order to succeed and compete with other retailers, and in particular, online outfits. In order to stand out, you need to go the extra mile. In this case, the extra mile can cost you nothing and be priceless to your customers. You are helping them do what they love longer.

Health and safety in music is a vast subject and it cannot be addressed entirely in just one article. My goal here is simply to create awareness.

In my next article, I’ll start getting into the nitty-gritty of what areas of music can be looked at through the lens of health and safety and how we can better our customers’ experiences by giving them the attention they deserve.

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