Instrumental Music and Sound
109 S. James St.
Ludington MI 49431
Phone: (231) 843-4411
Mon–Sat: 10am–6pm
Jeffrey G. Nixon, Owner

For the past 34 years, Jeffrey Nixon and Instrumental Music and Sound have been serving the needs of the music community in Ludington MI. Throughout the years, the store has seen many ups and downs, but, ultimately, it has been a labor of love for Nixon, who purchased the store on September 1, 1981, armed with degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry, and with zero business experience.

“I was mostly a choral singer who dabbled with guitar and bass guitar, but I have always been fascinated by music,” Nixon said. “Every other town or city in which I had lived had a music store. I felt that Ludington should have one, as well, and I had the financial resources to make it happen.”

At the time that Nixon took on the store, it had three electric guitars, a handful of acoustics, two amps, and some strings and lesson books: an initial inventory value that Nixon estimates at $14,100. “Not enough to draw people to the store,” Nixon remarked, noting that only approximately 900 of the store’s original 1,800 square feet was being utilized. He listened to his customers and his suppliers, growing his inventory and shaping the reality of the store to his vision.


“I worked hard at expanding the inventory and attracting major suppliers to create a destination,” Nixon commented. “We poured money into the store for nine years to grow it into a store worth visiting. This was a stressful time, since it was consuming all our excess capital. But, after we achieved balance, I’ve been trying to build the most attractive, best stocked, best service-providing music store that I know how to build.”

That process has involved putting together a product offering that allows Instrumental Music and Sound to work with suppliers that Nixon feels are there to support the store and help it to succeed. By Nixon’s estimation, he has “fired at least five major names and a multitude of smaller ones in the past 34 years, because of their poor service or rep training. Basically, our suppliers are those that make good to excellent product, understand how to work with a dealer and have excellent customer support.”

Although Nixon does see a fair amount of customers coming in and asking for major brands, he said that those people are typically “just repeating what they have seen online or in advertisements.” He continued, “We do our best to educate people, but many don’t want to have their illusions dispelled.”


Nixon and his staff—which includes one full-time and two part-time employees, as well as his wife, who does the books—do, however, go to great lengths to guide their customers through the brands the store has, and to show them the benefits of buying from their store.

“I modeled the store after Bay Music Owner Ed Kurz’s philosophy, which is to always help the customer find what they need, even if it’s not what they think they want,” Nixon explained. “Then, once they are your customer, take care of them. Musicians need a support team, and we try to provide that.”


Instrumental Music and Sound offers support for its customers in a number of ways, ranging from committing PA gear to the local Arts Center to letting performing musicians borrow equipment free of charge while their instruments are being worked on.

“A young couple purchased a digital piano that had audio outputs, and the output card had noise on the signal,” Nixon recalled. “We were unable to get the manufacturer to correct the problem. So, after three months, we bought the piano back at full price. We gave them the option of a check or credit toward a digital piano from a different manufacturer. They found a unit that they liked, and everyone was happy.”

Maintaining that level of customer service has become especially important for Nixon in recent years. Because his store is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, he said, “Our service area is half of what it might be because, as of yet, we have not taught any of the aquatic life how to play instruments.” So, the store has been especially rocked by the fact that the area has yet to fully recover from the Great Recession.

“Our area has suffered a tremendous loss of good-paying factory jobs, and it’s transitioned from a manufacturing community to a tourist/retirement community,” Nixon explained. “We have lost population and income.” He added, “At the same time, the Internet has expanded and the marketplace is quite chaotic. But, overall, our business has been shrinking, and the future is uncertain.”


Nixon cuts his prices to “Internet or below-Internet” levels in order to combat online competition, and he has become an advocate for the Main Street Fairness Act, which would force Internet retailers to charge sales tax just as brick-and-mortar stores like his do.

“Michigan has a six-percent sales tax, and that is a high hurdle for customer and merchant alike,” Nixon emphasized. “Customers are no longer reluctant to compare your prices to those of online sellers. Some will even be browsing on their phone while discussing a product.”

“We try to meet or beat online prices and give the customer the best experience that we can,” Nixon stated, adding that that’s something he hopes his customers will return in kind. “We choose our suppliers based on how well they support us,” he remarked. “We believe our customers will choose us as a supplier based on how well we support them.”

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