Yamaha Canada Music

Whether it is music instruments, engines, or electronics, as a true Japanese brand, the Yamaha tuning-forks logo represents the highest commitment to quality and know-how of Japanese craftsmanship.

Yamaha’s history began when its founder, Torakusu Yamaha, repaired a broken reed organ in 1887 and soon thereafter he build the first reed organ in Japan and pioneered the production of western musical instruments in Japan; (the engineering business only came about during Second World War, when the military required skilled woodworkers to design and manufacture warplane propellers, and it was only in 1955 that Yamaha Motor Company was established).

Focus on quality and craftsmanship is built into the Yamaha’s culture. If the instrument is to carry the Yamaha brand name, it must deliver on each of the many quality, performance and durability requirements. The company spends $200 million on research and development each year, resources that are spent to ensure the company has the technology to create products that brings value to all of its customers.

The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Jim Welter, Director of National Sales & Marketing; Piano, Band & Orchestra Division of Yamaha Canada Music, about what makes Yamaha a go-to name for musicians. It is estimated that Yamaha has more than 50% of Canada’s Piano, Band & Orchestra market share today.

“Yamaha Canada is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yamaha Corporation of Japan. We have a network of dealers across the country that represent our pianos and home digital pianos, and we work with them to create interest in the Yamaha products,” says Welter.

Yamaha builds instruments across most all music categories and all customer verticals – from entry-level instruments to instruments for professional musicians. This breadth is very unique in the music instrument industry, because most instrument manufacturers focus mainly on a single instrument, a specific instrument type, and with limited options for consumer verticals, while Yamaha covers all the primary main categories, and the breadth of its products are unprecedented in the industry.

“If you go to a symphony concert, for example, in Toronto, almost every single product you see on stage Yamaha makes – brass and woodwind instruments, percussion, some of the string instruments, etc.,” says Welter.

The fundamental aspect of the company’s focus is on institutional sales, such as secondary schools. “This is important for us because we are involved with our people who are studying music and will most likely be involved in music for the rest of their life, so it’s important for us to have a relationship at that early level in musicians’ careers. This is where the Yamaha’s product quality, durability and consistency make the brand the preferred instrument of choice.”

“When it comes to professional level in terms of orchestra instruments, we compete against boutique manufacturers who are highly focused on, quite literally, a single instrument,” continues Welter.

The business and sales approach at Yamaha is quite the opposite from the institutional sales in that the company relies heavily on building relationships with the artists themselves. It’s almost a one-on-one approach. A representative from Yamaha will speak with the artists, present them with the instrument options and let them make the choice, which makes the process a highly service-oriented approach.

The individual approach is core to building the Yamaha footprint, as the professional playing Yamaha instruments become the market influencers. “When the professionals are happy, and the instrument can perform for them, then it will perform for the average person or a hobbyist as well,” says Welter.

In Canada, Yamaha’s product experts travel across the country, organizing product sessions for consumers, dealers, and technicians and even has in-house technical service for all instruments. According to Welter, Yamaha is likely also the only one company with actual presence in the country. “That’s what makes Yamaha different. The company sees value in having a quality consumer service.”

The piano as well as band & orchestra market has seen more than 10% growth year-over-year in the past few years, which is actually going against the overall market trend, so much so that 2016 was the best year for the Band & Orchestra Division in the past 35 years.

“What has been fueling our growth over the past five years is our technology products. We have traditional, digital and hybrid pianos. The ‘silent’ pianos where the musician can switch to headphones has been a real sales driver in the growing condo market. The mid- to high-end grand piano market remains solid as well. As much as the lower-end consumers want to substitute the traditional piano with, say, an acoustic keyboard, people still see a value in a grand piano. It’s also an investment, because a grand pianos do not really depreciate over time,” says Welter.

Yamaha’s mission is to share passion and performance, and the company has the unique expertise and sensibilities gained from its devotion to sound and music, and Yamaha is committed to creating excitement and cultural inspiration together with people around the world, and continue to build instruments that musicians can rely on from their high school years all the way to the famed concert halls.