Last week, Rich Galassini, one of the co-owners of Cunningham Piano, attended the 2020 NAMM Show. NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchants. It is the United States’ largest music business trade show convention. It takes place every January in Anaheim, California. Cunningham Pianos has been around since 1891, but we are relatively new Yamaha dealers in this area. That’s been about three, three-and-a-half years at this point. At the NAMM show, all the major piano manufacturers are represented there, but it’s notable that Yamaha is by far the largest manufacturer. They actually have a whole, separate building just for their products. Their piano division is huge! 80,000 to 100,000 people go through the show each year. Only people in the music business are allowed to attend for the first few days, and it’s usually open to the public only on the last day.
The Convention Center complex has the Marriott where Yamaha takes over the whole first floor. It’s a staggering display of what they make. It’s indicative of the size of Yamaha, being the world’s largest music manufacturer. In comparison, within the main convention building, they usually have a room I believe called the “88 Studio”, where all the other piano manufacturers – approximately 30 or so different manufacturers – kind of crowd in. That one room is smaller than Yamaha’s offerings in their enormous setting.
In our short history with Yamaha, now being their exclusive regional representative in this tri-state area, we’ve won awards every year. In our first year, we were the New Yamaha Dealer of the Year. After the second, full year, we were given the Northeast Region Dealer of the Year award, covering the territory from Boston to DC. That was a lovely honor to get. Then during this year’s NAMM show, Tim Oliver, one of the other co-owners of Cunningham Piano, received a phone call from Rich with a very surprising announcement: we just won the Dealer of the Year for the entire United States market!
In light of our relatively young association with Yamaha, somebody made the comment that they don’t think that they’d ever seen anybody get this award this fast.
So, while we’re thrilled and honored, what does this really mean? How does Yamaha select these sorts of awards?
“One of the things that we have to look at with this is how Yamaha projects markets to perform,” says Tim. “With Yamaha, they take a lot of market research into where they are represented. They have to plan because they’re a $5 billion a year company. You have to plan to serve the world market in advance. They give everybody an understanding of, ‘Hey, this is what you did last year. This is what we think you can do next year.’ That might not always be a bigger number. They’re very astute as to what is going to be happening in the markets they serve. Well, for the year (and their year ends at the end of March), we’ve already exceeded what they hoped that we could do.”
“The other thing is Yamaha has a lot of different facets to what it is they look for in a dealer. One of them is how well the dealership is handling the Yamaha artists through YASI, Yamaha Artist Services. For instance, Barbra Streisand came into town not that long ago. So people like her, John Legend, or Chick Corea when they come to the Philadelphia area, how well are they supported by their local dealer? That’s one of the things they thought we did very well.”
For Yamaha artists, we provide the Yamaha CFX, which is their flagship nine-foot concert grand piano. It’s a phenomenal instrument. It’s not just providing an instrument, but making sure the instrument is in tip-top shape, beautifully tuned, and enables the signature artists to really shine in whatever performances they’re giving in this area.
“Our doing well in that is really an extension of our service department,” says Tim. “We have a terrific service department. That also dovetails with how well do we handle post-delivery follow-up needs? We’re very fortunate to have a terrific team of technicians, that a lot of times take care of little issues that I didn’t even hear about. They just take care of them. There’s a number of different ways to be measured. We’re very honored that they felt like we are the example that they want to set.”
Another aspect that sets Cunningham Piano apart has been the videos we produce. “If it weren’t for Hugh, we would not be doing it,” says Tim. “If you wanted to look up to see what a CLP-645 is or does, if you Google that, you’re probably going to see this guy telling you what it does. We have a video that remarkably has 2.5 million views. If you want to know what the pedals on a piano do, you’re going to learn it from this guy. That’s one of the facets that we have been measured by.”
“We were at a couple of training sessions that Yamaha hosts for their dealers, their nationwide dealer network,” notes Hugh. “They talk a lot about the creative marketing efforts that they are encouraging the dealers to do. I think we’ve really pioneered a couple of these things. In fact, our videos are being shown as the example of what they hope the other dealers will do.”
“We’re not just in business, but we really, genuinely care about the art, spreading the joy of music throughout the world,” says Hugh.
For the average person who’s interested in their first piano or just getting started shopping for one – if they don’t know anything about pianos, what does our relationship with Yamaha do for them?
“The honor of being selected is indicative of us having a good system to help people,” says Tim. “One of the things we talk about, when you walk into a store and there’s a sales guy helping you, it can be a little intimidating or daunting. We just want to help. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at a $200,000 Bosendorfer or a $2,000 Clavinova. Let’s help you find what makes you happy, and what’s going to be the thing that inspires you to sit down and play. We all don’t have the same budgets, but there is a piano for everybody. We just want to help.”
“I think one of the most interesting questions that we get from time to time is, ‘what is the perfect piano?’” says Hugh. “What I love about representing Yamaha and Bösendorfer is that the answer is it’s up to you. It’s really one of these things where the perfect piano isn’t just one instrument that we have to kind of fit into every person’s home or budget. Again, according to you, what is your budget? What are your needs? What’s the size of the room that the piano needs to go in? By working with our teams of sales experts and artists, we’re here to help you find your perfect instrument, not just an arbitrary instrument. Yamaha really covers the bases in terms of the beginner instruments all the way up to the concert stage level instruments. We can find the perfect instrument for you. I think that’s really the deeper meaning of what this award represents, not just for us, but really for you, the customer.”
“Having worked with a lot of companies over the years, we love them all, but how nice to be acknowledged,” says Tim. “Everybody that did a good job gets noticed so thank you, Yamaha. That’s really terrific.”
It’s an exciting time for Cunningham Piano and Yamaha. We’re in a growth phase. We just opened up our new store in Cherry Hill – that’s an exciting new market for us. To that end, we invite you to subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest videos, piano tutorials, instrument reviews, and advance notice of special events. Thank you for your support and for sharing our love of pianos and music!