Are we becoming a nation that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing? Is the demand for the minimum price going to cost us more in the long run?
The music industry is facing a challenge from the Far East, nothing new there you might think. However, Chinese imports are increasing at an alarming rate and more and more manufacturers are being challenged to produce their goods at ever lower costs to compete with the Far East. Competition is a good thing but only when it is a level playing field.
The workers in China and other Far Eastern countries are paid a fraction of the wages of their equivalent European counterparts so the European makers are now trying to find ways of cutting costs to compete. This will inevitably lead to a lowering of quality and a possible loss of some of the smaller companies in Europe. In other industries Fair Trade agreements have been put in place, perhaps it is time for our industry to consider a similar policy.
We should all be concerned about this as it will affect us all as customers in the future. Consider your investment of several thousand pounds in an instrument over say 5 years, the poor quality keys, pads and sometimes bodies will wear in a much shorter time than we would like ( in some cases within a year) this makes little financial sense then, as we will need to spend a large amount of money to correct the problems or have to replace the instrument within a few years, a bad short time gain then.
I recently discovered that Vandoren reeds are being copied by a Chinese manufacturer and needless to say, the quality is very poor although they look convincing in the packaging. Several instrument makers are using Chinese made parts, keys etc, for their Clarinets and Saxophones. It is unfair of us to say that the Chinese are responsible for the decline in quality by themselves, as I know for a fact that they are capable of producing the very best standards, but at a price.
The Europeans demand the lowest price in order to be more competitive therefore we will only see the lowest quality on our instruments unless we take responsibility for this and demand more from all manufacturers to enable us to perform at the highest level.
It is up to you to demand more, Flute players have already made this commitment to pay more and get better instruments, on average a good professional flute will cost from £6,000 upwards, and amateur players will pay this too.
So maybe it is about education, making people aware that more can be done, the choice is yours, but the more of us that keep demanding better standards, the higher the level of music making we can expect to produce. It is worth noting that the subtle differences we strive to achieve in our performances can only be achieved when the instrument frees us from restraint in our bid to express ourselves. If we lose the ability to make the subtleties work, we may also lose the battle with the ever improving electronic Clarinet and Saxophone samples most of us can download from the electric interweb!