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  • The Economy and The Organ Business

    I've heard that several organ building related companies are in "tough" shape due the the economic slow-down in Europe and the US. Has anyone else heard this? I do know of a couple of Churches that have canceled their organ projects because of sluggish attendance and slowing receipts. The last major player in the organ business to find themselves in trouble was Austin Organs a couple of years ago who I understand did reopen to some degree at a later date.

  • #2
    Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



    M. P. Moller, Sr. was famous for his "creative financing", and no two (poor paying) church jobs were ever handled in the same way. He always made deals that appeared "attractive" to the church, but ultimately, were profitable to the company. The company was in excellent financial shape when he died, in 1936...the middle of the great depression. Only reason the company failed years later, was the family heirs, who "played around" with company profits.</P>


    United States builders have been hurt for years by the abolition of import duty on musical instruments. Add to that, some genuine differences in organbuilding philosophy as practiced by the Canadians, and Brits, as well as U. S. "botique" builders, and you have the basic reason that U. S. builders are hurting.</P>


    Austin Organs Inc. has been purchased away from the Austin family. I hope you join me in wishing them every possible new success. Like General Motors, Ford, Chrysler automakers, there are many United States based companies that face tremendous competition from foreign competitors.</P>


    Of one thing you can be certain. No United States organbuilder CEO is going to walk out of his office, turn off the lights in the entire factory for the last time, and take a multi-million dollar bonus check to his bank for deposit. We're going to keep on "scratching" in the barnyard for new business!</P>

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    • #3
      Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



      [quote user="Don Furr"]I've heard that several organ building related companies are in "tough" shape due the the economic slow-down in Europe and the US. Has anyone else heard this? I do know of a couple of Churches that have canceled their organ projects because of sluggish attendance and slowing receipts. The last major player in the organ business to find themselves in trouble was Austin Organs a couple of years ago who I understand did reopen to some degree at a later date.
      [/quote]</P>


      Maybe customers that were considering a pipe organ will buy a digi-organ instead.</P>

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      • #4
        Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



        organ building is an art a craft but also a business based on free market forces</P>


        therefor the company must make money or it will fold</P>


        no individual no firm has lasted forever</P>


        schnitger</P>


        silberman</P>


        cavaille-coll</P>


        johnson</P>


        erben</P>


        hook</P>


        hutchings</P>


        skinner</P>


        moller</P>


        kimball</P>


        welte</P>


        wurlitzer</P>


        morton</P>


        aeolian-skinner</P>


        all have come and gone</P>


        whatever the reason</P>


        this will likely continue</P>


        old will eventually go and new will eventually come along</P>

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        • #5
          Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



          Hi,</p>

          The economic downturn is affecting the digi organ builders as well. Just about everyone in the organ business is affected. The survivors among organbuilders are the ones that presently have a 3 or more years backlog. </p>

          It is not only organbuilders that are in trouble. A number of piano manufacturers are in distress as well.</p>

          Only those companies that are well financed, debt free, and have significant business lined up now are going to do well in the next few years.</p>

          AV
          </p>

          </p>

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          • #6

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            • #7
              Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



              [quote user="Jay999"]Add to that, some genuine differences in organbuilding philosophy as practiced by the Canadians, and Brits, as well as U. S. "botique" builders, and you have the basic reason that U. S. builders are hurting.[/quote]That is a curious statement Jay, could you elaborate?</P>


              Aren't differing building philosophies a good thing? Otherwise you would have cookie-cutter organs, all alike. [*-)]</P>


              I also think "boutique" builders are a very good thing - some excellent work is coming from these shops. Not everyone wants a 'factory' organ.</P>

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              • #8

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                • #9
                  Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



                  Different building philosophies are, indeed, a good thing. That's what made our elder US builders competitive with each other. Just as Steinway was a benchmark in US piano manufacturing, the Roosevelts, and Skinner were benchmark builders for a number of years. </P>


                  The genuine differences in organbuilding that have "turned the heads" of US purchasers (toward our Canadian cousins, as well as others): Tracker action organs, elaborate console details, elegant pipe facades....and elaborate casework. The pipework itself....(during the tracker revival)...there were those "European" scales that made everything in the US sound dark, heavy, and un-enthusiastic. Very high tin formulas, polished zinc, copper and brass reed resonators...etc. etc.They all began as the little competetive things that encouraged an endorsement by the organist of a church, or generally appealed to an organ committee....thus, contract by contract, US organbuilders lost sales to foreign competition. Today, US builders are building a far superior instrument to the ones they built only 50 or 60 years ago. Foreign competition did that....for the betterment of the US product, but at a great cost to American workers......or is that really true?</P>


                  Because those workers, unlike their parents and grandparents, had begun to be college educated, and had an appetite for more knowledge in the "art" of organ building. They would not be satisfied, spending a lifetime in an organ pipe shop, banging metal on mandrels, or shoving wood around massive, noisy saws. These workers wanted to "know it all". And so, theseworkers became the fathers, the uncles, and the mentorsof our present generation of "boutique" builders. What do I find wrong with boutique builders?</P>


                  Absolutely nothing....except, perhaps, the prices they charge. But, I guess, they deserve the prices they get....for they are probably the most thoroughly educated, completely knowledgeable organbuilders that have ever been on this planet, at any time, includingthe past. With a view toward these very smart people, I wonder if our old, elder builders have a chance, competing with these men.</P>


                  Probably not. Why, for goodness sake, can't we have as well educated,well intentioned, and highly principled men running our economic engines on Wall Street? </P>

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                  • #10
                    Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



                    So true, Jay.[Y]</p>

                    My dad worked for a little tracker manufacturing firm Klug &amp; Schumaker, Inc. here in west central Florida before it went belly-up in '85 or so. Their demise wasn't due to the economy at the time, but from lack of interest in traditional church hymns (more and more Floridian congregations leaving their old organs to wither away and no contracts for new or rebuilt instruments...all due to contemporary worship music with guitars, keyboards and drums)! Even their service calls dwindled down to nothing...what a real shame! Had they remained in business up to now, they probably would have ceased production of new organs and would most likely have the occasional maintenance or tuning job, if that...the economy would've most definately done 'em in for sure![]
                    </p>

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                    • #11
                      Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



                      Hi Jim. Yes...I remember Klug &amp; Schumaker ads in the old AGO magazines.</P>


                      Actually, the late 70s and on into the early 80s was a period of financial challenge for a lot of organ builders, as I recall. A couple of my friends that were also building trackers during that time, closed their businesses too.</P>


                      Organ service men can always find work, servicing, tuning, rebuilding, etc. etc. However, the "dumming down" of churches, in an effort to keep their pews filled with a new generation of people who like to be entertained, rather than be inspired...will eventually hurt the service men, too.</P>


                      Very recently, I was asked by a young man if it would be to his best interest, to pursue a career in pipe organ work, or electronic organ work. With a bit of embarrassment, I advised him that electronics service work held a more secure future.</P>

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                      • #12
                        Re: The Economy and The Organ Business

                        I'm curious, who here has been directly affected by the current economic situation?

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                        • #13
                          Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



                          I believe the answer to that would be "all of us". [:|]</P>

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                          • #14
                            Re: The Economy and The Organ Business

                            No, I mean be more specific! Retirements, investments, etc.

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                            • #15
                              Re: The Economy and The Organ Business



                              Hi,</p>

                              I heard from someone who was at AIO that attendance was down, exhibitors were way down, at least in what they were showing. Also it was said that one company had a couple of organs in the erecting room, but the customers were having trouble coming up with funds to pay for the delivery and installment phase.</p>

                              Not a good scene right now for anybody it seems.</p>

                              AV
                              </p>

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