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Musical instrument ownership in the United States is high. According to a 25-year-anniversary report from the International Music Products Association, about half (52 percent) of U.S. households have at least one instrument-owning musician. Of those that have a musician, about half (48 percent) have two or more family members who play something.
Although this report is from 2003, instrument ownership has remained high since the report was issued. Lots of people in the U.S. own instruments -- and some of those instruments break down.
Musical instrument repair businesses service and repair instruments when they need routine maintenance or break. With so many people owning instruments, there is high demand for repair work.
Who is this business right for?
Anyone who enjoys music and is mechanically inclined might like running a musical instrument repair business. Business owners regularly interact with people who are passionate about music, and fixing instruments is a hands-on, mechanical process.
What happens during a typical day at a musical instrument repair business?
A typical day at a musical instrument repair business involves:
- talking to customers about issues their instruments are having
- ordering supplies needed for fixing instruments
- repairing and servicing instruments
- testing instruments after they’re repaired
What is the target market?
The target market for a musical instrument repair business is local musicians. Because musical instruments are large and valuable, musicians normally won’t ship them into repair facilities. Instead, they’ll bring them to a repair professional in the area.
How does a musical instrument repair business make money?
A musical instrument repair business makes money by charging customers for fixing their instruments. There are different levels of repair:
- “Play condition” repairs mechanically fix an instrument but don’t make aesthetic improvements
- “Professional quality” repairs fix an instrument technically and aesthetically
- “Overhauls” completely rebuild an instrument so that it’s like-new
What is the growth potential for a musical instrument repair business?
A music instrument repair business can be a small, one-person operation that maintains part-time hours, or it can grow to have multiple locations in different states. The Cayuga Music Shop is an example of a local repair business. Sam Ash is a larger company that has locations in sixteen states. Sam Ash, like most larger companies, sells instruments and provides lessons in addition to making repairs.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful musical instrument repair business?
A successful business owner will be both an experienced musician and trained in the specifics of musical instrument repair.
Business owner’s don’t need to be Grammy-winning artists, but they ought to have studied music during college. Without this level of knowledge, business owner’s won’t be able to help professional musicians much.
To learn instrument repair, business owners should look for a local instrument repair class. Some vocational schools and junior colleges offer these classes, but they aren’t available everywhere. If attending a class isn’t possible, the next-best option is to find an instrument repair technician who’s willing to set up an apprenticeship. Online classes aren’t ideal because repairing instruments is a hands-on process.
After learning the basic skills of musical instrument repair, business owners should practice -- and a lot. Practice will help refine skills, and it will show business owners what they can and can’t do with their skill set. EBay is a good place to find inexpensive instruments that can be torn down and rebuilt.
Ultimately, business owners should aim to become certified. The National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians offers certification in the field. More instrument-specific groups include the Guild of American Luthiers and the International Double Reed Society. Some instrument manufacturers, such as Straubinger, offer workshops and certifications for working on their particular instruments.
What are the costs involved in opening a musical instrument repair business?
The startup costs for a musical instrument repair business are manageable. Some of the biggest expenses include:
- Securing a space for repairing instruments
- Purchasing tools for making repairs
- Advertising the business’ repair services
Business owners who have limited initial capital can keep these costs minimal by setting up a repair workshop in their home and using tools they already own. A few specialty tools may be needed, but a good set of screwdrivers and variously sized pliers will do a lot of the work. Many of the specialty tools that are required either don’t cost a lot new or are available used at a discounted price.
Business owners who don’t want to start their operation from scratch might purchase an existing musical instrument repair business. These businesses are often affordable compared to other businesses’ purchase prices. For instance, one instrument repair business is listed at $75,000.
What are the steps to start a musical instrument repair business?
Once you're ready to start your musical instrument repair business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your musical instrument repair business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your musical instrument repair business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
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What are some insider tips for jump starting a musical instrument repair business?
When starting a new musical instrument repair business, providing every customer with the highest level of service is essential. Most business will come by word of mouth. Impressing a customer will keep them returning for future work, and it’ll lead to referrals.
How to promote & market a musical instrument repair business
As mentioned, word-of-mouth advertising is the most effective way to grow a musical instrument repair business. To do this, a business owner must break into the local music seen. Some ways to do this include:
- Repairing instruments for friends and acquaintances
- Advertising in concert programs
- Giving music teachers business cards
- Posting business cards at area businesses
- Networking with bands and solo artists
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How to keep customers coming back
A musical instrument repair business owner can set attract customers by seeking advanced certifications in certain types of repair. These extra certifications will help set a business owner apart from other local repair professionals.
How and when to build a team
Most musical instrument repair businesses start out as a one-person operation. As demand and revenue grow, business owners may hire a part- or full-time employee.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a musical instrument repair business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A musical instrument repair business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a musical instrument repair business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your musical instrument repair business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Most musical instrument repair businesses have a multi-tiered fee system. They might:
- Perform small, quick fixes for free
- Offer a basic service for a flat fee per instrument
- Offer common services (e.g. repadding woodwinds) for a flat fee per instrument
- Have an hourly rate for all other work
The Cayuga Music Shop has an hourly rate of $60, and most of their basic services range from $15 to $100. Repadding woodwinds costs several hundred dollars. These costs are representative of what other businesses charge.
What are the ongoing expenses for a musical instrument repair business?
The ongoing expenses for a musical instrument repair business are minimal. They primarily include utilities and rent. Parts costs are built into customers’ bills.
How much profit can a musical instrument repair business make?
A musical instrument repair business can bring in a nice annual revenue for a small business. The business mentioned above as being for sale has an annual revenue of $88,160. Because ongoing expenses are low, most revenue is profit.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A musical instrument repair business may increase revenue by selling new and/or used instruments. Some businesses also rent instruments to students.