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Slinging six strings: Business at Billings guitar shops singing during pandemic

Posted at 10:37 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 12:17:50-05

Staying at home became the thing to do in 2020 because of the pandemic. That had many people either taking up a new hobby or reviving an old one, which was music to the ears of some local businesses.

Even though 2020 hit a sour note for many local businesses, the co-owner of Guitars and Amps in Billings says business was booming during the pandemic.

“We weren’t negatively affected like some of the locals were. We saw (a) jump in sales and maybe had our best year ever,” said Jay Fusion.

That was also the case for many other music instrument retailers and stores, both large and small.

One instrument, the guitar, seemed to make a big comeback during the pandemic. Top American manufacturers reported record sales for the instrument in 2020.

Many online music retailers cashed in on the quarantine. Rolling Stone reported that instrument sellers such as Sweetwater, Guitar Center, and Reverb all enjoyed increasing numbers—with Sweetwater surpassing $1 billion in revenue for the first time in its history.

But it wasn’t just guitars that were flying off the shelves. Hansen Music in Billings also saw a good year in 2020. One of the big sellers was for interfaces as people took up new hobbies like podcasting and doing home recording.

“The interfaces were kind of funny because there was like a shortage on those like there was toilet paper. And that’s nationwide so that really took off,” said co-owner Art Eichele.

Eichele says he also saw a lot of people taking up new musical hobbies during the pandemic, but also a lot of familiar faces.

“We were shut down for the month of April. What was really neat is for like the three months after we opened up, I bet that 60% of the people that came in here are repeat customers that wanted to make sure that we survived. Which is saying a lot about our community,” said Eichele.

Both Guitars and Amps and Hansen Music offer lessons for those who want to take up a new instrument.

“It’s like what are you waiting for, if there’s something you want to do in this life go out and do it, “says Eichele.