guitar market in China

How the popularization of music is boosting the guitar market in China

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Due to the popularization of outside activities and festivals, the guitar market has flourished and will grow over the next few years.

The global guitar market reached USD 432,34 million in 2019 and will reach USD 503.48 million in 2026 with the CAGR of 2.2% over the forecast period.

China is a key region in the global guitar market as the principal manufacturer and one of the biggest market. Guitars are one of the four most played musical instruments along with piano, ukulele and Guzheng (a Chinese musical instrument).

With the promotion of cultural industry by the government, the guitar market in China is also benefited in a way from this policy.

Chinese households are spending more money on instruments

By looking at the urban households’ annual consumption by category, Chinese citizens are spending more on recreation and cultural services and equipment (including musical instruments). The amount has already reached 832 billion RMB in 2010 and was estimated to reach 3.54 trillion RMB in 2020.

With a higher disposable income Chinese are changing their standards of living and want to spend more money on leisure activities such as music which benefits the guitar market in China.

Music education in China is allowing the development of the guitar market in China

The development of the music education in China has allowed the development of the guitar market in China. In a survey realised by Hebei’s institute of Finance, results showed that more people choose to learn guitar through guitar training institutions rather than through self-study.

Although most Chinese parents do not support their kids to apply for art colleges, they still wish their kids could learn some artistic skills, for example, music instruments. Those music skills and in particular music certification tests are beneficial for the Gaokao 高考 (Entrance examination for College) where universities are able to provide a special channel for students that have high-level artistic skills.

With the development of music education in China, a large number of guitar training institutions have appeared since people and especially children tend to learn guitar through training institutions.

Some high schools have added guitar specialty classes, which further promoted the development of the guitar market in China.

How is the guitar market in China segmented

The Chinese guitar market has following sections:

  • Type: acoustic guitars, electric guitars and solar guitars
  • Number of strings: 6 strings, 8 strings, 12  strings etc.
  • Distribution channel: online retail or offline retail
  • Domestic or foreign brands

The price of a guitar depends on the brand, wood and technology. It is worth mentioning that the prices of guitars of the same material and different brands sometimes vary a lot, and the timbre quality will also vary, which involves other factors such as technology (such as wood selection, drying, cutting, etc.).

Foreign guitar brands in China

Foreign brands such as Yamaha, Taylor or Ibanez are popular in China, they have the expertise and recognition from professional and non amateurs. They are usually more expensive than domestic guitar brands.

Domestic Chinese guitar brands

Most of Chinese guitar brands have appeared only few years ago, which is not comparable to the production and quality level of some well-known brands. They have less expertise and technology. Chinese brands tend to choose quantity over quality. A good example of it is the Guangdong Sihui Huasheng guitar factory which produces over 1 million guitars every year.

Generally speaking, the quality and quantity of a musical instruments are inversely proportional. When the quantity is large, the quality is on a second plan.

Zheng’an, a county in Zunyi City (Guizhou province), is dubbed China’s guitar manufacturing center. In 2020, 6 million guitars produced there were sold across the world. Other Chinese guitar brands are based in other provinces such as Farida (Guangdong), Dreambow (Qingdao) and S. Yairi (Liaoning).

The guitar market in China for domestic brands is competitive; they are less known than foreign brands and struggle to differentiate themselves from other domestic brands. The rise of marketing awareness among guitar brands makes enterprises pay attention to their own culture, and beautify the packaging of conventional accessories.

Through collaborations with musicians and music-related merchandising (printed t-shirt, guitar case etc.), Chinese guitar brands are able to attract new consumers.

a clear guitar case sold along with a guitar guitar market in China
Source: guitarworld.com, a clear guitar case sold along with a guitar

However, Chinese consumers comment that domestic guitar brands are shifting their focus to different products that are not guitars.

What makes guitars made by domestic brand different from others?

First of all, guitars made by domestic brands are smaller in size which benefits Asian bodies. The large and heavy barrel shape is not suitable for small Asians. At the same time, a smaller guitar is not only more convenient to carry but also the guitar has a brighter and clearer sound. With the popularization of guitar in China, more people have taken their guitar outside. A smaller guitar is then more suitable for entertainment and outdoor gatherings.

When the barrel size of the guitar changes to a smaller size, the group that benefits the most is children: the small size is more in line with the body shape of children, and softer  guitar strings are also obviously more friendly to children’s delicate fingers.

It is not difficult to see that the domestic brands have gradually shifted from the adult market to the children’s market. Compared with the adult market dominated by one-time consumption, cultivating children’s interest in guitar can make the whole guitar industry have endless vitality.

As raw materials are gradually more difficult to obtain, guitar brands have tried to develop guitars with new materials such as carbon fiber and HPL (High Pressure Laminate). Yet, those types of guitars made with new materials are still not mainstream.

Compared to foreign countries, the foundation of domestic guitar culture is still shallow, and most beginners have not established subjective timbre aesthetics. Therefore, in China, these new materials have a broader space to play.

Price segmentation in the guitar market in China

The guitar market in China has three price segments:

  1. 1500 – 3000 Yuan ( USD 230 – USD 460), middle to high-end guitars
  2. 1000 – 1500 Yuan ( USD 154 – USD 460), low to middle-end guitars
  3. 500 – 1000 Yuan ( USD 77 – USD 154), low-end guitars

According to the Hebei Institute of Finance, one third of surveyed have bought a 500 Yuan (USD 77) guitar. They are suitable for beginners, still, at this price point, the quality of the guitar is very low. Since the Chinese government does not have a relevant quality inspection standards for guitars, a large number of unqualified guitars flow into the market.

The guitar strings market in China

According to May’s 2021 Taoshuju data, domestic brands dominate on the acoustic guitar strings market in China with the brand Chance taking the number 1 spot for best selling acoustic strings on Taobao/Tmall during the period of May 1st and May 18th with 4002 units sold at the unit price of 14.98 Yuan (USD 2.3).

Along with Chance, Perseus and Alice products take half of the spots in the TOP 10 best selling acoustic strings guitar on Taobao/Tmall.

Norvegian brand Morgan, Elixir (US) and D’addario (US) take the remaining spots in the ranking of acoustic guitar strings.

Overall, 50 000 Units of acoustic guitar strings were sold on Taobao/Tmall during the period of May 2021.

As for electric guitar strings, Alice’s electric guitar stings A503 (China) takes the number 1 spot in the ranking with 693 units sold at a unit price of 69 Yuan (USD 10). However foreign brands  such as Elixir, D’addario, Ernie Ball (US) and GuitarFamily (South Korea) dominate the electric guitar strings market.

During the period of May 2021 11 000 units of electric guitar strings were sold on Taobao/Tmall.

Finally, for classical guitar strings, the US brand d’Addario has the highest overall sales for the month of May 2021 on the e-commerce platform with 611 units sold out of 4000 units of classical guitar strings.

Distribution channels in China

Online channel is the key channel for guitars and guitar strings. In fact, the TOP 5 of guitar strings stores on Taobao/Tmall are third party retailers. Nonetheless, some online sellers such as 琦材乐器专营店 have also opened offline stores.

Music schools (琴行) also sells musical instruments alongside music lessons.

Parsons Music (柏斯琴行) is a music school chain with over a 100 offline stores in China guitar market in China
Source: Daxue Consulting, Parsons Music (柏斯琴行) is a music school chain with over a 100 offline stores in China

According to the survey of Hebei’s institute of finance, over half the people surveyed would prefer to buy guitars in offline stores and 30% would rather buy them online.

Chinese people prefer offline stores since each brand and models has a distinct sound and feel, online stores can not offer the same buying experience as offline stores.

Key points to learn from the guitar market in China

  • With the popularization of guitar and the development of the music education, the guitar market in China will thrive.
  • Domestic guitar brands in China even though less experienced than foreign brands have a potential to develop as they particularly fit Asian bodies and children.
  • China’s guitar culture is still underdeveloped which allows guitar manufacturers to offer different and unconventional types of guitars (Carbon fiber guitars for example)

Learn more about how COVID-19 changed Chinese consumer behavior

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