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China’s Once-Booming Piano Industry Hits Sour Note as Market Shrinks

China used to have a thriving piano industry, but piano sales have plummeted in recent years as the number of piano learners shrinks. After a decade of expansion, China’s piano sector now faces huge changes. Piano seller Mr. Fan says sales have declined precipitously since 2019, with 2023 sales between 10% and 30% of previous levels. Many dealers and companies face closure. The music education market is also declining, with teachers struggling financially.

Mr. Fan cites two main reasons for the decrease in demand. First, middle-class incomes and expectations have fallen in recent times. Second, parents feel that practicing piano is fruitless in the face of extreme competition, preferring to spend money on vacations. Some also believe that the decline may reflect parents diversifying interests as children age.

Piano consumption used to concentrate among middle-class families in top-tier mainland Chinese cities. A 2008 policy enabled “piano fever,” allowing extra exam points to art students who had high grades in piano classes. This grade-boosting policy, which incentivized piano lessons and piano practice, ended in 2018. Along with falling birth rates across China and relatively poorer financial prospects for Chinese parents, the piano industry has toughened.

During the pandemic, piano companies like Hailun and Pearl River Piano reported weak sales. They blamed factors including suspension of school and of in-person piano lessons. In 2023, major piano makers announced plunging revenues, which they ascribed primarily to weak demand.

Industry statistics indicate that at the beginning of 2022, China had 650,000 music instruction centers and 25,000 piano stores, and that about 30% of these closed by the end of 2022. The sector faces declining consumer demand, loss of disposable income, and waning confidence in the value of musical training.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), January 16, 2024