Buffet Crampon looking ahead to 200 years
January 2016 – Prior to the start of the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, we had an opportunity to sit down with Jerome Perrod global President of Buffet Crampon and Francois Klok President of Buffet Crampon USA to talk about the directions of the industry as their company approaches its 200th anniversary. The company entered 2016, its 190th year, with a name change and a new logo, to reflect back on the history of the company.
The company is focused on band and orchestral instruments – woodwinds and brasswinds. The company management are musicians. They understand the challenges and passion that is involved with the relationship between a musician and their instrument and they are trying to keep the tradition of honoring that bond going forward. They are looking at how to entice, engage and retain students and new players to an increasingly electronic music world.
Francois, who is an oboe and double reed player, talked about how the company has created a new oboe. The instrument has a new air chamber that requires less back pressure, so it is easier to play and get a good tone from. The instrument, which is aimed at the higher end student market, is a real blackwood oboe, with a resonance chamber similar to the professional line. The oboe is not only playable by students, but has standard keying, so it can be used as the student advances towards the professional levels.
Similarly they have created a new professional Clarinet. This has a classic sound that is reminiscent of the clarinets of the 40’s and 50’s. The instrument was added to the line to bring an easier to play instrument to market, at a new price point, while still providing the quality of sound, workmanship and performance needed by professional musicians. One of the characteristics of these instruments is they are made with high quality materials and real wood.
These hallmarks of the design for the past 190 years are being maintained in the company – the sound is number one – if it does not sound like the right thing or the real thing, it is made properly. The next is quality of instrument – it has to perform consistently and reliably or people will not play it. An instrument that is hard to keep in tune, hard to assemble or clean, or hard to keep working is of no use to a musician.
Mr Kloc, President of Buffet Crampon USA, related a story of one of his first experiences with an instrument – when he was a youth, he was enamoured with the oboe and had the opportunity to have access to one. In his excitement to understand the instrument, he disassembled an oboe, and was intrigued by the many, many parts – to the dismay of his father. This incident, gave him an appreciation for the construction, as a professional repair person was able to reassemble the oboe to perfect working condition.
The company has faced many ups and downs in the industry and has been faced with options to diversify to other areas. At this time, the company has not strayed from woodwind and brasswind product. While they have looked at other instruments, electronic sampling of their products, and alternate distribution /sales channels, the company has remained on path with trained channel partners selling and servicing the products.
Mr. Perrod was mentioning the different music education models in the US and Europe. This also influences the products. In Europe, music is an after school activity. It usually takes place in a conservatory and is for students who have chosen to pursue music as part of the arts. These students and professionals purchase their instruments and tend to purchase higher quality instruments as it is an elective decision.
In the US, the music programs are part of the private and public school curriculum. This has been reinforced by the support of mandatory music programs in US schools by the Obama Administrations new Student Success program that is STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math) structure vs the STEM structure. In this arrangement, beginning students tend to rent instruments, so durability and reparability along with ease of entry to the instruments is key. If the instrument is hard to get started with, the students will get discouraged and abandon it for something else. If the instruments are not durable, the channel partners cannot afford to rent them out on a multi-year basis or put in place rent to own programs.
The musicians in the US system also move from the rental market to the purchase of intermediate and then professional grade instruments as they progress through the school system and move into the college level of performance. This requires a range of instruments that have a similar mechanism, so the muscle memory of the students can be leveraged for the higher performance instruments. It is for this migration path and long life cycle of a design that the company has been able to hold on to it heritage of woodwinds and brasswinds only in an ever shifting music marketplace.