It happened after school. Right in the midst of an intense game of hide and seek. A neighbourhood Mom would yell from a front porch, “Billy! It’s time for your piano lesson!”
We all knew a Billy growing up, or perhaps we were Billy. Forever chained to a piano for what seemed like endless hours of practising while our friends played within earshot outside. For most of us, if we groaned long enough, our parents would cave and let us quit and the pianos would remain in our living rooms as additional bookshelves or used as a place to rest a drink during a party.
A recent article published in the New York Times speaks to the dwindling sales of new acoustic pianos. At their highest demand in 1901, more than 364,500 were sold in the United States. Over the years, sales have plunged to between 30,000 and 40,000 annually. The Financial Post recently reported a similar trend in Canada.
One factor of this decline is new technology. Kids just don’t have the same interests anymore. The idea of being Billy and practising for an hour a day in front of the piano is incomprehensible. Some kids prefer to perfect their mad Candy Crush skills on the couch instead.
Technology is also a factor within the instruments themselves. More people are inclined to pick up a less expensive electronic keyboard, or opt to pick up a used model currently being used as a bookshelf or drink holder.
But I’m not convinced we’ve seen the last of the acoustic piano. I think one day in the near future we’ll see hipsters dragging old Samicks down to Starbucks to play Billy Joel’s Piano Man for passersby.