This time, my friend Andy Cole did the interviewing, chatting with Melvin Besbrode, owner of one of the biggest piano stores in the UK- situated in Leeds.
It’s well worth listening to even if you’re not buying a piano- very interesting topics are covered such as the monumental popularity of the piano in China & Asia, and little-known reasons how the piano came to be such an important part of the culture there.

Show Notes

  • An introduction to the business, with a background of how Melvin went from being an unemployed Fine Art degree graduate, to owning such a successful business- via being in a punk band with Alexei Sayle! [0:45]
  • The history and importance of the piano industry-
    in the 19th Century, ladies needed to play (and own!) pianos to attract suitable suitors. [8:50]
  • The Steinway manufacturing process- still all done by hand, vs the Yamaha manufacturing process which is more automated.
    The difference between German and American Steinways. [9:40]
  • Who buys antique pianos? Interior designers, hotels, museums… [13:00]
  • About fitting pianos with silent mechanisms that allows practice with headphones, and also about the DiscPiano system which is the modern equivalent of a player piano. [16:40]
  • New vs old pianos,
    how to look after pianos,
    temperature and moisture,
    how often to tune them [21:20]
  • The business of selling pianos- when do people buy them seasonally? [24:30]
  • Do adverts and popular culture fads affect sales? [27:05]
  • The culture of piano in China,
    99% of all new pianos made in China
    High demand for old pianos imported from the West
    At least 40 million children learning the piano in China! [32:30]
  • Apparently, one of the main reasons the piano is so popular now in China is that during the 2nd World War, many Western pianists taught at Beijing Conservatory to escape the war. [36:45]
  • The trope of the long haired Romantic pianist who gets all the girls in Chinese and Asian film and popular culture [37:45]
  • Demographic of customers-
    at least 40% of visitors to showroom are Chinese.
    Southern Ireland is large customer base because of the musical culture.
    The German model of piano shops- much more integrated into the local community and culture. [40:00]
  • At least 50 Steinways at the Besbrode showroom, cheaper than Steinway Hall in London-
    many visitors come from London, easy train journey, collected from the station. [44:00]
  • About the ‘Let’s Play the Piano’ group that meets at Besbrode, and how Adam Gatehouse, artistic director of the Leeds International Piano Competition, was impressed with the size and enthusiasm of the group. [45:50]
  • About upcoming impressive concerts in the showroom, and the piano lent to York Minster [48:00]

Extra notes:

At [29:30]- Tokio Myers won Britain’s Got Talent, not The X Factor!


Besbrode Pianos:

Some vintage posters featuring ladies attracting suitors!:

About silent and PianoDisc systems:

Some of the adverts mentioned:
John Lewis advert-
The Waitrose advert referencing the John Lewis advert-
The Huawei advert-

Tokio Myers on the final of Britain’s Got Talent:

About Parsons Music-

The piano meetup group held at Besbrode every 2 months:

The podcast where I chat to Ben Richards who organises ‘Let’s Play the Piano’ not only at Besbrode, but all over the UK:

The piano lent by Besbrode to York Minster: