Since last month’s announcement that Steinway Musical Instruments agreed to sell itself to the hedge-fund firm Paulson & Co. for five hundred and twelve million dollars, there have been many panicked piano lovers who have taken to the Piano World forums, a large online community, to express their unhappiness. Some of the comments included, “The wolves have won again”, “America takes another slap in the face from Wall Street” and “Whatever his interest in Steinway is, it’s probably not musical”.
Although there were some individuals who expressed their hopes that Steinway would be in the good hands of Paulson, there were also others who predicted that the instruments would change for the worse. One of their main concerns is that Steinway would end up being built by machines or outsourced to less developed countries where labour is much cheaper. Over the past decades, Steinway has managed to draw many loyal musicians and collectors. The company’s history, details in its manufacturing practices and catalogs have always been published. For the true fans, they will always take note of the changes and come together to discuss and make comparisons. Aside from that, Steinway has always been the brand for any concert pianist to perform on.
According to Steve Cohen, a piano dealer and consultant to piano manufacturers, some of the fans would have preferred a different buyer instead. “People are a little more concerned with this particular purchase because Paulson as a company has no connection to the music industry,” he explained. Then there are also those who are fearful of Paulson relocating their manufacturing operations, so that they can sell off the valuable Long Island City property where the Steinway factory is located. They believe that the quality of the piano will end up suffering, especially by new workers who are just starting to pick up skill that Steinway’s craftsmen have been practicing for ages. Another group are worried that Paulson might make adjustments to the manufacturing process in an attempt to reduce costs and earn more.
These concerned devotees point back to Steinway’s sale to CBS back in 1972 as an example of how things could turn out for the worse. As CBS demanded more productivity from Steinway, they made amendments to the factory floor to that end, despite resistance from workers and management. Since then, fans have complained about the drop in quality and how they believe that it has yet to recover despite multiple change of hands. To read the full story, you can do so here.