Words by Alex Watts
Photography by Indya Connley
If you learnt an instrument while growing up in Australia there’s a good chance you would have some memories of visiting either Allans or Billy Hyde, the two giants of musical retail that amalgamated in 2010.
When Allans Billy Hyde announced its closure in 2012 it seemed to mark the end of large-scale music stores in the face of online competition. At the last minute Con Gallin, the managing director of Australian Musical Imports (AMI), the founder of Gallins Musician’s Pro Shop and the current CEO of the company, made a winning bid to claim the lion’s share of Allans’ assets, including the trading names and leases on seven stores.
The once competing brands of Allans and Billy Hyde now sit comfortably together in the one building. “Our business is divided in two: classical, where you’ve got print music – and Allans have always been the biggest in print – brass, woodwind, strings and pianos and then the Rock ‘n’ Roll side: guitars, amps, PA’s, etc.”
The convenience of having everything under one roof has always been one of its winning factors. “It’s all connected up. If you’re a country band, you’re going to have a drummer. If you’re a jazz band, you’ll need a guitar or a saxophone. The diversity of the range is really important and it needs to improve.
“We know we’re not there yet – we’re not even two years into it – but the main focus now is ‘what else can we expand into?'” The piano and violin range will be growing substantially within the next 24 months.
When asked what he feels differentiates the new Allans from the old, Gallin attributes it largely to customer service and product knowledge.
“If you’ve never been a musician and you’re running a music business, how would you know what customer service is? I used to go to my favourite stores and talk about my hobby. Then, I’d want a deal. Let me put it this way, live music sells instruments. Look after musicians who learn music, you’ll sell instruments. You don’t have to be greedy, they come to you. Our ambition is to have as much expertise as possible.”
In the spirit of looking after musicians, Allans also offers in-house music and vocal lessons. “The idea is to make musicians feel good; make sure they get advice and good products. We’re there to talk to them any time they want to come in the store.”
An important element that Gallin brings with him to Allans is his nineteen-year relationship with Gibson, one of the world’s most popular guitar manufacturers. “The downfall of Allans was in the 60’s. When The Beatles hit; Allans ignored guitars. The whole of Australia missed the guitar boom, but not me because I was a guitar nut. You look around now and who’s got a bigger range?”
The deal with Gibson also allows Allans access to its sponsorship artists. Allans are constantly running competitions with and having in-store appearances by the likes of Joe Satriani, Slash and Prince drummer, John Blackwell.
Keep up with all things ABH via: www.allansbillyhyde.com.au