1 Oct 2009


This report provides background information on UK consumers of musical instruments made from African blackwood and the implications for the Sound & Fair campaign which aims to realise a sustainable trade in African blackwood through a fully-certified chain of custody linking village communities in Tanzania to woodwind instrument musicians in the UK.

It features the results of a small consumer survey of musicians covering customer types, key issues, demand assessments and perceived willingness to pay a premium for musical instruments made from certified timber.

Download PDF version of African blackwood instruments consumer market report (2008)

Key Findings

Broadly speaking, classical musicians are typically highly aesthetic people, creative yet precise in the way they play their music, and similarly so in the way in which they engage with life in general.

As such, the appeal of a fairly traded, certified instrument tends to fit well with the typical musician’s personality and purchasing decisions.

Ethics, moral choice and environmental sustainability are important to these consumers. Conservation and fair trade concerns are most important of all.

Consumers can be classified as professional, semi-professional or amateur. Students, depending on their levels can be regarded as either semi-professional or amateur.

Professionals may play in symphony orchestras, as soloists, as chamber musicians or in specialist associations such as early music ensembles.

Symphony players are the most common, making up perhaps three-quarters of professional woodwind players.

Chamber musicians account for an estimated 15% of professionals whilst approximately 5% are soloists and an estimated 5% are specialist performers.

The purchase of a premium oboe or clarinet represents a major investment and instruments are usually repaired rather than replaced, but the wear and tear on woodwind means they are replaced more regularly than say string instruments.

Buying a musical instrument is, in retailing parlance, a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’ purchase.

Typically the need for a functional instrument is outweighed by the aspirational aspect of buying an instrument, a purchase that makes the musician feel that not only are they investing in quality, and they are improving themselves and benefiting their audiences by paying extra for a better product.

Linked to this is the critical issue of quality. It is clear from this research that to reach the requirements of a musician, particularly above the amateur level, a fairly traded, certified product will not be enough to sway the potential buyer.

The most important factor in deciding on a purchase is not its price, nor the origins of the wood, nor the social and ecological impact, but the intrinsic quality of the instrument itself.

Qualities of sound, of feel, of function, and of material are all essential to the buyer. Yet if the quality aspirations and requirements of the consumer can be met, strong demand exists for FSC-certified, Fairtrade and other ethical products, sold with a price premium, especially at the top end of the market.

A product’s provenance and added value is a selling point. Consumers generally are increasingly making buying decisions on a product’s ‘eco-value’, especially for premium and luxury products, and FSC-certified instruments would fit well into this picture.

In the current eco-conscious consumer market, asking buyers of musical instruments to pay a small percentage price premium is a realistic proposition.

Some 78% of musicians questioned stated they are willing to pay a more for a certified, fairly traded instrument, with three quarters of those indicating they would be prepared to pay a premium of between 10-25%.

This aspect of the research is absolutely fundamental to the viability of the project.

End consumers have indicated a willingness to pay the premium that is necessary to fund the FSC certified supply chain that will deliver increased incomes to forest- dependent communities.

Download PDF version of African blackwood instruments consumer market report (2008)