By Rebecca Apodaca
Brian Reardon was a sheet music sales rep when he met JD Sarantakos, who started Island Wide Music and who, at that time, had a sign up that said “coming soon—music store.” Reardon’s father owned a print music business, and Reardon bought Karamar Publishing Co. and continued things. In 2000, Reardon went to work for Tony Santorella of Santorella Publications, acting as his National Sales Manager and serving a territory of “everywhere.” He knew he would own a music store, though. He sold sheet music to more than 300 independent dealers, learning what makes a music store work by watching them. Over the course of his five years with Santorella, he grew weary of the constant traveling and wanted to reestablish roots. By this time, JD Sarantakos had rebranded his store Monster Music. His brother is famed magician Criss Angel, and Sarantakos wanted to move on to support him.
You Can’t Hold Monster Down
Sarantakos’ heart was no longer in the store, and it had declined. What Reardon saw was untapped demand. He felt that a successful lesson program was a core that would work. Reardon bought the store. Within 15 miles, there were two Sam Ash locations, two Guitar Centers and a Music and Arts. Surrounded by chain stores and other establishments, he grew 50 students to 600 in seven years. And everything sprouted from the lesson program, even while staying in the same 4,000-square-foot building. Reardon changed the solid doors to French doors with windows. He created 14 lesson rooms, and the French doors allowed observation by other customers and created a safety factor for parents who were leaving their children. As customers walk in, they see a thriving variety of ongoing lessons, surrounded by the display of merchandise. It creates visual and audio excitement for people walking in, who see guitar, French horn, voice, piano and clarinet lessons, and so on.
Print music can be a dicey game of what does and doesn’t sell. Reardon’s experience kept his buying successful. From the front desk, he became the “ring master,” always greeting customers with something to talk about. He engaged the students and was smart by enticing the parents into taking lessons.
Monster carries lines such as $600 to $800 Reverend and $200-plus Lâg acoustic guitars. Both brands are well made and have an aesthetically good appearance. In 2006, Reardon and his brother opened a higher-end, name-brand-only store, but decided not to be buried under the high demands when the lease was up and merged it with Monster Music. He made a deal to carry DBZ Guitars’ products. The store always has something new to show everyone, with some 200 guitars on display. This makes Monster Music distinct from other stores in the geographic area.
3068 Hempstead Turnpike,
Levittown, NY 11756
Brian Reardon, President/Owner
Monday to Thursday: 11-9pm
Every month, Reardon has an event. The store had an “Open House” with a Reverend guitar giveaway. The event was held on a Saturday night, with an exceptional turnout, from 8:00pm to 11:00pm. Every lesson room had a different Reverend guitar model with a list of its features. It was by invitation only. People had to RSVP to attend. This gave a special feeling to the event and to its attendees. A local jazz artist, Gil Parris, was enlisted for a 45-minute set, showing off his signature model. The focus was the line of guitars. In the weeks to follow, Reardon says he sold two to three times as many Reverend guitars as usual. His open house provided knowledge to his customers about a guitar line that had not been seen on MTV.
Additionally, Monster rents a club and showcases its students in a performance environment. It helps create a real-life setting for the students and helps recruit more clients for lessons.
‘Stop Dreaming, Start Playing’
This event was a community open mic night. Fifteen groups signed up, and four of them were bands from Monster teachers. The place was packed! This showed students the talent and abilities of their teachers. After all, lesson time is not for the teacher but, rather, for the student. Showing a new facet of the teachers gave the students a new respect for their instructors’ abilities, creating a new student/teacher bond.
Reardon keeps a pile of gift certificates for four free lessons by the counter, ready to donate to local community causes. Monster supports a Little League baseball team. One of the dads, whose four kids take lessons from Monster, approached Reardon for this support. What Reardon pays in yearly support is equivalent to one month’s income from those kids’ lessons. Monster Music gets to place a large advertisement banner at the game.
Reardon thinks NAMM is an incredible organization and everyone has a responsibility to attend and participate at its trade shows. He tries to attend every show. He takes the seminars and has been on the panel for “Best in Show.” He participates in the Washington DC advocacy Fly-Ins, as well (covered in detail in our June issue). Reardon noted, “I think all those things are good for the industry.”
Make Every Day Count
As far as the future of Monster Music, Reardon learned something from his previous employer: “You must think you have to start all over every day and make every day count. If you did badly yesterday, don’t let it impair the next day and don’t dwell on it. If you did great yesterday, then you get to try to do it again today.”
Crazy Customer Support
A customer whose son was taking lessons at Monster put a few dollars down three months earlier on a guitar. He came in “just spitting darts,” complaining that he paid full list price for a guitar at Monster, as compared to the super discount at a big chain. Reardon told the customer, “How about you take my quote for lessons to the big-box store and see if they match it? There are certain things they can do and certain things they can’t do. There are certain things I can do that they can’t do, such as give your son an incredible experience by introducing music to his life in a wonderful way. Yes, the big-box store can muscle me on an instrument from time to time, but I am always here weekly for your son. This is one of the things that Monster can offer that those stores don’t.” Rather than hammer the point but lose the customer, Reardon gave a credit of the equivalent difference in lessons. The customer was flabbergasted. Reardon made his point, and kept his customer.