B&S Saxophones are NO MORE...

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    Forum Sponsor DaveKessler's Avatar
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    Default B&S Saxophones are NO MORE...

    I have received excellent confirmation from someone in JA Musik that they have officially decided to no longer make saxophones under the B&S Saxophones. From what I understand, this also includes ALL other saxes that they make, including Allora, Dave Guardala, LA Sax Chicago Jazz Series...

    Its a shame. They really are a great horn.

    There is a limited quantity remaining but once they are gone, then they are gone.

    From what I understand, they partially blame their connections to these various private labels. Basically, they made a great horn but they have no reputation for their name...

    This is the information that I have received. If anyone has any other information, please let me know.
    Last edited by DaveKessler; 06-22-2005 at 12:45 AM.

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    What about other instruments (Trumpets, Tubas, etc)?

    Russ

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    Well that news just stinks any way you look at it, as B & S horns are one of the best saxophones being made today. I'm sorry to see this maker cease production, however I am not surprised. I believe we will see other European makers doing the same in the not too distant future.
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    Certainly does stink. By comparison, how did Yangasawa come out of obscurity to become one of the "Big Four"? I don't know the answer to that but I wonder if anything is to be learned by comparisons. I will say this, as we all know advertising is crucial in hyping the market and I wonder if typical German promotion is a factor.

    I do not know what B&S ads and, expecially the brochures, say in the US, presumably one if the biggest potential markets, but by contrast, when you pick up a typical american brochure for, say, a car, there're some young people driving along the beach with the top down and wind in their hair, car's full of Hooter wannabees and good looking guys, all having a feel-good time. The association of "feel-good" with the product being the key factor.

    Pick up many German car brochures and the first few pages talk about the engineering of the brake system, LOL. Any comments on B&S's US advertising and brochure promotions? Could they have fallen down in this area, because it seems to me the prices were very competitive, so I wouldn't think it would be higher European production costs.
    Last edited by gary; 06-22-2005 at 12:35 PM.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member goodsax's Avatar
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    I owned a B&S Medusa alto, currently have an Allora 502 alto with an LA Sax GL850 tenor on the way, but I've never seen a B&S brochure here in the USA. That doesn't mean they don't exist, only that in my part of the world, I have yet to see a B&S brochure. However, most saxophone maker advert's I've seen showcase a popular professional sax player who sponsors their brand as an inducement to get readers to try their line; no convertible, no hooters girls...maybe Candy Dulfer?

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    gary-

    I can honestly say I have never seen a single advertisement for B&S horns in the States (I am on the opposite coast from Rob), but I do not subscribe to the major jazz- or music-oriented publications. Hopefully someone will chime in on that arena, as well as whether or not there was any presence at NAMM?

    WWBW has been featuring the Allora and Chicago Jazz Series (LA Sax) on various full page advertisements, complete with endorsements. That is all I have seen of VMI here, advertising wise.

    As Dave alluded to- I think the B&S problems were a lack of promotion and total lack of 'brand identity'. A good deal of marketing in the US goes towards creating a 'brand identity' – basically ‘here is our brand, and this is what differs our products from those manufactured by others’. With VMI selling their sax under so many different names (Guardala, Chicago Jazz, Allora and B&S –that I know of) they prevented themselves from creating a unified identity. Even when checking the posts on SOTW, there is a mass of confusion as to which brand-models are based on what body tube, with what keywork, and metallurgy (gold-brass or not?).

    IMO VMI shot themselves in the foot by offering ‘boutique stencils’ at the same time they were trying to break into the market with their own brand – B&S. In the past, some makers were able to transition from stencil makers to name brands, but I think that was most often successful when they made stencils for recognized name brands as opposed to ‘boutique’ names like Guardala, Chicago Jazz and Allora. To make matters worse, LA Sax and WWBW brands aren’t (or weren’t) that highly regarded when VMI initiated their association with them. AS far as stenciling for a larger name brand, I am thinking of the Keilwerth Bundys and Yanagisawa Vitos, I guess. As a gross generalization, the manufacturers could use that period to supplement income while perfecting their craft, and later began offering top-line products under their own names in the US.

    Under that scenario, imagine if Conn-Selmer had decided to return the Conn horns to a professional level, and had them manufactured by VMI. VMI does so for a period of time, builds up capital, increases production capacity, invests in even more R&D, and then starts selling a top-line product under their own name. That may have been successful.

    If you can’t stencil for someone who already has marketing power, then the only other viable option would be to create a brand name. Tough to do in today’s market. VMI already had a top line product (IMHO) and should have concentrated on marketing the horn under a single brand name (B&S – I think you are the only person on this forum who knows of a rumor of what it stands for –something unpronounceable to many Germans, let alone us wanky yanks ).

    Price to value ratio is, indeed, excellent when compared to the ‘Big 4’, some better than others (Selmers vs. Yanagisawa). BUT -the prices were all over the place for the different brands. Why are/were the Chicago Jazz series and the Guardala so expensive as compared to the B&S and Alloras? Obviously the ‘names’ had to bump up the price to take a profit cut, too. There may have been other issues with the distribution chain in the States as well. I believe there was a ‘sole importer’ (JA Musik USA) – what were their marketing efforts? Do they have a vast distribution network in place in the States? What competing brands do they import? Are those other brands more profitable for them? Did they import directly from the factory, or did they have to buy from another distributor (were there too many links in the chain, each having to take a cut)? Randall can probably address that side of things better than I (if it is possible without stepping on any toes… ).

    The final, and maybe ultimate, distribution / marketing item that strikes me was the lack of horns at the local music shop. Who is going to buy one if he or she can’t A/B it with other horns? It would have taken very deep pockets for a distributor to put a lot of horns out there, deeper pockets and lots of patience in waiting for them to sell. Had VMI sold the B&S horns through WWBW instead of the Alloras, anyone could’ve ordered them to A/B with a ‘big 4’ horns – which may have helped their reputation in the long run. For some reason, many just assumed the Alloras were an ‘intermediate’ sax (myself included) sold as a step up from the Woodwind brand horns offered by WWBW.

    I am very glad that I saw Randall’s positive posts on the B&S horns. I placed a good deal of value on his remarks because of the number of fine horns he has owned and played over the years. I was fortunate enough to pick up Dave Kessler’s penultimate (next to last) 2001 Series tenor for a very reasonable price. I like the horn so much that I purchased a good as new Medusa alto from Kritavi through the marketplace on this forum (another great guy to deal with!). I am well past the honeymoon period on both of these horns, but am constantly amazed by their performance – particularly considering the prices I paid. I took the tenor to our SOTW Maryland area gathering this past February, and the horn stood up well in comparison to all the others there. The guys were pleasantly surprised at how well it played, and one chose to play it over any of the 10Ms or MkVI’s available for the final jam session .

    When I took the alto to play in my ‘Jazz Band Masters Class’ (an ensemble formed and coached by my sax teacher, a UNT masters grad), everyone complimented me on the ‘new sound’ . When asked what kind of horn it was, I got blank stares from all – including the 2 other saxophonists in the room and the trumpet player (who has GAS as bad as any saxophonist). Dropping the Allora / Chicago Jazz Series, VMI, and Guardala names only elicited the comment – “I’ve played Guardala mouthpieces, but I didn’t know they made horns, too.’

    Maybe B&S just needed more print coverage and an endorsement from someone like Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis or Phil Woods (ok – or Candy* in keeping with your observations on American marketing! ). B&S never seemed to get their name out there.

    I have rambled on enough for now, but I will finish by saying that I just wish I had enough dosh left to pick up a Medusa Bari before they’re extinct! Anyone? Helen? – I may even trade straight up for my 1929 Conn Tranny...

    -Jeff

    * Why do I have to type so slow, and let Rob beat me to that pun(ch).

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    Forum Sponsor DaveKessler's Avatar
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    The brass products are not effected by this move... which is good because I sell alot of their trumpets and they are amazing.

    Such is life... another one bites the dust.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member goodsax's Avatar
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    I just want to add to Gary's comments about name brand recognition. The owner of a local music store I frequent and from whom I purchased an 82Z alto once, had not heard of B&S horns, and neither did my concert band director when I showed up with a Medusa alto and he asked what kind it was, and the same with the other sax players (5 altos, 2 tenors and 3 bari's) in my concert band sax section...not one of them had heard of B&S saxes. I think that's a significant comment on the lack of effective advertisement B&S had for their wonderful line of saxes, at least in this part of the world, and that's a shame. Personally, I think the relative cost of labor in Europe, specifically Germany in this case, compared to that in Asia is a primary factor impeding competition and eroding profitability, because the quality of Asian made saxes, prinicipally in Japan and Taiwan, is sufficiently in good repute to affect purchasing choices in favor of the lower priced (because of labor, not materials), comparable quality horns. It hasn't hurt the vintage sax market either from what I can see on eBay and even in the Horns for Sale section of this forum.
    Last edited by goodsax; 06-22-2005 at 05:42 PM.

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    B&S used to have really stupid ads with the a picture of the sax and a caliper. Not sexy at all...kinda dour. These ads would run in Saxophone Journal and Downbeat (I think.) They never even made me slightly curious about their saxes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gary
    By comparison, how did Yangasawa come out of obscurity to become one of the "Big Four"?
    I'll defer to Dave Kessler, but it seems to me that Yanagisawa's real success came when they decided to focus on making only professional-level horns. Of course, they had to work out the kinks in their manufacturing processes over a period of years, but regardless, at this point in time, truly professional horns are all they're known for.

    Quote Originally Posted by gary
    Pick up many German car brochures and the first few pages talk about the engineering of the brake system, LOL.
    What's so funny about that? Good brakes - the ability to control the vehicle - are what enable you to go fast. All the horses in the world are no good if you can't control them around a curve.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Super 20 Player
    IWhat's so funny about that? Good brakes - the ability to control the vehicle - are what enable you to go fast. All the horses in the world are no good if you can't control them around a curve.
    The point is, that is not the kind of mentality you want to apply to saxophone advertisements.
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    I'm also surprised that Keilwerth emerged successful in the '80s. If you think back, the Couf Superba was the first horn that got widespread acclaim from the Keilwerth factory. In the used market these have more of a cult following than the NewKing and Toneking 'K' branded models, and even more than the King Tempo and Conn DJH stencils (I own some of these and personally think the Conn stencils are nicer horns than the Couf) which should have been able to capitalize on branding. It would be curious to see some Couf ads from the 70s and 80s and understand if that was the differentiator. Yet Keilwerth began making student horns at about the time that the gained brand recognition (at the B&H takeover...this defeats the Yani argument). Any rumors that UMI might take over the production capacity...
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    It's all about image...just like everything else in America. I won't follow with the obvious dissertation that could be written on this subject

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    Losing B&S is just a damn shame. I could go on about the leveling of taste to the lowest common denominator but GHawk has anticipated that rant as superfluous.

    Geez. I got my Medusa Tenor from Dave last year. I loved it so much that I had to get the Alto this year. These horns are just fabulous. To me, their obscurity was kind of a cool thing. I never dreamed that the factory would close 'em up.

    Well, B&S brothers and sisters, we are now members of a very elite society - somewhat like Bugati owners. Let's keep 'em rolling and blowing. Maybe someday, a new manufacturer will bring out a horn that "is reminiscent of the great old Medusa's" Here's to the snake haired lady ---

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    B&S made solid horns and I hope that someone buys the tooling and makes a go of it.
    "We'd all play like Stan (Getz) if we could" - John Coltrane

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    Question

    I'm assuming that B&S is going to sell off their tooling for making saxes. What if a more stable company purchased the equipment? (I guess Heimer and SML proved that it is possible for this idea to fail)

    Russ

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    I don't recall hearing anything about Keilweth until Boosey & Hawkes took over the company. Then the B&H marketing machine got to work and the association with B&H and group companies was quite significant. B&S did not have that kind of image to support it.
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    I have a heart-felt compassion for you B&S owners. Now that B&S's are dying from lack of universal interest, and hence their inherent value should be plunging drastically and quickly, I cannot stand on the sideline and do nothing. I feel your pain.

    So all of you, my Brothers and Sisters, with Medusas who would like to unload them before the used-market price goes down the toilet, email me at www.theunashamedexploiter.com and I'll see what I can do to help you out.

    It's the least I can do.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Saxus Envious Curmudgeonum Randall's Avatar
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    Gary, what has our man in Nauheim have to say about the issue at hand?

    Gosh Gary, with friends like you offering to take our worthless Medusas...I count my blessings!

    So do you think I should sell now? Or should I wait for the price of silver to rise?
    Soprano:Viking bent neck 58, Altos: Selmer Reference 54, Cannonball 98, JK SX90 straight, Viking M21 Swing Sonic, [B] Tenors: King Super 20 Silversonic, B&S Sterling Medusa, Ref 54, Buescher 400 TH&C, LeBlanc 120 "Semi-Rational" Bari: JK SX90R satin silver I am not a paid endorser for ANYTHING! However, I do ENDORSE and play VIKING SAXOPHONES!!!
    http://www.viking-instruments.com/En...s-Artists.html

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    [QUOTE=Randall]Gary, what has our man in Nauheim have to say about the issue at hand?QUOTE]He hasn't been responding to my e-mails. Must be that Medusa I didn't buy from him, LOL.
    ____________________________________________________
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