Today we’re celebrating Sheet Music Plus’ 15th birthday! First and foremost, we would like to thank all of the parents, teachers and musicians that have made the last 15 years exceptionally great.
We thought it would be fun to give everyone the inside scoop about Sheet Music Plus by interviewing the founder of the company, Nick Babchuck.
Nick was always fascinated with the way mail order business worked due to the fact that it was conceptually, statistically and mathematically intriguing. By the age of 15, he had already read an entire book on the subject! The mid to late 90’s marked the beginning of the dotcom boom. At this point in time, Amazon.com had been around for roughly a year. It was Amazon’s melding of mail order and online catalog which sparked the idea of creating Sheet Music Plus! In late 1996, the idea of starting Sheet Music Plus was beginning to become a reality.
Many people don’t know this, but initially sheet music was not the primary focus of Sheet Music Plus. What made you decide to focus more on that aspect of the business?
When we were planning to launch the business; I started brainstorming about what products we could ship to customers through our online site. In 1996, there were debates about what could and could not sell on the web. For example, there were people trying to sell sofas on the web. You could probably do that now, but back then, those ideas were big flops. I looked back at the musical instrument company that I had started for ideas.
I thought to myself ; what did we sell in the store that we could sell to customers on the web? The first thing that came to my mind was guitar strings! This seemed like the perfect fit. Most guitarists already knew what kind of strings they wanted to use and the strings are light and easy to fit in the mail. After putting together a business plan, several other products including sheet music, were added to the catalog. After going live on the web, it was quickly apparent that people really wanted sheet music! Over half of our sales were for sheet music. The rest is history!
What would you say were the benefits of transitioning from a brick and mortar shop to the website?
One great aspect about the web was that it enabled us to sell to people all over the world. I remember telling my dad about this when we first started up and he was astounded. I love international business and that is something that wouldn’t have been possible with the physical store. It’s also really challenging to run a physical store profitably. This is mainly due to having to buy products in advance before you’re even sure that customers are going to buy them. By migrating online, we had the ability to offer a much wider selection of products. If a customer had placed an order for something that wasn’t in stock, we would order it and then ship it out later. Over time, we were able to hone in on the kind of music customers were looking to order and then bring it into stock.
What was the most rewarding part of starting and building a company like Sheet Music Plus?
That’s a great question! First of all, it’s been great fun. Starting and growing Sheet Music Plus is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I love that the business is music related, and I enjoy being able to work with musicians all the time. In fact, a large majority of employees at Sheet Music Plus are musicians. I really enjoy watching the company succeed and I also enjoy the marketing aspect of the business. With the immediacy of the internet; you can find out very quickly whether or not your ideas are generating successful results.
What are your thoughts on our recently released Digital Print Publishing service?
I think it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread! I’m really proud of the team at Sheet Music Plus for putting that together. It wasn’t my idea; it was done totally external to me. The company is now managed day to day by Jenny Silva and her team.
It seems like Digital Print Publishing is a great way for music that otherwise wouldn’t have reached printed form to receive exposure. A piece of music has to have a significant amount of sales before a publisher will consider including it in their catalog. In other cases, previously published songs have waned in popularity and they are removed from catalogs. Digital Print Publishing will enable creative individuals to upload their music to our catalog for the world to see. It also provides musicians access to pieces that would not have been purchasable otherwise!
If you’re a composer you should definitely check out Digital Print Publishing. You can sign up to have your compositions listed on our catalog today:
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs trying to start up a business?
First of all, it’s good if you’re young. It gives you a lot of time to try things out. Starting up a business is something that requires a solid stomach because you won’t receive a regular paycheck for a while. It’s a good idea save some money if you can so that you can make it through the lean period. For example, it was a period of 5 years before I drew a paycheck with Sheet Music Plus. If you’re someone who is a real self-starter and you have ideas for products or services that aren’t provided; or aren’t being provided as well as they could be, then go for it! It also is very helpful to write out a business plan. It forces you to think through how you will grow your business and it will help you avoid some missteps along the way.
We hear that you are a musician as well. What do you play?
Ahhh well… I’ve played quite a few instruments pretty badly. I wouldn’t even call myself a musician, since that would make it seem like I know more than I do about playing a musical instrument. I have in my lifetime played baritone, trumpet, marimba, drums and I tried to teach myself how to play classical guitar. I like to tell people that I’m between instruments right now 🙂
Was there any particular instrument that you liked the most?
Drums, I love the drums, without a doubt. You can really get out your emotions!
What music are you listening to right now?
Ah well, that’s interesting… in the more recent period I have been listening to a lot of music that is Spanish and Brazilian in origin. Essentially, I’ve found quite a few pieces of music through YouTube, watching videos and finding related songs. A song that I really like right now is a song by Las Katchup, which is a group of 3 girls from Spain. Generally I enjoy listening to rock and pop music.
We hope that you enjoyed the insight into the company. A big thank you to Nick for interviewing for our blog today!
Brendan Lai-Tong is the Assistant Marketing Manager at Sheet Music Plus and holds degrees in trombone performance from University of Miami and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.