Thursday, 9 December 2010

New Music 09/12/10

While deliveries have slowed down due to the weather, I'm still managing to get the post, even if it does mean a lot of trudging through the snow!

I've added a lot of music this week, here are the highlights:

For piano:
Classical Highlights for Piano with CD
Exploring Latin Piano - with 2 CDs
Tango meets Jazz - again with CD
Chopin: The Easiest Preludes - for intermediate pianists
Angela Hewitt's Bach Book

For organ:
Amazing Grace - variations for organ by Naji Hakim

For violin:
Classical Music for Children - very easy pieces for violin, with CD

For cello:
Variations on a Rococo Theme by Tchaikovsky

For clarinet:
A new, one-volume edition of Alfred Uhl's 48 Studies

Monday, 22 November 2010

New Music This Week 22/11/10

Lots of new titles have been published very recently, here are some selection which are now on the website.

Kapustin Sonata for flute Op 125 - a four movement work for advanced players

Classical Piano Anthology Vol 1 - a collection of easy pieces for grade 1-2 pianists, in a new collection by Schott

Exploring Jazz Violin and Exploring Jazz Clarinet - as the worlds of contemporary and classical playing continue to merge, these two new volumes (with CDs) help players learn the jazz style

Baroque Recorder Anthology Vol 3 - a collection of 17th and 18th century pieces for treble recorder, with CD

Pop Ballads for Flute - a selection of pop classics arranged for flute with CD

Romantic Guitar Anthology Vol 4 - a collection of pieces for advanced guitarists

Baermann Romance for clarinet -a short and easy piece from the 19th century composer Baermann

Sing Jazz Ballads Vol 1 - famous jazz ballads for medium voice, with CD

Karl Jenkins Stella Natalis - a piece for choir by the well-known composer

Joy to the World - 9 carols arranged for mixed chorus by Karl Jenkins

Macmillan Benedictus Deus - a Latin setting for SATB by the Scottish composer

For wind band, I am starting to fill out this section, starting with some new publications: Holst's Jupiter and Mars, and Lyric Suite by Finzi.

This week I have also introduced a section for study scores, something I have lacked for some time. I've started with some new publications by Eulenburg, including new editions with CD. I will be working on this section over the coming months.

Friday, 12 November 2010

New Music This Week

Lots of new publications have been added to the webbsite, here are the highlights:

There's lots more to come, I've been trying to catch up with all the new publications in the last few months.

On another note, ABRSM has put back its publication of the new Aural Training in Practice series, to at least April next year. The old books will still be available until then. In the meantime, the new Specimen Aural Tests are available and you can find them in the Aural section of the website.

Friday, 22 October 2010

New Music This Week

The Associated Board has recently published new Specimen Aural Tests, a long overdue publication, to go with changes in the syllabus from 2011. Instead of the old grades 1-5, 6-8 routine, they have been published as Grades 1-3, 4-5, then grade 6, grade 7, and grade 8. Each can be purchased with or without CD to assist in exam preparation. Grade 1-3 is already in stock, others will follow over time.

Trinity Guildhall already has an aural test book out, which has been available for some time. It is now a stock item as it has been very popular recently.

A new version of Bach's Italian Concerto for cello has been published, the imaginative title is "If Bach was a Cellist, Vol 1".

A new double bass tutor from Bote and Bock is also now available - Enjoy the Double Bass. Designed to cover all the basics of bass playing up to 2 1/2 position, it is available to order now.

That's it for this week, am just starting to catch my breath after the rush for the new school term. I hope to be adding a lot more to the website in the coming weeks, plus there will be a whole new look to the site before Christmas, watch this space...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

It's the manic time of year again

At this time of year, everyone wants the same music books at the same time and I'm run of my feet, so website updating takes a back seat during the rush. Today though, is a quieter day so I have time to mention some of the goings-on in the music business.

As everyone knows, we are in a recession and the sheet music and instrument business has been hit hard by this. Over the course of the year there have been a number of changes to distribution networks as publishers try to maximise their sales and minimise their expenses. Some smaller publishers have signed up for distribution with larger concerns and some bigger publishers are considering or making changes to the way they work. A couple of them are worth mentioning as I think they are very welcome.

Firstly Chantelle, a guitar music business, has now arranged for distribution in the UK via MDS in Germany, who also handle giants such as Boosey & Hawkes, Universal Edition and Schott. I'm pleased about this as guitar music is very patchily distributed and so I hope to add more titles to the website this autumn.

Secondly, Breitkopf & Hartel has also agreed to distribute its exam syllabus titles via MDS. I've been frustrated by the difficulty of obtaining their music in the UK, so I hope that by the time these titles are available (15th November) I will have added them to the website.

I have done some stocking up for Christmas, and also added some new music, here's a selection:
Flexible Christmas Jazz Duets for Strings
The Bass Clef Book - not new, but new to the website, it's a tutor book to improve the left hand of pianists
The Spooky Wooky Violin Collection
Nifty Shifts - to help young violinists with position changing

And finally, Trinity has now published all grades of the new keyboard syllabus for 2011, you can find it here.

Friday, 10 September 2010

New Music

Newly published music this week:

Finally, I now have the new Associated Board Piano exam pieces for 2011 in stock here.

Monday, 16 August 2010

New this Week

At this time of year, new music comes thick and fast. Here is a selection of music added to the website since my last post.

Many prices across the website are now reduced, so drop in and have a look!

Monday, 2 August 2010

New to the Website this week

I've added a lot of books to the website this week: Funky Flute which is a popular tutor series for flute, Mompou's Musica para Piano which is on the new ABRSM piano syllabus, for example.

I've also massively expanded the Double Bass section, with over 400 books and pieces now listed. There are also a number of new pieces for double bass in preparation, so I'll add them as soon as they are ready.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Reduced Postage

I have reduced the postage and packing charges to £1.50 for second class and £2.00 for first class delivery. These prices are among the lowest in the UK, but the packaging for music remains the same - cardboard backing, cut to the size of the book, covered in good quality brown paper to protect the music in the post.

I have added a number of new pieces for double bass this week - some of them are in the new music section, all of them are in the double bass section. A number of them have playalong CDs too.

Friday, 16 July 2010

New ABRSM Piano Syllabus

The new Associated Board piano exam pieces for 2011-2012 are now available and are in the piano exam pieces section on the website.

You can buy the music only or the music plus CD recording of all the pieces. A CD only is available but this is a little more expensive than the book/CD combo.

It is the time of year that publishers start to bring out new works, especially the exam boards, so there will be more to come over summer.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Bargain Box

I've added a bargain box, where you can buy music at discounted prices - it's all stock that has been here a while and which I would like to clear. Discounts of 50-70%, so have a browse - I'll be adding things daily.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Happenings this week

I'm still working on updating prices - completed the saxophone section this week, which contains a number of fairly hefty price rises for imported music, mostly around £2. I've added a collection which I had unaccountably missed off - Leonard Bernstein for Alto Sax.

This week I finally got around to completing the compliance requirements for the PCI DSS regime which I mentioned a couple of months ago. This is supposed to be about improving security for payments, but as far as I can see it is a paper exercise which will improve revenue for a few companies, to the detriment of retailers.

I use third parties to handle payments - Sagepay and Paypal, two of the really big boys in the arena who have the highest levels of encryption and compliance with the regulations. So I don't keep or process any card details myself - they handle all the security. This is good for me and good for my customers. My payment gateway, Streamline (aka Royal Bank of Scotland) , knows who I use as they handle it, so why do I find myself filling in forms telling them what they already know? Moreover, the forms they sent are written in American English and the instructions in the glossy booklet which tell you how to access and work through the website are inaccurate. The only good thing is that I am allowed to self-assess and avoid paying someone to come and have a look at my computer.

So I've spent several hours complying with this pointless regime, when I could have been doing other things. Are my systems more secure as a result? No, they were already secure to the highest levels in the industry. What difference has all this made to my customers? None. This has to be the very epitome of "red tape"!

Friday, 21 May 2010

New This Week

This week I have added Goldman's Daily Embouchure Studies for both trumpet and trombone, published by Carl Fischer.

Keeping with the brass theme, also new to the website is Fink's Studies in legato for bass trombone and tuba.

For harp I have added Grandjany's 3 Petites Pieces Tres Faciles.

And finally I have added a new keyboard method; Keyquest 1, 2 , 3 , and 4. This is a recent publication and a welcome addition to the keyboard method market.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Back to Normal

After the events of the last week, it's nice to get back into the normal routine.

I have added a few books to the website this week, after customer requests:

Triligence by Mike Mower for flute

Easy Blue Clarinet Duets

Blue Clarinet and Saxophone Duets by James Rae

The customer who asked for the last book told me he couldn't find it anywhere, but he knew it existed. I'd never come across it either; for some reason a lot of the publishers make little effort to let retailers know about new publications. In the summer, when business is slow, I tend to sit with catalogues and add things to the website, but if the publisher never produces a catalogue, I simply don't know about new music, or even the range of music they cover. Similarly, some of the smaller publishers are very poor at telling you which distributors handle their music; I recently opened an account with a distributor and this week got a catalogue from them for a publisher I find difficult to obtain. I had no idea they handled their music, so that publisher will now get more airtime on the website.

Chatting with my customer I mentioned that the music he wanted comes from Germany, and he asked just before I placed an order, which was good timing. He seemed surprised at the Germany thing; but some of the large distributors now have large hubs abroad. Boosey & Hawkes, Universal Edition, Schott, Carl Fischer, IMC, Amadeus, and many more all come from Germany. The problem for retailers is that the carriage charges are not only higher than UK distribution, but they are subject to the vagaries of currency exchange. Two years ago the delivery charge from Germany was £8.40, at its height recently it was £11.51; it's now £10.97 following the fall of the Euro recently.

On top of that, the currency problem has eroded the profit margin over the last couple of years, resulting in a loss of 50p profit per book, on average. As I've mentioned before, the fall of sterling against the dollar has also resulted in price increases for imported goods of 25-30%. Lets hope things start to stabilise a bit now.

A number of smaller publishers or suppliers seem to be entering distribution arrangements with larger concerns too. As profits get squeezed, it can be tempting to utilise the systems of a larger business in order to maximise income. I think there is more of this to come in the music business, so we may see some big changes in the next year or so.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Election Week

A lot of talk out there is now about politics. I thought the campaign would be dull, but it has turned out to be full of surprising twists and turns. This week I tuned into Sky News just in time to see "bigotgate" unfold right before my eyes. Poor Mrs Duffy, mugged by a politician for using the "I" word, the issue that dare not speak its name.

We vote according to what we experience in life and how the Government of the day touches our lives. For the last 13 years under Labour, I worked in HR so my perception of Government was formed by what I saw: rise in National Insurance costs (which cost me personally and also raised costs in my business), the decimation of final salary pension schemes due to the changes in tax and regulation - I actually had to close one scheme myself as we could no longer afford the risk and costs, a massive increase in legislation and regulation which meant my job changed from enabling my business to succeed into preventing it getting sued. I could go on.

Add to that my experience since becoming self-employed; the fall of sterling against both the Euro and the Dollar making many products 25% more expensive, the removal of the 10% tax rate, the crashing of the economy reducing turnover in my business and you can see I really don't want more of the same.

The expenses scandal has made many people even more cynical (if that's possible) than before. My local MP managed to spend £60 of my money on window cleaning for her office each month. That's enough to clean the windows of my house for almost a whole year. I'm leaving aside the fact she managed to get through £250 of "petty cash" every month too and do enough mileage to have driven to London and back three times every 10 days. Funnily it was the window cleaning that really took the biscuit! ( by the way, if I recall correctly, the excuse for the petty cash claims was tea, coffee and biscuits for the staff - that's a lot of tea and coffee!)

With the swings in the opinion polls, the Labour car crashes on TV (literally!) it has been the most exciting election I remember. So I am tempted to stay up on Thursday night to watch the drama unfold. I want to see my MP lose her seat, and I'm hoping to see a few more of the politicians I most despise lose the income and job security they have cost others over recent years.

What I want from the incoming Government, whoever it is, is recognition of the place small businesses have in our economy, that we and the general working public are not a cash cow simply to service the Government, and that we start to live within our means, not mortgaging the future of our children with massive amounts of debt.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A Topsy-Turvy Year

This year has been a strange one. The snow reduced business substantially early in the year and since then it has been up and down. There are "dead" days followed by really busy days. While overall sales are following the pattern of last year, they are definitely lower than expected, perhaps customers really are reining in spending now. I don't think it's just me, either; you can tell sales are low by the speed with which some orders arrive from suppliers, so I think we're all feeling the pinch.

So I have been busy looking at ways to develop business - firstly by adding Paypal Express to my website. I did have this some time ago but the interface between the website and Paypal Express was very unstable and caused a lot of payment failures, so I removed it while the kinks were worked out. It's now working very well, so I hope it will help with sales - customers who have previously used credit cards have switched to Paypal, so we will see.

I've also posted a few items on ebay as a test - my seller id is vsmusic2010. There are a few music sellers on there, so I will be selecting items carefully, picking the ones I think most likely to sell. The advantage of this for customers is that I can reduce the postage charge for smaller items, rather than the standard charge on the website. I hope it means I can sell more of these small accessories than previously.

A few weeks ago I had a long letter from my bank about PCI DSS compliance when taking card payments. I've read it several times and still don't understand it. I know I'm not particularly stupid - I used to be a HR Director and I do have a law degree, but why they can't write in English I don't know. Happily, my website hoster (EKM Powershop) has helped simplify things for me. As I don't have my own server or store card details, it doesn't seem to be much of an issue for me as I use third party systems which are already compliant, but I do have to do a self-assessment questionnaire.

We seem to spend a great deal of our lives doing risk assessments of some kind, don't we? As far as I can see, the self-assessment won't make a blind bit of difference. If there's a problem with a payment later, and I got the self-assessment wrong, then I'm screwed; if I got it right but something went wrong elsewhere, I'll still probably have to foot the bill and then sue someone else. Great.

Anway, time to get back to my parcels, need to get the post moving...

Friday, 26 March 2010

New Music

I have been busy updating prices on the website (still not finished!) but have managed to add a few new pieces:

Still working on the price changes - some have gone up by a pound or two, some have gone down since sterling appreciated against the euro. Prices for accessories are still volatile as sterling loses against the dollar, so they can change very quickly.

Hope to have more new music in the next week or two.

Friday, 12 February 2010

New Music This Week

A number of new books have been published over the winter. A new collection of pieces for Cello from Trinity - Cello Allsorts, and continuing the strings theme, the long awaited Time Pieces for Double Bass Vol 1 and Vol 2. Repertoire for double bass is a bit thin, and I'm always on the lookout for new pieces for the instrument, so I also have in stock Muller's Neapolitan Dance for bass.

A new series of books to help pianists with sight reading as been published by the Associated Board, by the well-known Alan Bullard. Volumes 1, 2 and 3 have been issued, with two more to follow.

Trinity have just published Sound at Sight for French Horn, a welcome addition to the collection of books for horn.

And finally, Harry James' Trumpet Concerto, a jazzy piece which Winwood Music has been wanting to publish for some time - it's now available.

A lot of prices have changed and I am gradually working through the website updating them. It's a slow job, which I only really do once a year and it takes a long, long time, so you have a good chance to get a bargain before I get all the changes done!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Normal Service Resumes

After the snow fiasco, I have finally caught up on all my deliveries. My parcel wrapping paper, one month overdue, arrived yesterday afternoon, just in time for today's mammoth parcel collection.

And my orders of the last two weeks which came by DHL arrived yesterday. But to add insult to injury, they should have been here on Friday - the idiot substitute driver insisted on listening to his Sat Nav, ignoring the "no vehicles", "dead end", "no through road" signs all the way down an impassable road until he impaled his vehicle on the steps and crashed it into the bushes. Irritatingly, this all happened 1/4 mile from my house - if I'd known, I'd have walked up there and liberated my parcels myself.

And this morning, the goods ordered on 5th January, which had disappeared into a black hole (see previous post) also turned up. I sent them back.

So the Snow Chaos is now behind us for the time being. My apologies to customers who had their orders delayed, many thanks for your patience.

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Award for the Worst Courier of 2010 (so far!)

Well we're only a couple of weeks into the new year and I already have two contenders for the worst courier service of 2010.

The front runner is DHL - for the simple reason that on 5th January they took custody of a parcel from Oxford University Press for me and, in a stunning demonstration of incompetence, it has still not been delivered by today, the 15th. The reason is "snow" and the closure of the motorway. Yes the motorway between their depot and me did close briefly during the heavy snow on the 5th/6th January. But I also know that on the 5th and 6th January all the drivers sat on their backsides in the depot all day (elf n safety?) - understandable during the worst of the blizzard (Tuesday). All the parcels were apparently put in a warehouse, which seems to be in a different space/time continuum, as my parcel has never reappeared in this dimension.

The publisher has chased it every day this week, but DHL apparently lack all interest in doing their job belatedly and so OUP has despatched a duplicate order. Let's see how long that takes. In the meantime, I have customers waiting for music in that delivery and I have smoke coming out of my ears.

The second contender for worst courier of 2010 is Parcelforce. They also abandon work at any sign of snow or ice. Over the Christmas period they took a stunning 10 days to deliver a parcel which was "24 hour express". The reason? Snow. I was also due a delivery today, but it looks like the driver didn't like the look of the rain and partially melted snow on the road so he hasn't bothered. 24 hour express? More like 24 days.

What I don't understand is why this happens when companies like Fedex, DPD and UPS do get through, with slight delays. You'd think that professional drivers would be more able to cope - people who live here have had to drive on the stuff. Or, they could park up and walk a bit, like some of us have had to do. It's not that hard.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snow Delays

While I am still processing orders as usual and tramping through the snow on the path in the picture above to the post office, unfortunately Royal Mail is not doing the same. Deliveries have ceased here and in many areas. Many courier companies have also ceased delivering.

Why professional drivers can't be expected to cope with a little snow is beyond me, but it does mean that my stock deliveries are very late and mail to my customers is slowing up markedly. As time goes on I will run out of items which I normally keep in stock. I'm sorry, but I will let you know individually if your order is going to be despatched later than usual.