Hey musician friends - have you ever wondered what it music be like to really indulge your passion for music - and make a career out of it. Well, one way is to open a music instrument shop. In this interview I talk to Simon Job who owns and runs St Giles Music in Northampton. St Giles is a very well renowned and respected shop - I kind of like to think of it as a bit old school. They still do the old school things - you know, like actually caring about there customers and giving an amazing service. It's a real shop, run by real musicians - and you should go there ! Nearly all of my students get instruments from them and all of them come back to me and say 'wow they really give great service'.
In the interview Simon discusses the challenges facing music shops, how he ended up doing it, and why you shouldn't go near him with a fire extinguisher ! You can read the full interview below and visit St Giles at https://stgilesmusic.co.uk.
Alternativelywhen this current situation with Covid 19 is over, pop in and see them
1) Can you explain when and how St Giles Music started?
Hi Paul, So, originally St Giles Music was opened by my parents, Philip and Hilary and their partner Bill back in 1988, but before that Dad always worked in music shops – starting back in the 1970’s where he worked for Minns Music in Cornwall. Then in 1980 our family moved to Milton Keynes, when Yamaha opened Chappell of Bond Street in the very new Milton Keynes Shopping Centre. Phil ran Chappell of Bond Street for nearly 8 years, when he decided he wanted to open a music shop of his own. So, in 1988, when I was a mere 11 years old lad, we moved to glorious Northampton and they opened St Giles Music.
2) How has the company had to change over the years?
St Giles Music has always been in the same location in Northampton Town Centre and although our focus has always been the same - ‘Good honest advice from one musician to another’ - the musical instruments we sell changes with the times. Back in the late 80’s, along with piano, guitars and so-forth, the Electronic Organ was very popular, and you may remember Turners Merry-go-Round, who put on Organ concerts. As we moved into the 90’s digital pianos and keyboards became more popular, due to their lesser cost and technology getting better and better. Even the ABSRM and Trinity exam boards accepted that digital pianos were now of a standard that you can train for your exams on them. So eventually we stopped selling traditional pianos and the organ scene faded away. Also electric guitars became higher quality at a lesser cost and with bands like Oasis & Blur, Arctic Monkeys & Muse paving out the way for a new generation of young guitarist.
In Northampton, we have always had a great band environment, every weekend during the 90’s and 2000’s there would be young bands rocking out on their BC Rich or Ibanez guitars!
As we moved later into the 2000’s acoustic guitar and ukuleles took St Giles Music by storm, with a bit of help from Ed Sheeran, Iz kamakawiwoʻole and of course, your good self!
We have always had a large range of instruments to choose from, including piano’s, keyboards, guitars, woodwind and string instruments plus all the sheet music and accessories to compliment. Northampton has always had a fantastic music service amongst the school community and we have always worked closely to get children involved in music.
3) What are your current best-selling items?
From year to year best sellers change, but Pianos and Guitars have always been a popular with all ages. From the beginning St Giles Music has been involved with the education side of music, so instruments such as the Strings and Woodwind are popular, with Brass taking a step back in recent times. As you will know, the Ukulele is killing it right now, in Northampton and all over the UK – dare I say - the WORLD! 12 years ago, we only kept a couple of basic models, now St Giles Music have a wall of Ukes from £25.00 to £400.00
4) Are you a musician yourself?
Yes, I play Piano, Guitar, Ukulele (Banjo & Mandolin badly) Generally we all have our main instrument and pick up some basic skills on most of the other instruments we sell too!
5) Retail has seen a lot of changes since the internet came on board. Where do you see the future direction of St Giles?
Yes, the internet has changed things somewhat, not only for online shopping, but also lots of information on forums about instruments, music lessons etc – this can be good and bad depending on how people treat the information, but on the whole, I think the internet makes it easier for people to get involved with music.
For St Giles Music, we are focused on the face to face, giving good honest advice to the good people of Northampton and surrounding area. If you are looking for a new instrument, come in and try it first, they are not all the same.
Saying that, we have had an ecommerce website for many years now, so you get also your music fix by going to www.stgilesmusic.co.uk where we offer free delivery for order £15.00 or more.
6) St Giles also offers a wide range of music lessons. What are the most popular instruments to teach and has this changed over the years?
Yes, we teach just over 200 pupils a week, offering one on one music lessons. Instruments include, Piano, Keyboard, Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Guitars, Ukulele, Violin, Viola, Cello, Singing, Theory… pretty much everything apart from Brass and Drums. Most popular are along the same lines as our best sellers, Guitar, Piano, Violin, Saxophone, and of course Ukulele.
The youngest we take is from 4 years old, and the oldest chap we have had was 89 years old, a few years ago, he came to St Giles Music with absolutely no musical experience and learned the piano. We even went to his 90th birthday party.
7) What are the best things about owning and running a music shop?
I think this comes back to our ‘Good honest advice from one musician to another’ motto! Because we are a local family run business, we have made St Giles Music a place for everyone who is interested in music to come and chat, whether they are a beginner or an experienced player, everyone is always welcome and can feel comfortable.
We offer a friendly environment for everyone.
8) What is the funniest thing that has ever happened in the shop?
OK… So about 5 or 6 years ago, I had a bunch of teenagers rocking out, I mean trying an Ibanez electric guitar through a Marshall 100w amp, they were regulars, nice bunch of lads. But I also had a young lady trying a flute in the room next door, so I asked if they could play a tad quieter – which they did! But as I left the room, I knocked over a fire extinguisher, which set off and white power went everywhere! Luckily missing me, the lads, any instruments! But it totally made them jump through the ceiling! Hilarious!
9) Who is your musical hero and why?
Ah.. this is tricky, I like so much different music… I got into guitars because of the likes of Santana, GnR, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Jimi, Eric Clapton… I love film scores because of composers such as Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer & John Williams
Classical composers such as Debussy, Schubert, Tchaikovsky… the list goes on!
10) And finally, if you could go on a car journey (Or perhaps in your case Simon we can say a motorbike journey) to anywhere.....
A) Who would be your pillion passenger (it can be anyone from history)? I musician called Hanni El Khatib, from America, he is a musician of all kinds of instruments with albums across different genre. Plus he is into bikes, so the conversation would suit me there too.
B) What music would you listen to? I don’t generally listen to music whilst riding, but if I was it would be a Hans Zimmer playlist, or some classic Prodigy
C) Where would your destination be?
Destination would be Nashville, Tennessee & New Orleans for all the fantastic music and food, but not before riding across the states!