Buy online, but take care

Thursday, 25 February 2021 2:46 pm

The global pandemic has seen e-commerce go through the roof, and the e-drum market has certainly been shaken up as more products become available through more channels.

There are no reliable statistics specifically for online e-drum sales, but analysts in the US found that, last year, hobbies (including musical instruments) experienced the second-highest growth year-on-year in online sales.

Amid that online activity, there’s been a big surge in the sale of second-hand instruments, with Facebook noting a 36% increase in listings for musical instruments in 2020 in Australia, and there’s every reason to believe the same trend is evident in many countries, including the US and Europe.

Facebook Marketplace was introduced in 2016 as more posters started offering their goods for sale, particularly in special interest groups.

Similarly, Reverb.com, founded in 2013, saw an explosion of listings in 2020.

Carly Smith, an editor on the content team at Reverb.com, notes that in 2020, more people bought musical instruments from Reverb sellers than ever before. “Based on what we saw on Reverb over the past year, more people — including what appear to be beginners — are making music at home. This also includes more advanced musicians who are also spending more time at home and appear to be exploring new ways to create music, record songs, and collaborate virtually,” she tells digitalDrummer.

Smith says searches for drum machines on Reverb more than doubled year-over-year between January and October last year.

“At the onset of the pandemic, drum machines and sequencers were greatly outselling live percussion instruments, which isn’t what we typically see,” she says, adding that Reverb also saw a significant increase in downloads of its free Reverb Drum Machines sample collection which features over 50 volumes of vintage, rare, and landmark drum machines.

eBay remains a dominant online player for both used and new equipment, but the company declined to comment for this article. However, the company’s financial reports indicate that 2020 was its best year in some time, with revenues up 19% for the full year.

eBay experienced unprecedented traffic levels for most of 2020; on more than 100 days in 2020, it exceeded its highest levels from 2019.

While retail music stores beefed up their online offerings to counter forced closures and other social distancing measures, many have also done brisk trade in used gear, including e-drums. A quick check of Guitar Center’s used offerings showed more than 300 products, from a $20 Roland PD-7 pad to a $3,000 Roland TD-30K kit. Rival Sam Ash, meanwhile, had 60 e-drum listings among its used instruments, from a $20 8” Carlsbro pad to a $2,500 TD-20  kit – with a much sought-after mimicPRO also on offer.

Amid the increased online activity, drummer, publisher and entrepreneur George Lawrence recently launched a new dedicated drum marketplace, drumsellers.com.

Lawrence says the major difference from other online markets is the focus on drums. “The site is simpler with less visual clutter, and I run it as a service - not as just a flea market. I’ve established a reputation of serving and supporting the drummer community for many decades,” he explains.

“I built DrumSellers to have the warm and fuzzy aspects of the classic independent drum shops instead of just a bunch of listings. Right now, if a buyer or a seller calls or emails, they get me. Or they can ask their question in the community forum on the site, which is very active. I also allow trades without a commission, listings for free gear and just showing off your drums. I provide educational content about tuning, head selection, drum maintenance, etc. - answers to the questions typically asked in a drum shop.”

Lawrence is aware of the pitfalls of some of his giant rivals: “I want DrumSellers to grow but not get ‘overgrown’ like the mega-sites. I will add other features, services and customer service people, but not at the expense of raising fees or adding products that have nothing to do with drums or becoming impersonal. I guard the site against scammers by vetting every seller. The one and only fee is the lowest of all the musical instrument markets and I will keep it that low.”

Protecting buyers

Of course, the rise of online e-drum trade has also increased the level of fraud, and scams abound, especially on platforms like Marketplace.

A Facebook spokeswoman says the platform encourages people to buy and sell responsibly. “We want our community to have a great experience on Marketplace, so we have rules in place for our community to follow. For example, before a listing is posted, our technology reviews listings and will automatically block listings we believe violate our policies. We also make it really easy for people to report sellers and listings, and when violating content is reported to us, we take the appropriate action.”

Facebook offers the following tips to help avoid scams:

  • Learn more about the item you want to buy. Ask a lot of questions before buying an item you’re interested in. Make sure you are able to see pictures that show all angles of the item, and get information from the seller about an item’s history, authenticity and current condition. Thoroughly inspect the item before buying and test it if possible.
  • Learn more about the seller. Spend a few minutes learning more about a seller by looking at their profile to see the friends you may have in common, reviewing their Marketplace activity and reviewing any ratings they may have received.
  • Keep your personal information protected. Never share personal or banking information that could put your identity or money at risk. Use Messenger when possible to communicate so you don't have to give your personal phone number or email address.
  • Report a listing or a seller if you have any problems. If you have an issue with a person or an item that's listed, such as violating community standards, harassing behaviour or scams, it's easy to report to Facebook. Just look for a Report link on the listing or on the seller's Marketplace profile.

According to Reverb’s Smith, for buyers, communication can go a long way. “On Reverb, we make it easy to communicate directly with sellers, so you can ask questions, get more information on the gear’s history, and even ask for more pictures if you want to see more detail. Another tip is to check sellers’ return policy: On sites like Reverb that feature many different sellers, shops are able to create their own individual return policies. Take the extra step to make sure you understand a shop’s policy on returns before you purchase.

“For sellers, Reverb has a number of resources to help you at every step of the selling process. When you list your gear for sale, you can check our selling guide, which includes pricing history data to help price your item. After you sell, we securely process payments for you, and for both buyers and sellers, Reverb’s global support team of musicians and music lovers is available if you have a question or an issue."

eBay is aware of numerous scams and fraudulent practices and encourages customers to use its PayPal payment method for increased peace of mind.

Other eBay tips include:

  • Make sure you are logged in to the real eBay site.
  • Complete your payment using an eligible payment method. Do not share your credit card or other financial information over email or text.
  • Don’t be fooled by fraudulent emails directly from the seller telling you that there was something wrong with your payment.
  • Don’t be fooled by offers to get a better price by paying outside of eBay or by using an unapproved payment method. Due to potential for fraud, we don't allow buyers and sellers to complete sales outside of eBay. These sales are not eligible for Feedback, requests for contact information, or eBay's problem resolution services.
  • The eBay Money Back Guarantee covers the purchase price plus original shipping if the item doesn't match the seller's description. Buyers need to pay with an eligible payment method. Cash, cheques, and money orders are not covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee.
  • Don’t transfer money directly into a seller’s bank account. Instead, use a secure payment site such as PayPal, where money is transferred between two electronic accounts.
  • Avoid communicating with sellers privately off eBay. The record of your communications will provide helpful backup information in case you have problems with your purchase or payment later.
  • Don’t agree to unusual requests to make additional payments for shipping or other previously unlisted charges after the sales transaction is complete. Don’t share unnecessary personal information with buyers or sellers.
  • Never accept overpayments from buyers for items, especially if the buyer asks to be reimbursed for overpayment. Requests like this are often part of a counterfeit cashier's cheque scheme.