China Passes US As Biggest Consumer of Musical Instruments

Sales of musical instruments in China has surpassed those of the US for the second year in a row, confirming its status as the world’s top musical instruments market.

Over 40 billion yuan ($6.5 billion) worth of musical instruments were sold in China in 2012, three times the sales recorded a decade earlier, according to data from the China International Musical Instrument Expo in Shanghai and the nation’s General Administration of Customs. China had surpassed the US in total musical instrument sales for the first time in 2011.

China’s musical instruments imports in 2012 were valued at over 1.85 billion yuan ($300 mil.) while sales of domestically produced instruments totaled 38.5 billion ($6.4 bil.). The size of China’s musical instrument market will hit 100 billion yuan before 2020, according to Zeng Zemin, secretary general of the China Musical Instrument Association.

China is dominant in the production of musical instruments as well as their purchase. In 2012 China accounted for 80% of the global output of 500,000 pianos, 80% of the the 1.3 million violins and 60% of the production of western instruments, according to data from CMIA.

“Musical instrument exports from China increased by 4.85%, and imports grew by 11.42% in 2012, which means that China is not only a big musical instrument manufacturer, but also a big consumer,” said Zeng.

In relation to disposable income, China spends about six times as much per capita on musical instruments as the US. This disproportionate consumption suggests the importance China’s newly emerging middle class attaches to traditional cultural attainments like the ability to play a musical instrument. In turn that helps explain the disproportionate number of top classical musicians emerging from China, including the likes of Lang Lang and Yundi Li.