Picture: Ms. Celine Goh; General Manager, Steinway Gallery Singapore

Spirio r sales will be split between institutions and home users, says Ms Goh, who calls Steinway concert grands “something like a must-have in, say, a Good Class Bungalow”.

BT PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN

Steinway Gallery Singapore was featured on Business Times on 29 June 2019, General Manager of Steinway Gallery Singapore Ms Celine Goh speaks about Steinway’s latest innovation the Steinway Spirio r

 

Business Times Article:

TINKLING the ivories never came with so many bells and whistles. Luxury piano maker Steinway’s self-playing Spirio line has opened up new sales markets, according to Celine Goh, general manager at the regional flagship Steinway Gallery in Singapore.

The “self-playing” Spirio, launched in 2015, replays recordings – in analogue – from a digital library of studio and concert piano performances.

With the new Spirio r, users not only play back pre-recorded pieces, but can also record and edit fresh ones too. They use a purpose-built iPad app to change note durations and pedal data, and remove or replace wrong notes, among other tweaks.

 

Integrating with technology

SEE ALSO: Steinway attracts takeover interest from China conglomerate “This Steinway piano is a traditional instrument – it can only go so far,” Ms Goh told
The Business Times.

“Traditional products start to integrate with technology – hardware, software… It really matches up to our daily life in the modern world.”

Ronald Losby, Steinway’s chief executive, has said that the Spirio – which comes with
wireless and Ethernet connectivity, USB ports and a solid-state drive to store data -now makes up one-third of Steinway piano production, with the share expected to cross the halfway mark “in the near future”. The company would not disclose its sales volume or financial figures, but credit agency Moody’s has pegged annual revenue at US$451 million, with about one-third coming from markets in Europe and Asia.

Steinway Musical Instruments, which used to be traded in New York, was sold to hedge fund manager Paulson & Co for US$512 million in 2013. Moody’s has given it a non-investment-grade rating of “B3”, on factors such as “moderately high financial
leverage”. But Ms Goh credits the Spirio innovation with lifting the top line: “The statistics show that we have (had) an about 30 per cent increment in sales because of the Spirio. It changes the whole dynamics of owning a piano.”

Steinway sells about 40 pianos in Singapore each year, half of which are Spirios, she told BT. When asked how many Spirio r units she expected to move in 2019, she said that she would be happy to start with 10.

The sales office here has seen “a very strong interest so far, even before it has arrived”, she added. “Especially the teachers, they’re very interested. Recording
artists. And, of course, composers, arrangers, who have their own recording studio -even some home recording studios.”

Spirio r sales will be split between institutions, such as conservatories and concert halls, and home users, said Ms Goh, who called Steinway concert grands “something like a must-have in, say, a Good Class Bungalow”. She noted that even those who cannot play the piano have snapped up the originalSpirio for the entertainment value of its playback function, as they tune in to a constantly updated library of professional recordings. “People like audiophiles, for example – they love the hi-fiand everything,” said Ms Goh. “They realise that, actually, the sound from a piano is even better than mastered play from a CD or MP3 through expensive hi-fi(high-fidelity sound systems).”

Meanwhile, with institutions, “it’s a gradual thing, because they need to renew inventory”, she said. “A concert grand piano in any concert hall will probably last five to 10 years.”

She suggested that the Spirio r could eventually create new revenue – “whether you replay a concert online or you podcast a concert, for example, and how to use it to monetise it”. Of course, the Spirio models do not come cheap, Ms Goh acknowledged: “Steinway pianos being Steinway pianos – in terms of pricing, positioning – it’s not a mass piano.” That may be an under-statement. The Spirio Play starts at S$197,000, while the Spirio r starts at S$288,000.

Recording function

Meanwhile, the limited-edition Spirio r Black Diamond – designed by Lang Lang, with
an ebony finish – costs S$546,000 to S$1.18 million. That has not deterred buyers here. Two of the world’s 88 Spirio r 211cm Model B in the Black Diamond line have been sold in Singapore.

But Ms Goh also said it was critical to offer the recording function on the Steinway Model D, a concert grand. “We won’t have a Spirio on the D without a recording function, that’s for sure,” she said, citing “so many requests” from home retail customers.

“People who really go for the sound – the full sound – they want the full dynamics and the full range. When listening to the Spirio artist playback, since they are recorded on the D, the actual playback on the D would be perfect – the real thing.”

With the technology already built in, Ms Goh explained that other features could include a live stream function, smart-device integration, and even long-distance product servicing.”A concert hall environment is totally different from a home environment, in terms of acoustics, but at least you can sit at home and listen to a concert live,” she noted. ”And, of course, with that functionality, you can do distance learning. You can have a master or Steinway artist overseas conducting a master class for people around the world.”

Ms Goh added that Steinway technicians can already access customers’ Spirio pianos from back-end devices, which helps with after-sales service. ”They can already see on the piano what part there’s a problem… so they can actually rectify that from a distance,” she added. “We already know before you call us.” Citing the company’s more than 120 piano-related patents, Ms Goh said: “Steinway’s piano, or any piano per se, is actually a technology by itself, in those days when the piano was invented and created.

“So, after 70 years, we decided to add in a technological function that is proprietary, that is high-resolution.”

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