If your guitar’s neck breaks, who’s going to fix it? What happens if the bell of your trombone has a huge dent in it? Where could you possibly find someone to replace the keys on a piano?

Enter the musical instrument repair industry.

When musicians need someone to patch up their instrument, just like going to a doctor they’ll turn to an instrument repair shop to make it all better. It takes an incredible amount of skill and experience to be able to repair instruments because there’s a lot going on – guitar necks need to be so long in order to play properly in tune, the brass that makes up a trombone has to be carefully treated and molded back into place, and the delicate infrastructure of a piano requires an expert who knows what they’re looking at.

Here are steps you can take to start your own instrument repair business and make money as a musician!

You Need A Shop

Unlike most other endeavors to make money as a musician, instrument repair technicians require a space to work in that’s not only dedicated to the art of instrument repair, but also has all of the unique tools specific to the job.

Most instrument repair shops require a decent shop size to operate efficiently, and many times are simply the back rooms of a retail space. If you’ve ever been to a music store – which you probably have – then you know that there’s usually items for sale in the front of the store.

Sure, you could just specialize in instrument repair, but it would be smart to sell retail items as well. More likely than not, you’re not going to be able to pay your bills by just repairing instruments.

Your shop should be located near a school district, especially if there isn’t any competition nearby. Right before and right after band season, most instrument repair shops receive orders to fix all the dents and busted parts that happened during band camp and those rowdy high school football games.

It’s a lot of work, but that also means a lot of money for you!

The retail items in the front of your store should be catalogued for every single instrument type, but that doesn’t mean you have to stock every single little part and piece; in fact, you probably won’t have the shelf space! Aspire to be Guitar Center with the humility of a small mom-and-pop repair shop.

Get Certified In Instrument Repair

Anyone can lease a commercial building, buy a bunch of tools, start marketing their services and get customers, but what will truly be the test of your technical prowess is…

…well, do you know what you’re doing?

Repairing instruments is a very, very technical field and requires knowledge of acoustics, physics, materials, frequencies, brands, manufacturing practices, and much more. If you want to be the best repair technician, you have to learn how to be the best.

Fortunately, you can actually go to school for this and become certified!

If you don’t want to go to school however, you can become an apprentice of a professional technician and work your way to expert-level repair skills. This is a path that many musicians take who are fascinated by repairing instruments and learning how they work. There’s no shame in going to school, however, and most musicians will respect and trust that their expensive instruments are in the hands of a formally educated repair technician.

Understand How Retail Works

The biggest part of running any business is making sure that your bills are paid. This means that your new business needs to offer everything that it possibly can for sale to provide a wide selection of products and services.

This means having a retail shop.

Most instrument repair shops have a retail section; some would argue that most music stores have a shop in the back! Regardless, the two worlds are inseparable; repairing instruments requires instrument parts and pieces, sometimes being pulled from retail inventory to get the job done.

If you’ve ever worked in retail, you know that there’s a lot behind what’s on the shelves; you have to deal with bar codes, product numbers, existing stock, wholesale prices, purchasing bulk orders, pricing for retail sale against MSRP, and much more.

It seems like a lot, but in reality, it can all be managed if you learn how to do things properly from the very beginning.

Create A Business Plan

Here’s where things get a bit iffy. Starting an instrument repair shop is a very niche endeavor, but it’s no more so than starting a tractor supply store or a pet shop. Your business will be filling a very important need to hundreds of musicians, both young and old, all expecting you to be able to fix their instruments with precision and speed.

Just like any other business, you’re probably going to need startup capital to get it going; you’ll have the cost of the lease, electricity, sewage and water, trash, gas, all in addition to the license fees you’ll have to pay to legally operate in town.

It wouldn’t be intelligent to quote a range of the monthly cost, but if you’ve never started your own business before, don’t be put off by the amount. When you go into business, you have to be willing to play big! Expect anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 per month to stay operational.

What does this mean for you? Well, you need a business plan!

There’s a great website that offers a free business plan example to start your own brick-and-mortar retail store; the shop would simply be a part of your plan. You can check it out here.

Sometimes making money as a musician doesn’t include performing – rather, it can be in the role of repairing the very instruments other musicians make a living with! Starting a music repair business can be an incredibly lucrative endeavor, and has the potential to earn a lot of money.

Paul Cassarly
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