Music to the ears of Japan's seniors

In the mid 1960’s Japan’s teenagers were responsible for the highest per capita consumption of recorded music in the world. (probably triggered by the Beetles Japan Tour in 1966). Now, 40+ years hence, music lessons and guitar sales are surging among the (now) senior population.

They now have the time and the money to live out the dreams of their youth.

Faced with dwindling numbers of young learners at their music schools, Yamaha in Japan has directly addressed the senior market.

Yamaha has long offered instrument lessons to adults, but started offering introductory music lessons to people aged 50 or older in spring 2004.

Masaru Sumi, chief of Yamaha’s music planning office, said the company launched the new program designed exclusively for older people because of the rapid increase in middle-aged people taking its instrument lessons in recent years. Participants can come empty-handed to Yamaha’s 11 courses offering a variety of wind and stringed instruments. Instead of giving one-on-one lessons that some may consider stiff and formal, Yamaha holds group classes.

About 60 percent of the participants are taking up instruments for the first time. They are not required to be able to read music. Lessons are held twice a month and completed in three months. The company is considering offering programs featuring songs of the Beatles and the Ventures to attract more baby boomers.

This is a classic example of how a company can re-orient its thinking and capitalise on the ageing population.