So I think there is something oddly fascinating about this video. Maybe it’s just the sight of a piano get crushed by a piece of heavy equipment.
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The accompanying article (For More Pianos, Last Note Is Thud in the Dump, New York Times, Jul 29) tells an interesting story of how the piano market has been affected by changing technology and changing tastes.
With thousands of moving parts, pianos are expensive to repair, requiring long hours of labor by skilled technicians whose numbers are diminishing. Excellent digital pianos and portable keyboards can cost as little as several hundred dollars. Low-end imported pianos have improved remarkably in quality and can be had for under $3,000. …
Used pianos abound on Web sites like eBay, driving prices down and making it difficult to sell Grandma’s old upright. With moving costs of several hundred dollars, even giving a piano away can be expensive. Abandonment often becomes the only option, especially for heirs dealing with a relative’s property.
Many pianos are also dying of old age. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before radio and recordings, pianos were the main source of music, even entertainment, in the home. They were a middle-class must-have.
Maybe what makes this appeal to me is the classic operations strategy case on Steinway & Sons. But I also think it is an interesting story about how society deals with obsolete products. You have units that are hitting the end of their useful life while market changes are reducing demand. Fortunately, pianos — outside of being heavy and bulky — are easy enough to dispose of. The metal can be recycled while the wood burned or thrown out. There is nothing really toxic to worry about. But the same thing is going on with computers and other electronics. They may not have the emotional meaning as an old upright, but they pose much hard problems for disposal.