By Michael Raine
Search and Distro Music Equipment
Like many great boutique music companies , Search and Distro Music Equipment ’ s origins began with its founder ’ s own desire for gear . Now , since its founding in 2007 , the Canadian distributor has grown “ fairly massively ,” says Scott Hager , from a few boutique names to a long line card of more than 30 guitar pedal brands – including Greer Amps , Alexander Pedals , Thorpy FX , Fairfield Circuitry , Benson Amps , and many more – as well as few other guitar accessory brands , like Stringjoy and Mastery Bridges .
“ I got a late start playing music , having not picked up the guitar until my first year of engineering at McMaster University . That said , I loved music as long as I can recall . It has been a massive part of my life since I found some of my parents ’ old Beatles records in the garage ,” says Hager . “ I became seriously obsessed with music from the ‘ 60s and ‘ 70s , especially The Yardbirds , The Kinks , and The Who , all of which were exceedingly uncool in my schoolmates ’ opinions . It was not until the punk rock and hardcore era that I really paid much attention to music of the day , so to speak , and I still love aggressive music of all sorts .”
As for how he entered the MI industry , Hager says it stemmed from his own simple desire to get better gear for himself . Once he began playing , he also became obsessed with buying , selling , and trading vintage guitar equipment . Eventually , he saw that this obsession could be a real business and it morphed into the online retailer , Axe … And You Shall Receive , and subsequently the distribution company , Search and Distro . He credits his wife Janelle with helping him make the decision to leave behind his work in engineering to jump full-time into MI .
“ My personal experience since founding the business has generally been amazing — extraordinarily hard work but very fulfilling . We get to work with dealers of all levels to help them provide the tools for their customers to create art that we , in turn , also get to enjoy . The fact that this work also feeds and shelters my family is a blessing that is not at all lost on me ,” Hager says . “ The rewarding side of the business has been developing relationships with the buyers and owners of the dealers we supply . Many of them have become like family , to some extent , over the years . This last year with Winter NAMM being canceled , the thing I definitely missed was meeting up with so many of our dealers in one place to catch up on things over a few beverages .”
In terms of what ’ s been most challenging , Hager says it ’ s “ been managing the large and constant capital outlays required to stock so many SKUs in adequate quantities to supply our dealer network . We are a stocking distributor and everything we supply is warehoused here , physically ready to ship . Also , for such a liberal country , Canadian dealers do tend to be relatively conservative in their buying practices . It is a struggle at times to get dealers to stock enough quantity and enough SKUs to service their areas fully . It can be frustrating because you know that these dealers are leaving a lot of money on the table . Not having stock physically on hand when buyers walk in results in a lost sale 99.9 % of the time .”
Currently , Search and Distro ’ s dealer network spans from B . C . to Newfoundland , and Hager says his favourite retailers are those who are genuinely excited about the products and love the music industry . “ It is so much easier to sell a premium product if you truly understand and enjoy the product ,” Hager adds . “ Truthfully , many of the products we offer sell themselves if you are keen enough to put them in front of customers with some level of enthusiasm . Many corporate-type shops do not seem to understand the value of personal service . The successful stores we deal with have knowledgeable and keen staff who genuinely enjoy helping folks find their ideal guitar / bass tone .”
During the pandemic , while already-existent parts shortages became exacerbated , Hager says that his practice of stocking large quantities became a saving grace . “ We were able to capitalize early in the pandemic on opportunities to buy extra stock that was passed over by other distributors and dealers who were either worried about spending during shutdown , or simply not set up to sell online efficiently . When those businesses foolishly canceled pending orders with many of our manufacturers , we jumped in and in some cases asked if we could add those quantities to our orders . We did that primarily to support our manufacturers , but in the end , it was very much to our benefit as we had stock to supply where others did not .”
Looking towards the foreseeable future , Hager says that focusing on high-quality brands will be the key to his success , especially as guitar-centric music is less in the mainstream . He notes in closing : “ Our current stable of manufacturers are constantly bringing new items to market , so we typically have a new product arrive here every few weeks ; it certainly keeps things exciting . Also , we now own one of the brands that we distribute . We took over production of Monster Effects a little over a year ago and have been producing the Swamp Thang Tremolo and Mastortion pedals since then .”
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Music Trade .
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