2012 年 47 巻 1 号 p. 1_49-1_74
The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of technical innovation on marketing channels and the Yamaha Music School under the mature Japanese piano market since the 1980s. The dilemma of the piano industry (e.g., the low diffusion rate, about 25%) drastically changed due to digital technology. In this new competitive environment, Yamaha carried out the three strategic changes: releasing low cost digital instruments, recasting sales channels, and reconsidering the Yamaha Music School's management policy.
In the early 1980s, newcomer Casio began producing and selling the Casiotone, a low cost digital instrument. Although Yamaha did not want to release cheap keyboard instruments which might decrease the demand for their leading products (the piano and electronic organ), in the late 1980s they launched Portasound (a Yamaha-made cheap keyboard) to compete against the Casio product. Moreover, Yamaha distributed this new product through the same mass retailers which dealt in Casiotones. Recasting their sales channel this way caused the old channel, the traditional exclusive distributor system, to struggle. However, it was important for Yamaha to maintain the traditional system, because exclusive distributors were skillful at selling expensive goods (pianos etc.) through consulting sales. Therefore, Yamaha reinforced the exclusive distributors by changing their form of profit-earning music schools from one in which the schools supported Yamaha through sales, to one in which Yamaha supported the schools through licensing. These schools became an important source of income in the face of reduced piano demand from 1980.
Yamaha maintained their position as market leader through these three strategic changes in spite of the technological paradigm shift in which they lost the first mover advantage. Although the double structure of their sales channel (comprising exclusive distributors and mass retailers) resulted in lower sales capacity for their exclusive distributors, the exclusive distributors were able to change their primary focus to the music education business. Yamaha's unique sales channel, with educational facilities, continues to transform while developing new keyboard instrument businesses.