Banjos are sexy now, and more popular than they've been for decades. Chart-topping bands like Mumford & Sons, artists like Laura Marling, and the USA’s new folk stars The Avett Brothers, have put the banjo centre stage with young people
(PRWEB UK) 1 March 2012
Simon Middleton built his name over the past five years as a brand strategy consultant and author – to become one of the UK’s highest profile brand commentators. But throughout that period he had wanted to make the switch to building his own retail brand. Now he is owner of Britain's most popular banjo shop and riding the wave of a dramatic resurgence of popularity of banjos.
His online business Banjos Direct has become the leading specialist banjo retailer in the UK within a few months of launch, and has won major dealerships from two of the USA’s best known banjo manufacturers, GoldTone and Nechville.
Banjos Direct has attracted substantial equity finance and is growing so quickly that Middleton has ‘retired’ from brand consultancy to concentrate full time on building the retail music brand, and its stable-mate Left Hand Bear (a left-handed instrument specialist).
“It’s been an amazing journey over just a few months. We reached a fork in road in the autumn of last year when I had to decide where to put my energies. It was no contest really: consultancy is fascinating, but building your own brand is the real adventure,” said Middleton.
"In fact in around 90 days we went from a standing start with the Banjos Direct launch to becoming Britain's leading specialist banjo retailer."
The entrepreneur’s experience in advising other brands (including the controversial repositioning of the Norfolk Broads National Park as Britain’s Magical Waterland) has played a crucial role in establishing Banjos Direct, Middleton explains.
“I don’t think we could have made this happen so quickly and definitively had I not spent many years thinking about how brands really work, and why great narrative and outstanding service are key to success.”
Part of the narrative is the brand’s single-minded focus on serving a niche market.
“Although just a few years ago people would have laughed at the idea that a banjo retail business could be exciting, that isn’t the case today. Banjos are sexy now, and more popular than they've been for decades. Chart-topping bands like Mumford & Sons, artists like Laura Marling, and the USA’s new folk stars The Avett Brothers, have put the banjo centre stage with young people,” Middleton explains.
“Because we’re focused on our customers’ real passion and because we are so committed to service we are earning their respect and affection.”
2012 is going to be a very busy year for the consultant turned entrepreneur, who admits that as a 53 year old he has to summon up reserves of energy to drive forward his various projects.
As if the music retail efforts weren’t enough, Middleton’s third book Brand New You (appropriately enough a book about personal reinvention) is published by HayHouse in May.
Middleton is becoming a prolific author. Build A Brand In 30 Days (Capstone 2010) has become a definitive guide for small business owners, whilst What You Need To Know About Marketing (Capstone 2011) is a boardroom guide for non-marketers.
He has also been a regular brand pundit on BBC, Sky, CNN and elsewhere, and confidently claims to be the only banjo shop owner to have been interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight.
But 2012 is likely to get busier still with the launch of the debut album by Middleton’s acoustic-roots band The Proposition, of which he is the singer, guitarist and frontman.
The band’s 2010 e.p. Dirt Tracks received glowing reviews in the folk and roots media, and their debut album King Snake, Devil Shake is released in March. Middleton and his band play festivals and acoustic venues all over the UK, and their CV includes several opening slots for Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.