Best Ways to Import and Export Musical Instruments
Musical instruments are some of the most intricately designed items that manufacturers must ship all across the world. Since musical instrument manufacturers typically produce instruments like keyboards, guitars, drums and more in Eastern countries, they must often ship them globally to get to their intended destination.
To import and export musical instruments safely and efficiently, manufacturing brands will need a freight forwarder to bring their products in for resale in the United States. Several factors come into play when manufacturers must decide how to export their musical instruments, as well as the company they choose to handle importing them into America. In this article, we’ll discuss the best ways to import and export musical instruments, so they arrive at their destination in perfect condition.
What Instruments Are Commonly Imported or Exported?
Although some musical instruments are U.S.-made, many others get manufactured in Eastern countries and require shipping to the U.S. and other Western nations. This process works the other way, as well, with Western countries having to ship the musical instruments they manufacture to Eastern nations.
Whether manufacturers are importing goods to or from the United States, the following five instrument categories are the most common in global shipping.
1. Electric Musical Instruments
Electric musical instruments are the 686th most-traded product in the world, with their top exporter, China, shipping out about $764 million worth of products that fall under this category in 2017 alone. The top importer of electric musical instruments is the U.S., which brings in about $446 million in electric musical instruments each year.
Musical instruments that fall under this category include:
- Electric guitars
- Bass guitars
2. Stringed Musical Instruments
Stringed musical instruments, also typically referred to as acoustic instruments, are not quite as popular imports and exports as electric instruments, but countries still commonly trade them. This category breaks down even further to regular stringed instruments and stringed instruments played with a bow. China is the top exporter for both categories, shipping out $306 million of regular stringed instruments and $82.3 million stringed instruments played with a bow.
Regular stringed instruments that are common imports and exports include:
- Grand pianos
- Acoustic guitars
Examples of stringed instruments played with a bow are:
- Upright basses
3. Musical Instrument Parts and Accessories
As the 794th most-traded product, the musical parts and accessories industry is even more substantial than that of some of the instruments themselves. China exported $217 million worth of musical instrument parts and accessories in 2017.
A few examples of the top-exported musical instrument accessories and parts include:
- Radio receivers
4. Drum Sets and Other Percussion Equipment
Drum sets and other percussion equipment comes next in the list of top-exported musical goods, with China’s 2017 total for exported percussion equipment being $145 million. The percussion category is much broader and more inclusive than some of the others, which a wide range of instruments falling under it. Some examples include:
- Drums — bass, snare, timpani, etc.
5. Wind Instruments
Despite being last on this list, the category of wind instruments — not including those made of brass — is still a significant one in terms of foreign trade. China exported a total of $110 million worth of wind instruments in 2017 alone.
Some non-brass wind instruments that are common imports and exports include:
Methods to Import and Export Musical Instruments
There are two methods of importing and exporting musical instruments from China and other Eastern countries to the United States: ocean and air. Each option has its pros and cons and is best suited for specific instruments and conditions. To decide which method you should use, consider the number of items you’re sending, the size of the items, the weight of the items, how far they will be traveling and how quickly you need them to reach their destination.
1. Ocean Freight Shipping
If you are shipping a significant amount of musical instruments — and especially if they are large instruments, like a piano or upright bass — it’s best to opt for ocean freight shipping. Ocean freight shipping takes a bit longer than opting to ship by air, but it is more economical if you are exporting or importing large, heavy instruments in bulk.
Heavy musical instruments would be difficult to ship via air because they would weigh down a plane and eat up a lot more of its fuel than a cargo boat designed to carry tons of equipment. No matter where you’re shipping pianos or other heavy musical instruments to or from, ocean freight shipping is the best way to make sure they reach their destination safely and cost-effectively.
2. Air Freight Shipping
The second method of shipping musical instruments is via air, which is an excellent complement to the ocean freight shipping option. Air freight shipping is ideal for smaller musical instruments because they are easier for cargo planes to carry while using less fuel. Air freight shipping is also a faster method than ocean freight shipping, making it the right choice for time-sensitive shipments.
However, keep in mind that even if your shipment of heavy musical instruments like grand pianos or organs is time-sensitive, it may be worthwhile to save some money and resources by opting for ocean freight shipping. Your cost will increase significantly if you have to import or export these large items via air, as an airplane will use significantly more fuel than a cargo boat that is intended to carry loads of several tons.
Top Countries for the Music Industry
Music is one of the only industries that is alive and well in almost every country — whether that’s financially speaking or culturally speaking. However, there are a few key players involved in exporting and importing musical instruments.
We’ve broken down the following two lists to analyze which countries have the most booming musical instrument industries based on the top five exporters of musical instruments, as well as the top five importers of musical instruments.
Top Five Exporters of Musical Instruments
The five top exporters of musical instruments are below in order.
1. China ($1.6 Billion)
As you may have noticed based on the numbers in the previous list of the top-exported musical instruments, China dominates the musical instrument export industry. China’s music market is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, so it’s not surprising they’re also the No. 1 exporter of musical instruments by a long shot.
If you add up the 2017 numbers mentioned earlier in this article for the top five most-exported instruments, China exported somewhere around $1.6 billion in all categories of musical instruments that year.
2. Indonesia ($582 Million)
Coming in second on the list of the world’s top musical instrument exporters is Indonesia. The country is responsible for manufacturing a large portion of the world’s electric, stringed and wind instruments.
- Electric instruments: $422 million
- Stringed instruments: $80.7 million
- Wind instruments: $79.3 million
These numbers add up to a total of $582 million exported musical goods from Indonesia.
3. United States ($531 Million)
While most people will think of the United States as a significant importer of musical instruments, the U.S. is also home to several instrument manufacturers. The U.S. exports many types of musical instruments to other countries.
- Electric instruments: $181 million
- Stringed instruments: $119 million
- Accessories and parts: $185 million
- Percussion instruments: $46.1 million
These figures result in a total of $531 million of musical instrument products exported from the United States each year, based on the 2017 data.
4. Germany ($473 Million)
Germany is another power player in the manufacturing and export of musical instruments of all types. In 2017, the country exported the following amounts of each product type.
- Electric instruments: $124 million
- Stringed instruments: $35 million
- Accessories and parts: $199 million
- Percussion instruments: $47.6 million
- Wind instruments: $67.4 million
When you add these numbers, you’ll find Germany exported a total of $473 million of the top five most exported musical instruments.
5. Japan ($170 Million)
The nation of Japan comes in fifth place for the most music-related exports in 2017. Even though they only exported two of the five most popular instruments, their numbers for those two categories are high enough to make them a top exporter.
Japan has earned a reputation for exporting musical instruments such as the following.
- Accessories and parts: $92.4 million
- Wind instruments: $77.6 million
In total, Japan exported $170 million music-related products across the globe in 2017.
Top Five Importers of Musical Instruments
On the other hand, the following five countries are the top importers of musical instruments.
1. United States ($1.1 Billion)
You might have guessed this one already based on the numbers discussed earlier in the article, but the United States takes first place for the largest importer of musical instruments in the world. That is even despite the 2.7% to 3.5% duty tax American companies must pay to import musical instruments into the country. It is also despite the United States’ most recent tariff update on importing Chinese products, including musical instruments. The president’s new ruling states that beginning Sept. 1, 2019, tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports will start at 10% and could eventually increase to 25% or more.
Of course, the following numbers are from 2017 before these new tariffs came about, so it will be interesting to see how they will affect the number of musical instruments the country imports in the future.
The United States imported the following dollar amounts for top categories of musical instruments in 2017.
- Electric instruments: $446 million
- Stringed instruments: $204.6 million
- Accessories and parts: $197 million
- Percussion instruments: $114 million
- Wind instruments: $131 million
Adding these numbers together, we come to a total of $1.1 billion worth of musical products imported into the U.S.
2. Germany ($569 Million)
Coming in second place on the list is Germany, which imports even more musical instruments and accessories than it exports. The nation is a well-known musical instrument manufacturer, especially electric instruments. In 2017, Germany imported the following amounts for each of the top musical instrument categories.
- Electric instruments: $269 million
- Stringed instruments: $64 million
- Accessories and parts: $133 million
- Percussion instruments: $50.7 million
- Wind instruments: $52.6 million
With a total value of $569 million musical instruments and accessories imported, Germany has a significant market for these devices.
3. Japan ($435 Million)
Not far behind Germany is Japan, which imports a total of $435 million worth of musical instruments and related products each year, according to the 2017 data. The country ranks third on the list by importing music-related products from the following categories.
- Electric instruments: $179 million
- Stringed instruments: $64 million
- Accessories and parts: $122 million
- Percussion instruments: $19.8 million
- Wind instruments: $50.7 million
4. United Kingdom ($213 Million)
With its bustling and incredibly advanced music scene, it’s no surprise the United Kingdom is one of the top five importers of musical instruments. Countless legendary bands have come from the UK, and there are likely still many more to come. With a total of $213 million in music-related imports in 2017, the nation certainly has a lively music industry and market.
We can break that number down by category as follows.
- Electric instruments: $146 million
- Stringed instruments: $49 million
- Percussion instruments: $18.3 million
5. China ($161 Million)
Although they are the No. 1 exporter of all musical instruments in the world, China is also a high-ranking importer of the same products. As you’ll notice, China imports a high value of musical accessories and parts compared to other countries — presumably to build the musical instruments they then export across the globe.
China’s most significant music-related imports include the following.
- Accessories and parts: $138 million
- Percussion instruments: $22.8 million
In total, China brought in $161 million worth of musical instruments in 2017.
Can Universal Cargo Ship My Guitar?
Since Universal Cargo’s focus is on importing and exporting for businesses, we specialize in shipping musical parts and instruments in bulk. If you are looking for a way to ship your guitar — whether it’s to your new home across the country or your vacation destination because you just can’t go a week without your six-stringed best friend — we recommend working with a consumer logistics company like UPS, DHL or FedEx. You should also opt for one of these if you’re looking to send a single instrument to someone else as a gift.
While Universal Cargo is the go-to choice for companies importing and exporting musical instruments in bulk, individuals will have a smoother experience by shipping a musical instrument with a consumer logistics company.
If your business needs to import or export bulk orders of musical instruments and parts, partner with the experts at Universal Cargo. Our trained team works directly with the manufacturers to ensure the transaction gets completed correctly and as quickly as possible. Once we collect all the necessary information and documents from you, the business owner, we’ll handle the rest of the process to get your products either to or from their origin or destination. We have experience in shipping musical instruments to or from the United States and other countries across the globe.