From plectrums to PA systems, if you have a specific instrument need then the chances are Brighton’s GAK store can sort you out. Founded in a tiny unit on Brighton’s Kensington Gardens back in 1992, they now occupy a cavernous space around the corner and have become one of the UK’s leading #musical instrument retailers.
Part of the company’s success is due to strong branding and early adoption of the internet’s marketplace. The site also offers a chance to truly represent the brands they stock, using writers, video producers and professional photographers to create unique content for each item. GAK also realised the value of social media when it emerged. ”It is not so much an avenue to sell the products,” says GAK’s Digital Development Manager, Jon Kennett. “We see it as more of an opportunity to represent the brand and do some really cool stuff.” Along with celebrating their 25th birthday, they also deployed a new a website. This packed in more deals, information and functionality with a reassuringly familiar appearance. “We’ve always been known for being a bit of a rock and roll brand. Rather than the corporate look we tried to bring a little bit of the character from the old site.” Their instantly recognisable red and yellow livery can be seen in most musicalorientated corners of the web, across their store on North Road and at conferences and trade-shows around the world.
Although online purchases draw international customers, the company’s physical shop remains very important. A landmark building in North Laine, this inadvertent tourist attraction is Aladdin’s cave of instruments and technology. “Everyone knows GAK as this guitar shop in the centre of Brighton, but a lot miss that there’s really good DJ section next door. We’ve also got a lovely digital piano store. Anything you need – we can get.” There’s a constant focus on keeping abreast of trends and innovations, particularly amongst the pro-audio equipment which is becoming increasingly cheaper and more accessible. DJ kit is one area rapidly evolving. On the day we speak, Pioneer released a game changing performance-orientated sampler. The line between performance and production gear becoming increasingly blurred.
Almost everything they stock is also available to schools, colleges and universities, at discounted prices through their GAK Education service. “It’s really good for us to help those guys out. Many of the brands we work with make some great education-focused products. For us we want to help service the local community.” For the last ten years, clients including Brighton’s Access To Music and BIMM along with their students are kept at the cutting-edge of an ever-changing, creative-industry.
To reach out to the wider musical community they work with manufacturers to run workshops and showcase events with famous artists and local talent. “We try and hold those events as often as possible. There’s always something going on, either in the in-store or in a local venue.” The personal touch and offering great customer care continues to be a vital component of what they do, from offering advice on set-ups to providing swift delivery options. “It’s becoming even more important to make sure your level of service is the best. Customers can contact us when they need to, and we will be responsive.” From families buying Christmas presents, to producers updating their studio, GAK appreciate everyone has individual needs and endeavours to make their musical experience as enjoyable as possible.
Both the shop and site are invaluable destinations for anyone wanting the best products from brands like Roland, Gibson, Fender, Yamaha, Korg, Pioneer and Native Instruments. They can also offer unparalleled information about studio monitoring, microphones, effects, caballing, speakers… even guitars. Everything has been founded on a musician’s love for music. “We always employ people who have a passion about music, so when they come to work they love what we’re selling. I don’t think I can name anyone in the company that doesn’t play or have a huge affinity with music. Perhaps we should all get together and a have a massive jam.”
The GAK audio store is at 76-82 North Rd, Brighton BN1 1YD