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Stuck Feinway


Joe Muscara

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Steinway & Sons Threatens Legal Action Against Owners of its Pianos

 

Here is the letter from Steinway Acting General Counsel Todd Brecher:

 

December 11, 2018

 

To whom it may concern,

As you may have heard, Steinway & Sons no longer licenses the use of its trademarks or logos (either past or present iterations thereof) to Decals Unlimited for the creation of decals for use on the soundboards and fallboards of Steinway pianos. There were many reasons for this decision, most notably the fact that these decals were being used on restored/rebuilt Steinway pianos that were being rebuilt without genuine Steinway soundboards or wrestplanks/pinblocks, and sometimes without a single genuine Steinway replacement part.

We have found that there is an enormous amount of misinformation on the differences between a genuine Steinway piano and an old Steinway rebuilt with non-Steinway parts on the web, in piano forums, and other places. This misinformation is often propagated by the very same rebuilders that are marketing and selling off the good name that Steinway has established for quality over the course of 165 years of building pianos. We cannot allow our company name (and reputation) to exist on a piano that looks brand new, but in many cases sounds nothing like a Steinway.

Effective immediately, it is no longer legally permissible to purchase Steinway decals for application on a Steinway piano through Decals Unlimited. In addition, Steinway has not authorized any other party to sell Steinway decals, and any such decals are considered counterfeit. Steinway will not be selling decals through our Parts Department or any other Steinway channel.

Furthermore, it is a violation of our trademark rights for someone to market or sell a restored/rebuilt piano as a Steinway piano unless: (A) the piano uses ONLY genuine Steinway replacement parts or (B) the non-Steinway replacement parts used are incidental to the function of the piano and any such non-Steinway parts used are specifically disclosed to the consumer. In either case, it must also be specifically and fully disclosed to the consumer that the piano has been rebuilt and by whom. Steinway & Sons takes its reputation and this matter very seriously, and will enforce our rights with respect to any pianos marketed or sold in violation of the above to the fullest extent of the law.

We are asking anyone who comes across a piano that they feel may be using counterfeit Steinway & Sons decals, or which is being marketed and sold as a Steinway piano in violation of our trademark rights to report the violation, including the piano and its location, by sending a message to violations@steinway.com. We have come across far too many purchasers of rebuilt Steinways that do not realize that the key components of that piano were not manufactured by Steinway & Sons, so we are taking these steps to better inform and protect the consumer. Thank you for your attention in this matter of great importance to our company.

Sincerely,

Todd Brecher

Acting General Counsel

Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc.

 

Imagine you owned a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro (I did once). Chevrolet says, "you can't call it a Chevrolet, Chevy, or anything else because you used non-Chevrolet parts. You can't even get emblems for it if you rebuild or repaint the body because we've stopped that, too." And they're asking that anyone that comes across a car like this being marketed and sold as a "Chevy" or "Chevrolet" to report it to them. :mad:

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Why this became an issue all of a sudden? Was Steinway just informed about non-Steinway parts? There are probably more Steinway pianos with after market parts than Steinway with all genuine parts. There are even MUSIC schools with such pianos. They've had them for many and many years and no body disclosed any information about any of this.

 

Shady businesses need to be punished but I don't see how this letter (the way it's written) can actually make a positive impact.

www.youtube.com/c/InTheMixReviews
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There are several rebuilding shops around the country filling a huge desire/need to have pre-1970s Steinways brought back to life - bodies sanded and refinished, new sound board, new tuning block, pins, sand blasted and painted harps with new labels/emblems.

 

This is total BS and I am sure they will fight it.

But they dont have the resources of Steinways backers.

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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There are several rebuilding shops around the country filling a huge desire/need to have pre-1970s Steinways brought back to life - bodies sanded and refinished, new sound board, new tuning block, pins, sand blasted and painted harps with new labels/emblems.

 

This is total BS and I am sure they will fight it.

But they dont have the resources of Steinways backers.

 

I dont see an issue with these rebuilders specifying which parts are non-Steinway on these pianos. Transparency is never bad, although sometimes it doesnt pay as much.

The fact there's a Highway To Hell and only a Stairway To Heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers

 

People only say "It's a free country" when they're doing something shitty-Demetri Martin

 

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I think they're just trying to cover themselves.

 

Imagine you buy a Roland synth-- or a Moog, Hammond, Yamaha, etc.-- from a dealer, not realizing that the dealer had removed a lot of its original parts for repairs or refurbishment, then replaced them with "equivalent" knock-off parts from third-party manufacturers. (And keep in mind how wildly the quality and reliability of even something as basic as a MIDI-to-USB adapter can vary from one manufacturer to the next.)

 

Sometime after you buy your Roland synth or whatever, it begins exhibiting numerous "issues," so you take it or ship it to your nearest official Roland/etc. service center. The next thing you know, they're calling you back to say that whatever's wrong with it isn't covered by warranty and is going to cost a lot of money to fix because there are all sorts of original parts that had been replaced by cheap and cruddy knock-off parts, which not only voids any warranty you thought you had, but also means the repair shop wants to replace the shoddy knock-off parts with Official Genuine Real McCoy Parts. Or maybe they just flat out refuse to do anything with it.

 

You would be understandably irate about it, and they would be understandably upset that some shady dealer had besmirched their good reputation by selling a product that looked like theirs but didn't actually contain their parts and labor.

 

To put it another way: How many official Moog parts do you have to replace in a Minimoog, using parts cannibalized from a Behringer Model D, before you no longer have a Minimoog?

 

Sure, it sounds officious and haughty and high-handed and just downright poopified-- but can you blame them? I'd imagine that as long as you don't ever try to sell your "altered" Steinway piano and advertise it as a "Steinway" that they would have no reason to come after you.

Michael Rideout
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Putting a Steinway name on a piano should be the same as saying a classic car has all original parts. I have no problem with what Steinway is doing.

 

There is a video on YouTube done by a guy who was screwed over when he bought a Corvette at an auction, because he later discovered it had a truck engine, not a Corvette engine. Do you think that is okay to hide that fact?

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To put it another way: How many official Moog parts do you have to replace in a Minimoog, using parts cannibalized from a Behringer Model D, before you no longer have a Minimoog?

 

I see your point but your analogy doesn't really work. Moog doesn't make the electronic components that make it a MiniMoog. Nor does Roland or afaik Behringer. They're generic parts and often made by multiple manufacturers. Is my Memorymoog no longer a Moog if I use the recently reissued equivalent CEM parts made by another manufacturer? What about recapping a power supply- do you have to use the exact same capacitors? Of course not but you do have to use equivalent parts. That's probably much easier to do with electronics than say replacing a sound board.

 

As mentioned there are also manufacturer approved processes that come into play for refurbing acoustic pianos unlike synthesizers.

 

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I have no problem with Steinway's position either. I see it as them simply protecting their brand. When you're the acknowledge superior product in a given market, it's necessary to do so. They have no way of knowing if the aftermarket parts are diminishing the sound of the product that bears their name.
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I suppose it really has to do with how they enforce it.

People clearly know when they buy a 70+ year old Steinway that its not a new Steinway. Also, reputable restoration outfits source new Steinway parts from Steinway - the exception being the soundboard which doesnt frequently need restoration, but can be replaced by matching Steinways specs. Sometimes where historical accuracy is the goal, Steinway might not even make the part any longer so you go to Renner or Bolduc. Does this imply that a Steinway logo and emblem cant be placed on a restored 1926 Grand M? When restoring a 1920s Ford Model T, I accept some parts need to be sourced or outright fabricated. But as the person funding the restoration, the goal is to have a 1926 Model T - logos and branding and all.

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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Fender and Gibson don't go after players who change out the pickups in their guitars, but they do go after counterfeiters of their guitars.

 

What do Steinway, Fender, and Gibson have in their legal warchest? TRADEMARKS. It is government protection of their logos that uniquely identify their products. Gibson and Fender own the trademark of their logo and the shape of their headstock. Steinway owns the trademark of their logo. All of these companies are legally entitled to decide who to license their trademark to.

 

Frankly I don't see anything wrong with Steinway's decision to cease supplying decals with their logos. They own the trademark and they are hardly the first company to enforce it.

 

I can see where Steinway is coming from. A piano is auctioned as a Steinway, but no one knows that the soundboard, pin block, et al are not genuine Steinway parts and can be inferior. There is a similar problem with Fender guitars on auction - very easy to swap a vintage Fender neck onto a counterfeit body/pickups, then sell it as a "vintage" guitar.

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As mentioned there are also manufacturer approved processes that come into play for refurbing acoustic pianos unlike synthesizers.

 

Actually not quite. There is a manufacturer approved selection process for the matching of transistors that go into VCOs in ARP synthesizers. That matching is critical for the expo conversion thus keeping the VCOs in tune. Oberheim SEMs and OBX needed factory matched OTAs for the SVF filters. That procedure is critical for keeping the resonance matched in a multiple voice poly synth.

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Id be pretty pissed if I found out that the Steinway I bought had Kimball tuning pins. In fact, Id call that fraud.

The fact there's a Highway To Hell and only a Stairway To Heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers

 

People only say "It's a free country" when they're doing something shitty-Demetri Martin

 

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To put it another way: How many official Moog parts do you have to replace in a Minimoog, using parts cannibalized from a Behringer Model D, before you no longer have a Minimoog?

 

I see your point but your analogy doesn't really work.

 

I see your point, but I couldn't resist the analogy. :)

Michael Rideout
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As mentioned there are also manufacturer approved processes that come into play for refurbing acoustic pianos unlike synthesizers.

 

Actually not quite. There is a manufacturer approved selection process for the matching of transistors that go into VCOs in ARP synthesizers. That matching is critical for the expo conversion thus keeping the VCOs in tune. Oberheim SEMs and OBX needed factory matched OTAs for the SVF filters. That procedure is critical for keeping the resonance

matched in a multiple voice poly synth.

 

True, there are exceptions to my generalized statement. Behringer also does make their own CEMs since they own Coolaudiio (that should give Mike's blood pressure a boost) . And of course various manufacturers "make" their own FPGAs and other custom parts.

 

If one repairs one's One with leaded solder does that make it less of a "real" Moog or closer to a vintage Moog? Btw I have several unused factory Moog stickers for sale.

 

:pop:

 

(Mike has left the room) :keys:

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It's because the money people own them now.... they don't understand art...they never do! Yes they are protecting their interests I suppose in a business model but at the expense of a certain type of unspoken 'class' I think that the old world had about things like this... and having worked in 'High Finance' for years....my guess is some VP or maybe from up higher in the chain of command wants to look good possibly... who knows for sure! But I think it's a low - class sort of move personally! Their product is number 1 in the world for chrissake!

 

SP6, CP-50, FP-80, PX5-S, NE-5d61, XK-3, CX-3, Yamaha YUX Upright, '66 B3/Leslie 145/122
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This may be a response to the success of the Wessell, Nickel, and Gross carbon fiber action parts which have had big success in the replacement action parts business. Rebuilders like them, players like them, and I'd bet they hurt Steinway financially since Steinway does not have the technology to compete with W,N,&G .
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I think that this is good brand management on the part of Steinway. If it has a Steinway label on it, they want to assure that it performs.

 

I'm afraid that if you own a Steinway, you have to be able to afford it.

 

It is possible to get replacement parts that exceed the quality of original, but how would you really know? In the electronics world, it is (usually) easy to replace with equal or better quality components. But in the mechanical world of acoustic pianos, you would need to have access to Steinway's drawings and material specs, etc to have confidence.

 

The comparison to cars is apt. My Honda got rear-ended a few years ago. They replaced fenders, etc with non-Honda parts, which didn't fit right and rusted early.

 

All a moot point to me, I will never be able to afford a Steinway.

Yamaha Motif XF6, Yamaha AN200, Alesis Micron, Sonar X3, Arturia Microbrute, Behringer Model D, Yamaha UX-3 Acoustic Piano, assorted homemade synth modules
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Hmm I gotta wonder -- would Steinway change their approach if they started seeing a lot of customized/relabeled Steinways on TV? If the decal now says "Goff Professional" or "Ronald," it sees to me that their brand would suffer more.

-Tom Williams

{First Name} {at} AirNetworking {dot} com

PC4-7, PX-5S, AX-Edge, PC361

 

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I think the classic car analogy is a good one. I have one with more severe implications. The company I work for sued and won against a remanufacturer. They would pick up failed devices, do repairs and sell them at a large discount. The problem is that these devices go into hazardous locations that need to have approvals to go into those areas. Once a repair is made by somebody other than us, it no longer meets approvals, yet they didn't remove the approval tags. So to somebody installing it, it looked no different than if it had come from us. If there was an explosion and people were killed, it might look like our device was responsible even though it had been repaired by somebody else. They can still do repairs, but they now have to remove the tags and sell into general purpose areas only.

 

Now granted, a Steinway with 3rd party parts isn't going to kill somebody. But if the performance is sub-par, that reflects badly on the brand.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I agree with Steinways actions on this, but I dont think the classic car analogy is very accurate. It boils down to whether the brand has been diminished. Steinway pianos, old or new, serve the same purpose. Whether played, or just used as furniture to show off, an older Steinway is generally held to the same standards as a new one. A classic car, like a vintage Model A or T, is not intended to be used the same way as a new Mustang. If a vintage Ford is not original, or has been modified, I dont see that as hurting Fords brand.
I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
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I agree with Steinways actions on this, but I dont think the classic car analogy is very accurate. It boils down to whether the brand has been diminished. Steinway pianos, old or new, serve the same purpose. Whether played, or just used as furniture to show off, an older Steinway is generally held to the same standards as a new one. A classic car, like a vintage Model A or T, is not intended to be used the same way as a new Mustang. If a vintage Ford is not original, or has been modified, I dont see that as hurting Fords brand.

 

True. Maybe a better analogy is if you take your new Ford for the dealer for a repair and they use a cheap aftermarket part and bill you for the Ford part. You keep having problems and taking it back, and tell all of your friends not to buy the Ford when the problem is the dealer putting in cheap parts and pocketing the difference.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Where the issue comes up with classic cars, there are some nefarious people who will take a basic on-descript '68 Camaro, and "restomod" it with whatever they can find to make a it Z/28 or adn RS/SS... no problem. The issue is they will create a fake cowl tag to make someone think they found an original.

 

Not knowing the car began as a base Camaro, etc....

 

I've run into this a bunch when showing my '67 Camaro at shows.

 

Someone will show me a "numbers matching" all original '69 Camaro. "Wow! Those subframe connectors must have been a really rare option....." I will say. :)

 

It's cool they added those, but don't misrepresent the car.

David

Gig Rig:Roland Fantom-08| Yamaha MODX+ 6 | MacBook Pro 14" M1| Mainstage

 

 

 

 

 

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