Picture this: it’s 1962. Andy Warhol is tearing up the art scene, James Bond is making his first foray into cinema stardom. And while both the Beatles and Bob Dylan have their first vinyl records pressed, Hans Thomann, third of the Thomann family’s five children, enters the world in idyllic Treppendorf.
60 years on, he’s the successful CEO of a flourishing family company which had started as a small music shop in the parental farm house. By 2022, Musikhaus Thomann has risen to the rank of one of the world’s largest MI mail order businesses while still being based in the same village of 200 souls in Upper Franconia.
But who actually is Hans Thomann? First of all, he’s a man we all simply know as “Hans”, but whose actual name is “Johann” – as was his father’s and grandfather’s before. That Hans /Johann (Junior) were one and the same person used to cause regular confusion – and amusement – in the past, especially when he was travelling together with his father, Hans/Johann (Senior)!
Not every international business partner immediately understood this German oddity – namely, that “Hans” can be a proper first name as well as a nickname for people called “Johann”.
Following the tracks …
A small, cozy office in Treppendorf. The interior design screams 1970s. Innumerable black-and-white photos cover the walls. Stacks of boxes with decades-old receipts and purchasing contracts. All of these are memories, testimony and traces of past events, without which there wouldn’t be what there is today. Hans Thomann Senior, the father and founder of the music store, kept everything in his old office.
The pictures and papers prove once thing most of all: success follows a dream, a vision. And this success has endured for years and decades, thanks to continuous commitment, business sense, and patience. Trust, courage and heart are some further ingredients in this special admixture which makes all this possible. A look back into the past leads us to the foundation of this musical success story.
The first receipt …
Many may have asked themselves this question: what was the first instrument that Hans Thomann ever sold in his shop? Hans himself can’t even remember – a lot of time has passed since, after all.
But Thomann’s bookkeeping department can provide some answers. We can at least submit the following documents: Hans signed his first receipt in his parent’s shop when he was just eight or nine years old. He issued the first contract when he was a mere 14.
The store: always at the heart of everything …
The store has always played a special part in the life of the family; especially for Hans. Whenever an unknown car stopped out in front, it may have been a customer, after all. So even as a six-year-old, Hans would immediately go over to the brand new main building of the store which boasted 150 square metres of sales floor on the family land.
Advising musicians, demonstrating instruments, setting up sheet music stands – the shop is Hans’ early purpose in life. Working on the farm, helping customers, and then working on the accounts in his father’s office late into the evening – this kept family busy around the clock, and Junior was in the thick of it. Even Sundays were days for delivering brass instruments to local ensembles – family outings of a special kind.
Hard work and diligence characterised the daily work. The father, Hans Thomann Senior, was keen to make sure that the children would stay grounded and humble even as the business grew more and more successful. He had a significant influence on his offspring, imparting to them values and principles. Hans has inherited his father’s business sense, good nature, and foresight. And his sense for the importance of trust.
He remembers a special event in 1977. A young man back then, he bought new and exclusive amps from an Italian manufacturer. He was convinced of the products’ superior qualities. The purchase from the Italian representative turned out to be more expensive than was usual for the store, but Hans Thomann Senior did not hold his son back. Thanks to skilful negotiating, the latter had gotten a good deal in his bold purchase.
“My father said. Hans! Can we really sell all that? Are you sure?” Hans Thomann remembers. “I assured him that it wouldn’t be a problem!” – and Junior would be proven right. He sold all the amps without any problems. This was a success that was possible at least in part because Hans has a knack for knowing what musicians want, what excites them.
Customer loyalty from the start …
Hans cultivates this close connection to the customers to this day, along with a respectful manner of dealing with them. The individual customer’s wishes and needs always come first. If a customer is unhappy or complains, Hans often gets in touch with them himself to remove dissonance diplomatically, and to find a solution.
He also sets great story by how customers are welcomed to the store – first impressions count, after all. Whenever his busy schedule allows him to do so, he takes time for guests in Treppendorf; for example, he’ll show them around the campus in person or join them for lunch in “t.kitchen”, the company canteen
He’s also always available to his employees, whatever they may wish to talk about –this may be in a quick chat in the admin building’s hallways or at the monthly round table in the canteen. Hans is always approachable; he seeks out conversations with the staff and is keen to exchange views.
Music and craftsmanship …
Only very few people know that Hans completed vocational trainings in two manual professions, not clerical ones, from age 15 on. He apprenticed both as a brass instrument builder and as a precision technician. He used to repair electronic parts of amps, organs and synthesizers in his dad’s workshop – sometimes until deep into the night. “I also did custom designs and modifications, e.g. of multicores for production,” enthuses Hans.
This is also how Thomann began to launch its own-brand lines, which are a bedrock of Thomann’s reputation to this day. “I just refused to accept that we couldn’t make stuff like that available to musicians for less than 200 or 300 DM. More affordable had to be possible in some way,” Hans explains. This special service becomes known through the grapevine – and significantly contributes to the company’s success.
Hans wanted to make music accessible to everyone, mainly through good products at good prices. This is what he still stands for. And the customers knew even back then: Hans is one of them, someone who understand them. A man with music in his blood.
A passion for life …
Music – a passion that endures: Hans took his first steps into the world of music at the tender age of seven. The child makes the man, after all. He inherited is father’s love for music form the cradle, so to speak: the father taught all his children an instrument at a young age. Later, they would go on to play together in the “Ebrachtaler Musikanten,” an ensemble from nearby Burgebrach.
It all started with the Bb horn, and further instruments would follow; today, Hans is learning to play the drums, for example. And along with the passion for yoga that he shares with his wife, he has also started to play the guitar with her during the Corona pandemic.
His personal taste in music remains very varied. To demonstrate stereo sets, he used to pump up the volume on “Level 42” in the 1980s. This band’s special sound and bass particularly underlined the set’s strengths. Today, he listens to many kinds of music, depending on his mood. Classical, jazz, blues, or rock – Hans prefers not to follow a single furrow. He feels happy and at home in every genre, and he finds something he likes and appreciates in all styles of music.
Digital Pioneer …
Let’s jump forward in time to 1996. “Take That“, the British pop act, announce they’re splitting up. And as the world loses one of the greatest hip hop legends ever in the US rapper Tupac Shakur, and bands such as “Linkin Park” and “Coldplay” form, Musikhaus Thomann raises the standard of the digital revolution in the Franconian countryside. The “internet” as arrived in quaint little Treppendorf.
Without Hans Thomann, the go-ahead signal for thomann.de, one of the largest and best-stocked webstores worldwide today, would never have been given. Quick to act, the company was a trailblazer in music retail – one of the first MI stores to exist in the world wide web anywhere.
Surely, Hans must have had concerns and moments of doubt. After all, he had only taken over the company’s management from his father six years before, in 1990. And the internet was terra incognita for most back then.
At trade shows at the time, Hans spread the word of his website, a brand-new channel for online MI orders and larger-scale mail order business. This sounded outlandish to people, since information was exchanged almost exclusively in personal encounters back then. Trade shows had a certain importance: they were the hubs of the industry and the prime source of information on what was going on.
Thus, the shaking heads at the shows. “Musicians try out instruments they want to buy in the store, not at home!” – this is what people overwhelmingly believed. But Hans would be proven right yet again. The internet with all its possibilities helped the company grow at an astonishing rate. Hans’ foresight and his courage to take unprecedented steps paid off in spades. A true milestone in the company’s history.
By the way: the first instrument that left the warehouse in Treppendorf, Franconia, on an online order was a fender guitar for DM 1,000, which was sent to Sweden.
Back to the Future …
How quickly time passes… from 1962 to 2022. Six decades of Hans Thomann – a musical journey through history. We, the Thomann staff in Treppendorf, congratulate you cordially and extend our thanks to a visionary of the music industry and an enthusiast like no other.
Since 1966, much has changed, but throughout the 25 years of Hans’ work one objective has been ever-present and remains so: making the company fit for the future. Hans Thomann ploughs every bit of profit back into the business.
Large-scale projects are being realized in Treppendorf. The shop is being updated step by step; the sales floor will significantly increase over the coming years. A third admin building has just been ceremonially put into operation. At the same time, building work continues apace in the warehouse and logistics department; a third high-bay warehouse with about 40,000 pallet slots is being built. Likewise, a multi-storey car park for customers and employees is about to be opened.
And another anniversary is approaching: in 2024, Musikhaus Thomann will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding. And from what we know about Hans and his drive, his passion for music and the company, he would surely love to shape the destiny of his company for another 60 years! From our heart, we hope that at least a good part of this wish will come true.
Thank you, Hans! Your passion remains, as it has always been, an inspiration. Without you, Thomann just wouldn’t be Thomann. Keep on rockin’!