DJ equipment is in short supply. Consumers are reporting soaring prices and a lack of availability of controllers, turntables, monitors, and other products. Thousands of DJ equipment suppliers throughout the UK are experiencing shortages for two major reasons: the UK’s departure from the EU, and the pandemic. Each has caused catastrophic ripples throughout British supply chains, with shortages only raising the costs of remaining gear — and it’s looking like it may remain this way for the foreseeable future.
A recent report by DJ Tech Tools revealed that hundreds of products are currently in low supply or out of stock entirely, while prices soar on leftover gear due to higher labour costs. “There are a lot of reasons why labour prices are increasing - an ongoing pandemic, a labour shortage, local lockdowns, and many more. As labour costs go up, those increases can also feed back into component costs,” explained the new study.
DJ Tech Tools also pinned the cause of price increase and slower shipping times on overbooked ocean and air freight while many ports are currently congested, meaning products may arrive months late. “Events absolutely are not back at 100% of what they were pre-pandemic, and that has meant more careful purchasing by companies throughout the industry,” they reported, adding that Pioneer equipment prices have increased by around 2-4% in recent months.
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Steve Lee, Managing Director of Synthetic Pro Audio - a Nottingham-based Pioneer and Denon DJ store - told Mixmag about the challenges he’s faced in recent months: “Worldwide component shortages, shipping delays and shipping prices” have all played a role in stock shortages. Now, Brexit is taking a toll on the already existing issue, adding “more VAT and import duties along with extra lead time due to customs,” he said.
“At the start of the pandemic, we witnessed a major rise in sales which quickly left most products out of stock. The phone was ringing off the hook, and the email inbox was jammed as we waited for factories to reopen and ship products,” he told Mixmag. “Then at the turn of the year, a factory in Japan that manufactures the semiconductor chips supposedly burnt down, which is one of the only factories in the world to make them. So, as you can imagine, this is something the brands that we sell can do absolutely nothing about.”
According to several reports, a three-day fire broke out in the semiconductor factory that creates chips for both Pioneer and Denon equipment on October 20 of last year. “Many of your favourite consumer audio brands such as Denon, Marantz, Anthem, Onkyo and Monoprice use AKM DAC's in their AV receivers and processors. These aren't parts that can easily be swapped out for an alternative without a PWB level hardware change,” reported AV magazine Audioholics.
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Brendon Stead, VP of Product Development at Sound United reassured the magazine that they had stored enough parts to see them through the winter, and reminded Audioholics of Japan’s 2011 earthquake which caused similar devastation to equipment manufacturing, but “bounced back” very quickly. “We believe that level of resiliency is shared among our friends and colleagues at AKM and we look forward to them being operational in the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brexit has significantly affected shipping through the UK in recent months, now requiring manufacturers to traverse paperwork, VAT increases, import duties, and longer shipping times. “Brexit has been tough on everybody in this industry, and will always play a part in the future,” said Lee. “Our larger brands aren’t based in the UK - courier services during the beginning couldn’t keep up with the calls and invoicing which had people like myself on the phone for hours on hours while still waiting on invoices for the import duties.”
James Kane, an associate working on trade policy at the Institute For Government, says that it’s not quite as black and white as Brexit-based tariff laws, but argued that “so far as this is to do with tariffs, this issue will be permanent”, noting how this could become a long-term issue for trade after Brexit. “Before Brexit, the UK was part of the European Union’s Customs Union, which is where two or more countries share a common tariff as opposed to two individual tariffs. Without a common tariff, you can be liable to pay them on imports and goods wherever they’re from in the world,” he says.
Kane, who experts in UK tariffs and trade policy, also explains: “the other thing that’s driving up the prices of equipment at the moment is that even when a tariff is due, there’s still a lot more paperwork to fill out. This creates new costs where you now have to hire customs agents, it creates delays at the customs border, and therefore drives up the prices of equipment once it’s imported.”
Although Synthetic Pro Audio’s Steve Lee praises the industry’s ability to pull through such events and continue working at a rapid pace, he reiterates that these supply shortages have forced them “to focus more on partnerships" and to “double down on the community”. He adds that both himself and his team have been dealing with the problems by "keeping spirits high”, and “hosting in-store events and online streams along with open decks for the colleges and schools.”
As stocks start to pick up slowly, the supply chain still faces issues and might not see a full return to its pre-pandemic, pre-Brexit state for some time. “Some of the very popular products are still on backorders,” Lee said, although he’s hopeful for that to pick up again in the near future.
Find out more about DJ Tech Tools’ latest study here.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter