Italy's Accordion Industry: Tiny And Thriving. Osso will love this one.

Mon 9 Jan, 2012 10:01 am
Osso will love this one. BBB

Italy's Accordion Industry: Tiny And Thriving
by Christopher Livesay
Morning Edition

Italy's famed accordion industry has all the business it wants — but there are limits to its ambitions.

PHOTOS: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/09/144809351/italys-accordion-industry-tiny-and-thriving

Italy's famed accordion industry has all the business it wants — but there are limits to its ambitions.

More than 70 percent of Italy's gross domestic product comes from small businesses — and they're not growing. Economists are worried this will make it impossible for Italy to climb out of its massive $2.6 trillion debt.

Even in a global economy, something as small as Italy's accordion industry can have an impact. The work of its craftsmen has reached millions of ears.

For instance, the accordion you hear in The Decemberists' "Mariner's Revenge Song" was handmade in the central Italian town of Castelfidardo, where seaside workshops helped pioneer the modern squeezebox 150 years ago.

Today, the likes of Bjork, Calexico and Gogol Bordello come to the town for what's considered the Ferrari of accordions.

"It's a very special job," says Genuino Baffetti, who runs the Dino Baffetti accordion company. "It takes passion to want to make the best accordions."

The air inside Baffetti's workshop is thick with sawdust and glue. At one end of the shop, a worker adjusts some out-of-tune reeds.
Italy's accordion industry has attracted new customers, but most of its companies want to stay small.
Enlarge Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

Italy's accordion industry has attracted new customers, but most of its companies want to stay small.

Baffetti says the instruments are made pretty much the same as when his father began making accordions 60 years ago. Back then, they were not novelties in popular music — for proof, just look at a clip from Lawrence Welk's old primetime TV show.

Back then, business was booming in Castelfidardo. The town was home to some 3,000 accordion makers; it dominated the global market.

But then, something happened: The electric guitar, and the rise of rock and roll, reshaped the accordion market in the 1950s and 60s. Before the electric guitar, the town sold around 200,000 accordions a year. Today, it's just 20,000 — a 90 percent plunge.

Beniamino Bugiolacchi directs Castelfidardo's accordion museum.

"The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley, perhaps for the better, changed musical tastes," Bugiolacchi says.

But you can't blame it all on rock and roll, says Michel Martone, Italy's newly appointed deputy labor minister.

"We need to globalize more," Martone says. "We need to open up our country. We need to face the globalization time."

Martone points out that the accordion didn't disappear after the 1950s. Many people still play it. But there's been a huge market shift. China now manufactures most of the world's low-cost accordions.

The businesses in Castelfidardo that used to make them are long gone. The companies that are left are mostly tiny firms that focus on high-end instruments. Some accordions made here go for as much as $50,000.

That means small-business owners like Baffetti can make a pretty decent living.

"It's been our goal to grow, but slowly, in order to keep quality high. If quality drops, then we've missed the point," he says. "Our company makes 180-200 accordions in one month. If for some reason we got 250 orders, that would be difficult, if not impossible to do. So sometimes, we turn down requests when business is too good."

That's great for Baffetti, Martone says, but it's a big problem for the economy as a whole. If small businesses don't do more to grow, then it will be hard for the entire country to compete globally.

"We have a problem in Italy. It's the country of many, many little things, very well done. That's the [greatness] of Italy. But that's also our problem," Martone says. "We don't have the big stuff, the big things you need in a global time. That's the big problem of Castelfidardo... if you are [excellent] in something, you need to sell it all over the world."

That doesn't mean that quality has to suffer, he says. Martone wants niche manufacturers to band together the way Italy's giant fashion industry did decades ago. Once-boutique companies like Prada and Ferragamo today bring in billions of euros for the Italian economy.

But until more small companies do the same, economists worry that things in Castelfidardo — and the rest of Italy — will stay out of tune with the global economy.
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 2,012 • Replies: 3
Topic Closed
No top replies

Tue 19 Sep, 2023 06:23 am
Good read, thank you for sharing.
Wed 20 Sep, 2023 09:13 pm
Would love to know about the history of Italy and accordion, while munching down pizza.
Thu 21 Sep, 2023 04:21 am
This thread is over 10 years old, and the OP has passed away.
0 Replies

Related Topics

Rockhead's Music Thread - Discussion by Rockhead
What are you listening to right now? - Discussion by Craven de Kere
WA2K Radio is now on the air - Discussion by Letty
Classical anyone? - Discussion by JPB
Ship Ahoy: The O'Jays - Discussion by edgarblythe
Evolutionary purpose of music. - Discussion by jackattack
Just another music thread. - Discussion by msolga
An a2k experiment: What is our favorite song? - Discussion by Robert Gentel
THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED . . . - Discussion by Setanta
Has a Song Ever Made You Cry? - Discussion by Diest TKO
  1. Forums
  2. » Italy's Accordion Industry: Tiny And Thriving. Osso will love this one.
Copyright © 2023 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.06 seconds on 09/27/2023 at 09:48:39