Our partner Mark O'Connor from EPG/Steinway Australia is gearing up to transport their magnificent pianos to some of the billetors homes so that the pianists can practice in style, when they aren't competing on stage 5 - 10 September.
Profile: Mark O’Connor
EARLY LOVE OF THE KEYS UNLOCKS A SUCCESSFUL MUSIC CAREER
Growing up in a low-income household in outer suburban Melbourne, Mark O’Connor clearly remembers his first experience on a keyboard – an electric organ bought by his grandmother when he was 11.
Enchanted by the feel of the keys beneath his fingers, Mark spent hours at the organ teaching himself how to play.
“Not long after, I was with my family at the Royal Melbourne Show and sat down at the Brashs’ music stand and played an organ,” Mark recalls.
Salesman Keith Searle, who worked as a music teacher, was amazed to learn Mark was self taught and offered him free lessons if the family bought a keyboard. His father agreed, the lessons continued for years and 35 years later, Keith remains a family friend.
Mark continued to play and improve and at age 14, with the permission of his parents and school, started playing professionally, belting out tunes such as Rhythm of Life, Fame, Misty and Hey Jude during in-store piano demonstrations at Brashs in Northland Shopping Centre on Friday nights. Up to 100 people would gather to watch him play.
Those early experiences set Mark on a journey that recently earned him the right to represent top luxury piano brand, Steinway & Sons, in Australia, as chief executive officer of Exclusive Piano Group and Steinway Galleries Australia.
But Mark has always worked hard to achieve his goals.
“I started working a paper round when I was 11 to earn money, but I had severe asthma growing up and was warned that I would never hold down a nine-to-five job,” Mark said. “My father helped me start fitness and nutrition campaigns to overcome the asthma and prove the doctors wrong.”
The effort paid off and Mark went on to earn a black belt in karate and a karate instructors’ licence. He won two gold medals in his division in state-wide karate championships.
But music is his great love and throughout the 1980s, Mark played and sang in bands, holding residencies in venues in St Kilda and Collingwood for several years.
He honed his sales and management skills working for high-profile music businesses including the Brash Group and Allan’s Music – including a stint as the youngest ever store manager of the Allan’s Collins Street store – before setting up Exclusive Piano Group with transport magnate Lindsay Fox in 2008.
“Having an opportunity to partner with Lindsay Fox in a Steinway & Sons business has been a huge highlight and very exciting,” he said.
“Steinway & Sons pianos are the best pianos ever made and nothing else comes close. The emphasis on design and minimising vibration loss in the design of a Steinway is amazing. Once you have the information on what makes a Steinway different and can identify the sound compared to other pianos, you realise how much of a compromise every other piano is.”
While Mark names Fox as an important mentor, he says his biggest hero was closer to home.
“My Dad left work early to care for my sick mother, struggled financially his whole life as a result but always did his best to take care of the family,” he said. “I wouldn’t have achieved any of this without him.”
Mark’s top 10 tips for selling a prestige product:
- Never assume or pre-judge people.
- Never promise something you can’t deliver.
- Always deliver on what you promise.
- Always be honest.
- Don’t attempt to answer a question if you are not sure of the answer.
- Always be respectful.
- Put all details of customer negotiations in writing.
- Try to remember people’s names
- Always follow up with customers after a sale.
- Never compromise on presentation.
In December 2014, Mark O’Connor was made CEO of Exclusive Piano Group and the company earned the national rights to distribute Steinway & Sons pianos in Australia.
In the music industry, Steinway pianos are considered “the Rolls Royce” of pianos – each taking up to a year to create and priced up to $285,000 – the Steinway is a favourite of pianists the world over, including stars Harry Connick junior, Diana Krall and Billy Joel. Among the Steinway artists are the cream of Australia’s professional musicians and young, up-and-coming classical artists, while Steinway concert grands can be found in many Australian institutions, such as universities, arts centres and performance venues.
The Chief Executive Officer of Exclusive Piano Group and Steinway Galleries Australia, Mark O’Connor, said the business was delighted to have the national distributorship, expanding on its role as the agent for Steinway & Sons in Victoria, South Australia and the ACT, which it has held since 2008.