The Seattle Times Company

NWjobs | NWautos | NWhomes | NWsource | Free Classifieds |

Business / Technology

Our network sites | Advanced

Originally published Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM


Some Nordstrom stores discontinue live piano players

Say it ain't so. Some Nordstrom department stores are discontinuing their live piano notes in favor of commercially recorded music piped...

Seattle Times business reporter

Say it ain't so.

Some Nordstrom department stores are discontinuing their live piano notes in favor of commercially recorded music piped in over speakers.

Nordstrom's store at Bellevue Square recently did away with its pianist, and the Alderwood mall store in Lynnwood will soon follow suit, said company spokeswoman Brooke White.

Apparently, some shoppers prefer popular tunes by the likes of Bob Dylan, Alicia Keys and Frank Sinatra to the jazz and Broadway standards that pianists have been performing in Nordstrom stores for 20 years.

"We know there's a nostalgic value to the piano, and some customers love it. But some don't. They just feel the piano is outdated," White said. "It's a difficult line to walk. We know we're going to disappoint some people."

The Bellevue Square store introduced live piano music in the early 1980s, and before long, pianists became a fixture in Nordstrom stores nationwide. As recently as five years ago, three-fourths of Nordstrom stores featured live pianists, compared with half of the company's 101 stores today, White said.

The decline occurred as stores began playing commercially recorded music overhead, and "customers responded really well to it," she said.

Nordstrom's three newest stores, in the Detroit area, Denver and Natick, Mass., opened this year without pianists. And by next year, three of five Nordstrom stores in Oregon will go without live piano performances. White noted that most Nordstrom pianists in Washington state play for no more than five hours daily.

Still, doing away with live piano music is a store-by-store decision and not part of some directive by Seattle headquarters, she said. Nordstrom stores in downtown Seattle, Tukwila and Tacoma are keeping their pianists, for now.

That's some consolation to Joel Baker, who played the piano at the Tukwila store from 1988 to 2003. He described it as one of the few daytime jobs for pianists that paid well — $15 an hour in his last year — and offered such benefits as a 401(k) and health insurance.

"Once in a while, a shopper would sit by the piano, or say they really liked a tune when I didn't think anyone was listening," said Baker, 40, who now performs at restaurants in Palm Springs, Calif. "I don't think the shoppers were going in just to hear the music, but I do think the piano was one of the things that made Nordstrom unique."

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

More Business & Technology headlines...

Print      Share:    Digg     Newsvine


UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case

UPDATE - 09:32 AM
Bank stocks push indexes higher; oil prices dip

UPDATE - 08:04 AM
Ford CEO Mulally gets $56.5M in stock award

UPDATE - 07:54 AM
Underwater mortgages rise as home prices fall

NEW - 09:43 AM
Warner Bros. to offer movie rentals on Facebook