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The Evolution of Mally Productions
This busness was started on the 8th of July 1985 with no money, no business acumen, no computer skills, no sales techniques, no premises and, with hindsight, barely any knowledge of tuning or Squeezeboxes. The only favourable skill I possessed was a reasonably proficiency on the D/G melodeon but again, with hindsight, not as good as I thought. If I had known at the time the long tortuous journey that lay ahead, I would have been sorely tempted to bail out right there and then.
The business was named Dave Mallinson Accordeons and I had principally intended to be tuning and repairing piano accordions and melodeons; as it turned out I never did a single full tune. I had secured a government grant to help out financially while I got through the first vulnerable year. I was also doing as many gigs as I could. After paying household bills, all the money went into the business, I just drew £10 a week for spends. The business has certainly had its ups and downs since those early days but I've never had the slightest inclination to pack it in and get a job.
I'd do anything to make a few quid.
A photograph taken for advertising a children's party act called Uncle Roy and Lord Mally.
I had my first big break on the evening before the business officially started. I was leaving a launch seminar to do with the grant when one of the staff inquired as to what my business involved. After mentioning tuning melodeons and playing gigs she said "Will you also be giving lessons?" I told her it wasn't economically possible because melodeon players were too thin on the ground. No sooner had I said this when I was hit by what seemed like a brilliant idea, lessons by post. It doesn't seem much but this idea has been the biggest influence by far in shaping the business to what it is today.
I set to writing lessons on a crappy old typewriter and advertising them, along with the fact that I did tuning work in Folk Roots etc.. I did a lot of small repairs and got a few takers for the lessons which were posted every fortnight. It wasn't long before I realised that I was a long way from making a living. I thought "how can these postal lessons give me some sort of reasonable return?" The aswer was obvious - make them into a book. I bought a photo copier and book binder and spent many a long hour making the books myself. Another good idea with lots of flaws because, due to the amount of through-put, the machine was constantly breaking down. Eventually, I scraped enough money together to have the books (which had now grown to seven) professionally printed and 'Absolute Beginners' was born. There were also more advanced books in the series which was called 'Mally's Melodeon Methods.' Even now, Absolute Beginners is still going strong. Soon I am hoping soon to update and and re-typeset the book.
During this period I was also building up a sales side to the business. I managed to persuade Hohner to give me an account. I started selling melodeons from my tiny little one-up-one-down house. I converted the bedroom into a showroom, wrote books, repaired instruments, packed the mail, lived, cooked, ate and slept in my one downstairs room.
Beavering away on some reed blocks.
In 1987, I had stalls at Holmfirth and Cleethorpes folk festivals. Realising I needed to do more I soon added many other festivals such as Redcar, Darlington Spring Thing, Rochester Sweeps, The National, Sidmouth, Broadstairs, Whitby and Fylde to my round. I added other publisher's books to my catalogue. Deciding that Dave Mallinson Accordeons was rather limiting I changed the name to Dave Mallinson Music.
Cleethorpes Folk Festival: My second stall.
After Mally's Melodeon Methods were printed, I soon realised the full potential of writing books so I produced Mally's Cotswold Morris Books and Carolyn Wade edited Mally's North West Morris Book. I bought some fancy art pens and a drawing board, we painstakingly copied out the music by hand and I recorded the tunes. The whole project took eighteen long months to complete but it was worth it. I sent a mail shot all my customers and immediately had a massive 33% response; many purchasing two or all three books. After this success, I was encouraged to produce more books so I wrote the series Instant Tin Whistle, again by hand. Sales of this series has been tremendous, over thirty thousand copies sold.
Whitby a year or two later - the stall's improving.
In 1989, I bought an Atari computer to find out what it could do for me. I soon moved to the Apple Macintosh bringing the publishing out of the stone age.
In 1990, I took on a partner and opened a large shop. Things grew and grew. We had a full time tuner, shop manager, several staff, part time repairers etc.. Soon another shop in East Anglia was opened. The festival round increased to almost fifty stalls one year. We took on extra premises across the alley and started a wholesale division called Musette Distribution. This later became DMP. The name Dave Mallinson Publications was used for the publishing section. We launched a record label called Punch with an album from harmonica player Brendan Power, bought Redwing Strings and Festival Records. Meanwhile, I managed to write the Mally Presents series of Irish session tunes; another success. We were now taking on books from other writers, one of the first, and a big seller, was Karen Tweed's Irish Choice. The finished format was to become the basis for several more books in a similar vein.
A session with Karen Tweed outside our massive stall at Sidmouth.
Things had reached dizzy heights!
Unfortunately, things things weren't going as well as we thought. In October 1994, I did a thorough study of the business's financial situation and spotted, just in time, that we were only days away from bankruptcy. A week or so later and we wouldn't have survived. We had bought far too much stock for the major summer festivals. I cut overheads to the bone, staff had to leave, there was no money to pay them. Luckily, although the business had no cash, there was plenty of stock and we just managed to pay our creditors before they pulled the plug on us.
In 1997, I was extremely pleased to get an offer for the Cleckheaton shop. We sold out. The Music Room came into being and became a roaring success. If it's traditional instruments, melodeon repairs etc. you are looking for why not pay them a visit. Great, our best customer was only ten strides away from the warehouse. Soon the East Anglia shop was sold also and is now called PJ Music. Everything was great again, I had the business exactly where I wanted it. However, I was still to be dealt another cruel blow. In 1998 my partner emigrated to Ireland and at the turn of the century the partnership was dissolved. The business has now come full cycle and I'm on my own again, with a little help from my friends. Great!.
On April fools day 2000 mally.com was born and the name soon changes to Mally Productions.
Unfortunately The Music Room closed in 2015, but never mind, things are still going well. In 2018, after five years of intense work, I published two new melodeon tutor books complete with accompanying soundtracks. Great for melodeon enthusiasts an fantastic for me as I learned such an enormous amount writing them.