Chimes Music

Music Shop

Chimes is a small, independently run family business which has been trading now for over 60 years; an establishment providing great services to a range of musicians in London. They pride themselves on their customer service and ability to help and guide musicians/ teachers and music lovers, to what they might need. There are two main shops across London, in Kensington near the Royal College of Music and Royal Albert Hall, and one in the Barbican close to the Guildhall School of Music.

They have one of the largest sections of printed music in the country, as well as books, instruments, and accessories for all musicians from the absolute beginner to the concert professional. Their mail order service means music can be sent to you, wherever you are in the world. It is run by Natalie/Lara/Rose and a team of specialist staff, all with musical backgrounds and expertise.

The shop was started by Tony in 1974 after graduating from the Royal Academy of Music. He started by converting the basement of his father’s newsagent shop in South Kensington into a small music shop. By 1976 Tony was able to move into his own premises just down the road, which became the Kensington Chimes Shop and in 1985 he opened a shop in the Barbican.

Chimes is now run by Natalie, his daughter and Lara manages Kensington Chimes and Rose manages Barbican Chimes. They both run a specialist team, all music graduates from Bristol, Goldsmith’s, Trinity College, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Music. The team has a wide range of knowledge and expertise; among them are pianists, singers, string, woodwind and brass players.

Let’s meet a few of the staff:

Studied at Cheetham’s School of Music in Manchester. She then studied Music at Bristol University and did a Postgraduate course in Performance at the Royal College of Music. She has taught and performed in the UK and spent a couple of years in Greece playing in the Athens State Symphony Orchestra. On her return to the UK, Lara continued with performing and teaching and has been the Manager of Kensington Chimes for many years now, starting her work at the shop in 1999!

Studied English and Music at Sheffield University. She plays guitar and bass and now teaches the guitar to children and adults. Jem is in a band and is currently learning all about music production, perhaps with a view to a career in this one day.

Is another very long-standing Chimes staff member. She has worked in various Chimes branches for more than 15 years. Laura studied for a BA in Music at Bristol University, majoring in musicology and music composition. She is a Woodwind specialist with an interest in early music (oboe and recorder). Laura is also a brilliant artist!

Studied for a master’s degree in vocal performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with a focus on contemporary music. She currently works as a freelancer and teaches singing and piano and combines this with working for us part-time on our marketing and social media. Patricia also plays violin/viola, piano and French horn and is currently playing the banjo for fun!

"Coming to a music shop is all part of an 'experience' for the customer rather than simply buying music that is needed."

Let’s meet Natalie.

How did you start being involved with Chimes?

My involvement at Chimes begins as far back as when I was a little girl and would go with my Father to help him with bookstalls he did at different events, to represent the shop. I loved helping but never thought it would become a job in adult life.
It happened slightly by accident as I became more involved in 2018 when I was helping on the business website. I realised how much I enjoyed it and then this quickly turned into me working part-time for the shop. My Father wanted to retire but still have a grasp of what was going on in the shop. It seemed like a great opportunity to keep the legacy of Chimes going.

What do you enjoy most about running Chimes?

The variety of the job. I was working as a teacher prior to this, and it is true that in that profession, you use many different skills daily and no one day is the same. However, with Chimes, I have never turned my hand to so many different things – helping customers, advising them on orders, processing orders, website work, future development of the business, marketing/ promotion, money saving strategies, liaising with suppliers, and looking after staff. I love the variety and meeting new people and working in music, which I am passionate about.

What is the secret to your success as a business?

The most important thing has been employing experienced musicians who are extremely loyal and committed to the business. In addition, building up a very loyal customer base including individuals, schools, opera companies and choirs etc. My Father has made the business a success since he was a trained musician himself and by establishing a wide variety of contacts in the music world. We are dedicated to the world of music and as the company moves forward, being able to move with the times and quickly adapt the business to the ever-changing climate has been vital.

What is your advice for someone who is passionate about wanting to run their own music shop and wants to pursue this as a career?

Starting a music shop now as a career is not easy particularly with the online competition with Amazon and other retailers and the availability of downloads as opposed to old-fashioned sheet music. However, there will always be a place for music shops as making music for children/students/professionals and bringing joy to people’s lives. Even with the online competition, there is still a place for a physical shop for customers to browse sheet music and try out instruments. Coming to a music shop is all part of an ‘experience’ for the customer rather than simply buying music that is needed.

Find out more at Chimes