Strings of Investment Success

By Dave Winzelberg |  Jul 22, 2012

Passion, commitment to music education drives a family business.

Of the thousands of successful family businesses, few have such a long tradition of craftsmen as the D'Addarios, whose instrument strings dominate the global market.

D'Addario products date back to the 1600s, when DonatoD'Addario crafted lute strings from sheep and hog gut in the Italian province of Pescara. More than 10 generations later, the D'Addario family is still at the helm of the Long Island company, which now makes more than half of the world's strings and woodwind reeds and claims a 27 percent market share of drum heads and sticks.

D'Addario employs more than 900 people and took in $158 million in revenue last year, according to Music Trades magazine, a 12 percent increase over 2010. So just how is this family-owned company hitting all the right notes?

D'Addario has grown by acquiring a handful of smaller, instrument-related manufacturers in the last few years, which allowed it to diversify from strings to other musical accessories and broaden its market share.

But the real key to its success has been the D'Addarios' abiding commitment to supporting and advancing music education, to make sure there are plenty of musicians in the future that can one day become the company's customers.

D'Addario has given millions to support music education through its foundation and its lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. John D'Addario III serves on the board of the Music Achievement Council, which helps needy kids that wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity for a music education. The company leases some of its space to house a School of Rock, which gets discounted rent and plenty of free strings, cables and drum heads for their students, some of whom are D'Addario employees who want to learn how to play the instruments they have been making parts for.

D'Addario III said the efforts to boost music education and the staff's music-playing interests create crucial connections with the company's clientele. "It's fantastic," D'Addario said. "It helps keep them engaged with their ultimate customer."

DAVE WINZELBERG - David Winzelberg is an award-winning reporter who spent 20 years writing for the New York Times. He currently writes for Long Island Business News.

This article originally appeared on The Atlantic Online as part of the Investing In A Better Tomorrow program.

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