Some Benefits of a ``Commission-Free`` Store

A safe place to shop for your next violin, viola, cello, or upright bass

Peace of Mind

As you tell us what you are interested in, and we share advice and make recommendations, you don’t have to have that nagging thought in the back of your mind, “I wonder if he’s recommending that particular instrument because he makes a bigger commission when it sells?”

Living Wage

Our employees and owners are able to earn a living wage (rather than being paid a very low salary and then have to make big sales to earn commissions). While no one here is independently wealthy, that’s OK. Some things in life are more important, and even more valuable, than money.

We Love Music

Would you rather purchase an instrument from someone who is motivated to sell instruments primarily for money, or is passionate about music?

We Love Children

Children are the future. If they are not inspired to want to experience music for themselves, music will cease to exist. We are passionate about instilling the love for music into the next generation – and not being focused on getting a commission when making a sale enables us to focus on what really matters.
This is not a lucrative line of a business, but, when done right — with hard work and a goal of customer satisfaction — it can pay the bills and provide an honest living.

Chris Clark (co-owner)

One thing we know about stringed instruments and school rentals is that this type of work is not lucrative. Sure, when done right — with hard work and a goal of customer satisfaction — it can pay the bills and provide a living, but you’ll never see this type of business featured in Inc. magazine as the hot new business for those looking to retire before 30.

Because this isn’t a lucrative line of work and tends to be a competitive market, it’s easy for violin stores to be tempted by various ways and means to boost their sales. One of those methods is to pay their sales staff a commission when an instrument is sold — often paired with a very minimal salary.

While commissions definitely do incentivize sales staff they have a number of problems:

  • Sales staff can be tempted to upsell a customer an instrument that isn’t the best fit for that customer, simply to get a bigger commission.
  • Sales staff can be tempted to try and “steal” a customer/sale from another employee. For example, if you stop by one day and begin looking at instruments, but don’t make a purchase until a later day when the first salesperson is not available — a commission-based store now has a problem in who gets the commission for the sale and/or how the commission is split.
  • Store owners are motivated to pay very minimal salaries, salaries that are not a “living wage”.
  • Customers never know whether the person helping them has their best interest in mind or is simply wanting to “make a sale”.

While we feel it is important to compensate our employees, as well as those who represent Top Notch in satellite locations, and to thank music teachers who refer clients to us, we do not pay commissions to any of our employees.

When you are looking at buying a violin/viola/cello/upright bass from us, our goal is to help you find the perfect instrument for you – our goal is NOT to make a big sale so we get a good commission.

Trust is important to us, and a commission-motivated salesperson undermines trust (the auto industry – with salespeople who are often primarily compensated by commission – is a great example of this). We want you to be able to trust us as we help you select an instrument.

That is why you can feel safe shopping for a violin, viola, cello, or upright bass at Top Notch Violins in St. Louis.

We are not here solely to sell you a stringed instrument – we are here to help you. If you are interested in a stringed instrument (yes, this is an important first element) we can help you in that process. You do not have to worry about us being focused on a commission while helping you!

Stephen Nowels (co-owner)

We look forward to hearing from you!