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    Momís Advice is Music to Piano Playing Brothersí Ears

     

    May 2001

     

    Never let it be said that Tim and Ryan OíNeill donít listen to their mother. Like many musicians, the Bloomington, Minnesota-based piano players began their careers performing at family gatherings. But when Tim spent a year of college in Europe, his mother encouraged him to record and make copies of his music so his friends and family could listen to it while he was away.

    When he returned, OíNeill was amazed at the number of recordings his mother had distributed, and he decided to plunge full-time into the business of writing, playing, recording and selling his music to a growing audience. "It all started with the idea of just making enough copies for my family," OíNeill says. "But the more I looked at it, the more it made sense to expand beyond just people I knew."

    Text Box: Tim, left, and Ryan OíNeill 
with their mom, Kathy
Because he wasnít affiliated with a major record company, OíNeill faced a number of challenges common to independent musicians. He set out to find an alternative way of reaching an audience, and with a marketing degree from Notre Dame in hand, he found it in the "consumption capital" of the late Twentieth Century: the shopping mall.

    Today, Tim has teamed with his brother Ryan, and thousands of shoppers bustling through department stores hear the OíNeill Brothers' relaxing piano music floating above the crowd. Tim and Ryan have turned shopping centers into music venues by playing his music for appreciative crowds, many of whom may not normally make a stop in a music store.

    In 1995, Tim and Ryan played a regular schedule through the holiday season and quickly found an audience of people who bought hundreds of their CDs after hearing them perform. Their biggest challenge was that they could only play in one place at a time. But by mixing their marketing savvy with a technological breakthrough, the brothers found a way to be in several places at the same time: They use computer modules to convert the grand pianos he plays into player pianos, which play entire selections from their albums, even when Tim and Ryan are hundreds of miles away.

    "People were lining up to buy our music when one of us was playing at a store, but the sales slowed down when we weren't there," Tim says. "We were able to find a device that turns any piano into a player piano, and we worked out a deal to use that technology to make sure the pianos in the department stores were always playing our music. It turned out to be a close second to being there in person, and the customers loved it."

    The O'Neill Brothers plugged the computer into pianos in JCPenney stores where they regularly played and watched the sales volume increase. Store managers also noticed the success they were having, and now Tim and Ryan OíNeill and their music are in JCPenney stores across the country. Tim and Ryan continue to make live appearances at each of the stores, performing several times a year and letting the automatic piano fill in when they're on the road.

    Tim and Ryan continue to find new places to play, new stores in which to sell music and new audiences to reach. As of early 1998, pianos playing their music are in 20 states with other deals in the works.

    What was originally called "Music by Tim" is now "Shamrock Ď n Roll," a music company that the O'Neill Brothers hope to expand to help other musicians find success. (The name "Shamrock Ďn Roll" also came from their mom, the person who helped generate the idea that started it all.)

    Envied by other musicians for their commercial success, Tim and Ryan still keep the big picture front and center as they play new cities. The success of the business has allowed them to be able to do the thing they love most: write and play music. Itís at the heart of what drives them forward and is what the growing number of fans continue to connect with.

    It may be awhile before Tim and Ryan OíNeillís names are added to the Billboard charts, but they're content with the fact that they've found a way to do what they love and be successful at it.

    And all thanks to a little piece of advice from their mom.

    The OíNeill Brothersí music is available at hundreds of gift shops, grocery stores and department stores across the country, by calling their toll-free music hotline, 1-888-966-3455, or through their web site, www.pianobrothers.com.