From gramophones to a personalised SYMFONISK speaker

If you visited an IKEA store in the early 70s, you might have run into a piano. You might even have the IKEA bongo drums from the 80s. We talked to Per, Anna, Jörgen and Stjepan about the history of the IKEA range connected to music and about growing from analogue to digital.

The first IKEA product for music lovers was OPERA, a cabinet for a gramophone. The cabinet was launched in 1952. This was just the beginning of the musical journey. After the cabinet, there came many other musical instruments and music players in the range.

The work from launching a piano in 1971 to FREKVENS, the latest collection connected to music, is now being displayed at IKEA Museum in Älmhult in its first-ever exhibition about musical products. The exhibition “Look Music” presents around 40 products and aims to showcase the journey of music and its related products that IKEA has done.

“In the exhibition, we want to highlight the importance of music in the home and show how the music experience has changed through the years. Products like FREKVENS and SYMFONISK are some of the examples of new digital music players,” says Anna Sandberg Falk, curator at IKEA Museum.

Anna Sandberg Falk, curator at IKEA Museum.

Per Hahn, archivist at IKEA Museum in Älmhult joined IKEA in 1980 and has followed the development of products connected to music over the years.

“People have always been changing their tastes in music. During the 50s, most of the people liked playing their instruments such as the piano, the guitar or the harmonica rather than listening to it on their players. However, during the 70s things changed and a lot of people wanted to listen to music on their gramophone and record players. IKEA has always served the needs of the people, whether it’s music players and instruments or the storage for them,” says Per who is also a musician and have been playing the saxophone since he was a boy.

Per Hahn, archivist at IKEA Museum and the gramophone cabinet OPERA, launched in 1952.

Music doesn’t just change its genres over time, it also keeps changing its medium. Trends in music composing and listening have evolved over the years. After introducing a piano to the range in 1971, IKEA launched a television in 1972, a record player, amplifiers, speakers, and a stereo system in 1973. It stayed in the range for a couple of years.

“There were very few ways to listen to music when I joined IKEA in 1980 as there was no internet or no CDs. People used to buy one record or one cassette and played that for a long time. The other way to listen to music was through radio,” Per says.

The list of musical products in the range doesn’t end here. In the late ’90s, IKEA also launched the UPPLEVA range with a TV and music system. With SPELA, a range of musical instruments for children was introduced. Jörgen Svensson, who was the first manager for Children’s IKEA, explains why the SPELA collection was launched in 1997.

“We wanted to understand and come up with the best of children’s interest. In 1998, IKEA came up with a guitar, and in 1999 percussion instruments was launched. In 2000 bongo drums was introduced together with a harmonica and later a recorder was introduced. Children liked the SPELA collection, and it was a best seller for quite a long time,” Jörgen says.

Giving its users the freedom to change the looks of their speakers, IKEA is launching a vitality kit for the SYMFONISK speakers this autumn. The kit will come in two colours, blue and red and will have a cover for the lamp speaker and a front panel for the bookshelf speaker.

“It won’t only extend the life of the product but will also give it a fresh new look. Now the cover fabric is just available in either black or white, but the new bold colours will allow the customer to upgrade their IKEA product and come back to the original whenever they want. It is a sustainable solution to personalise the appearance of the speaker without changing the entire product, says product owner Stjepan Begic.

Stjepan Begic, product owner. On the right, the vitality kit in red for the SYMFONISK lamp speaker.

Over the years, IKEA has also made home furnishing items for musical products, such as TV benches, the LACK music shelf on wheels, the CD storage unit SKALLID, the CD storage racks OBSERVATÖR and BENNO.

“BENNO has been my all-time favourite, and I remember that we brought it into the range in 1997. Ingvar Kamprad was okay with the products as long as we didn’t call it BILLY. So, we named the rack BENNO”, Per says, adding that he loved the storage rack and had nine of them for his DVD library.

What if someone has an old IKEA product but needs help to preserve it?

“There is a need to preserve old music products, and at IKEA Museum, we still want to maintain IKEA musical instruments and players. We invite people to come forward with their IKEA musical products, especially RENN series and give it to us in the museum, we will take good care of it, says Per.

The exhibition “Look Music” opened on 20 February and will continue until 3 January 2021. The vitality kits for SYMFONISK will be in IKEA stores starting from October 2020.