how y'all doin'? my name is mike and forgive (or appreciate) my penchant for selective capitalization and punctuation... i love writing! i love art! started as a wee one and been drawing to this day and have been a mainly digital artist since my first 286... a 286? it was... sigh,...nvm
i got into playing guitar and instrument making at 14 and still do 46 years later... always wanted to be a luthier... didn't happen. but at 28 i started in music retail and a bit later, service (although i'd ripped my bass apart years before that a couple of times) so 32 years of retail/service... i always loved advertising and seeing why people buy what they do or not... i spent many years in radio as well... so this is what i bring to the table as qualifications to speak as i am about to...
before i do i would like to say that i am so grateful to have found this craft! part of what drew me in is the heritage within! when i was making things as a kid i read books on indigenous african instruments and made several! gallon pickle jar water drums! big 2x4 marimbas, thumb pianos and stringed stuff too (including stringing up the garage wall once)! when i first saw this trend starting i was flat out giddy with enthusiasm! so yeah, that's what i love most about all this and what has brought me into your midst :)
spoiler: you may not like this, but i'll be as gentle as i can... my intent is to assist and start a dialog i think needs to be opened... ok, here goes...
in my experience in guitar retail and service, i don't care about politics or brand names, the most punch for the buck still comes from south korea! wow! you still don't get set necks, really decent hardware and electronics, beautiful woods, arched tops, abalone inlay and binding gaLORE, rock solid, spot on craftsmanship like that elsewhere at prices around $349 to $599! ooooh! aaaaah! the absolutely flawlessly gorgeous finishes... a playground for the senses really! even the no-to-fewer-frills $199 to $299 stuff typically has great quality and feels solid with great attention to fret dressing and finish and all the key fundamentals... once they get set up?........ well,...have fun, jr.!
as an artist and a cbbuilder i see this sport as a teeter totter... where are ya on the scale of artsy, upscale creativity vs purist, found-object heritage? that's a scale i enjoy exploring! i think we all like that one... in fact, there lots of scales including quality and availability, both of the over all crafting and of the component parts as well... there are scales for buyers as well! as a buyer, one thing you might be back-and-forthing around about at some point is that if for some reason you needed money fast, could you quickly unload an instrument and get reasonably close to what you paid? (like it doesn't happen only all the time with people)... a scale for a cbg builder might be "can i make something like this myself or not and for how much?"... there are LOTS of scales and they are in the heads of the public non-builder sect as well...
i've become more cautious of the word "rare"... rare how? i've seen a zillion youtube vids say a clip was "RARE!!"... not now it isn't, genius... lol! but seriously, what is rare? less available? how less available exactly and why? is it expensively, heirloom collect-ably rare? if so, y'know ya might not wanna pop a hole in that bad boy before a trip to see the folks on antique roadshow, m'kay? folks tend to use the word "rare" like the internet doesn't exist... it's a big BIG world out there and it's all doing commerce, so rare just got potentially much less rare...
i've been becoming aware of and a little uneasy with something i'm seeing in the cbg world and that's what i can only call "industry ego pricing"... it's like the community has started to blossom nicely to where we're all thinking pretty highly of our little boutique cottage industry as well we should! we are participating together in what my gut tells me will expand as i believe the normal rock scene all seems either too techno or just rather stale (the endless wall of strats and copiessssss)... i believe it was in the washington post where an article asked about the death of the electric guitar... gibson is heavily moving away from being a "guitar" company, so we stand at the edge of what could soon become the next new cool thing ladies and gents as musicians get bored with the status quo and have never heard of cbgs yet... YET! i seriously sense this is coming because of the popularity of the ukulele in retail in recent years... woo hoo!!
but i think due to our collective, emerging industry ego, we're getting ahead of ourselves with pricing surfacing that defies common sense and instinctive demographics... within the cbg community, to attempt to market an instrument with a hefty tag hanging on it to the very people who can likely make them is clearly, glaringly just not targeting the correct demographic AT all! especially when there are banner ads floating everywhere offering parts! that hefty tag would buy a helluva lotta goodies, you know what i'm sayin'? can you see this logic? i suggest taking your chances on ebay or etsi where there are far fewer builders... get out into the open market... i don't mean any disrespect, i'm pointing out a clear dog chasing it's own tail scenario... one of the main points of us building is getting away from expensive guitars! lol! so doesn't that seem like something you should factor into your marketing analysis and strategy if you're going to market to the community (of builders)?
i think most of us have seen some homemade guitars on google or wherever that have absolutely dropped our jaws with inspiring creativity, awesome hardware/appointments, and enviable craftsmanship and vision, and only a few put out a year if ever again... now THAT...is rare and i wouldn't bat an eyelash at a $350+ tag hanging on that type of homemade instrument... i think we all as builders would LOVE to build an instrument of that caliber! that's one side of this industry... then you have the heritage side that sells the will and ingenuity of enslaved people to make their own instruments out of whatever they could find in order to express their deepest feelings, hopes, and prayers....
so, you got the steak, being heritage, and the sexy sizzle of the less traditional, more radical, upscale designs...we have to be careful how we traverse that span with our pricing and i have faith the market will figure itself out, after all, in the end it's only worth what someone is actually willing to pay you for it... but, those more heritage oriented builds have far less expenditure on them, let's face it... without splitting and resplitting hairs here, i believe getting big money out of heritage builds is going to be harder because that side of the scale necessarily via tradition leads towards found objects and simpler tech and construction which aren't very costly... if you want big $ out of those you're going to have to get your spiel down pat, because people who don't play aren't going to enter the fray at that price range and seasoned musicians have seen south korean guitars too my friend and they know what $399 buys... think like your buyer...
i do hope this hasn't upset anyone, but it's been on my mind for months... thanks for reading... be careful out there
Sorry too much info, I'm time poor, I will possibly read later. Haha
I'm a buyer turned builder. I bought a 4-string on ebay for $250 which, as someone with no CBG experience, seemed a fair price... until I got it. I was appalled by the very poor workmanship and thought, wow, I could do this myself for a lot less than $250. So I sent it back and did just that.
That was in September of this year and I've built 6 instruments since then. So thanks to that shoddy builder (whom I won't name but he doesn't seem to be on this site) that got me into this hobby.
Now had that first CBG I bought been up to my standardsI would have had no problem shelling out $250 and probably would have bought a 3-string at some point as well. So my point is I think non-builders will pay fairly high prices as long as the quality is there. And now that I have some experience building and understand the time, intelligence and creativity that goes into it, I can tell you that I've seen many instruments on CBN I'd gladly pay $399 for... if I had the money. But since I don't I'm just going to steal everyone's ideas and keep building. : )
all very good points and i'm glad you bring them up... this is exactly why i posted it to hear what you guys think... i used the word ego in a collective sense, not in a "this guy and that guy" fingerpointy manner... i was talking about the kind of thing korrigan mentioned... it's a good example of what i mean and it applies at any price point really... you have no assurances of quality so some guy on ebay tosses a cbg together literally and thinks "everyone is charging $xxx so whoopie, me too! the sad thing is korrigan had no actual way to know beforehand... which is another pitfall... even with top brand stuff, buying instruments unplayed, where you can't hold it first is a terrible idea generally speaking... if someone has a proven track record, that rocks... they have established a standard that other people can expect... as far as building the industry goes, we all are building it with every sale... every time you show a musician this stuff and they've never seen it before you are building this industry... every youtube vid about cbgs builds the industry... i don't mind having my outlook respectfully adjusted... worst case scenario is i'm completely wrong and stand to make a lot more than i anticipated and/or save time! sweet
I'll tell you one thing I really hate to see on ebay and etsy is sub-$100 CBGs.
I've got a notion that I'd like to sell some of my guitars at some point but I couldn't part with them if the average price was so low.
Right now there are three on ebay for $60 each and they have built in preamps no less. $60 isn't the starting bid, it's the actual price.
It's like they take the cost of box, wood and hardware, multiply by 3 then add the cost of their labor at $2 an hour and that's their asking price. I'm like "Come on guys, you're shooting yourself in the foot at that price." Hell they're shooting me in the foot at that price and I'm not even trying to sell anything yet. lol
All very reasonable thinking.,.,and you build some nice stuff .,.,I build no frills , meant to be played CBG's and I do charge a little more for a magnetic pickup as opposed to a 25 cent piezo pickup.,
$15 for parts, 2 hours labor. Ebay and PayPal take about 15% of the total including shipping. I bet I could knock the build time down to an hour with a little forethought .,I end up paying myself about $17 an hour.,.,not great for raising a family., but fine up in the hills of WVA where the only work is cutting trees or pulling up Ginseng.,.,
I think in a pinch I would trade a build for a bowl of rice.,.,,.
Interesting read. I am glad I do not have to make CBG's for a living. I enjoy the builds and am terrible at setting a price to sell. The easiest way to set the price for me is simply ask myself, 'how much would I pay for this' and there it is. True, I do not value my time like I should perhaps and I really just want to get the dollars back in parts and perhaps a few bucks extra for the time and effort. In this town and area, there does not seem to be people interested in buying CBG or the like and perhaps I also have not gone to a venue to sell to actual people looking. I will need to at some point though as I am running out of room. As for 360-550 for a CBG, when I see them I assume the parts cost a lot more than mine and of course the seller is probably doing it as a way of income and values their time more than I do for my hobby. If there are folks that will pay those prices, more power to them.
Fretted 3 string CBG's , frets leveled, piezo powered, plays and sounds great. $65 each. How many do you need? Quantity discounts!
Yeah pricing has always been interesting. Flawless Gibson replicas for $190 delivered all day long. Many builders won't sell there CBG's for less than $200. Of course there is the $35 Chinese CBG.
Nice rant. Most of the folks here are pretty sharp and know whats up. Ben and CB Gitty rock !! Yay Shane rocks too !!
so how did you arrive at that pricing, jerry?
By examining my competition. Originally I started building fretless CBG's and selling them on Ebay for $35 each. As a guitarist of 30 years I wanted to offer a fretted version. So I bought the competitions product for evaluation. ( Ebay seller Weeklyhouse). Played it for a week and examined it, sold it for a $5 loss. Then I looked at my cost of materials ($15 or less per build) and decided there was profit to be made selling at $65 each. Sure I'd like $99 a build, and I sell them to my coworkers for $40 each all the time. The honorable Mr Weekly has plenty of competitors that undercut him, but he is shrewd and knows his business and delivers an honest product for a fair price. We all gotta eat." and we are all in this together" to quote the venerable Red Green.
Alas, I forgot to mention Mr McNair. I was initially thrown off by the cost of a Red Dog CBG, but its like comparing apples and oranges .,Since I first saw a Red Dog I have seen CBG's for 3 times what John is asking for a CBG. Quality is a great thing, but so is Marketing..Mr McNair builds a fine product and has a good grasp of Marketing.,,.the same can be said for AP's Swamp Witches and The Weeklyhouse gits.,.,The bottom line is there are still plenty of customers left, but their budgets and interests are not all the same., I know my gits will never compete with a Red Dog, and that is not my goal.,.,building CBG's is just to much fun.,.,.,Rock On Gent's !!!!!!!!!!!!! Happy Holidays !!!!!
Interesting thread to say the least. I like peoples thoughts and experiences on this subject.
I don't know how you build a fretted guitar in 3 hours for $15. I can't do it. I have it down to about 10 hours each for basic builds in batches. This is in an 800 square foot well equipped shop.
I try to build quality guitars, because I feel guitar players want good guitars. My guitars are in the hands of a few pro players, so I guess I'm doing something right.
I sell mine in the $150 to $200 range on average.
They're a tough sell no matter what. I find a lot of people view them as a toy or novelty, rather than a real instrument. Letting them listen to one being played helps with this though.
I also think a lot of players just build their own guitars, which reduces the market.
There's only a handful of guys who can command a decent price for their work. They have spent time learning their skills and do a good job of marketing. All the power to them.
I build guitars because I like building guitars, so its worthwhile for me. I'm certainly not in it just for the money.
By the way I would love to have a Red Dog.
Milt I have seen your guitars and you are a Luthier.( A great one) I almost bought that paint lid tri-cone you had for sale.,.I am just an outlaw CBG builder.,basic tools.,.,no shop.,,but I have bent guitar sides in the bath tub and built 6 string electrics from piles of roughcut lumber .,.,just enough expierience to get the job done and not cut a finger off.,.for CBG's I start with a $1 cigar box, a 50 cent neck cut from Poplar fencing boards,a red oak fingerboard from Home Despot for $2, $4 for the stew-mac frets, $3 for quality bought in bulk strings,Jacks(50 cents) and tuners($2) in bulk from China. Then small amounts of glue,shellac,brass tacks, and maybe 3 pop rivets. Oh and piezo's bought in bulk on ebay, (75 cents). 2 hours labor per build but I could add drying time to lengthen that or race to the finish and build one in an hour.,,.but yours are much nicer.,.,What I like about my builds is they are very playable and sound good.,,Keep up the good work Milt!!
And I too would love a Red Dog, but it is not in my budget.,.,maybe one of John's cool pickups!!