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
I'M reminded of the quote ...
“You can take the boy outta the city , but you can’t get the city out of the boy .”
You can’t look at this through dealership glasses . in-fact, your noted retail qualifications (as impressive as they are ), , are borderline unrelated . (besides any cbg instrument building you have done ) you were mostly selling mass produced laser cut type products made in factories by others , and getting paid min wage to sell them . Even if you owned the dealership , it’s a far cry from selling hand made items you made yourself . (or dealing with that type of hand made item " buyer" or "makers" .)
As for “service “ again . you are getting paid for your hour based time .. and parts .
Not to mention , “fixing “, is a lot different than “ building “ .
Ironically , since you have worked min wage , you should be able to figure out that you’were probably making more money than many builders here . many of us don’t factor in their time . or are “rich” from doing this . many of our guitars are underpriced . infact- , your experience in retail , and guitar companies should have given you the opposite conclusion and consider cbgs UNDER priced . you should be aware fender / gibson etc .. make about 3 dollars off a guitar . after they pay workers , overhead , shipping , distribution . and dealer cuts etc .
We do all that ourselves . and still rarely break min wage .
and as a builder , who looked into becoming a luthier , you should know the market is below what it should be .
As far as selling guitars to other builders ,… again , it’s not the same . this is a community of like minded folks who love what we all do . and share a strong interest in cbgs etc .. yet different styles , looks and feel . even sound . you will commonly hear “I’d love to own one of his/ her s guitars “ etc .. or “I’ve always wanted one of his / her builds “ . you will even see builders collecting builds from prominent builders , even sampling other entry level builders work. Or want one that inspired them to get started . If anyone appreciates the time , effort , skill , and art that goes into these , it should be another builder. . About %70 of my own sales, are to other builders and community members.
Getting back to your retail view , You don’t see wallmart employees saying “gee , I’d love to go to the wallmart in the next town to buy some of their same wallmat stuff . I really love it. “ etc … This is different . it’s comic-con with strings ! lol, sure, you can buy a bagged plastic Halloween mask cheaper and easier than making your own costume , but it’s cooler , innovative and may even generate offers on it . . and spawn a business where it is needed. . its fun , its family , its … skill , its art , it's .... illogical to predetermined logic gained from an unrelated experience .
Honestly , because you just joined , and your first post is this one .. you sound like you are STILL a dealer , and are afraid of some of our prices . or … it “almost” smells of some other ulterior motive .(why would a cbg builder try to downgrade their own value ?) (not stating you “are” , just saying it may look that way to some . ) I prefer to believe you are just still wearing the old hat , and deducing by habit of factory retail experience .
Anyway , that being said . I have to agree with some of your assessment . I have seen some builds obviously not worth their asking price , but I have also seen builds around the $650 mark and are well worth it . builder and guitar itself considered , well worth the money . even under priced at times .
I myself , usually price mine a bit under the prices you mentioned , because of the market , and folks start to get kinda scared around $300 due to that low market . So , again . I have to agree to a point . but I have sold some guitars for more than that , and many great sellers here do to . even as a base price . so (in defence of some builders ) you can’t umbrella term , or lump when you make such a deduction , there is more to factor in . and again . the market is below what is should be . many are forced to sell at a lower market .
I would think it would be better to sit , hang out, and see what this community / field is and what Its market dictates as a self growing organism . Expecting a market , or attempting to dictate one or manipulate it . just aint gonna work . sadly , that is what prevents builders charging their actual worth .
Ps … Found objects….,,, I don’t think Steve Darnell , has ever received a letter saying “ Dear steve . your rat rod builds should be dirt cheap , and cheaper than a dirty used car .. it’s just found objects after all. “ ;-) see what I mean ? anywhoo.. Welcome to the community . I hope this post is well received , just answering and hopefully offering a better understanding / view .
and …if you are a seasoned cbg builder experienced in many cbg builds and sales . then I apologize that some of my post may not be as relevant to you personally . but it’s hard to tell with an opening text post and no pictures or content / portfolio to go from . and you moreso seemed to draw from and mention the factory made retail aspect as experience ..hence my reply moreso to it . being a cbg builder seemed added in later .
Attempting to compare retail factory sales to hand-built cbgs is irrelevant .Yes . plastic stacking chairs in china are a buck a piece , that does not = a custom hand carved / hand made wooden chair , by a lone builder being priced the same . This flawed logic hurts us all.
Bottom line .... you shouldn’t care if you think someone is charging too much . , but you should care if they are not charging enough. Over-charging (unsuccessfully or unwarrented ) can only hurt the individual builder . , but under-charging hurts us all .
But , that’s just my 2 cents ........ and possibly worth every penny ;-)
(but shoulda been 5 cents ) ;-)
I don't think I really compete with anyone here.,,.my output is low.,.,I rarely sell online anymore.,most of my sales are people who saw the last one I built and want one. Many of my customers are low paid coworkers with families.,if my instruments were not appealing and affordable they would not sell to my limited customer base.,.,but there is hope for the future.,.,at this point I think I could build one in my sleep.,. You make a lot of good points AP .,.,I know i'm in it for the joy of creating.,.,,Happy Holidays!
As i said " there is more to factor in" , and i shound not sound like i am lumping everyone either . indeed , what you are doing is more-so local limited customer base ,and not "hurting" us, or the community, or affecting the online market, or trendsetting a market price as a whole . . in fact . i had no idea of your prices . I did not intend to imply or have you feel any of that was directed at you personally . infact i read your first post afterwards . ;-)
i so appreciate all the input guys! this is very valuable! so what i'm gathering is that the bigger money is more likely within the community... i live near watkins glen intl raceway and the tourism this brings into the fingerlakes region from all over the world all summer long is what i want to try and capitalize on... heavy building and guitar repair in winter and selling to the uninitiated in summer... those people have a lot of money!! this is why the retail side of my experience is very related and relevant...
unfortunately, guitar center and MF and sweetwater have all done big damage to local retailers here to the point where there are no good stores around and any that are still struggle to compete AND from what i understand, there's no good place locally for service... my craigslist ads get constant replies because people remember my work and are happy to bring their guitars to me... i want to take advantage of that to also bring people in to see these cool CBGs and take one home... i have zero intent of trying to compete with the online big stores in any way...
Even more confused , why selling to folks with alot of money ... would be affected by someone elses higher prices ..... infact it's 2 reasons to raise yours . ;-)
ps..I wasnt stating the "bigger money" is more likely within the community" , i was only countering your theory of not being able to sell to other builders , pointing out that builders can,... and do,... sell to builders .
Well, I had to speed read this as it was just to long (and I like to write too). It's all relative. One man's trash is another man's treasure. One man's idea of a great built CBG is another man's version of a piece of junk. It all depends on what you're looking for, what your expectations are, what your level of sound quality is, what you consider great craftsmanship vs. lousy. You can pick up a guitar and gush over how great it sounds, and another guy can pick it up and complain about it.
As far as pricing, when it's handbuilt, it's a piece of "art", not just an instrument, hence the fluctuation in prices from builder to builder. I can understand this though as I am a graphic artist, and I know how much time and effort goes into my drawings. How can one sell a drawing that took 60 hours to complete for a cheap price? It's a dilemma for sure. The same goes for making a CBG.
Personally, I would never pay over $300 for a CBG. Why? Because I have played ones that sold for $200 and thought they were built nice and sounded great. And I've seen builders who put half of that quality into their builds and want $800 - $1200 for a CBG. In hindsight though, I try not to judge a CBG's quality by it's price (they never match)...it's all about the way it sounds and feels to you, personally. So, if you find a $150 CBG that suits you...go for it. If you find one that is your perfect fit at $1200...go for it.
Lastly, if a factory production model coming out of an Asian sweatshop, floats your boat, than go for it. It's not about pricing, who built it or where it came from, it's about "is the sound pleasing to you - do you like your git?". Don't let anything stop you from acquiring your dream instrument. One man's trash is another man's treasure...and vice versa.
I think I understand what your saying, but sometimes earning money isn't always the final goal. Making the guitar your building now the best guitar you have ever made, all the while in the back of your mind planing the next guitar without the mistakes you have made in past endeavorers is all that matters. The joy in standing back for a moment and just basking in the glow of you present endeavor, the feel of the hand carved neck, the shape of the headstock and the balance of the guitar in your hands, is more important then earning money for my labor of love. But the best comes when I have completed the build and find the person that falls in love with the guitar and just can't put it down. Either I sell it to them for cost or just give it to them. Anyway you look at it my newest creation has found a home and has someone to play and care for it, that is the best payment of all! Besides by then I am already working on the next guitar and it is going to be the best ever. Maybe three pickups instead of two...............fan fret with locking turners............quilted maple body and rosewood neck...........maybe laminated neck purpleheart and bloodwood..........so many choices. Happy building!
Well said Sparky
Yes .,.,well said Sparky.,,.and you do have some beautiful "over the top" builds under your belt.,,.I'd love to own one.,.,Yeah I still feel the joy at the end of every build when I get to play a new guitar that was just born.,,.and it is pleasant to sell it and build the next.,.,.,Rock On !!