Things might get a little bit spicy.
10 years ago when I was at Huss and Dalton as an eager 20 year old I wanted to build guitars all the time. I did many operations during the day but not the whole deal. I wanted to keep my chops up. So in what probably was my first internet forum post I went onto the Acoustic Guitar Magazine Forum and posted something along the lines of :
“Hey guys. I work at Huss and Dalton but want to build guitars on my own. If I charge $500 to cover materials would ANYONE buy them you think? Or would they just think they were too cheap? I’m just building for fun.”
The next day Mark came into the shop and chuckled and told me to check the post. It had accelerated into a huge argument about how I could “never make a living” and “would be insulting and cheapening every maker’s work who actually did make a living” the last little bit coming from a well known guitar maker who spent so much time on the forum it was a wonder that he had any time at all to build guitars. I tried redirecting the conversation to my original question as it devolved into the nether regions of pricing and living wages and value and and and…. I just wanted to know if people would ignore a $500 guitar. People got insulting, and at that time anyways, so I deleted any insulting post. Of course that erupted into people saying that I deleted any opinion that disagreed with my own. The editor of the magazine got involved. It got spicy.
Why? It’s the probably the same reason that whether you get a refret done in Flint, MI or San Francisco you’ll probably pay $300-$350. How the heck does every repair guy in every locale require the same amount of cash to make it worth their while? Well I imagine it has something to do with a subconscious unspoken agreement between makers of things that if we all play the same game and charge the same then we all make more money. It’s like a union against the consumers. Now I totally get that some people think they shouldn’t pay for anything, or hand work is not valuable. I get it, of course I do because I make a living making things. But I most often I see a sort of predisposition from makers that all consumers are trying to screw them so if they price high that will show buyers that the work is valuable.
It’s lazy, it’s whining. If people dont value your work, maybe your work is not as valuable as you think. Or maybe you havn’t convinced them WHY yet. The CEO of Southwest was asked why he didn’t raise the price on the flights from New York to Florida by $10- nobody would notice and they would make 10 million extra dollars a year. He said they can always raise prices and not doing so kept them hungry for looking for the harder ways to cut costs.
You cant fix problems with pricing you can only cover them over. Why rely on the customers to do the covering? I think there is a real art to getting an awesome guitar made at a price that is not inaccessible (relatively speaking of course).
I’d like to tell that guitar forum internet hero that it worked. When I started the resonators the price was $1000. I made enough to buy food. It took three years but now I have two guys who work with me and we make 100 guitars a year. And most importantly I’m incredibly proud of every guitar we make, it’s exactly what I wanted to make in the beginning but needed experience. I built and improved and I was only able to do that because of the low price. It was a honest price, I didn’t mis-value my work.There are bigger more important questions to be asked first. Find and answer the big ones. Then when it comes time to type some numbers on a line you will have already decided. It worked. It can work for you.
I was reminiscing a bit about my summer adventure to Sweden and thought I would share some pictures. One of my best friends, Elias, lives there with his family. Through the grapevine I ended up selling four instruments in Stockholm. It turned out to be much cheaper for everyone if I was to deliver them myself, so I went. International door-to-door service… it’s all such an adventure. All because of steel resonator guitars? A blessing and a privilege.