What is so great about small batch, boutique and handmade guitars, why are they so expensive, are they even worth it? I think about this kind of thing a lot. I sit in the shop with my coffee, get all introspective and stuff… then I come to the same conclusion I did the last time I thought about it. Guys like me make the best possible guitars we can and then set the price. Often that price is high, and we make no apologies for that. Hey, being cool costs money bro! Of course finding people who appreciate what we do and are willing to throw money at supporting an artform is easier said than done. I use the phrase “1 Percenter” and “Second Kind of Cool” when I describe who my target audience is and what they are looking for. I didn’t coin the phrases, but I did steal them fair and square because they perfectly describe what makes hand-built guitars worth the bucks they command. I estimate that 1% of the guitar buying public appreciate what guitar makers do. American’s love to customize almost everything but there are a small number of people who really get turned on by having a real live, honest to God, luthier build their guitar. Do you see yourself as you read this? Do you love the idea of heirloom quality musical instruments created by long tenured craftsman who have worn a bare spot in the floor under a vise? If you answered “no” you should stop reading this now, you are wasting your time. Chances are you will be satisfied by the great new import line-up from brand X. If you already skipped past that last sentence because you know in your heart that all the stuff I was just talking about described you, congratulations… you are a 1 percenter. Do you know what I’m talking about when I say that cool things are cool because they are cool, not because they are affordable and practical. “Second Kind of Cool” is that little something extra that you can’t quantify but you know it’s there. If you have ever talked to someone from Philadelphia about a Philly cheese steak you have seen this dynamic in action. They are fanatics about getting a simple combination of ingredients perfect. Don’t try and tell them that you can get the same thing in Nebraska either. This is second kind of cool. So now you know how I think. You have a better idea about the intangible elements that are very important to a fraction of the people who buy guitars. Again, if this is not you… 1. I understand and 2. why are you still reading this? Paul Reed Smith is probably the last electric guitar mogul. His example is as good as it get’s and, in all likelihood, it will never get that good again. We all know that this isn’t a high margin industry and slugging it out in a saturated market place takes a lot of work. It sounds cliché, but you have to love it. I’ll leave you with this, my brother-in-law is a brain surgeon. His earning potential is considerably higher than mine. He doesn’t have to haggle with patents. When asked about his profession he doesn’t look at his shoes and squeak out “I’m kind of a brain surgeon.” When someone asks what I do, I don’t respond meekly with, “Well, I’m kind of a guitar maker.”
Originally this was going to be a video, but it never really had legs. It would have been a tedious video for me to make. Except for a few laughs, it would have been a boring video for you to watch. Clearly, this was a job for the new workshop blog. Especially, since my goal is to publish something new every couple of weeks.