"Business of Lutherie" forum?

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Wayde Christie

"Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Wayde Christie » Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:56 pm

Hi guys,

Wondering if people think there's room for a "Business of Lutherie" forum here at ANZLF?

A lot of the luthiers I've met have told me that you "can't make money" as a luthier and that I should only ever treat it as a hobby. Conversely there are luthiers like Perry Ormsby who are great marketers and have created successful businesses doing what they love.

I thought a "Business of Lutherie" forum could be a place for members to discuss business ideas like marketing, pricing, social media, websites and advertising etc.

I'm sure there are lots of guitar makers like myself who run businesses as their day job, who would be happy to discuss business-related topics and share their knowledge.

It could also be a place for touchy subjects like "crowd-funding". So if you're not into that kinda thing you won't have to worry, because it will be kept in a forum you don't ever need to visit :)

Thoughts?

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by simso » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:21 pm

I cant see enough questions arising to substantiate a sub forum, but hey.

I get people apply for jobs with me weekly, I speak to many people who build guitars as a side line and want to go full time all the time, I have taught many people how to build guitars, but to make it a business you have to be serious about it. No longer a hobby.

If you want to make a living full time out of making guitars then the maths is simple, the marketing hard, the work hard

Im being silly on my prices and costs, but its merely to highlight how it works

I want to take home 120 dollars a week, I sell my guitars for 160 dollars, theres 20 dollars of parts and consumables in my guitar, my overheads electricity insurances consumables are about 10 dollars a week. I have no one to endorse my guitars and no way of marketing my guitars.

So where do I start

Well the maths side parts and overheads are 30 dollars, so from my 160 dollar guitar I am going to make a profit of 130 dollars, my take home is 120 dollars, but I do need to pay myself some superannuation so thats another 12 dollars of costs, so I need to make a guitar per week plus a fraction more, or I now have to charge more for my guitar, if its going to take me longer than a week to make a guitar then I need to raise the price of my guitar.

Now I have to find someone to market my guitar, local artist, local store, this costs more money, so that needs to be added into the initial equation as well.

You have to be serious about your figures.

I also believe if you want to make a full tiume living out of making guitars, you need to make a guitar per week, if you cannot make a guitar per week then you need to start refining your process's so you can make a guitar per week, dont forget we all need holidays, we all get sick.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Nick » Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:22 am

I think the forum is mature enough to discuss these topics in the 'instrument builders forum', sure there may be differences of opinion on different topics that have come before but from what I've seen, in general, the membership here are mature enough (or we don't take ourselves too seriously!) not to let it degrade into a bun fight as happens on some other forums where they do take themselves a little more seriously.
Wayde Christie wrote:It could also be a place for touchy subjects like "crowd-funding". So if you're not into that kinda thing you won't have to worry, because it will be kept in a forum you don't ever need to visit :)
I don't see that thread as touchy and nothing in there I read as hostile, there seems to be a free expression of opinions (and everybody is entitled to one even if it differs from our own) and some valuable input from people who work in the business. I know you're are keen to get into crowd funding to support your dreams and I honestly wish you luck if that's a path you want to take, if you honestly think that is the way to go then stand by your conviction and go for it, a few comments by people such as myself with differing opinions shouldn't sway you or be seen as hostile, many successful business would never have gotten off the ground if the person had listened to the "it'll never work" camp.
I'm about to help a guy to set up a business producing basses here in Christchurch, the N.Z market is harder (and smaller) to break into than the Australian one (although these aren't his primary markets he's aiming at) and it's not my money going into this operation so I have nothing to lose, but I'll be working my hardest to help this guy turn out a successful business. So please don't think I'm coming at it from the "you can't make a business making guitars" camp. My thoughts are (and they could be completely wrong!) that the problem I see with alot of the smaller luthiery businesses that fail is that the person goes into it with possibly rose coloured spectacles, thinking they'll be living the dream, constructing beautiful guitars all day long and that they'll be appreciated so much that they'll be flying out the door, they approach it more as an art than a business . Nice ideal but they fail to realize that behind that there's shitloads of long, late hours of doing paperwork after the woodwork has finished for the day, the amount of time they spend on the phone or pressing the flesh just trying to sell enough volume to make enough money to pay the bills and have some left over for food and of course dealing with A*holes who go out of their way to make dealing with them a painful experience for you. As long as people go into it expecting hard work and with eyes wide open as to what has to be done then I think they probably can make a living out of it and of course after a few years of this, as you get established then you can enjoy the fruits of your labours a bit more.

As for the 'it will be kept in a forum you don't ever need to visit' point, a topic heading can be ignored just the same as a sub forum. :wink: :lol:
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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by jeffhigh » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:29 am

Wayde Christie wrote: A lot of the luthiers I've met have told me that you "can't make money" as a luthier and that I should only ever treat it as a hobby. Conversely there are luthiers like Perry Ormsby who are great marketers and have created successful businesses doing what they love.
I think that statement need to be qualified
It's easy enough to make money from repairs if you are good, there is not a lot of capital investment.

You can make money from building High priced, direct marketed, bespoke guitars If the sound, finish and playability of the instrument is superior and you can develop a reputation that convinces the customer of the value.

What would be really difficult in Australia today would be to try to manufacture low or medium price guitars and sell direct or try to market them through dealers. If you can't justify a price premium over Maton or Cole Clarke how can you make a profit?

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by kiwigeo » Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:02 am

Wayde Christie wrote:Hi guys,

Wondering if people think there's room for a "Business of Lutherie" forum here at ANZLF?
The Admins will consider the matter and we'll get back on this. My thoughts....pretty much voiced by Nick.
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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Ormsby Guitars » Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:04 am

jeffhigh wrote: What would be really difficult in Australia today would be to try to manufacture low or medium price guitars and sell direct or try to market them through dealers. If you can't justify a price premium over Maton or Cole Clarke how can you make a profit?
Here we go!

Why would you like to sell low priced products that require potentially giving away 35% to dealers in a market that it already flooded with product?

What's low to medium price? $1000-1500? I hope so, because I have a cool story for you.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Steve.Toscano » Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:20 am

You can make money, just how much money.
I've built and sold a few custom solid body instruments over the years.

When I did the calcs on the profit of these instruments and the hours put in, it worked out i was working for $12.30 / hour. :oops:
These guitars were in the $2k - $2.5k price range. If i had of been better set up I could of probably doubled or tripled that hourly profit.

To make money from Lutherie I see 2 options.
1) Go for the very premium custom end of the market (obviously with a product and price point that suits this) and do as much 'mass production' that you can - while still keeping a quality instrument.

2) Do other things to fill the gaps not just build. eg lots of repairs.


I cant see aussie luthiers making full time good coin while trying to be in the same market range as maton / cole clark. - Haappy to be proven wrong.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by simso » Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:16 am

felix wrote:I cant see aussie luthiers making full time good coin while trying to be in the same market range as maton / cole clark. - Haappy to be proven wrong.
There was a time in the last five or so years that I had considered doing this, we looked into commercial scale production, not to compete with boutique acoustic builders but the markets that supply stores / compete on the same level as cole clark and maton.

We thought we had niche being then the first and only commercial acoustic manufacturer in WA.

We found a premises large enough to accomodate, we researched the assembly line, our goal was a turn over of 100 guitars a month with the ultimate goal bringing that figure down to 100 a week and dreaming a 100 a day.

We did up a business proposal to the bank, I needed to borrow 1.7 for new machinery and premises, after running the figures, the profit lines, the wages, the ongoing machinery costs and so forth.

We came to the conclusion its bloody ridiculously hard to make a decent acoustic guitar on the shelf in a music store for under a 1000. Yes for 2000, smile on my face for 3000. But you need to provide a range

Reality bit and we side lined the project, much to the disappointment of my ambitious side

However we learnt a lot from the research, we learnt things like fretboards can be made in seconds not miunutes or hrs, necks can be made mintues not hrs, bodys can be made in hrs not days, its amazing how fast something can be made when you dedicate custom machinery to make it

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Steve.Toscano » Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:38 am

simso wrote:.
Wow that does sound very ambitious.
Problem is to list that guitar on teh shelf at the store for $1000 the store will take 40%. So you would have to make that guitar for $600.
In which case you would be far better off getting the 'cheaper' range made offshore.

Still seems like a mugs game trying to sell guitars at that price point in this market.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Ormsby Guitars » Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:44 am

simso wrote:
However we learnt a lot from the research, we learnt things like fretboards can be made in seconds not miunutes or hrs, necks can be made mintues not hrs, bodys can be made in hrs not days, its amazing how fast something can be made when you dedicate custom machinery to make it

Steve
I saw an awesome video a few years ago of an asian manufacturer's machine that cut slots, then rotated to a different "head" to install the fretwire, trim the ends, and file the angle. The whole process was about 15-20 seconds. Damned if I can find that video now.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by simso » Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:01 am

Have not seen that one, but Ill start looking, very impressive by the sounds of it
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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by simso » Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:06 am

felix wrote:
simso wrote:.
Wow that does sound very ambitious.
Problem is to list that guitar on teh shelf at the store for $1000 the store will take 40%. So you would have to make that guitar for $600.
In which case you would be far better off getting the 'cheaper' range made offshore.

Still seems like a mugs game trying to sell guitars at that price point in this market.
The thing is, you have to be serious about what your doing, as a side line thing, what a great hobby, because your not relying on it to put food on your plate, really, your using it to fund your tool obsession and toys.

But when you do it for a living, you really / really got to stop living in the fun world and start to treat it like a job. Work hard, make deadlines, be accountable.

And yes, I take my hat of to maton and cole clark for there ability to make sub 1000 dollar guitars in the australian market, with australian wages, and australian OH&S, and australian unions, and australian superannuations, its endless the amount of overheads on a large scale production.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by kiwigeo » Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:39 pm

kiwigeo wrote:
Wayde Christie wrote:Hi guys,

Wondering if people think there's room for a "Business of Lutherie" forum here at ANZLF?
The Admins will consider the matter and we'll get back on this. My thoughts....pretty much voiced by Nick.
The Admins have discussed the matter and decided there will be no "Business of Lutherie" sub-forum. We see no reason such subjects cant be discussed in the general forum. if people are offended by the topic then they can see the thread title and exercise their right not to view the thread.
Martin

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Wayde Christie » Fri Jul 17, 2015 3:36 pm

kiwigeo wrote:The Admins have discussed the matter and decided there will be no "Business of Lutherie" sub-forum. We see no reason such subjects cant be discussed in the general forum. if people are offended by the topic then they can see the thread title and exercise their right not to view the thread.
That surprises me Martin. Just in this one thread there has been lots of business-related discussion :)

I think that centralising that discussion in one place would be really handy. Otherwise anyone who wants info on how to run a business as a luthier has to go trawling through topics in the general forum. Just for the sake of categorisation I think it's a good idea.

Aside from Steve saying that he doesn't think there is a place for a business forum (and then went on to discuss business matters at length :) ), no-one else has really objected to the idea have they?

A luthier like Perry Ormsby would be prolific in a business forum, because he's innovative and successful and is incredibly generous with his knowledge. It would be a shame for that knowledge to be buried in a general forum.

Say you'll reconsider? I don't see how this would detract in any way from the main forum, and I think it's likely to generate a lot of healthy discussion.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Steve.Toscano » Fri Jul 17, 2015 3:45 pm

For the record, if anyone cares :P
I agree with Wayde, that a business sub forum for easy to find threads on such matters is a good idea.

Speaking of business, it's friday afternoon. :gui :gui :gui :gui :dri :dri

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by kiwigeo » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:59 pm

Wayde Christie wrote:
Say you'll reconsider? I don't see how this would detract in any way from the main forum, and I think it's likely to generate a lot of healthy discussion.
No.....a decision was made by the Admins so please leave it at that.
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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by kiwigeo » Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:01 pm

Wayde Christie wrote:
I think that centralising that discussion in one place would be really handy. Otherwise anyone who wants info on how to run a business as a luthier has to go trawling through topics in the general forum. Just for the sake of categorisation I think it's a good idea.
Try typing the word "business" in the search function.....
Martin

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by demonx » Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:50 pm

Ormsby Guitars wrote:
I saw an awesome video a few years ago of an asian manufacturer's machine that cut slots, then rotated to a different "head" to install the fretwire, trim the ends, and file the angle. The whole process was about 15-20 seconds. Damned if I can find that video now.
Sounds like something I'd like to own! Damned if I could afford it though!

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by kiwigeo » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:02 pm

demonx wrote:
Ormsby Guitars wrote:
I saw an awesome video a few years ago of an asian manufacturer's machine that cut slots, then rotated to a different "head" to install the fretwire, trim the ends, and file the angle. The whole process was about 15-20 seconds. Damned if I can find that video now.
Sounds like something I'd like to own! Damned if I could afford it though!
15-20 seconds to cut your fret slots.....where's the fun in that?
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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Ormsby Guitars » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:28 pm

The fun is driving your Ferrari on the weekend after selling guitars all week because you didn't spend four days worrying about fret jobs :P

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Steve.Toscano » Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:17 pm

Ormsby Guitars wrote:The fun is driving your Ferrari on the weekend after selling guitars all week because you didn't spend four days worrying about fret jobs :P
As it is the Porsche :)
If only it was funded by fret jobs :|

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by kiwigeo » Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:39 pm

felix wrote:
Ormsby Guitars wrote:The fun is driving your Ferrari on the weekend after selling guitars all week because you didn't spend four days worrying about fret jobs :P
As it is the Porsche :)
If only it was funded by fret jobs :|
Listening to the robotic sounds of a machine cutting fret slots in 20 seconds versus hand cutting slots in my workshop with John Mclaughlin burning in the background......make your choice.

The Porsche....an over priced VW.
Martin

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by Steve.Toscano » Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:43 pm

kiwigeo wrote: The Porsche....an over priced VW.
Ha! got one of them too. :lol:
VW bug chassis, 81 911 engine.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by demonx » Sat Jul 18, 2015 7:18 am

It prob takes me 5 or so minutes to do fret slots on my current rig, that includes setup time, finding the template, lining it up, cutting the double sided tape etc. the actual fret slot cutting is probably 2-3 minutes if I don't rush it.

The time is in the fret job itself. I like to glue the frets, which doubles the time. If it's s maple board it adds a lot to the time as they're the only boards I mask up. The edge filing, levelling and polishing all adds time. So a fret job could take 30-60 minutes depending on the specifics.

I do find though that three full fret jobs back to back is my limit and I have to do other types of jobs. Some of my old injuries start to get pretty tired.

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Re: "Business of Lutherie" forum?

Post by demonx » Sat Jul 18, 2015 7:42 am

Ormsby Guitars wrote:The fun is driving your Ferrari on the weekend after selling guitars all week because you didn't spend four days worrying about fret jobs :P
I've had a handful of muscle cars, it's about time I had a Ferrari!

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