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Custom USA built electric guitars around $2K ... is there a market ?

65 Strat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
456
but rather were more independent and adventurous in spirit
Your market is going to be very small; if someone is already sufficiently "independent and adventurous in spirit," they're probably adventurous enough to just do the mods themselves, I imagine.

and you wanted something that not everyone more or less has already
Okay, but everything you said in your original post that you'll offer are the most common mods people do to guitars: colors, pickguard, pickups, tuners. Anything more "creative" beyond that, and you draw the line and say, "nope, too custom for me." So how, specifically, is what you're offering "something that not everyone more or less has already"?
 
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ScrapDog

Member
Messages
106
Your market is going to be very small; if someone is already sufficiently "independent and adventurous in spirit," they're probably adventurous enough to just do the mods themselves, I imagine.



Okay, but everything you said in your original post that you'll offer are the most common mods people do to guitars: colors, pickguard, pickups, tuners. Anything more "creative" beyond that, and you draw the line and say, "nope, too custom for me." So how, specifically, is what you're offering "something that not everyone more or less has already"?
Both points are well taken and quite valid. There will always be someone that will choose to do the work themselves and there will be those that want the end result but don't have the skills or means to do so. I would believe there are more of the latter. As I mentioned on another reply, there will always be someone cheaper or some with a different twist. Could the boutique guitar market survive with say, without Fano or Reverend guitars ... sure. Were there more than enough options out there when they launched, I would argue yes. But these realities didn't stop them from presenting their vision. Yes, do most fail or at best struggle going down this path, yes ... I think we all know this and many have pointed this out just to make sure this is clearly understood :) There is always high risks in new ventures.
As to features or options to select from ... yes, you are correct, as this is a balance between being focused to control costs so as to provide the goal of more affordable access to customization vs providing enough to make it compelling. Bottomline, the product has to first and foremost be of interest and then secondly the experience of participating needs to be compelling as well.
 

Trolley Car

Member
Messages
199
Over the last five years I have picked up two Red Rocket Atomic Retro Customs: a Lacewood and a Black Limba, which are Tele style guitars.
Used in exc condition they are around 2K.
They are very fine instruments which pass the hump of quality versus factory guitars.
Beautiful woods, top line hardware and pickups, comfy neck carves, and voiced uniquely in a good way.
 

ZENTISH

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
435
Both points are well taken and quite valid. There will always be someone that will choose to do the work themselves and there will be those that want the end result but don't have the skills or means to do so. I would believe there are more of the latter. As I mentioned on another reply, there will always be someone cheaper or some with a different twist. Could the boutique guitar market survive with say, without Fano or Reverend guitars ... sure. Were there more than enough options out there when they launched, I would argue yes. But these realities didn't stop them from presenting their vision. Yes, do most fail or at best struggle going down this path, yes ... I think we all know this and many have pointed this out just to make sure this is clearly understood :) There is always high risks in new ventures.
As to features or options to select from ... yes, you are correct, as this is a balance between being focused to control costs so as to provide the goal of more affordable access to customization vs providing enough to make it compelling. Bottomline, the product has to first and foremost be of interest and then secondly the experience of participating needs to be compelling as well.

Hi ScrapDog, Take a look at "neilsmithguitars" (I don't know how to post link, just google) He has a business model similar to what your proposing. Makes everything from scratch with a few options.

Good Luck, TISH
 

noley

Frequently Mistaken for Fabio
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,094
I'd love to get a ... ...If you do custom body shapes and headstock shapes-- which would be really cool-- how much time would you have to spend going back and forth with a customer? We all know that a quarter of an inch here or there can make a tremendous difference in looks and appeal. That would have to be a pretty incredible website to handle all of that.
And can make a tremendous difference to a copyright/patent attorney as well.
 

IYWBBYGBG

Member
Messages
197
It's been tried. You'll get SOME sales, but carving out 100k / year (what I assume a builder would want to make it worth their while?) would require some hustling.

I don't think so.

Fulfillment would be a nightmare.

What about returns?

Dudes asking for "a bit more work" kinda stuff?

You'd need to be a connected guitar tech with a few big name clients, and a shop on Hollywood Blvd, which takes you right out of the 2k zone.
 

ScrapDog

Member
Messages
106
Hi ScrapDog, Take a look at "neilsmithguitars" (I don't know how to post link, just google) He has a business model similar to what your proposing. Makes everything from scratch with a few options.

Good Luck, TISH
Thanks ... will check it out and let you know
 

ScrapDog

Member
Messages
106
It's been tried. You'll get SOME sales, but carving out 100k / year (what I assume a builder would want to make it worth their while?) would require some hustling.

I don't think so.

Fulfillment would be a nightmare.

What about returns?

Dudes asking for "a bit more work" kinda stuff?

You'd need to be a connected guitar tech with a few big name clients, and a shop on Hollywood Blvd, which takes you right out of the 2k zone.
Curious ... do you know people that have returned custom made guitars unless there was a real quality issue or it was not made as promised ?
 

Archman

Member
Messages
23
I’m a 42 year old carpenter. My first paid work was for Mike Stevens in my home town of Alpine TX when I was 16. Some people know of Mike but most don’t. He was the luthier who started the Fender Custom Shop. His guitars start at $8K. He is not rich even though he meticulously completes one guitar a week. 8K x 52 weeks = $336K right? Nope. He has significant overhead. He does well but not even close to as well as you’d think. As a carpenter I take in 1/3 of that and upkeep and taxes take 1/2 of what I take in. I’ve considered making instruments too. I’m positive that if I tooled up for it I would make a fine instrument, whatever that may be. But man the sales standpoint would be a full time job for sure. I think a person could do well making two guitars a week @ 4K/week X 52 = $208K. 1/2 at the least would go to overhead especially upon startup leaving $104K which would be a sweet living. But you have to sell 2 guitars a week. And make them.
 

ScrapDog

Member
Messages
106
I’m a 42 year old carpenter. My first paid work was for Mike Stevens in my home town of Alpine TX when I was 16. Some people know of Mike but most don’t. He was the luthier who started the Fender Custom Shop. His guitars start at $8K. He is not rich even though he meticulously completes one guitar a week. 8K x 52 weeks = $336K right? Nope. He has significant overhead. He does well but not even close to as well as you’d think. As a carpenter I take in 1/3 of that and upkeep and taxes take 1/2 of what I take in. I’ve considered making instruments too. I’m positive that if I tooled up for it I would make a fine instrument, whatever that may be. But man the sales standpoint would be a full time job for sure. I think a person could do well making two guitars a week @ 4K/week X 52 = $208K. 1/2 at the least would go to overhead especially upon startup leaving $104K which would be a sweet living. But you have to sell 2 guitars a week. And make them.
I don't know of Mike, but I appreciate you providing his story. I fully understand that this is not easy to be successful and a big money making endeavor.
 

ScrapDog

Member
Messages
106
Hi ScrapDog, Take a look at "neilsmithguitars" (I don't know how to post link, just google) He has a business model similar to what your proposing. Makes everything from scratch with a few options.

Good Luck, TISH
Hey, checked it out ... and yes, I would say that this is in the ballpark of what I am looking to offer as well. This said, my aesthetic will be different than a variation on the Strat theme ... not better ... just different. And my options will be slightly different as well. Looks like great product and build. This was informative ... Thx
 

ScrapDog

Member
Messages
106
This is the big question mark I think! Guitars are highly personal to most people. How they look, weight (I know), how they hang, etc.... Even headlock shape. How many folks passed on James Tyler guitars cause of the odd headstock shape-even though they're some of the best playing instruments I 've ever come across? Design matters A LOT!
Yes there would be a demand, but do you have the budget to market it let alone still make quality instruments? Can you operate at a loss for a number of years till it gets going? Can you afford to showcase at NAMM? I know loans have super low interest rates at the moment, but are you borrowing the dough? If so SBA is apparently tapped out with everything going on! Where would operations be located? Own or rent that? How many employees and can you afford plus insurance? Also could you make customers happy no matter how much of a PITA they are till you have the rep of being the guy that does that?

You have to answer these questions yourself! Most importantly are you willing to honor your word no matter what life throws your way? There's tons of stories here (TGP) about guys who paid a sizable deposit and never received their instrument, amp, pedalboard, etc....! Don't be THAT guy!!!!!!!
Sorry for my late reply ... but your comments I found very insightful. I agree that DESIGN is key. Like you mention ... I will find one design detail that will crush for me an otherwise great guitar. In general, from my perspective, many small builders either offer very close to standard Strat or Tele designs, or they tend to go too far from my comfort zone with shapes and features that are just a tad to quirky for my tastes. Also, per late point, I have to be focused on what I offer, as I want to be the guy that does deliver! Thanks, again.
 

ScrapDog

Member
Messages
106
www.titanguitars.com

We're revamping a bit on what and how we offer but generally speaking we delivered an incredible, californian made guitars for 12-1800 but ultimately we just watched demand slowly dwindle to nothing. Massive marketing and other traditional "sales" avenues may have prevented it's eventual slow down but it would have driven the price up immediately.

It's still a killer guitar and a brand I'm too stubborn to give up on even if it is on hiatus right now.
Thanks for your comments and sorry for the delayed reply ... first, your K guitars are amazing and well worth every penny. Very cool designs that get to what I at least feel is most important which is to be familiar and not to crazy but have cool, not so mainstream details. Can this be done successfully at good quality at a price point close to $2k built in the USA ?... humm ... much tougher task.
To me, your Titan brand and customization features seem to be your venture into this zone. Disheartening to hear that this wasn't as successfully sustainable as hoped. This gets at my original question of "is there a market at $2k USA built" because it almost seems to me that there is more active and interest at the $3.5K and up range where you can offer a higher level of product execution and options, and the customer base that would want to do a custom build doesn't worry about the spread of moving from $2k to paying say $3.5K or much more.
Or said more simply, is price really not a major factor for those who would be interested in a non Fender/Gibson type custom guitar ?

One question I did have about the Titan customization was that you offered many options, pickups for example, but only offered one standard neck configuration/profile ... no options on the necks ? Did I get this correct? If yes, do you think this might have had an impact on interest for custom builds ? ... as many comments to my post seem to suggest that having options in neck profiles is as important, or perhaps more important, compared to pickup options ? Welcome your thoughts on this.
Again, thanks and hope the Titan brand returns when the 'new normal' returns.
 

Jeff Promo

Member
Messages
13
This is an easy one. For LESS than $2000 you can build a world class guitar with parts from Warmoth. Because of their nature, they won't have collector value, but the woods and finishes are FANTASTIC, and once built, they are as good or better than ANYTHING Fender Custom Shop makes, at 1/4 of the price. Win-Win!
 

fretfire6

Member
Messages
6
I’ve been doing this for about 7-8yrs with Attila Csapo of Attila Custom Guitar’s. I sold all my brand name guitars, which were Gibson R8’s and other nice pieces. For me, to be able to choose the wood, finish, pickups, and other details, plus an entire gallery of build pictures is pure heaven. I’ve spent probably $15,000 thru the years and I am more than happy. His build quality and attention to detail is second to none.
 

moonshinegtrs

Member
Messages
58
Boutique Bass builders seem to be more successful at this though it is still a limited club... (the late) Mike Lull, Roger Sadowsky, Fodera, Charles Thompson, Ken Spector, Ken Smith are a few.
 

axpro

Member
Messages
628
I think there is a "desire" for such a product, but unfortunately, there is no resale market for such a thing, and people put a LOT of thought into resellability of items. Everyone wants a custom guitar with all the cool options, but in order to keep the build quality in check, and the profitability higher, you need to standardize parts. Which will lead to "Why don't you offer the XXXXX Tremolo?!?!?" endless questions repeating. Even thinking of myself as a purchaser, I would love a Mexican made Charvel with a baked maple neck... BUT I prefer 22 fret, vintage 6 hole trem, and humbuckers... There is NOTHING in that lineup for me. I could put a similar guitar together from Warmoth parts, but there is always the risk of "not liking the cake once i have baked it" It's pretty rare as I work as a tech and have a pretty standard list of "yes and no" ideas for myself... but even as a tech, who has worked in the industry 20 years, I occasionally think i will LOVE something and it's just "NOPE"

I do have friends who build custom guitars, and I have one that was built for me... but it's a labour of love, you have to love doing it, and just be cool that you will most likely have a modest life, and be willing to either take in repair work, or build cheaper in tough times. The number of builders who make just one appearance at NAMM and die off is pretty significant.

I think your main competition is the large number of companies doing a similar idea, but getting parts made overseas. So they can say "Assembled in the USA" but there aren't enough parts of origin to stamp it "Made in the USA" regardless of whether the quality is on par or lower than American made, you get the "Why do you charge $400 more than Brand X" people

Good luck, keep us updated as to what you end up doing. Despite being a little bit of a negative nelly, I do love to see new companies and new ideas pop up!
 




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