RIP Riff City, We barely got to know ya!

Vaibhav Joshi

Member
Messages
2,374
Ha, you must not watch Youtube :) , good for you. Yes they were blazing hot about 3 years or so ago. They were all over Youtube as the best thing since sliced bread. They are owned by the dudes over at Anderton's. I personally think that most of the Youtube stuff was paid for, but none the less, it was hyped like crazy. Also popular if you are into progressive metal (that uses 7 & 8 string guitars). People were going crazy trying to get their hands on one.

Since then Youtube has moved on to other brands like Harley Benton (that probably pay more to push their products), Chapman has raised their prices to premium brand levels, and pretty much lost the hype.

No idea about the used market, I have only seen one used and that was about 2 years ago. It was OK, but the pickups and the electronics felt cheap (the pickups sounded bad). For the money they were asking, it was not worth it in my opinion.

With the way Youtube works and some of the Youtubers being ethically challenged, it has become sort of the scam of the week. Even Fender has paid Youtubers to push their products like the pedals they came out with a couple of years ago. I am not saying Chapman is a scam, but it seems like Youtube has created a hype/bust cycle that lasts a couple of years at most.
I couldn't see anything in a Chapman guitar except modern aesthetics. Haven't played them but I think they are for impressionable kids.
 

Chrosa

Member
Messages
568
I think its pretty sad, they have great service and I have no complaints whenever I dealt with them. Just bought a second Reverend from them with this closeout sale. I know people on TGP (and the internet in general) like to find any reason to hate Chapman or the guitar line, but I find it pretty ridiculous to point the finger at them. Every guitar brand has multiple dealers, and Chapman expanding and being a bigger brand was bound to happen, so getting new dealers/retailers is a good thing for them. Maybe being one of the few Chapman dealers was a strong appeal for RC initially, but you can't expect to live or die on one brand. Like when PGS closed, it sucks when you like a retailer and they go under. There are so many options for buying gear online and there are some I stick to like CME and RC because of the service, and it is definitely a shocker to see them close.
 

StormJH1

Member
Messages
1,088
It really makes me sad that they are going out of business, but it was so obviously doomed from day one. They had a primary location near the St. Cloud area in Minnesota. It was almost an hour removed from the major population center here. But they did a pretty good online business (the experience was similar to Sweetwater), and they had a little bit of a niche with some affordable exclusives that you could only really buy at places like Anderton's - the Tone City pedals were an example of that, and they had the Chapman stuff, of course, Victory amps, and some tie-ins to the YouTube gear people.

Last summer (I think?) they opened a new store in the Twin Cities area. It was a nice space, and they were initially stocked with tons of Gretsch, Reverend, some Fender, etc. I bought an amp from them, and some pedals. But they put in in New Hope in a suburban strip mall. There was zero possibility for walk-up traffic, and it wasn't embedded in any kind of music scene. By comparison, there are shops in Minneapolis (Twin Town) and St. Paul (Capitol Guitars) that have much longer tie-ins to an actual music culture. I'd bet that like 10 to 20% of the guitar/gear people in our area even knew the store was there. The place was like a library every time I was in there - I felt so bad for them because they seemed like good guys and the business was sound, but it never had a chance in the two locations they picked, and if their emphasis was as a startup online music vendor, then you have Amazon, Sweetwater, and probably dozens of others to contend with.
 

StormJH1

Member
Messages
1,088
Ya, I agree with you, but the fascinating thing is that it showed the strength of Youtube marketing. All the manufacturers have embraced Youtube as a the major marketing channel for products now, including some of the major manufacturers like Fender. And I guess Youtube does have its strengths such as being targeted towards musicians and usually fairly inexperienced musicians at that.

The other fascinating part of this example is that Chapman doesn't look to be sustainable as a brand, which is where companies like Riff City got burned. As the hype died down, and Chapman tried to move upscale to a premium brand, it appears that the market for their products started to shrink. It would make a great business case study at some business school.

I did play a couple of them, and they were OK, they weren't bad but they weren't great either. They had a nice body/neck/fingerboard but the sound with the standard coils were not to my taste. They were just another run of the mill guitar, nothing special IMO. Needless to say, I didn't buy or own any Chapmans.
Riff City pushed Chapman hard, but I can't say that was the reason for their downfall (see my other post). I'm sure the guitars were fine, but I did not like the aesthetic of them. At. All. And while they were affordable, the quality bar for stuff made in the Far East for low cost is so much higher than it was even 20 years ago, that they didn't offer that much. Even within the stuff Riff City offered, I'd rather own one of their Gretschs or save up and get a Reverend for a bit more, which looked and felt like a much nicer guitar.
 

ArtDecade

Member
Messages
2,099
Chapman Guitars are solid instruments. I have played quite a few. Bummed about Riff City, but brick and mortar stores are an at-risk species. We can blame try to blame Chapman for making the move to GC, but I think all of us would have made that move in the same situation.
 

T Dizz

Member
Messages
20,694
It really makes me sad that they are going out of business, but it was so obviously doomed from day one. They had a primary location near the St. Cloud area in Minnesota. It was almost an hour removed from the major population center here. But they did a pretty good online business (the experience was similar to Sweetwater), and they had a little bit of a niche with some affordable exclusives that you could only really buy at places like Anderton's - the Tone City pedals were an example of that, and they had the Chapman stuff, of course, Victory amps, and some tie-ins to the YouTube gear people.

Last summer (I think?) they opened a new store in the Twin Cities area. It was a nice space, and they were initially stocked with tons of Gretsch, Reverend, some Fender, etc. I bought an amp from them, and some pedals. But they put in in New Hope in a suburban strip mall. There was zero possibility for walk-up traffic, and it wasn't embedded in any kind of music scene. By comparison, there are shops in Minneapolis (Twin Town) and St. Paul (Capitol Guitars) that have much longer tie-ins to an actual music culture. I'd bet that like 10 to 20% of the guitar/gear people in our area even knew the store was there. The place was like a library every time I was in there - I felt so bad for them because they seemed like good guys and the business was sound, but it never had a chance in the two locations they picked, and if their emphasis was as a startup online music vendor, then you have Amazon, Sweetwater, and probably dozens of others to contend with.
I has talking to another TGPer about this same issue. I loved the New Hope store, but I'm in East St Paul and it was a 45 minute drive from my house. definitely in a weird spot. If they had a more centralized location it would have gotten a lot more business IMO.
 

funkapus

Supporting Member
Messages
285
I had bought a Yamaha THR10 from them, was expecting to buy a Reverend from them at some point. I liked them. This is a bummer.
 

Vaibhav Joshi

Member
Messages
2,374
Ya, I agree with you, but the fascinating thing is that it showed the strength of Youtube marketing. All the manufacturers have embraced Youtube as a the major marketing channel for products now, including some of the major manufacturers like Fender. And I guess Youtube does have its strengths such as being targeted towards musicians and usually fairly inexperienced musicians at that.

The other fascinating part of this example is that Chapman doesn't look to be sustainable as a brand, which is where companies like Riff City got burned. As the hype died down, and Chapman tried to move upscale to a premium brand, it appears that the market for their products started to shrink. It would make a great business case study at some business school.

I did play a couple of them, and they were OK, they weren't bad but they weren't great either. They had a nice body/neck/fingerboard but the sound with the standard coils were not to my taste. They were just another run of the mill guitar, nothing special IMO. Needless to say, I didn't buy or own any Chapmans.
Yea, I agree with you on the Youtube part, it's still accessible & easy to put your idea & product out there but it's so much gear & 'blues licks' oriented.
I'm also glad that the Chapman venture put Riff city on the map.
In some videos where the reviewer can't help but give away signs of disappointment, I've watched Chapman pickups being 'meh' in most of videos. I would want a neck in the guitar to be suitable over other things but they are pricey in the current market.
If I have to order one without playing it, I would rather go for something that's known for QC, like a PRS. They are really good in that range & I've played them. Even more so if you get the ones with the least aesthetics.
I did read about your experience with them when someone was selling some.
I don't know much but the market doesn't seem to have a real need for their offering; it's just based on a brand much like Beard & Clothing lines that celebrities start.
Chapman makes Lifestyle guitars & pedals.. haha. I couldn't help it.
I'd much rather get a Kiesel guitar, tuned to me on a budget.
Also, much prefer guitars like the Strandberg getting promoted on YT where the actual informed users make 30 min videos & have excitement on their face.
Sorry for dragging it away from the topic of the thread especially this one.
 

Jerome

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
292
Sad to see them go as well. Bought one pedal from them. There was a little mixup, but their customer service was amazing and went above and beyond to fix the issue.
 

Sencha

Member
Messages
277
Buy your Chapman's today!!! LOL. Not only are they going cheap at Riff City but nearly all of the range is on sale at Andertons. Their time is almost up. I bet Lee Anderton would jump at the chance to cash out of that company if one of the bigger brands came in for it. I only know of Riff City because of their close association with Chapman. I do know 4 of the first 5 or so retailers in the U.S, that carried Chapman, ditched them within a couple of years. They took forever to come, most needed work done before they could be sold, impossible to return, etc etc etc.
 

Produktsumme

Funkensprühender Feuerregen
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
663
Rob Chapman is a hobbyist who jumped on the chance to partner with Lee Anderton (sitting in a coffee shop making his acquaintance) and order some guitars from WMI on Lee's money. Good choice wrt the producer as you can go well worse regarding asian guitars, so people got decent instruments. Good marketing on YT (including Rabea), done. Now, every Youtube kid who wanted a maple cap explorer or a tele actually has bought one, they are dead in the water.

Edit: that should have read maple veneer, not maple cap :jo
 

COYS

Member
Messages
5,035
Don't put all yer eggs in one basket.
They really didn't do that.

They sold Fender, Martin, PRS, Reverend, Gretsch, Orange, Victory, numerous others. Their pedal selection was vast, and they had all the good sorts of accessories in the shop.

Partnering with Chapman helped raise their profile and Chapman's profile (in the US), but Riff City really was not betting it all on Chapman. Their retail stores had wall space devoted to Chapman but it was not a really big chunk of the space. Fender and Reverend always had more, for a start.
 

Vhailor

Supporting Member
Messages
1,708
online music stores are not viable businesses anymore. even the most popular ones have almost no inventory. no idea how any of them are able to support anyone.
I'm not sure that independent brick-'n'-mortar music stores are viable either: I used to have Ludlow Guitars, kinda sorta a hipster place but not too bad, very close by (before they moved to Front St and then shuttered permanently), and a Korean mom-'n'-pop kinda shop up on 2nd & 12th or so (and that's the kind of store in which I feel most comfortable, really).

Now, as far as I know, there's only that hipster shop on E4th: I went there once but having gotten there I was met by some political stuff taped to the door. So that's out. Now it's Guitar Center on 14th St - which I want to avoid, or Sam Ash on 34th & 9th. Unless I find a place owned by specific human beings (as opposed to anonymous shareholders), I guess that's where I'm gonna have to go.

Or... catalog shopping. Like living on the frontier in the Old West. What's old is new again.

But not happy about it.
 




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