Sign in to follow this  
Michael Richwine

Celebrity endorsements?

Recommended Posts

We recently completed prototypes of my pet project -- a five-string fiddle and viola -- that have been extremely well received in initial testing by amateur and professionals alike. A second generation is in the works for "beta testing", based on suggestions offered by people who have played the prototypes.

I know I have a really good product on my hands. Now I have to figure out how best to market it. I have a couple of market segments in mind. The one I am mostly concerned with is the traditional country, bluegrass, and alternative fiddle players, among whom five-strings are enjoying increasing popularity. These are American made, top quality shop instruments.

I've noticed that in the fretted instrument market, there are a lot of celebrity associations used to differentiate and sell instruments. I'm wondering whether this will work with fiddles as well. If it does work, I'd love to have any information or experience anyone would care to share about how such deals work.

What sort of deal is normally made with the celebrity in terms of duration, restrictions, and of course, remuneration?

How does one best target advertising that uses such endorsements? I'm thinking of possibly voicing and setting up instruments to suit a couple of different fiddlers, and perhaps selling them as signature models.

Any ideas, insights, or experiences would be most welcome.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We recently completed prototypes of my pet project -- a five-string fiddle and viola -- that have been extremely well received in initial testing by amateur and professionals alike. A second generation is in the works for "beta testing", based on suggestions offered by people who have played the prototypes.

I know I have a really good product on my hands. Now I have to figure out how best to market it. I have a couple of market segments in mind. The one I am mostly concerned with is the traditional country, bluegrass, and alternative fiddle players, among whom five-strings are enjoying increasing popularity. These are American made, top quality shop instruments.

I've noticed that in the fretted instrument market, there are a lot of celebrity associations used to differentiate and sell instruments. I'm wondering whether this will work with fiddles as well. If it does work, I'd love to have any information or experience anyone would care to share about how such deals work.

What sort of deal is normally made with the celebrity in terms of duration, restrictions, and of course, remuneration?

How does one best target advertising that uses such endorsements? I'm thinking of possibly voicing and setting up instruments to suit a couple of different fiddlers, and perhaps selling them as signature models.

Any ideas, insights, or experiences would be most welcome.

Maybe remuneration should be the least of your concerns. Why not give it to a celebrity on condition that they report on its "developmetn" and the person's satisfaction? Also, that they would return it if they did not like it, and also would not sell it. It might be a fiction for you, but maybe the celebrity would be pleased and even flattered. They all have a sense of entitlement, and they would not see it as any kind of ploy. Then at least the instrument would be seen ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When Paul Reed Smith set out to break into the electric guitar market, he made one and sent it, gratis, to Carlos Santana. Santana allowed as how it was an excellent guitar, but said that something that good must be a miracle, and couldn't be repeated. PRS then made a second guitar specially for Carlos, and sent it to him. He got his endorsement. I think that's a fairly representative story, if one can be had...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From visiting violinmakers' websites I thought it was standard practice to list endorsements by famous players. Most impressive, of course is if the famous player actually bought the instrument. In any case an endosement by a famous player gives prospective clients some assurance as to quality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw Will Lee (bassist on the David Letterman show) at a workshop/talk, and he said he routinely gives away free gear to needy schools, from the "free gifts" that manufacturers keep sending him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While this maybe a successful marketing stragedy, the problem of no two violins being alike, seems to throw a money wrench into the macinery. Mind you we are only talking a small wrench here! :)

Perhaps wooden sandals would work better. :) :) :)B) B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When my husband invented his carbon fiber bow for fiddlers, he sent out free samples to about 25 famous musicians all over the world. He also sold a couple hundred at cost to anybody that wanted one on the stipulation that they would send in comments. He's received public endorsements from some pretty famous musicians. It can be expensive to go that route, but it works!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good thoughts, everyone. A couple of replies:

We don't intend to give anything away. That is, if we give an instrument to a celebrity, it will be in exchange for contractual services rendered, value for value. First qualification is that the endorser has to love the instrument.

We will ask everyone we approach to evaluate and give us feedback on the instruments. That, at least gets them to actually pay some attention to it. Then, if they give it high marks, we might approach them for an endorsement deal of some sort.

Our instruments are remarkably consistent. Each one has its own voice, to be sure, but within a pretty small range. I liked the PRS story.

I appreciate the answers so far, and would like to hear any other thoughts anyone might have. Initial sales are very strong, but I'm not counting on that demand sustaining itself without some promotion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This may be redundant to you but Darol Anger (a major contemporary 5 string player) is promoting all makers of 5 string violins on this site which he created:

http://www.5stringviolin.com/

I'm guessing most people who are interested in these things are aware of this site. It seems people send him violins which he reviews on his own website and then lists them on the 5 string site. I personally know of one up and coming, great 5 string player who just bought a violin from a maker he found there, who was recently added to this site. It seems to be a clearinghouse for developments in the 5 string realm.

You might also want to have a concession at a major venue where your customers are likely to be. For example, I know of one very established 5 string maker who sells at Merlefest every year. Many celebrity players go through the makers booths to see what's new. It seems like a good way to meet a number of celebrity players and general customers face to face. If they genuinely like your violin over others, maybe then you could come to an arrangement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunately I'm not aware of any celebrities who play the violin. Who did you have in mind?

As far as people giving away instruments, I think it's hard to go up to someone and say hey plug this in exchange for an instrument. At the end of the day, most people with a touring schedual could afford to buy several of your violins, so there isn't much in it at all for them to sign a contract. You could accomplish that with a younger artists for sure, but I think you'd have problems with any ICM, Opus3 or IMG represented artist. Violin makers who use famous violinists to sell their violins basically gave them their pick of several instruments and now they might have a mention on the website. Not too many players have actually spoken about it in interviews with the exception of Tetzlaff. Most other players as you know use a great antique instrument most of the time, and might only casually mention their Zygmuntowicz, Borman, Finnigan, Alf/Curtin etc...

I'd really like to hear about how you go about this. I think the classical world has always been much more informal about how famous players "endorse" makers and certain dealers. I don't think it's often very similar to PRS, Fender and Gibson endorsements.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Will you post pictures? I know a few freelancing classical types who'd love to try a nice 5-string.

Here they are, with a couple of provisos:

These are prototypes, that is, the first approximations of a design. We wanted to see what they would sound and play like, and to find out what else we needed to do to make them work as well as possible. They have seen considerable testing by people who already play five-strings, and people who are in the market.

We are going to make a couple more instruments (beta models?), incorporating some changes, to make sure that everything works as expected before committing to the design. Expected changes on the fiddle include moving the F-holes out 3mm each and widening the bridge to allow standard string spacing, widening the nut by 2mm for the same reason, and widening the neck and fingerboard appropriately, along with lengthening the f-holes. There will be similar but less pronounced changes on the viola.

post-23499-1228087944_thumb.jpgpost-23499-1228088362_thumb.jpgpost-23499-1228087970_thumb.jpgpost-23499-1228087985_thumb.jpg

They are made from Bigleaf Maple, and Englemann Spruce. They sound better than I would expect prototypes to sound, and get high marks for responsiveness from the people who have tested them.

The lower bouts are larger than normal, and the scale has been proportionally shortened. The fiddle body is about 14 1/2" with a normal violin scale, and the viola is 15 1/2", with a 14 inch scale. Rib heights are viola height. Sound is remarkably even and strong across the strings.

Our anticipated market is bluegrass, country, and jazz/swing fiddlers, although there is one fairly well known classical soloist back East who seemed intrigued with the instrument. Teachers might be a good secondary market, but early indications are that a lower priced model would sell better in that sector, meaning we would have to to overseas to have them made. I'm trying to figure out how to do that and not get our designs knocked off immediately.

I'd be happy to send out the prototypes or the Beta models for testing and feedback. We'd like to have these as right for the market as we can get them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Interesting prototype.

Am I correct in thinking that you are using viola height ribs on the violin prototype?

Yes. The big problem with 5-strings has been getting a good solid C string sound while maintaining balance across the rest of the strings. This proportion and arching seems to work, but the corpus needs the higher ribs to provide enough volume to support the C.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
These are prototypes, that is, the first approximations of a design....

Our anticipated market is bluegrass, country, and jazz/swing fiddlers...

There is definitely a lot of interest in 5-stringers these days, from the groups you mention and also from "world" players.

I scheduled a 5-string fiddle show-and-play session at Fiddle Hell Massachusetts at 7PM Saturday night (FHM is Nov 13-15, 2009, in Groton, MA), and I know you'll be there for that! :)

Regards,

Dave Reiner

www.reinerfamilyband.com/fiddlehellmassac.html

P.S. Now playing Marmaduke's HP, thanks to your session last year :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There is definitely a lot of interest in 5-stringers these days, from the groups you mention and also from "world" players.

I scheduled a 5-string fiddle show-and-play session at Fiddle Hell Massachusetts at 7PM Saturday night (FHM is Nov 13-15, 2009, in Groton, MA), and I know you'll be there for that! :)

Regards,

Dave Reiner

www.reinerfamilyband.com/fiddlehellmassac.html

P.S. Now playing Marmaduke's HP, thanks to your session last year :)

Thanks, Dave - I'll be there, barring total meltdown. Had a great reception in Nashville, and there are three new additions to the line at various price points, all but one made in USA. There's a standard and a wide neck version available, too. Working on announcements this weekend. Should have them up in a week or so.

As it turns out, the instruments are pretty much selling themselves. All I have to do is to present them, it seems, and we're selling all we can make. Got plenty of endorsements from working musicians, and the celebrity endorsements will come in time, once the word gets out a little more.

While I was in Nashville, I met Stephan Dudash and had a good look at the five-string viola that David Burgess made for him. Very nice instrument, IMHO. Quite different in approach form ours, but a very successful design.

Maybe we can have Dueling Marmadukes this year :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In a perfect world the best product would always attract the most costumers. This world is not anything near perfect but from my experience the better product nearly always wins out. Do good work and people will gravitate towards it. That being said, I think your instruments look very nice. Good luck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.