Adrian Lopez

The Violin Business

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There is a luthier here in Puerto Rico who maintains and repairs violins for the local orchestra. I haven't spoken to him personally, but a friend who's met him tells me he mostly makes guitars and cuatros as the violins he's made in the past don't sell nearly as well as these other instruments. Students prefer inexpensive instruments, most of which come from China, and there's even professional orchestra players who've started buying Chinese factory fiddles online instead of luthier-made instruments. Apparently, these Chinese instruments are good enough that it's hard to compete against them in a frugal market like Puerto Rico.

The economic outlook here is bleak, but I'm sure Puerto Rico isn't the only market to be affected by the influx of cheap Chinese fiddles, so what does a profitable violin business look like these days? In your experience and excluding online retailers, which aspects of the violin business do you find are the most profitable?

  • Making new instruments.
  • Setups and repairs.
  • Sales of strings, cases, and other accessories.
  • Sales of factory instruments.
  • Sales of fine instruments.
  • Instrument rentals.

I'm sure the answers will depend on the particular market, but I'm curious as to what things look like as we near the end of 2019.

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1 hour ago, Adrian Lopez said:

There is a luthier here in Puerto Rico who maintains and repairs violins for the local orchestra. I haven't spoken to him personally, but a friend who's met him tells me he mostly makes guitars and cuatros as the violins he's made in the past don't sell nearly as well as these other instruments. Students prefer inexpensive instruments, most of which come from China, and there's even professional orchestra players who've started buying Chinese factory fiddles online instead of luthier-made instruments. Apparently, these Chinese instruments are good enough that it's hard to compete against them in a frugal market like Puerto Rico.

 

I think you have a pretty good take on things.

Individually-made lutheir instruments do have their ups and downs. So do Chinese instruments.

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51 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

I think you have a pretty good take on things.

Individually-made lutheir instruments do have their ups and downs. So do Chinese instruments.

So I'm curious as to what degree the market for low-cost instruments has affected makers in the United States (and elsewhere) and if and how these makers have managed to adapt to such changes in the market.

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36 minutes ago, Adrian Lopez said:

So I'm curious as to what degree the market for low-cost instruments has affected makers in the United States (and elsewhere) and if and how these makers have managed to adapt to such changes in the market.

I think it's been really hard on the US and EU entry-level guys and gals. But making has been a hard road to hoe,  for probably 200 years now.

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8 minutes ago, Adrian Lopez said:

So I'm curious as to what degree the market for low-cost instruments has affected makers in the United States (and elsewhere) and if and how these makers have managed to adapt to such changes in the market.

It was allways like that. 100 years ago, it was the cheap violins from Schönbach etc.

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52 minutes ago, Adrian Lopez said:

So I'm curious as to what degree the market for low-cost instruments has affected makers in the United States (and elsewhere) and if and how these makers have managed to adapt to such changes in the market.

It seems to me that there are many more individual makers here in the US than there was 30-40 years ago, in spite of Chinese imports. But who knows, maybe a lot of them are trust fund babies., or just have a high earning spouse.

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As a young maker married to a professional musician, I can attest that it's pretty damn hard to make a go of it. Neither of us makes much, but we survive. Part of it is living in a rural area where food and rent are cheaper, but considering that means my wife has to commute widely for work it may actually be a wash in the end. The rental fleet keeps the rent paid, but otherwise it's praying for someone to come in for an open seam, soundpost, bridge, what have you, and chipping away at my waitlist. You don't get paid (in full) until they're done. 

As far as Chinese fiddles go, there really are some nice ones out there, and the general quality of finish, if not entirely overall workmanship, has improved a lot as far as I can see. You can set them up to play just as comfortably as anything else, but I have yet to hear a workshop fiddle out of China that sounds well. 

An important factor, one that took me too long to learn - price yourself out of the China bracket right away. 

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I think that in countries with generally higher incomes Chinese fiddles/low budget fiddles don’t compete at all with high-quality handmade luthier instruments. Players looking for a Instrument have mainly one goal in common: Get the best instrument you could imagine in the given „high quality maker price class“. There are also plenty of amateur players buying in this category. This is mainly due to economics and this views change dramatically from country to country. Even within Germany there are gigantic differences.

 

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4 hours ago, Adrian Lopez said:

So I'm curious as to what degree the market for low-cost instruments has affected makers in the United States (and elsewhere) and if and how these makers have managed to adapt to such changes in the market.

Globalism foisted upon the USA by the international banking cartel has destroyed the "violin maker" market....there was the world pre 1990 and then there was the world after.

If you were in your 20's in the 1970's and were able to establish yourself pre-china , there was/is a good chance that you were able to make "it", as well as carry that reputation into the after-china market,ie. virtually every working luthier alive today making good money at it is a pre-china person. There are very few well known makers who have "made it" after 2000 , it took about 10 years for the china saturation to really soak in, after it did, it killed the viability of "bothering" with learning new making as a living. 

This time frame coinciding with the "internet craze" offered new ways to think about making money at it, mostly importing and marking up, as well as creating the entire auction/ebay thing....so there were opportunities that way, the majority of violin making in the USA which is alive and well, is however done at a more "hobby" "second job" level for many. The internet certainly opened up the doors for many people by places like this coming along as well as utube, showing hobbyist how "they can build one too" .

So I think there is lots of hobby building based on the net opening the information up, however when china instruments are coming in complete for cheaper than I can buy the material for a top, there really isn't anyway to compete against that other than to get really good, become a snob and charge thru the nose, and somehow someway separate yourself from the crowd.

China did not take anything that was not offered to them, this is all part of an evil post human plan.USA has been put 23 trill in debt to these bankers, they used us up, bilked us dry, and are now {since1991} taking candy away from baby {the usa} and have been slowly giving it to China, the country with 1.3 billlion new suckers to bilk in their usury scam.

Of course the end result of economic disparity caused by debt based money creation/central banking {built in inflation} in the youth who are receiving the short end of the stick is a strong desire for socialism...

when you see your government paying for everything with credit and you can;t get ahead, and barley make rent, you start thinking hey "how bout some free stuff for me?"

works great for about a year,until the government has taken it all from the rich,which stops them from producing,or they just flee,and then that when the fun starts.

As the insane socialist globalist push for impeachment for no reason other than trump stands against globalism and he's f$#ing it all up for them,, and as the tv watchers {1/2 the country} eat up the orange man bad cia media lies, there is a growing consensus that the county will explode into a civil war,which will end the union as we know it, destroy the known economy and completely end in a new chapter for north america 

to which at that point, it may become a good idea to try to make violins for sale...:lol:

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36 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

Globalism foisted upon the USA by the international banking cartel has destroyed the "violin maker" market....there was the world pre 1990 and then there was the world after.

If you were in your 20's in the 1970's and were able to establish yourself pre-china , there was/is a good chance that you were able to make "it", as well as carry that reputation into the after-china market,ie. virtually every working luthier alive today making good money at it is a pre-china person. There are very few well known makers who have "made it" after 2000 , it took about 10 years for the china saturation to really soak in, after it did, it killed the viability of "bothering" with learning new making as a living. 

This time frame coinciding with the "internet craze" offered new ways to think about making money at it, mostly importing and marking up, as well as creating the entire auction/ebay thing....so there were opportunities that way, the majority of violin making in the USA which is alive and well, is however done at a more "hobby" "second job" level for many. The internet certainly opened up the doors for many people by places like this coming along as well as utube, showing hobbyist how "they can build one too" .

So I think there is lots of hobby building based on the net opening the information up, however when china instruments are coming in complete for cheaper than I can buy the material for a top, there really isn't anyway to compete against that other than to get really good, become a snob and charge thru the nose, and somehow someway separate yourself from the crowd.

China did not take anything that was not offered to them, this is all part of an evil post human plan.USA has been put 23 trill in debt to these bankers, they used us up, bilked us dry, and are now {since1991} taking candy away from baby {the usa} and have been slowly giving it to China, the country with 1.3 billlion new suckers to bilk in their usury scam.

Of course the end result of economic disparity caused by debt based money creation/central banking {built in inflation} in the youth who are receiving the short end of the stick is a strong desire for socialism...

when you see your government paying for everything with credit and you can;t get ahead, and barley make rent, you start thinking hey "how bout some free stuff for me?"

works great for about a year,until the government has taken it all from the rich,which stops them from producing,or they just flee,and then that when the fun starts.

As the insane socialist globalist push for impeachment for no reason other than trump stands against globalism and he's f$#ing it all up for them,, and as the tv watchers {1/2 the country} eat up the orange man bad cia media lies, there is a growing consensus that the county will explode into a civil war,which will end the union as we know it, destroy the known economy and completely end in a new chapter for north america 

to which at that point, it may become a good idea to try to make violins for sale...:lol:

And while you're at it, mind those black helicopters!!!

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2 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

 

 

giphy.gif

thats right baby, and I bet cha' that tin foil was made in china.too!, all I wanted to be was a world class tinfoil maker, but noooo' china,china,china :lol:

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9 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

thats right baby, and I bet cha' that tin foil was made in china.too!, all I wanted to be was a world class tinfoil maker, but noooo' china,china,china :lol:

Not since the God Emperor's tarrifs kicked in. USA tinfoil all the way!

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1 minute ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Not since the God Emperor's tarrifs kicked in. USA tinfoil all the way!

Bed, Bath....and BEYOND!!! 

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Just now, Adrian Lopez said:

I have probably lost control of this thread forever, but please feel free to get us back on topic.

Hey,sorry ,my post is on topic...ok different, less rothchildy version, ....China imports of Chinese goods has dramatically effected virtually every market everywhere. If you are the maker of a product it will/would most likely negatively effect your bottom line based on price points that you will not be able to compete against. 

There will always be an elite group of makers for a group of elite players, I would say it was "the average " "little people" who have been effected by China the most.

If you lived in Kansas in 1952 and were in the high school orchestra, there was a good chance the violin you were playing might have been from a north american maker who was serving the student market. There were plenty of imports from Europe  ,but no where near the price points we see coming from China. With no China there was the ability to learn the craft, open a shop,and get business, still can be done, but way harder and you will be vying for a spot on the list of guys who are charging 5  up to 6 figures, because as far as new making goes, that seems to be it, there is only the top tier,and nothing below it. You are either making new instruments for pro musicians who have an extra 10k minimum to spend ,more like 25 30...or your making them for fun...

There are guys who have made their money in other careers and have got into this and can afford to charge say 5k  in the hopes of eventually raising prices, but that has it's issues also, like boxing yourself in as the "cheap guy"

That is the kind of business model that got wiped out, the small business maker serving the student market,aspiring pros,working poor musicians,people who would pay 2500 for an instrument. If you had enough 2500$ jobs you could get by, but once the 139.99 special, that sounded ok came to town, the "why would I pay you 2500$ " did too.

oh, and, epstein didn't kill himself :lol:

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I published the full text of a written representation by the Viennese violin makers from 11th. June 1770 to the Viennese government, how destitute they were due to massive and cheap newly arisen foreign competition.

 

This goes to show that there has always been “Globalisation” even if it wasn’t called as such, And should one think about it, American violin makers would have surely counted amongst the johnny-come-later disturbers of their trade!

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I can partly relate with OP. I don't make violins (though I have one in plans) but mandolins. I live in Slovakia and build Bluegrass mandolins. The market for these here is tiny at best and if you compare salaries here there is very few folks who can afford buying quality handmade instrument (which is what I'm trying to produce). I don't build full time (I've got day job as teacher of match and computer science and teaching is not lucrative job around here) but many folks suggested that I should leave that and go building full time.

I started as full hobbyist self-taught (from books, later internet and of course through own failures) and eventually I'm teaching only 4 days a week and try to spend one day in workshop. What I found is that in this environment of rough competition of cheap imports (average sallary here is barely 1000EUR before tax so even some of those imports can be pricey for us) you need to offer something that the competition cannot. Being active musician I knew that these imports were often very badly setup and even after setup they sounded OK at best. I did repairs and setups for most local pickers and I tried to make my instruments up to level that those imports couldn't reach and let best players test them and slowly they realized there is noticeable difference (you have to educate your customers so they know what they are getting, but not do the mistake of spreading BS). As the word spread even local pickers would save the funds to get one of mine instead of imports (there are no real pro mandolin players here, just hobby or semi-pro). I never thought I will sell more than one or two mandolins locally but initially more than half of them landed locally. Now, 20 years later my instruments are in various EU countries and almost half of them in USA. More than once potential customer asked "why do you sell for xxxx when I can buy one here for yyyy?", my response would be "because that's how much they are worth to me, that's how much effort I put into them, try them and if you don't see/hear/feel the difference go buy the cheaper..." Many of them now own my instruments.

My take is that most profitable is whatever of the making/repairs/selling where you can offer more than your competition (be it next door shop, Chinese stuff or any other mass producer). That depends on personal skill set of the person.

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19 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I published the full text of a written representation by the Viennese violin makers from 11th. June 1770 to the Viennese government, how destitute they were due to massive and cheap newly arisen foreign competition.

 

This goes to show that there has always been “Globalisation” even if it wasn’t called as such, And should one think about it, American violin makers would have surely counted amongst the johnny-come-later disturbers of their trade!

Yes there have always been evil politicians and monarchy that have worked with the money changers in order to parasitically bilk the populations. 

Regardless of when north american making came onto the scene, the meat and potatoes of the situation now,just like then revolves around "your" established "government/central bank" often times "covertly" working against it's own citizenry in order to enrich they, the elite class, while simultaneously ruining the lives of many working people, peoples lives who will be ruined because they are stuck in some bad dream, they use central bank created money.

"China" and "illegal" {non citizen} cheap labor from mexico/central america served a very distinct purpose in it time frame within the scam....the cheap goods and cheap labor were brought in at just the right time in order to HIDE INFLATION.

This is a very nebulous scam that requires flexibility and by now it's basically reached it's end and now they're just trying to keep it going as long as they can until the next sketch is written.

The next chapter is going to be very bad, globally. There is only one way to stop it, a way that will unfortunately most likely never come to pass.

 

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2 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Which is? 

short answer,wake up from the bad dream and stop using central bank created debt based money,come together  and find a way to replace it....globally,outside of the current banking and governmental systems, they exist to preserve and legitimize the scam.

this of course assumes one implicitly understands how the scam works....and therein lies the rub. 

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I think the basic problem, regardless of „system“, could be that, if you earn your living making objects, there will always be someone somewhere who will make the same object cheaper. Seems the only antidote would be to make it better, or switch to antiques, where the suply is theoreticaly finite.

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7 hours ago, jezzupe said:

short answer,wake up from the bad dream and stop using central bank created debt based money,come together  and find a way to replace it....globally,outside of the current banking and governmental systems, they exist to preserve and legitimize the scam.

this of course assumes one implicitly understands how the scam works....and therein lies the rub. 

I only accept krugerrands, Bitcoin, or bottle caps, man. 

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The Youtube/Maestronet/Delcamp school of instrument making is churning out hundreds of new makers every single week!

Welcome to the world of competition folks!

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