Adrian Lopez

The Violin Business

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1 hour ago, Michael.N. said:

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!

I was hoping we could blend this with some of the early Kung Fu movies that pitted the different Kung Fu schools against each other, kinda like a blend of violin making school, ufc cage fighting and Iron chef,or maybe chopped.

We could come on before American Ninja Warrior ,I guarantee it would create a new renaissance era for the violin, sure maybe it'd dumb it down a bit, but just think of those ratings!

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I was at the premier of the Bowmaker's movie and had a short chat with Matt Wheling. We were talking about modern instruments and bows, and I told him that I had always wanted to have a shop where we sold instruments and bows by living makers, and just living makers. You know, like the store down the street that has a sign in the window ,"Buy from living artists, the dead ones don't need your money", and he said what I already knew-"great idea. what are you going to do for a living?"!

New making for a living has never been an easy row to hoe. Most of the makers I know have a support system, be it a spouse or a trust fund, and as of late, a previous profession that made enough money to allow one to become a violin maker... My shop is about 1/3 rentals, the rest split between sales and repairs. I make things for the pleasure of making. Hopefully, someone likes it and buys it, but I don't really expect that to be a significant, budgetable revenue stream.

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On 11/7/2019 at 8:34 PM, David Burgess said:

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.

I agree with David. It was mentioned here sometime ago that the number of makers living exclusively from new making is less than 20 in the USA.

In the case you don't live in a region with a good demand, things are even more difficult.

I've heard from an Italian friend maker that Scarampella rehaired bows in front of the Opera, on the street, and tried to exchange food for violins.  And Rocca asked to be declared legally poor.

The Hills mention in their book that most makers lived from hand to mouth.

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14 minutes ago, MANFIO said:

makers living exclusively from new making is less than 20 in the USA.

When you think about it, thats still a lot considering how many good violins have been made over the centuries that dont seem to wear out, and a population of professional players that seems to be  constant (or maybe shrinking). If you figure 10-20 instruments/year thats 2-400 new instruments on the market. Of course there are probably even more made by luthiers that dont rely completely on making, or for what ever circumstances, dont need to make an independent living.

Still obviously at least some need and demand for quality new instruments. And it seems that demand is being nicely filled.

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On 11/7/2019 at 3:34 PM, David Burgess said:

 But making has been a hard road to hoe,  for probably 200 years now.

Ever since asphalt and concrete pavement, roads have been really  tough to hoe. 

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2 hours ago, deans said:

When you think about it, thats still a lot considering how many good violins have been made over the centuries that dont seem to wear out, and a population of professional players that seems to be  constant (or maybe shrinking). If you figure 10-20 instruments/year thats 2-400 new instruments on the market. Of course there are probably even more made by luthiers that dont rely completely on making, or for what ever circumstances, dont need to make an independent living.

Still obviously at least some need and demand for quality new instruments. And it seems that demand is being nicely filled.

meh' I would replace "need and demand" with "want and wish"  I think not one new instrument could be built for 50 years and the supply of old ones would probably be enough 

lets just admit it, we're living in some delusional fantasy world, at least that's what my soon to be x-girlfreind tells me. :lol:

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28 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Ever since asphalt and concrete pavement, roads have been really  tough to hoe. 

You must live in one of them fancy areas. ;)

Don't Californians know that asphalt contributes to global warming, and that making concrete consumes vast amounts of energy?  :o

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57 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

>

lets just admit it, we're living in some delusional fantasy world, at least that's what my soon to be x-girlfreind tells me. :lol:

 Seems nice. Is there anything wrong with that?

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1 hour ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

 Seems nice. Is there anything wrong with that?

Hey thats what I keep telling her! :lol:

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

You must live in one of them fancy areas. ;)

Don't Californians know that asphalt contributes to global warming, and that making concrete consumes vast amounts of energy?  :o

I thought it was pretty clear that Californians don't know anything.

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17 hours ago, jezzupe said:

I was hoping we could blend this with some of the early Kung Fu movies that pitted the different Kung Fu schools against each other, kinda like a blend of violin making school, ufc cage fighting and Iron chef,or maybe chopped.

 

Have you seen the show Forged in Fire? I would totally watch a luthier version of that. 

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12 hours ago, David Burgess said:

You must live in one of them fancy areas. ;)

Don't Californians know that asphalt contributes to global warming, and that making concrete consumes vast amounts of energy?  :o

Yep, pretty fancy here living in a cardboard box under a freeway overpass.  The roads are still concrete here, though.

And we apparently don't know anything about global warming, or how to rake our forest floors... according to some guy who spend most of his life living in a tower in a concrete city.

9 hours ago, jezzupe said:

I thought it was pretty clear that Californians don't know anything.

At least one of them knows that trying to make a living by making violins is not a good idea, assuming you want to eat and have a house and a family and kids that go to college.

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14 hours ago, Don Noon said:

At least one of them knows that trying to make a living by making violins is not a good idea, assuming you want to eat and have a house and a family and kids that go to college.

You make violins in California, so is this a tongue-in-cheek statement about the business or are you saying that you, specifically, don't make enough money to earn a living making violins?

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33 minutes ago, Adrian Lopez said:

You make violins in California, so is this a tongue-in-cheek statement about the business or are you saying that you, specifically, don't make enough money to earn a living making violins?

Don presumably has a comfortable retirement after a long and distinguished career as an engineer, and therefore does not have to concern himself with making a living at violin making. 

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48 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Don presumably has a comfortable retirement after a long and distinguished career as an engineer, and therefore does not have to concern himself with making a living at violin making. 

That's the correct assumption.  

However, hypothesizing: I think I might be able to make a modestly livable income from making violins at this point... if I spent all my waking hours at making and marketing my instruments.  But that's after more than 10 years of learning, so I would have starved to death by now.  It's definitely not a very economically attractive occupation.

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Getting back to the OP question...

On 11/7/2019 at 1:34 PM, Adrian Lopez said:

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.

The answers so far have been skewed by the kinds of folks who populate MN, i.e. mostly makers or repairers or some other small niche business.  We really need to hear from full-service shops that provide all (or most) of these.

I know of two or three shops that have in-house makers of new instruments, and I don't think that's a big part of the business, but I'm sure it varies.  Sales of fine instruments I think depends on greater experience and connections to both the suppliers and buyers at the higher end.  All the other stuff is how the bills get paid for most shops, is my guess.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

We really need to hear from full-service shops that provide all (or most) of these.

Absolutely. Unfortunately they are all at work. The full service shops I go to are all usually very busy, which is a big part of the equation.

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On 11/7/2019 at 4:37 PM, 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.

In the case of mine, it's when they are picked up and put down.

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On 11/7/2019 at 3:34 PM, 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.

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. 

A big part of the answer is what you put into any of these in terms of time and monetary investment.  

If you are making, the profit margin can be pretty high if you're not renting space, employing other folks, or counting your time -- and selling what you make, of course.  The margin is cut by the quality of the materials you put into your instruments and the cost of any marketing you do, though over time, things re-balance because presumably the marketing is helping you sell which in turn generates word of mouth and off you go, at some increased pace.  But whether you have time for that re-balance to grow to the point where you can increase your profit margin depends, as others have said, on whether you have another source of income in the household.  And ,my business model isn't necessary that of others here.

Also helps to have kids who have achieved financial independence.;)

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On 11/7/2019 at 1:34 PM, Adrian Lopez said:

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?

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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