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Yunibear

Is there such a thing as a private violin dealer?

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I recently moved to South Korea and was able to continue my music passions by volunteering for the community symphony orchestra in my city. I became the concert master, so I had a lot of musician's parents and other fellow violinists ask me for advice (because I come from the U.S. with musical education). I have been asked many times by those daring enough, how much my violin is, and I have learned that in Korea it's expected that you must have a very good instrument in your hands. The impression I was given was that Korean parents are willing to spend thousands and thousands of dollars ($10,000+) for a violin for their kid. When my violin student asked me how much my violin was because she too was hoping to get a new violin, I told her my honest answer ($4,000) and she was incredibly surprised that "such a sound could come from a *cheap* violin." 

As a musician since the age of 6, I have never felt that it was necessary to buy a $10,000 violin to become a great violinist as a student or serious hobbyist. Perhaps if I was planning on becoming the next Sarah Chang and was going out for competitions then yes, that investment would be reasonable... 

I think one of the reasons for this sort of reaction in Korea is because there have been many stories where students buy violins that are incredibly inflated. Thus once these students go abroad to study their craft further, they become disappointed to know that their instrument is not worth the amount they have paid for it sometimes to devastating proportions.

The reason I am writing this post is because, serious Korean musicians seem to want violins from abroad such as the U.S. and they have asked me if I do any sort of "dealing" where I bring instruments back to Korea and sell them. I have traveled with my violin back and fourth from the U.S. and South Korea, and have done that with a cello as well at one point, but... this is the first time I've been getting inquires on whether I will 1. physically go to the U.S. 2. use my network to find a good violin then 3. bring it back for a client in Korea. Does such a job even exist? Is that even reasonable or possible?

I do not own a violin store. I am Korean, 25 years old, a passionate violinist, and speak fluent English. I think fellow musicians in Korea seem to trust my opinion and think that I am capable of such a thing because I have been to Cremona, Italy for a music retreat and have studied in Boston where I was involved with the NEC and Longy School of Music programs growing up. After college, I started getting requests to teach violin even though I was never a music major, just always very involved in the music program and community in college.

Do people do this sort of "private violin dealing?" 

 Sorry for the long post. Very interested to read the responses and whatever insight there is from the music community. 

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There are many such people in the US, and they fill a niche. Like yourself  they are often good musicians who have direct connections with other musicians, and actually other dealers. Like any business I suspect it takes a lot of time to gain knowledge, trust, and reputation though. 

I think to really be successful one has to offer something that brick and mortar shops do not,  and be able to take risks that regular shops cannot.  

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6 hours ago, Yunibear said:

I think one of the reasons for this sort of reaction in Korea is because there have been many stories where students buy violins that are incredibly inflated. Thus once these students go abroad to study their craft further, they become disappointed to know that their instrument is not worth the amount they have paid for it sometimes to devastating proportions.

The reason I am writing this post is because, serious Korean musicians seem to want violins from abroad such as the U.S. and they have asked me if I do any sort of "dealing" where I bring instruments back to Korea and sell them. I have traveled with my violin back and fourth from the U.S. and South Korea, and have done that with a cello as well at one point, but... this is the first time I've been getting inquires on whether I will 1. physically go to the U.S. 2. use my network to find a good violin then 3. bring it back for a client in Korea. Does such a job even exist? Is that even reasonable or possible?

What I have been told by South Koreans in the trade is that the structure is still heavily dependent on teacher commissions. More specifically, I was told, ""Don't even bother trying to sell violins there, unless you are willing to pad the teacher's pockets. You might manage to make a few sales, but your instruments will then be trashed if you didn't hand out the appropriate gratuities".

Yunibear, maybe you can make a dent in that? If you can, more power to you. spacer.png

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6 hours ago, Yunibear said:

I recently moved to South Korea and was able to continue my music passions by volunteering for the community symphony orchestra in my city. I became the concert master, so I had a lot of musician's parents and other fellow violinists ask me for advice (because I come from the U.S. with musical education). I have been asked many times by those daring enough, how much my violin is, and I have learned that in Korea it's expected that you must have a very good instrument in your hands. The impression I was given was that Korean parents are willing to spend thousands and thousands of dollars ($10,000+) for a violin for their kid. When my violin student asked me how much my violin was because she too was hoping to get a new violin, I told her my honest answer ($4,000) and she was incredibly surprised that "such a sound could come from a *cheap* violin." 

As a musician since the age of 6, I have never felt that it was necessary to buy a $10,000 violin to become a great violinist as a student or serious hobbyist. Perhaps if I was planning on becoming the next Sarah Chang and was going out for competitions then yes, that investment would be reasonable... 

I think one of the reasons for this sort of reaction in Korea is because there have been many stories where students buy violins that are incredibly inflated. Thus once these students go abroad to study their craft further, they become disappointed to know that their instrument is not worth the amount they have paid for it sometimes to devastating proportions.

The reason I am writing this post is because, serious Korean musicians seem to want violins from abroad such as the U.S. and they have asked me if I do any sort of "dealing" where I bring instruments back to Korea and sell them. I have traveled with my violin back and fourth from the U.S. and South Korea, and have done that with a cello as well at one point, but... this is the first time I've been getting inquires on whether I will 1. physically go to the U.S. 2. use my network to find a good violin then 3. bring it back for a client in Korea. Does such a job even exist? Is that even reasonable or possible?

I do not own a violin store. I am Korean, 25 years old, a passionate violinist, and speak fluent English. I think fellow musicians in Korea seem to trust my opinion and think that I am capable of such a thing because I have been to Cremona, Italy for a music retreat and have studied in Boston where I was involved with the NEC and Longy School of Music programs growing up. After college, I started getting requests to teach violin even though I was never a music major, just always very involved in the music program and community in college.

Do people do this sort of "private violin dealing?" 

 Sorry for the long post. Very interested to read the responses and whatever insight there is from the music community. 

Very interesting concept and I think you have a chance to provide a genuine service.

couple potential problems: 

You can say to your group,” I am going to Paris(or wherever) and will be bringing back 4-5 Violins fitting X parameters. I will make them available for sale when I return.”

That’s great and you’ve covered all your bases. Then you just need to provide a detailed receipt spelling out all agreed-upon warranties and such and you’re ok.

BUT if you enter into an agreement with some parents to bring them back something specifically for their child, well...that’s a big problem. You can avoid it by taking the first option listed. Then you’re not working for a specific family, and you have no obligation to anyone. You’re just buying some fiddles and bringing them back for resale.

BTW I have learned of an incredible Bowmaker who used to live in Korea and now is in Europe somewhere( France i think) his wife is Korean and he made at least one incredible cello bow. He’s worth looking up.

Pierre Francoise Pelloux

http://www.pellouxlee-luthier.com/

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34 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

What I have been told by South Koreans in the trade is that the structure is still heavily dependent on teacher commissions. More specifically, I was told, ""Don't even bother trying to sell violins there, unless you are willing to pad the teacher's pockets. You might manage to make a few sales, but your instruments will then be trashed if you didn't hand out the appropriate gratuities".

Yunibear, maybe you can make a dent in that? If you can, more power to you. spacer.png

I have heard there are teacher commissions in America too. 

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7 hours ago, Yunibear said:

I recently moved to South Korea and was able to continue my music passions by volunteering for the community symphony orchestra in my city. I became the concert master, so I had a lot of musician's parents and other fellow violinists ask me for advice (because I come from the U.S. with musical education). I have been asked many times by those daring enough, how much my violin is, and I have learned that in Korea it's expected that you must have a very good instrument in your hands. The impression I was given was that Korean parents are willing to spend thousands and thousands of dollars ($10,000+) for a violin for their kid. When my violin student asked me how much my violin was because she too was hoping to get a new violin, I told her my honest answer ($4,000) and she was incredibly surprised that "such a sound could come from a *cheap* violin." 

As a musician since the age of 6, I have never felt that it was necessary to buy a $10,000 violin to become a great violinist as a student or serious hobbyist. Perhaps if I was planning on becoming the next Sarah Chang and was going out for competitions then yes, that investment would be reasonable... 

I think one of the reasons for this sort of reaction in Korea is because there have been many stories where students buy violins that are incredibly inflated. Thus once these students go abroad to study their craft further, they become disappointed to know that their instrument is not worth the amount they have paid for it sometimes to devastating proportions.

The reason I am writing this post is because, serious Korean musicians seem to want violins from abroad such as the U.S. and they have asked me if I do any sort of "dealing" where I bring instruments back to Korea and sell them. I have traveled with my violin back and fourth from the U.S. and South Korea, and have done that with a cello as well at one point, but... this is the first time I've been getting inquires on whether I will 1. physically go to the U.S. 2. use my network to find a good violin then 3. bring it back for a client in Korea. Does such a job even exist? Is that even reasonable or possible?

I do not own a violin store. I am Korean, 25 years old, a passionate violinist, and speak fluent English. I think fellow musicians in Korea seem to trust my opinion and think that I am capable of such a thing because I have been to Cremona, Italy for a music retreat and have studied in Boston where I was involved with the NEC and Longy School of Music programs growing up. After college, I started getting requests to teach violin even though I was never a music major, just always very involved in the music program and community in college.

Do people do this sort of "private violin dealing?" 

 Sorry for the long post. Very interested to read the responses and whatever insight there is from the music community. 

Welcome to the happy ranks of smugglers everywhere.  Arrgh!  pirateship.gif.da08b13490968d50221a4aee010a3a05.gif

6 minutes ago, Michael_Molnar said:

I have heard there are teacher commissions in America too. 

Asia is....different.  :)

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9 minutes ago, Michael_Molnar said:

I have heard there are teacher commissions in America too. 

Indeed, there is still some of that going on in the US. Not as much as there once was. One needs to decide how much of a whore one is willing to be.

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4 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

Welcome to the happy ranks of smugglers everywhere.  Arrgh!  pirateship.gif.da08b13490968d50221a4aee010a3a05.gif

Asia is....different.  :)

How? Except for the lingo, that is?

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In my area, the only difference between a dealer and a “private dealer” is that a dealer markets publicly and usually, but not always, has a physical location whereas a private dealer operates word of mouth, usually has no physical location and does not pay taxes.  The last thing was a joke, maybe.

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20 minutes ago, Michael H said:

In my area, the only difference between a dealer and a “private dealer” is that a dealer markets publicly and usually, but not always, has a physical location whereas a private dealer operates word of mouth, usually has no physical location and does not pay taxes.  The last thing was a joke, maybe.

[Finger to lips.]  Shhhhh!  :ph34r::lol:

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3 minutes ago, Rue said:

South Koreans can't buy violins on-line?

By the sounds of it, their teacher will slap them with a ruler and tell them to send it back. Something that can happen here too.

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34 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

You mean Boris? I’d rather not if you don’t mind…

Yeah, but I'm sure he can explain the finer points of regional negotiation styles to you.  :P:lol:

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2 hours ago, Michael_Molnar said:

I have heard there are teacher commissions in America too. 

There still are... but (to put it in slightly more diplomatic moderator's language than David did... not that he's incorrect) there is more resistance to them than in the past. :)

 

 

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1 hour ago, Michael H said:

...and does not pay taxes.  The last thing was a joke, maybe.

and maybe not!  I think very few have a sales tax license, for starters.

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Yunibear-  Why not partner with a reliable "private" dealer in the U.S., and import instruments of known quality and price, rather than make the trip(s) yourself?

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2 hours ago, Michael H said:

 whereas a private dealer operates word of mouth, usually has no physical location and does not pay taxes.  The last thing was a joke, maybe.

No joke, it's very hard competing against what Jacob calls "spivs" ie. people who have another job and who sell the odd instrument on the side without having to pay VAT or corporation tax etc ...

With regard to the OP's question, there is a very well established market for violins in Korea, and while someone might idly express an interest in buying a violin from an independent source, I think in practice people will stick with what they know, with the "advice" of their teacher or mentor, and with one of the many established and trusted dealers.

There's also the huge issue of import regulations and customs duties - Korea is a particular minefield.

With regard to hugely inflated prices, that was certainly the case 20 years ago. Korea was the way China is now, and all sorts of Western dealers got up to very naughty things. However, I think that's a thing of the past in Korea - the market is very established and everyone can price-check online.

My main observation would be that I don't think Korea is a culture in which people will genuinely prefer an instrument because it's cheap and from an unofficial source. It could be a pipedream based on one or two idle conversations. But you won't really know unless you try it. Whether it's a success or not will really depend on your personality and whether you have the goods.

 

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2 hours ago, deans said:

By the sounds of it, their teacher will slap them with a ruler and tell them to send it back. Something that can happen here too.

Nobody should buy a violin online. It’s just a couple of steps removed from the mail order brides…

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1 minute ago, PhilipKT said:

Nobody should buy a violin online. It’s just a couple of steps removed from the mail order brides…

I've done it. Nothing exploded. Time didn't stop...instruments were fine...

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20 minutes ago, martin swan said:

No joke, it's very hard competing against what Jacob calls "spivs" ie. people who have another job and who sell the odd instrument on the side without having to pay VAT or corporation tax etc ...

With regard to the OP's question, there is a very well established market for violins in Korea, and while someone might idly express an interest in buying a violin from an independent source, I think in practice people will stick with what they know, with the "advice" of their teacher or mentor, and with one of the many established and trusted dealers.

There's also the huge issue of import regulations and customs duties - Korea is a particular minefield.

With regard to hugely inflated prices, that was certainly the case 20 years ago. Korea was the way China is now, and all sorts of Western dealers got up to very naughty things. However, I think that's a thing of the past in Korea - the market is very established and everyone can price-check online.

My main observation would be that I don't think Korea is a culture in which people will genuinely prefer an instrument because it's cheap and from an unofficial source. It could be a pipedream based on one or two idle conversations. But you won't really know unless you try it. Whether it's a success or not will really depend on your personality and whether you have the goods.

 

A local college professor here, who is the star of my Tubbs Bow story, Used to make frequent trips to Europe to “play concerts” and he would take a double violin case with junk violins and bows in each of the slots. He would discard the slop and replace it with fine items and when he returned to the states, everything was fine.

Things may have gotten a little bit more strict since 1980s, but the practice sure worked for him

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23 minutes ago, martin swan said:

No joke, it's very hard competing against what Jacob calls "spivs"

But dont you work with these guys sometimes too? Or never. I think here its a love hate relationship between brick and mortar guys, and guys who are out pounding the pavements.

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

I've done it. Nothing exploded. Time didn't stop...instruments were fine...

What is her name?

:-)

 

seriously, online buying can be ok but it is not for the novice.

I was checking out EBay today and saw a Georges Schwartz cello bow being offered for 120k.

ummmmmmmno

Edited by PhilipKT
Addendum

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