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How do you sell your handmade violins?


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@Christopher Jacoby

Call it 'over-intellectualized'....

If I try to imagine how the world of the violin market will look in ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, I really don't think that making wood chips following down to earth rules at a pace of 3-4 violins a year will be enough for someone working in the US. Sooner or later Chinese makers will come more massively into your market and customers will ask why they should pay more for something what is to them just as good as from a maker making wood chips in China. I wouldn't be surprised if Chinese makers working in China will participate at Julies exhibition pretty soon.

Secondly I see that those makers who survived in Markneukirchen had a sort of 'vision of one's work as a package that fits inside a marketable label.' 

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I don't think either that a maker must be able to play whole operas in an orchestra. My comment simply aimed at the fact that many makers are not really aware in which situation many professional players are. 

 

 

 

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15 minutes ago, Potter said:

You have a name. People are looking for you, already. The OP sounded more at an entry level. I have won NEAs, my work is in museums, the work has always come first. And Hillary and every other recognized violinst is using this tool. Don't think she (and Perlman!) are posers. If you win a VSA? medal who is going to see besides luthiers?

Perhaps I should set up a street-vendor cart in Times Square, with a sign that reads, "Try one of my violins here, and get a free hot dog". :lol:

I am not a fan of utilizing human manipulation tactics, such as "Blondes Have More Fun". Oh, duh, I better go out and buy some hair bleach. ;)

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14 minutes ago, Potter said:

on some level I agree, 

but declaring a waiting list, associating with a shop, declaring who plays your instruments are all on some level "utilizing human manipulation"

Ya but no one got pregnant , so it doesn't count.

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19 minutes ago, Potter said:

on some level I agree, 

but declaring a waiting list, associating with a shop, declaring who plays your instruments are all on some level "utilizing human manipulation"

Which of these cannot be easily asserted, whether true or not? Who cannot give an instrument to some famous player, or pay them to use it?

I suspect that you accept a much higher "slush-tolerance" level in marketing than I and my clients do.

 

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Not sure it is worth this back and forth, but, again, I sell relatively pricey art pottery. I would say that in my field, I would have a similar place as you. Well respected and collected by people in my field, having over my career taught professional workshops at most of the universities and craft schools in North America. There are not waiting lists for what I do, but if I have an online exhibition it generally sells out within a couple hours.
Selling, career building on IG, is simply posting images of the objects and the process. Along with that the occasional shot of my property gardens etc. for fun. I don’t have to say anything or make any claims, it’s just a rolling slide show of the things I make. They sell themselves.

What that has allowed over the last few years is to increase direct sales which means less percentage to a third party, more income to me. That might not directly translate to luthiers, someone else can comment.

Any time spent on IG is tiny compared to the packing, driving, etc. I used to do.

And IG is social- fills many of the same bits as a forum like this, at least for the pottery community. 

It’s an oddity that I follow this site, just a parent of a pretty good 12 year old. I admire your craft and just thought my experience might be useful to the OP.

 

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At IBMA a few years back, comedian, actor, and banjo player Steve Martin was asked how to become a successful banjo player. 

He replied, "Become really famous at something else first."

Maybe there is something to that in selling handmade violins.

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2 hours ago, Potter said:

Not sure it is worth this back and forth, but, again, I sell relatively pricey art pottery. I would say that in my field, I would have a similar place as you. Well respected and collected by people in my field, having over my career taught professional workshops at most of the universities and craft schools in North America. There are not waiting lists for what I do, but if I have an online exhibition it generally sells out within a couple hours.
Selling, career building on IG, is simply posting images of the objects and the process. Along with that the occasional shot of my property gardens etc. for fun. I don’t have to say anything or make any claims, it’s just a rolling slide show of the things I make. They sell themselves.

What that has allowed over the last few years is to increase direct sales which means less percentage to a third party, more income to me. That might not directly translate to luthiers, someone else can comment.

Any time spent on IG is tiny compared to the packing, driving, etc. I used to do.

And IG is social- fills many of the same bits as a forum like this, at least for the pottery community. 

It’s an oddity that I follow this site, just a parent of a pretty good 12 year old. I admire your craft and just thought my experience might be useful to the OP.

 

What's your @ on Instagram? I'd like to see your pottery.

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5 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Perhaps I should set up a street-vendor cart in Times Square, with a sign that reads, "Try one of my violins here, and get a free hot dog". :lol:

I am not a fan of utilizing human manipulation tactics, such as "Blondes Have More Fun". Oh, duh, I better go out and buy some hair bleach. ;)

BTW

This video came up on my suggestions this morning.

I read the description and coulda sworn it read:

Dash cam video 01/25/15 in Ann Arbour, MI. Bicyclist,  David Burgess flees from EPD officers and is ultimately hit by a vehicle after failing to follow traffic laws. Burgess suffered minor injuries and was found to be in possession of a loaded violin and Sawsall. He was arrested on numerous charges.

But then I realized I didn't have my glasses on and wasn't even squinting very hard at the text...so my bad!

 

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6 hours ago, Potter said:

That might not directly translate to luthiers, someone else can comment.

The major differences between violins and art pottery as I see it

  1. the sale of pottery does not depend on acoustic properties which are in a certain way impossible to display on the internet. Of course dealers and makers try this with youtube test playing videos but this is to my understanding more a teaser to get the client to the shop and try him/herself.
  2. Pottery has a kind of unique value. I don't think that a client can find something very similar to your work on the internet while for violins there is always something similar.  Therefore I see internet sales only happen on a low price range.
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1 hour ago, sospiri said:

What was in the swag bag? It was something small, but valuable.

Expensive bridge blanks?

That wasn't me. It was a guy who had stolen the free hot dogs from my sidewalk violin-vending cart. I ended up not pressing charges, since he was obviously underfed. ;)

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12 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

The major differences between violins and art pottery as I see it

  1. the sale of pottery does not depend on acoustic properties which are in a certain way impossible to display on the internet. Of course dealers and makers try this with youtube test playing videos but this is to my understanding more a teaser to get the client to the shop and try him/herself.
  2. Pottery has a kind of unique value. I don't think that a client can find something very similar to your work on the internet while for violins there is always something similar.  Therefore I see internet sales only happen on a low price range.

I would never, as a customer, buy a violin on line. 
But I do think IG is an effective way of reaching young players who might be in the market for a contemporary violin. A place to show workshops, awards, and other players playing your instruments. (I don’t think you could get away with tagging Ray Chen without major pushback if not true.)

Also, human beings do like to see into the process of making and the lifestyle of makers who they support. 
It is complicated by the fact that some represent themselves less than accurately, but that has always been true. 

And the issue of encouraging direct sales, which puts more money in the makers pocket. Those direct sales aren’t going to be made online, but you can find players there. And players could find you.

Anyway, just thoughts, as it has often been expressed here how difficult it is to make a living making violins.

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The first thing is to get to the point where the instruments you make are things that players would want to play and own... they need to perform well and look good.  To that end, being "professionally trained" could help, depending on who the "professional" is.  Being an apprencice to Sam Z. would be far different from being trained by Fiddlemaker Cletus.  Violinmaking competitions I think go a long way to understanding what works, although experience in a good high-end shop is probably the most effective.  There are also the innate capabilities of the maker that matter a lot:  woodworking/varnishing skills (or the ability to attain high-level skills) and acoustic attentiveness.  Some folks are just tone-deaf hacks, and should find another hobby.

On-line presence helps.  Videos of good players testing your instruments, decently recorded a must.  Website with photos.  Any other on-line presence that folks might find to research who you are and what you make and how it works.

Local contacts help too.  Find good local players and (tactfully) approach them for evaluations.  Any other contact with musicians, teachers, or shops can help.

In my personal case (which may not be typical), I am not professionally trained unless you count a few workshops here and there, probably totalling a few weeks.  Contact and learning from local semi-professional makers added to that.  Attending violinmaking competitions, seeking out players, attentive listening,  and being a modest player myself all contributed to my learning process.  Not to mention LOTS of testing and experiments.  Still, the progress was slower that I would have liked, taking several years of selling cheaply  to locals and shops, before I accumulated the skills and reputation to have clients coming to me as opposed to me trying to find clients.

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20 hours ago, David Burgess said:

That wasn't me. It was a guy who had stolen the free hot dogs from my sidewalk violin-vending cart. I ended up not pressing charges, since he was obviously underfed. ;)

I admire your compassion for the desperado. Just how hungry does a guy have to be to steel free hot dogs? 

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