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JayDawg

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With the new price increases across the board and some instruments seeing significant increases even though no changes were made to them, it got me to wondering why EBMM can’t do this?

I know the price increases were said to be done due to the cost of doing business in California. However, my concern is that with the significant price increases across the board and no changes being done to most instruments, it would make me think that the sizeable price increases would cause there to be less sales and not more. Especially when the used market permits people to now buy the same instrument on a majority of the models but save $1,000.00 or more. As a way of getting increased sales and justify customers paying a higher price point, why not make doing semi custom orders a reality for an upcharge by using any woods and finishes EBMM keeps in stock for all production instruments made. Here is how my idea would work.

Let’s say I wanted to order a Cutlass bass with the custom shop. The 2017 price started at $1,599.99 I believe? I now go to an authorized EBMM dealer and tell him I want to order my Cutlass with custom features. My price now jumps to $2,099.99 because their is a minimum $500 upcharge to have any semi custom orders made. Now let’s say I want to order the bass with a mystic dream finish and roasted maple neck and fretboard and black hardware. I think the mystic dream paint is around $400.00 extra. Roasted maple maybe another $400.00 and black hardware is around $50.00. My cost for that bass would now be $2,949.99. Now for EBMM, since you carry roasted maple in stock for the new Stingrays and you keep mystic dream paint in stock for the JP 6 and JP 7 guitars, all you have to do is pull wood from a different pile for the roasted maple. On the day you are painting any JP 6 or 7 in mystic dream, you simply put the bass in that same finish booth for it to be painted in that same finish as well. You then pull black hardware and install it as opposed to chrome hardware.

EBMM has not had to do anything extra as far as labor goes but you did just make a very nice profit margain on an instrument that you took in like that on a special order.

I love EBMM instruments. Since 2010, when I got my first one, I have bought approximately 20 guitars and basses. All brand new except for the first one. With the new price increases, I won’t buy new again simply because the pricing is to close to custom shop stuff now and there is a huge gap to the used market. Why spend $2,200.00 or more plus tax and maybe shipping on a new EBMM when I can get a used one is great shape for $1,000.00 less than a new one and in some cases, pay even less. I just saw a Cutlass bass on Reverb a few months back that was in new shape. The guy was selling it for only $900.00.

Anyway, this is the idea I had and wanted to ask see why it could or couldn’t be done? I would have no issues paying the additional prices then and EBMM might even be able to increase the profit margin significantly per instrument sold like that.
 

GregP

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JayDawg,

I share your deep appreciation for EBMM instruments. I think I fell for them hard when I first went to warped tour and got to play their basses in that air-conditioned(much appreciated) trailer they set up. I always appreciated their outreach efforts to young musicians who might not be able to afford their instruments at present. Where else can a young musician play such a quality instrument without getting glaring glances from store owners ;-). That kind of behavior really builds loyalty for someone like me :)

I also share your concerns with their current business decision to raise prices while not offering any additional customization options. This increase places them into a price bracket that most players associate with the availability of custom options. For example with G&L, you have a plethora of options you can choose from. They will all add to the sticker price but of course, but the options are available. However, I think it's important to keep in mind the flexibility G&L has because they are owned by BBE Sound. If you are owned by a bigger company who is pretty profitable then their is less risk in disturbing the manufacturing process to offer these options. MusicMan is still a family owned company; and so it has all the benefits and limitations that come with that.

In my opinion, I think EBMM will need to start offering more options to stay competitive within this price bracket. That being said, I think we have to be careful about assuming what changes will work in their current production process. The truth of the matter is we don't know every detail about their production process, what may upset it, the stability of their supply chain, price fluctuations, etc.

I want to point out that I have nothing but respect for EBMM and the amazing instruments they have been able to bring us. But part of being a fan(for me) is to both celebrate a brand's achievements and to constructively criticize its policies. I want EBMM to succeed, and my criticism here is based on that desire.

Best Regards,
-Greg P
 
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tbonesullivan

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The recent price increases were industry wide. F-brand retired their "American Standard" line and now has the American Professional line, which puts the street price of a Telecaster at $1500, when they were a few hundred cheaper just a year or so ago. G-brand majorly bumped up the price of the SG standard. However, the build quality of the EBMM is definitely superior, from my own experience.

My other instrument is Trombone, and I've watched as the price of a Bach 42BO Trombone shot up all the way to 3300, for the basic model. It really seems to be happening across the industry.
 

JayDawg

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Greg,

I fully agree with everything you said. I guess another struggle is that I have worked for 2 custom shops that also make 100% USA made instruments. Both shops are profitable but are much smaller than EBMM. They no doubt, must pay more for materials. I don’t understand how both companies can make a fully custom USA made guitar or bass starting at around $1,200.00 for a basic custom shop and go up from there. But everything with both companies is 100% custom. Granted, neither company is in California and I’m not suggesting EBMM go 100% custom. Just offer any woods, finishes and hardware kept in stock made available on any other instrument as an upcharge to increase profits. A lot of people I have spoken with are not happy with the price increases. Especially on the instruments that saw no changes made to them. Many are also sharing my same sentiment. I don’t know if EBMM is aware of that feedback or not so that is why I made my post to maybe offer a solution and something that may help justify having to pay a significant price increase.
 

Fro

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I think they should move the whole operation down here to southern Oklahoma. I promise I won’t be coming over every week to take a tour of the place :D
 

Big Poppa

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So tell us the shops that are profitable making custom guitars from scratch at $1,200.00. Is there a dealer involved? Is there a distributor and then a dealer involved? Do they pay everyone a living wage? Full benefits? How come they aren't huge? It's not that easy. I don't believe that anyone can do that for a long period of time and survive.

You keep solely mentioning California as being the only issue in making guitars today on a scale like we do. Every single cost has gone up. Priced plating lately? Pickups? Wood? Priced health insurance? On the Cutlass and Caprice we "forward" priced them and instead of putting ad dollars we passed it to the consumer. It was always a short term incentive. We don't plan on doing that again.

Others have commented on another post Leo company...They are smaller than us. BBE isn't bigger than Ernie Ball. Why arent we compared to Gibson Why arent we compared to PRS? Why not Suhr? In most of these cases we are still way less.

I see that you are either selling or have sold most of your Music Man stuff. You also have been talking about becoming a dealer. I wish you good fortune...I really do. I think that I bristle when someone that I have gone out of my way for is now suggesting that people stop buying new guitars from a dealer because they don't want to accept that we had to raise prices.

I dont think any company has investing in R and D and added more new stuff than us. You mention that because we didn't change anything in a model as a reason why the price shouldn't have gone up. Think about that...Only new stuff costs more to make?

I have made guitars in the USA really since I was a kid with Earthwood in 1972. Since 1984 everyday of my life has involved producing guitars in America. For those who refuse to believe that it is a hard and expensive job I only wish you could walk a mile in our shoes.
 
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Jimmyb

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I rarely post here any more, as I have little to offer in the way of knowledge, skill, or experience, but it is posts like the above from Sterling that make me come back time after time.

Obviously, I can be accused of being a "fanboy" but I read what has been written and it really strikes a chord with me. This is someone who has a passion for producing high-quality guitars in the USA and pushing the boundaries and accepted designs that have been with us for the last 60 odd years. Manufacturing "in country" is a huge thing for me, very much to the annoyance of my family and friends. It's easy to go for the cheapest option, made on a shoestring budget in an Eastern country, but how does that help you the consumer (and taxpayer) in your own country? Work in your local area (State, county, country etc.) provides employment, with those employees then paying taxes into the local economy and subsequently not claiming from the state.

As a consumer, obviously it has an effect, because the price you pay for that shiny new guitar will be higher, but take a step back and think how it works in the bigger picture. EBMM is not a huge conglomerate, focussed solely on maximising the return for shareholders and the like. The money you pay them goes to feeding the families of the people in the factory in SLO, the dealers you buy them from and the distributors (if you don't live in the US). Without that support, it ceases to exist in the shape that we know it now.

Taking a view of the current trials that are facing Gibson, no one should be happy about the way things have turned out for them (even if my own opinion is that it's largely self-inflicted). There are a lot of good people who will have their lives affected by the result of this and do we honestly want EBMM to go the same way?

I don't know anything about making guitars and basses, but in my industry it costs a minimum of $3,000 to get a drawing produced, regardless of whether or not anything comes from it. Taking a design from concept to production is at least $20,000, even for a simple "box" with a few commonly used components. Think of making a change to an existing instrument, it needs to be built, documented, hardware purchased, tested etc. All of these steps involve spending money, none of which are recovered until the changes make it to market (if that happens at all) - I'd imagine the Petrucci models go through a huge number of iterations before a change is incorporated.

I like Sterling (although I haven't met him). He has a big ego and comes across as being brash, but you know what, get me on a subject that I know a lot about and I'm exactly the same. Hell, for the next two weeks I can still claim to be a World Champion. Aside from how he comes across in the written form though, the one thing that always shines though is the passion and commitment he still has for producing the best quality US made products that he can. It would have been (I imagine) a really easy decision to off-shore all of the EBMM production, yet he continues to remain in the US, despite what I have seen to be, increasingly difficult times.

I know that people will be posting what they think are helpful suggestions, only from a genuine wish to see the company prosper, but my guess is that they are not as helpful as they are intended to be. Sometimes price rises do occur, even when nothing else appears to change, but there is always an underlying reason which we, the consumer, may not see. What we need to do, as musicians (I'm excusing myself from this category) is to keep spreading the message of a quality product, made in the USA (which you can also argue is an ethical thing to do - however that is outside of this discussion).
 

Big Poppa

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thanks but its pride more than ego ego would be if I figured it out after all these years. I can tell you that I probably shouldnt post....cause the only way I post is direct.
 

JayDawg

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Sterling,

I was interested in coming on as a dealer to help grow the brand. EBMM and SBMM were the only brands I intended on carrying outside of the custom shop company that I work for. The SBMM contract wasn’t as detailed as the EBMM one so I signed it and bought a few pieces. With the EBMM contract, there were a few things in it that I didn’t like and knew it would prohibit sales to a market that I have. Since I’m sure that you do not want things in that contract discussed on the forum, I will not go into that and will respect you guys not wanting contract stuff put in the open. However, if you want to message me, I will be happy to discuss that part with you in private but also per your request, won’t message you.

With custom shop companies I have worked for and 1 that I still do, the prices start at around $1,200.00. One company had several employees and dealers but no middle man. We would sell direct to the stores. Stores could either order standard models or custom shop orders. Customers could also buy direct from us unless they had a dealer close to them.

Now with you guys, first I have never told anyone not to buy a Music Man instrument. I have only said that I won’t buy another new one with them being priced where they are. My reasons are the used markets gap is around a savings of $1,000.00 or more. Or if I went new, for the same cost, I can get custom shop stuff built. In fact, that is why I am considering selling most of my EBMM basses. There is a bass builder out of New York who is known for making nice instruments. My dream bass is to have one made of highly figured koa with a highly figured roasted birdseye maple neck and fretboard and abalone inlays. I am able to get that exact bass made by them. But it is going to be very expensive. So in order to make it happen, all of my EBMM basses with the exception of the breast cancer awareness bass are being listed.

Now getting back to EBMM. I don’t believe you are lying when you say costs have gone up. You initially had said the price increase was due to the cost of doing business in California or maybe it was just San Louis Obispo? So I get all instruments across the board I understand costing more to make. But around $600.00 more for some instruments like a Cutlass or Sterling bass? That’s quite a jump in material costs. Both companies I worked for could do a basic P style bass. Alder body, standard paint job, maple neck and either maple, rosewood or ebony fretboard for around $600.00. So when I look at a Cutlass bass for instance. Fender sells a MIA P bass for under $2k. Like EBMM, they also build in California. So knowing what a passive bass cost both companies I have worked for to build. Seeing Fender able to sell a MIA P bass for under 2k, I then can’t figure out how a Cutlass or Caprice is that much different. You say it’s also paying your employees a good living wage and giving them benefits. Okay, that can explain some of the price increases. Again, I don’t think you’re lying and I don’t think you are trying to be greedy. But with that said, because my question was never really answered. Why can’t then, at the same time, EBMM offer a semi custom shop that still has to go through dealers. As an up charge, make any wood you already keep in stock and finish available on any instrument. No tooling changes are needed, because there is an automatic up charge to do this, your profit margin also increases but now you have customers going to you guys as opposed to a custom shop. I don’t see why that couldn’t be done or would be to time consuming because you already have all of the materials in stock.

I’ll even put my money where my mouth is. Add that to EBMM and I’ll order at least one. I also know of other musicians that would do the same thing. The only reason why they haven’t purchased is because they don’t like the options currently offered and then having the added price increase has really soured them into buying something new that isn't 100% of what they want. I spoke to a guy actually a few weeks back. He loves Sterling basses. He said he would love a 5 H with a roasted neck in that blue color offered on the St. Vincent guitars. He told me he would buy one in a minute. Now, while I can’t say for sure how serious or not he was, if that was offered as an up charge, he might buy. So you have a Sterling 5 H that starts at $2,299.99. Custom order up charge was let’s say a minimum of $300.00 after the 2018 price increases and then let’s say a $400.00 up charge for a roasted neck. He now has a MAP price of $2,999.99 for his bass. All you guys had to do was pull from the roasted maple wood used for necks and have it made into a Sterling 5 neck. Then when his body is ready for paint, spray it when other St. Vincent guitars that are being sprayed the St. Vincent blue color. He now has a nice Sterling 5 H bass to his liking and you guys made an even bigger profit margin but didn’t really have to spend any extra hours doing anything additional.
 
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kinopah

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I feel like I see both sides expressed, and clearly no one who doesn't WORK for ebmm can really speak to the production process. But what stands in the way of more options is also a reasonable question. Like I LOVE my Cutlass (I've loved all of the ones I've had). It's a great, solid, consistent bass and I'm so glad it got added to the line. I think it SHOULD be a couple hundred bucks more than Fender's baseline US P-bass, which is right where it is. But at 2200+, the daylight between it and some of the small custom shop P-models also gets pretty thin (esp if comparing against the used market). Not sure what's to be done about that or if more options even can be realistically added. I mean I don't imagine being able to buy a firemist purple Cutlass would be feasible, just because you've got the paint handy, but as has been expressed elsewhere, being able to select whichever neck with whichever available color would be pretty attractive.
 

GregP

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thanks but its pride more than ego ego would be if I figured it out after all these years. I can tell you that I probably shouldnt post....cause the only way I post is direct.

Sterling,

Thank you for taking the time to elucidate the rationale for the price increase to us. I greatly appreciate your consistent engagement with this community. One of the things I have always admired about EBMM is the way in which you constantly innovate to push an industry mired in tradition forward. In addition, the fact that you provide full benefits to your employees was a major factor in my decision to purchase an EBMM instrument.

The purpose of my inquiry, is to gain understanding in an area in which I am currently ignorant. I would like to understand why the Cutlass/Caprice do not have the same range of options as the other basses in the EBMM range(fretboard choice independent of body color & fretless option). Thank you again for the wonderful tools you make for us!

Best Regards,
-Greg P
 
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Ox Boris

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Sorry, I must have gotten testosterone in my eyes, is there a reason why we can't pay a premium and choose which of the currently supplied necks, colours and hardware we want on a StingRay, say?
 

tbonesullivan

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The issue ends up being keeping track of all of it, as well as how it interfaces with the Dealer network. It's not as simple as everyone is making it out to be, which I know sounds like a load of it, but that's how it goes. Having that kind of customization is something that would usually give a dealer fits, as even if it's "fully paid for" and "no returns" in reality it never goes that way.

Will I be getting any new EBMM basses/guitars this year? Probably not, as my car is getting old and starting to come apart, so it's time to save up the big $$$ that costs. And of course I'll be limited to the few colors they have on the car for that year. I'm sure they have other colors they are spraying in that very factory, but that doesn't mean you get to choose from them all. That becomes a logistical headache, and slows production, increasing costs for ALL of the vehicles.
 

bovinehost

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Generally speaking and without being overly specific, I pay for my basses.

They are worth it. They are worth MORE, in fact. With the recent increases, they're still worth more than what we pay. (I realize this is opinion rather than fact, but my opinions on this are largely factual, ahem.)

I know in my heart that people mean well in offering suggestions, but I also know that Sterling and the gang have been at this a while and clearly have a pretty good idea how to do this. Here's what I think: I know maybe more than a lot of people about Music Man in general. I've been very fortunate to call the Ball family friends of mine. Frighteningly enough, I've even been inside Sterling's actual home, eaten his food - and he's been in my house, too, come to think of it.

Over the years, I've been privy to some inside information which of course I kept to myself. So if any forumite/knucklehead were to feel like offering up some savvy business advice to Sterling, maybe I'd be first in line. Leaving aside any begging I did for a certain green color once upon a time, years ago, you could ask Sterling (or Scott) how many times I have ever given any advice on how to build, market or sell musical instruments. I think I know the answer, and it is this: zero. Zero times.

I'm not telling anyone what to do here, but just to consider your experience, compare it to the brain-trust at Music Man (Scott, Sterling, Dudley, the engineers, etc) and ask yourself if you're actually going to contribute something that no one has ever considered. I think of myself as not entirely ignorant, but when it comes to building and producing instruments, I leave the expertise to those who have proven over the last few decades that they know way the hell more than I ever will.

Jack

PS: Don't forget I'm a member of Talkbass and frequently stay up to speed on what's said re EBMM over there. Just sayin'.
 

Movielife

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Jay,

Whilst prices are rising, and they are rising everywhere, I highly recommend you don’t sell your current Musicman gear.

I also personally think it would be wise to discuss this privately with the company.

I wish you luck! I hope you do stick with EBMM.
 

tbonesullivan

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Talkbass is like trying to drink from a firehose. I don't see how people can get any sense of community over there.
 

GregP

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There is another relevant question to consider and reflect upon. Who are we? I don't mean that in a purely philosophical sense; rather "what percent of the customer base do we represent"? We represent a minority of EBMM's customer base...the forum posting enthusiasts :).

Most customers will probably never even visit this forum let alone post. If a change is made on the basis of the enthusiasts wishes and it results in higher prices and/or lack of sales to the broader customer base...that is not a win for anyone. I'm also an automotive enthusiast and I can tell you if the auto companies took the advice of the enthusiasts they would be bankrupt in a month.

It is certainly not an easy task to balance the requests of your ardent enthusiasts with the current business plan and fiscal realities.

With Respect,
-Greg P
 
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bovinehost

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BP used to say, "If I listened to you guys, I'd be asking if you wanted fries with that."

I mean, "I" am sure that isn't true, but he did say it.
 

JayDawg

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I made the post to honestly ask why it couldn’t be done. It wasn’t to try and tell them how to do business. But if it came across that way, that was not my intent. I think EBMM instruments are great. Since 2010 I have purchased 19 or 20 with only the first one being used. I still own 10 I think? For me, because I have worked for 2 custom shops that had every option under th sun pretty much and they were able to do it even though they were much smaller, that’s why it’s hard for me to understand why EBMM can’t? Again, I’m not trying to tell them how to run their business. I think it’s awesome they pay their employees a living wage and benefits. Especially in California. I lived there for 30 years so I know first hand the cost of living there.

With wanting to come on as a dealer, I truly did want to do that to help grow the brand but there were things in the dealer contract that I was not aware of until I got the contract and once those things were discovered, it would have taken away from me a large area I do business with and have had much success with. Then the added price increases and the risk was a little higher than originally thought so I had to back out.

Even with my suggestion in this post, it was meant to help grow the brand. Because I love the instruments, I talk to a lot of people about them. As the sales rep, artist rep and head of bass R&D at both companies, I put one stipulation in my contract with them. That stipulation was I was fully rep their brands and handle sales to artists, stores and customers but I still had to be given the freedom to use my EBMM basses or guitars whenever I wanted. I explained to them why and they were both okay with my request. In talking with folks, many like me, have also said the gap in pricing to the used market now is to great and to many, buying used is now more beneficial so with the price increase to gain profit, which I understand ever company needs in order to stay in business, sales will most likely be effective and could dip. For years customers have asked for an EBMM Custom Shop. My post wasn’t meant to be critical but seeing why it couldn’t be done because if it was, even in a partial way of only using woods, finishes or hardware kept in stock, that may help with additional sales.

There are other things I don’t understand? Why must a person do a 1 for 1 exchange for pickups, electronics, bodies and necks and then do the exact order? On my BFR roasted neck Bongo 4H that was built in 2010. That neck gives me fits at least twice a year where I have to adjust it. I would love to order a different roasted neck if I could and one that is not a gloss finish but that choice is not available. The Bongos I have sold were all sold for one reason. They had painted necks. I hate gloss necks and painted necks and wish I could order replacements that were natural and not having a gloss or painted finish. How many other people would do the same though? And it increases profits. Who cares if they keep the old neck. They bought it too when they bought their instrument.

If the stuff I said was taken as me trying to tell the company what to do, again, that was not my intent. I was only trying to offer suggestions of things I hear from a lot of people on things they too would love to see.
 

Smallmouth_Bass

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It is impossible to compete with the used market. If anything, increase in new instrument pricing (and I find it's for music equipment in general, not just MusicMan) should also reflect in the used market.

I have no inside knowledge of the business, but if I were to hazard a guess, I don't think there is a huge market for a custom shop - even if it's based on options available across current model rage - where those choices would put an instrument in the $3000+ range. In fact, I think more people would be bitter to have to pay more for options that are already available.
 
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