Trust and Honesty. An interesting concept. It shouldn’t be, but the sad fact remains, it is an oddity in this day and age. From back in the day, vendors have been spouting their special brand of I invented a new wheel or the better mousetrap, but the sad fact remains that the mouse likes cheese (or is it peanut butter) and his neck still snaps with alarming efficiency from the springy thing on the other side of the piney looking same old same piece of wood and don’t forget, it’s still mighty inexpensive for that boring old mousetrap. I can prove it Just go to your old hardware store and look for one.
Why do I bring this up? An interesting? question or just the need to vent the pressures of a self-righteous bladder? You decide, though I’m firmly rooted on the latter. It starts with a rant on marketing and marketing professionals, but finishes nicely, like the Nascar driver who just won Daytona 500 spinning in the winner’s circle, with the showing of some of the seamier sides of the business of classical guitar. Enjoy.
Let’s see. Oh yes, I remember (as I pull myself back into my lane without the need of a lane checker in the latest automobiles), I do a lot of SEO work here, especially late at night or early in the AM, while waiting for the java to lick at my synapses and wake my sorry ass awake. In doing so, I check on the people out there selling their wares, what’s selling, why, how they’re doing it, and so on. It turns out, I’m really good at what I do, if I don’t say so to my “don’t mind if I do slap myself on the back” self. btw, SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. A process by which you are found on the world wide web by the use of select keywords. There remain many metrics that go into this optimization, and many that were in practice back in the day. As it were, from 2002 to about 2012, I had an old fashioned, MS FrontPage web site, that worked really well for me, and in that 10 year span, I built the SEO work up to a very high level. Lots of traffic, high rankings for specific and useful keywords, and so on.
Then, I had to go and change everything, the website, the IP address, the whole shebangawanga. Ranking plummeted, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and me and my site went to the crapper without the satisfaction of any excremental release. Disgusting, I know. So, and here comes one of the many points on the top of my pointy head, I had to reconcile needing professional help. Not the psychiatric kind, though not as useless as you might imagine, but the SEO professional kind. Gods, they promise the moon, but what they really gave me was a supernova of trouble. Let me explain further.
See, my business, the business of acquiring and filtering through many classical guitars of all prices and timbre, is a highly specialized one, fraught with the danger that, if you do not know what you are talking about, it will eventually rear its ugly veneer job and bite you most unevenly in the ass. Well, part of these SEO prickjobs job is to write copy for backlinks that will never be seen? So how did I see it, you ask through the almost probable covering of your mouth through the inevitable yawn? I searched and found it rather easily. This pretty little lady, somewhere in the back deserts of Arizona, sitting in her little cubicle working for the “premier” internest (not a misspelling) and marketing firm, wrote copy that went along the lines of, “If you’re looking for the best flamenco guitar store in the world, let your search end with Savage Classical Guitar store, where you can find a capo, classical guitar strings, and repair your classical guitar with one of our knowledgeable people who really understand your guitar”, etc and so on and please god kill me right now on this gotdam spot.
Truth be told, the copy was way worse than the above. See, if I tried, I couldn’t be as bad as that poor sappy little lady who gets paid to write drivel for a living. Not to say I’m great, but hey, give me a little casino credit here, it’s all frickin’ relative. Worse yet, they wormed their way into my backend (wow, that was Freudian…do people even say that anymore), OK, the backend of my web server, my html coding, what have you, and started writing meta tags and scripts that did even worse things to my rankings on the web. I’ll spare you the techno dribble, but suffice to say, they sent me from page 1 and 2, to page 37, which is the same thing as sailing West before Columbus’ day, where without a doubt, you fell off the gotdam planet.
So, since early December 2013, where I realized the problem I was having, I’ve been working on it myself, as much as I can spare the time. Slow improvement, but let’s face it, and it’s the old adage, if you want something done right, do it yourself. The thing is, not everyone can do this. I get that. My advice is to not trust the marketers. They are expensive, self-serving, and they hurt your business in the end. If I had to do it all over again, I would have saddled myself with a poor ranking, and brought it upwards with time and patience. Not the most glamorous thing, but I wouldn’t have 4,000 wayward backlinks to my site that actually hurt my ranking, instead of helping. I didn’t do this, the marketers did, in a story starring the get rich quick kid, instead of the slow and patient investor. Truth and Honesty. They didn’t tell me the truth, and honestly, they screwed me like a screwdriver without the vodka. Talking of drinks with no punch and segues….
Alas, I buy and sell guitars. Really nice ones. I know. I picked them out of a line-up. So in my search for why my rankings were so low, and my SEO work so ineffective I see lots of ads for guitars. One like this….”Amazing quality hand-made guitars Very low prices starting at $750.00.”
Wowie, I gots to check this out. Turns out they are laminated (which is OK), but not fully disclosed. They are made in China, but not disclosed. I’ve seen and played these guitars. My personal opinion aside about how bad they are, they’ve got a lot of nerve. But it gets better, as read below….
An infuriating practice. Build a crap guitar built in China. Put a $1200 price tag on it, don’t fully disclose it has laminated back and sides, but by all means, say it’s as good as a guitar that costs $7K or $8K. !!!!!!!!! Say what?
Really? You’re honestly going to compare your $1200 laminate to a Kenny Hill Signature, a Bob Desmond, a Frederich Holtier, a Robert Vincent, a Richard Bruné, a Richard Prenkert, etc. ad nauseum ad infinitum? Seriously? I’m going to write about this in a separate article some day. Oh yeah, and I’m naming names. If you’re curious, I’m not interested in making friends. I’m far more concerned and interested in people being ethical, honest and doing business fair and square.
I see this all the time. I get Chinese manufacturers calling and writing to me all the time. Sure, I’m the big fish they want to score. In a million years, no way. When I do come out with my own brand of guitar, it will be built by people that actually know what they are doing.
The one guy I do business with who builds in China, actually goes there, to his partner facility, one week a month, every month, to oversee all processes, the woods used, construction, practices, quality assurance, and so on. He then has them delivered to his home facility in California, where they are further inspected and then distributed directly by him to his dealers. I am one of them. They are the only Chinese made product I will have here in my shop. Why? Because they are personally managed by Kenny. He vets everything and anything to do with the process of building those guitars that he puts his name on. He builds his Performance Series and Signature Series in Ben Lomond, California, if you’re curious. Again, the New World Series, built by Kenny Hill, including his Estudio Series and Player Series, are built in China. Wow, how clear is that?
He prices his laminate model Estudios w/HSC at $895 and his solid body Players at $1695 w/HSC. You’ll notice that in my listings for Kenny’s Estudio, it actually says, in clear black and white, that the Back and Sides are laminated. I believe I’m the only dealer to say this clearly in his listings for any and all guitars with laminated back and sides.
Why? Simple. No BS, no nonsense. Solid woods cost a lot of money. I’m talking quality solid woods. Have you seen a Player from Kenny Hill. They are gorgeous. The Spruces shimmer, the East Indian is straight with a ruddy color, browns and reds, the Cedars have medullar rays, etc.
I could use those woods on a guitar costing twice as much and wouldn’t blink. You’re not finding that in a $1200 guitar brand new and I apologize ahead of time, because I don’t need to do so. It’s not going to sound like an $8K classical guitar. It’s not going to play like it, resonate like it, be musical or lyrical like it. It’s not going to have world class woods on it, or even decent tuning machines.
Gods, this is surprising? It shouldn’t be. Why would a world class luthier bother putting in, I don’t know, 200 or 300 hours into a world class instrument with woods that cost more than your $1200 guitar and tuners combined, when godsmack me in my bloated and disturbed little head, they could just build a Chinese class guitar for $500, ship it, and put a nice HSC on it, and sell it to you thru themselves or a dealer for $1200? Hot diggety doggy style, why didn’t I think of that?
Get real. If you want a student level guitar, get one. Don’t expect it to be $8K worth of sound and volume. It won’t be. My title should also include the word “reality”.
The truth is that these men and women, true luthiers, masters of the craft, are horrified by any one moron who would be so simple, so blithe, so ridiculously glib to say that their $1200 guitar built in China is better than or “as good” as that of a master’s luthier made instrument of 200+ hours. To the point where they can and should laugh their asses off at such silliness of banter.
So, let’s be honest here. Let’s be truthful. Let’s be forthright, with zero games, zero nonsense. People say stupid things all the time, heck, they’ll sell ice to an eskimo, tell them they should pay for it because the water came straight from the mountain springs deep in the Alps (reads came from a water filter made by Brita in my kitchen sink), but it don’t make it true, and it certainly doesn’t make it right. You want the straight talk, call me. You want the nonsense, call our friend in Paraguay who will be happy to sell you a $5K piece of crap with no return policy or people who misrepresent $1K classical guitars as something that sounds “exactly” like a luthier built $8K guitar? (this just blows my mind).
You can also deal with the guys who think that just because they have a collection of guitars, that this makes them an expert dealer, when clearly they are incapable of handling your classical guitar, setting it up, re-polishing it, shellac work, lacquer work, buffing, repair work, etc. They truly have zero idea of how to pack and ship a guitar. These same people have no interest in truly representing a guitar accurately or honestly, with no expertise behind their commentary, regardless of any flowery talk they throw on a site or at you. They don’t understand the guitars to begin with, but “can speak with expertise”? Expertise from where? Fantasy Land? You can’t even get shipping a guitar correctly.
Basically, I am increasingly upset with what I’m hearing from luthiers and private clientele, how they are treated by the corporate mentality, to the private dealer who has no business being in “this” business. Crooks, incompetents, thieves (variation of crooks LOL), inherently deceitful. From Georgia, to the MidWest to California. They don’t know how to setup a guitar, polish one, inspect one (I mean inspect it internally and externally), not having the ability to truly assess the condition or viability of an instrument. But, they will happily up the price of a guitar given exclusives, meaning you can only go to them for the guitar, and happily wop you for an additional 30-50% more for the guitar, because, hey, they have an exclusive? WTF is that? More and more, in this business, it is becoming clear, from incompetence, to overpricing, to general bullshit, and I have to say it out loud, I’m freaking tired of it. But…
Seriously, they make my job that much easier. I’m good with that, people, keep it up. As a result, my business increases, the luthiers who wish to work with me keep arriving (defectors from other dealers), and my consignment business has never been better. So, thank you! Thank you very much, you make my life better. But then, there’s the following aspect of the business:
Even better, a lot of people are selling guitars they don’t build themselves, guys in Spain, famous luthiers that you wouldn’t believe, with their dealers in the West or Mid-West, and then whoa, there’s some real special guys, serious assholes right here in good ole America. Christe, some don’t even know what makes a great guitar, or heck, even a decent guitar. But they’ll tell you they do and sell it to you for $1200, happily taking your money to the bank. Assholes taking advantage of people who don’t know better, the American way, gone global.
You want the straight scoop. You want true expertise with a willingness to say, “hey, I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out for you”. You want to talk with someone who totally gets you and what you’re looking for, able to listen and understand you perfectly. You want someone who knows the luthier language and can speak to them for hours about their methodology, tricks of the trade and what actually makes a guitar a guitar? Cool, then call me…talk to me. I have zero problem outting people that do bad things, in this business or any other. I’ll talk straight, about anything, because I don’t know anything else.
There, guitar world, from America to Paraguay, to England to New Zealand, I had the balls to say it out loud. A $1200 guitar from California made in China or a $3000 guitar made in Paraguay (I don’t care what wood they used or how pretty it might be) is never going to sound as good, be built as well, with meticulous attention to detail, as a fine classical guitar made by a world class luthier – a true master who truly knows their shit and costs a helluva lot more than that. Truth and Honesty with a splash of reality.
Signed – RF Sayage – and imagine what the F stands for – written at the end of the 1st month of 2014 on a Friday morning when I definitely had better things to do. OK, not better, but more important?
– updated with vim and vigor on March 2, 2017 because I can … ha!