Guitar prices and artisanal values

Here is a nice video from Juha Ruogangas on the subject of guitar prices: https://youtu.be/3HEh73Vp21k

There are many great points both for guitar makers and for guitarists.

Here is my comment on the posted video about a subject that to me needs more in-depth understanding.

“About the fair trade prices, I think it could happen that we pay less because someone takes advantage of people. But in most of the cases, this is not true. There are factories, usually the best ones, that prioritize fair treatment and security for their workers. So low prices result primarily because of economies of Asia and their industrial production. The cost of living in China is about one tenth of Europe and most western countries. If Yuan were 10 times higher than its current value, we would have Chinese guitars priced near our prices for typical industrial production.

So I think every maker is free to find its place and ideal customers, considering its costs and national economy, and whether it is offering art or just a tool for music .We build instrument made one by one, usually custom made for a particular musician. Every instrument is one piece on its own. That’ the greatest difference between what we are doing and what large scale industrial producers are doing”

To complete the subject, here is the Juha’s second video: https://youtu.be/l4CpTsRmiOI

 

When I visited several Chinese factories, I saw a big difference in cost-quality, working condition and treatment of workers. Usually these things all go together. The Chinese company making, at that time, our Mannedesign line of instruments, produced a very good quality with a strong emphasis upon maintaining good conditions and security for its workers, and a very well organized and clean factory layout and work routine. So a “fair price” is difficult to define. This terms could mean extremely low prices. But in some cases, it is mostly much lower labor costs and a high-output industrialized form of production that produces a lower price. So everybody can understand that luthiers making only a few instruments, one by one, must ultimately ask an adequate price.

Every makers should find his own spot depending on his philosophy and the market he is able to develop. In the European Guitar Builders Association for example, although we all feel as brothers, we live in different countries with different economies. What is accessible for customers in the north, is expensive for customers in the south. So every maker must work with his own customer base, whether local or international.

Quality is very subjective as it depends on culture, use and precisely what people are looking for when choosing an instrument. There are players who don’t’ care if the wood is sanded up to 600 grit or if the neck is carved with a just a knife blade, how many hour of works it takes or if the wood is the most exquisite and rare piece. They just want to hear the instrument, feel its playability and its tonal response. So a guitar could be of very poor quality for a Japanese classical player, but represent the top of his dreams to a Sicilian bluesman.

Whether a guitar is “art” or just a tool for music is another subjective argument, both for the maker and for the player. An instrument is more than merely a functional object as it can establish an inspirational relationship and represent a statement of the player’s work. Determining the value of art happens just when supply and demand come together, and that’s it.

On one thing we can all agree: Luthiers currently are offering an incredible range of styles, ideas, colors, shapes and feel, throughout the entire spectrum of the world of guitars. Come and visit the Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin next 5-6 May. You will see and hear what we mean.

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