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» Inflation Run Wild?

Hawk   


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Post #61

QUOTE(Geoffrey @ Aug 17 2017, 10:35 AM) *
Very succinctly put, Mike!

It was the overwhelming flood of hobbyist makers into the NAF market that made me leave it. There was a sort of "golden age" for professional makers that lasted less than ten years (starting in the 90's) where there was a peaking interest in the NAF and not too many makers in the market.

Eventually, there were all sorts of amateurs (and some of them quite good--being a hobbyist does not mean they were not talented and capable makers), and then lots of part-time makers with other sources of income, and they were pricing their flutes in such a way that it was clear that they did not need the income from their endeavor. They just liked making them and would sell them for fun, or just to pay for materials and as this population of makers grew it became increasingly difficult to make a living wage.

I was still doing alright at the time, but I could definitely see the writing on the wall (this was around 2006). The market had changed and if I wanted to continue to have a job I had to change. So I started looking at wider horizons and at the same time started really putting time and money into streamlining my production.

A maker can have a good reputation, loyal customers and a good product, but it can still be tricky if there are other makers providing good instruments for fire-sale prices. I totally understand the difficulty of getting into a market as an unknown maker and one of the easiest ways to get your work out there is to price it so low that buyers are willing to take a gamble. It’s a tempting short cut, but the hidden problem is that once people get used to buying your product at a certain price point you will likely encounter a lot of resistance if you later decide you’d like to raise them! And then you also participate in "low-balling" the overall market and it affects everyone.

And different markets have different attitudes about spending money on instruments. In a very general sense, NAF players tend to be bargain shoppers (I’m painting with a broad brush, of course, but I think this is basically true—there are exceptions, no doubt) and this is troublesome if your goal is to make really fine instruments and price them in a way that is consistent with the time and skill it takes to make them. One of the reasons that I’ve moved into making things like head joints for Boehm (silver) flutes is because in that market the attitudes are utterly different. In fact, if you price too low in the Boehm flute market you can damage your chances because low price is equated with low quality. And additionally you absolutely cannot get away with making a "wall hanger" (the bane of the NAF market). You can't make a head joint that doesn't play well, dress it up with lots of bling and eye-catching decoration and hope to sell it. You simply can't get away with that sort of thing. In the NAF world, there are makers who routinely sell flutes that are beautiful to look at but are completely sub-standard as musical instruments. That would never happen if your market were classical musicians, traditional Irish musicians, etc..

Many people who embrace the NAF are not necessarily into it because it is a refined tool for doing serious music. It certainly can be such a tool, but that isn't why most players embrace it (in my experience). They embrace it because there is some spiritual or emotional connection, and it's a tool of healing and self-discovery more than something they are going to burden with more technical requirements. Again, using the broad brush here, but I found this to be generally true. Because of this the standards and expectations of the players are quite different from those of players in these other markets.


Well said Geoffrey ~


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Keith Glowka   


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Post #62

QUOTE(Geoffrey @ Aug 17 2017, 10:35 AM) *
Very succinctly put, Mike!

It was the overwhelming flood of hobbyist makers into the NAF market that made me leave it. There was a sort of "golden age" for professional makers that lasted less than ten years (starting in the 90's) where there was a peaking interest in the NAF and not too many makers in the market.

Eventually, there were all sorts of amateurs (and some of them quite good--being a hobbyist does not mean they were not talented and capable makers), and then lots of part-time makers with other sources of income, and they were pricing their flutes in such a way that it was clear that they did not need the income from their endeavor. They just liked making them and would sell them for fun, or just to pay for materials and as this population of makers grew it became increasingly difficult to make a living wage.

I was still doing alright at the time, but I could definitely see the writing on the wall (this was around 2006). The market had changed and if I wanted to continue to have a job I had to change. So I started looking at wider horizons and at the same time started really putting time and money into streamlining my production.

A maker can have a good reputation, loyal customers and a good product, but it can still be tricky if there are other makers providing good instruments for fire-sale prices. I totally understand the difficulty of getting into a market as an unknown maker and one of the easiest ways to get your work out there is to price it so low that buyers are willing to take a gamble. It’s a tempting short cut, but the hidden problem is that once people get used to buying your product at a certain price point you will likely encounter a lot of resistance if you later decide you’d like to raise them! And then you also participate in "low-balling" the overall market and it affects everyone.

And different markets have different attitudes about spending money on instruments. In a very general sense, NAF players tend to be bargain shoppers (I’m painting with a broad brush, of course, but I think this is basically true—there are exceptions, no doubt) and this is troublesome if your goal is to make really fine instruments and price them in a way that is consistent with the time and skill it takes to make them. One of the reasons that I’ve moved into making things like head joints for Boehm (silver) flutes is because in that market the attitudes are utterly different. In fact, if you price too low in the Boehm flute market you can damage your chances because low price is equated with low quality. And additionally you absolutely cannot get away with making a "wall hanger" (the bane of the NAF market). You can't make a head joint that doesn't play well, dress it up with lots of bling and eye-catching decoration and hope to sell it. You simply can't get away with that sort of thing. In the NAF world, there are makers who routinely sell flutes that are beautiful to look at but are completely sub-standard as musical instruments. That would never happen if your market were classical musicians, traditional Irish musicians, etc..

Many people who embrace the NAF are not necessarily into it because it is a refined tool for doing serious music. It certainly can be such a tool, but that isn't why most players embrace it (in my experience). They embrace it because there is some spiritual or emotional connection, and it's a tool of healing and self-discovery more than something they are going to burden with more technical requirements. Again, using the broad brush here, but I found this to be generally true. Because of this the standards and expectations of the players are quite different from those of players in these other markets.


Too right, mate! There is no "patent" on this instrument, so it is subject to any and all elements of the market. Short of price controls by the government, nothing can be done about that. Sure, we could "advocate" for a "system" that would control prices, but without the force of law, such a system is meaningless. Using government for such price controls is a communist/socialist scheme. That's right, I said it! laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif


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MonoLoco   


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Post #63

Interesting development of this thread. Great topic with lots of factors/variables.

I started my NAF journey in 1999 - I did get to see the "Golden Age" Geoffrey references and I have seen the explosion of eBay Wannabes ... and some worthy new makers, too. As a consumer, more choices are always good ... except for the inferior flutes sold by eBayers who change their username every so often! As a friend of flute makers, I see the other side, though. Flute makers might not get rewarded in financial riches, but as an elder once told me, "in the giving is the getting". I know love doesn't pay the bills, but flute makers are loved by many!

re: Mike’s comment, “The maker who has no costs other than materials and shipping are doing a disservice to other flute makers' livelihood if they take advantage of their subsided shop and sell their flutes at a deep discount.”

I’ve wrestled this a bit, though I am not a maker. What I am is an avid enthusiast who plays at local events and re-sells economical flutes at my cost while at these events. When I see bargain flutes on eBay, I snatch a couple because folks around here are not too familiar with the instrument and I like to spread Kokopelli’s joy. I can’t afford to be too deep “in the hole”, money wise, if the flutes sit around in a box for years, so I concentrate on budget flutes. I probably sell about 5-10 flutes a year doing this, and I only do it locally, so I doubt that I am doing a disservice to flute makers. In fact, my hope is that I can actually create new future customers for my flute-making friends, as I always point “my customers” in the right direction for additional flutes once my budget flutes have infected them with the bug!
Still, I have experienced conflicts. My first negative experience was at a PowWow 2 ½ hours away. I was invited to play there and I was allowed to offer for sale the flutes I had even though I was not the actual maker … nor am I Native … and the flutes I had were not Native-made (some were, some weren’t). Had I been the only flute vendor, I would have been A-OK, but there was another fella’ there selling his flutes – and he had traveled 3 ½ hours to do so. I realized that I could have a negative impact on his business – his flutes were $150-$200 while mine were just $25-$75. I encouraged lookers to visit his table to see the “real” flutes, calling my offerings “entry-level” and such. It was difficult to be both honest and sincere with the shoppers and also be respectful and considerate of the flute maker. One big problem was that his flutes were actually of poor quality and my cheaper offerings played much better. I ended up pulling the larger flutes from my table and leaving just the smaller $25-$30 high-pitched ones for sale, as the maker had only deeper flutes … I tried to compromise and still please everyone. Had the other fella’ been a jerk, not about me selling flutes (which I would understand, and agree, actually … in this case, anyway), but just a negative person, in general, I probably would have kept all my flutes available to the visitors. But, the maker was cool and I wanted him to do well.

I will continue to resell economical flutes as a local service – again, a hobby, not a business. It’s an ongoing conflict for me, potentially doing a disservice to flute makers while trying to do a good service to new players. Gosh, what about when I start making my own and selling them instead of others’. THEN, I’ll have different conflicts, I suppose. What will I eventually charge for my own flutes? I have no idea yet, but certainly enough to cover my costs of materials and other expenses … plus ???? Perhaps, whatever the customer can afford to add? I don’t know if such an honor system could work, whereby a struggling customer pays what he can and an affluent customer pays more, to offset the other. Would that be fair? I think so, as it would be voluntary, but is it practical? As a hobbyist, it seems more feasible than for a full-time maker doing it for a living. And what if I see my flute back on eBay for an inflated price one week later? How would I feel then?


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shewhoflutesinca...   


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Post #64

I feel for you in that dilemma, lovely Scott! smile.gif

Getting flutes into the hands of all who could benefit from them, keeping them affordable while acknowledging and factoring in makers' time, skills, costs, and also factoring in the desirability and rarity of any given flute really does make this a bit of a hornet's nest, doesn't it? :-o

I'm essentially overwhelmed with gratitude to all who demonstrate skill, generosity, and care, and to the First Nations peoples whose early instruments acted as a prototype for so many that have followed. I love this instrument! I will have to learn to make my own flutes, yet even then imagine I'll be frequenting my favourite makers' websites and conversations, to keep tabs on their offerings biggrin.gif

🌹🌹🌻❤️🌻🌹🌹

This post has been edited by shewhoflutesincaves: Aug 18 2017, 07:21 PM


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Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 21st November 2017 - 01:53 AM