In this series I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music. This week we’ll talk about the real cost and value of the gear with use to serve the church.
This isn’t really a post about worship music, but the topic of how much a pedal or piece of music gear really costs to make comes every so often on guitar forums and blogs, even ones for worship guitarists, and it annoys me, and it’s my blog, so I’m gonna right about it, and I’m going to use as many run-on sentences as I want 🙂
My goal is besides getting my pet peeves off my chest is to dispel myths and misconceptions to give folks a realistic view of how much it really costs to produce the gear we love.
DON’T BE SIMPLISTIC
How much does a pedal cost to make? Numbers vary but $15 dollars seems to be a pretty common estimate on blogs and forums I’ve read. Then add labor and you shouldn’t have to pay more than $45 (and probably less) for your favorite overdrive pedal, or so goes the thinking of the DiY’er who is building pedals from kits on his own time. It’s the simplistic view of the hobby builder. I’m not saying that they are simple, or dumb people, just that they are seeing things in a simplistic way or from a limited perspective.
This $15 view doesn’t factor in taxes and fees (federal, state, and local) that the small business owner faces. It doesn’t count the cost of renting a work space, buying the screen press for labeling the pedal (the hobby builder often uses a sharpie). What about computers and accounting software? You get where I’m going with this, the cost of making a pedal is way more involved than just saying it’s $15 in parts, assuming that number is correct. A lot of smaller, boutique builders are using higher quality parts than Boss or Ibanez so the actual cost might be a little higher or a lot higher depending on parts.
SEE THE BIG PICTURE
Assuming that the business making your gear wants to be successful and grow they need to make a profit. This profit (money made beyond costs) isn’t just going into the owners pocketbook. Most of it is put back into the business. Money for travel and advertising. Money used for R&D. Every hour spent researching and developing a new pedal, pickup, microphone or amp is an hour spent not working on current designs that bring in income. That R&D labor comes from the profits of current products for sale. So that new guitar pedal that you think looks amazing was paid for buy the sale of the pedal that’s been out for a couple of years now.
But not only did the current product fund future product development, but it’s paying off the it’s own development cost. It’s not just for parts but all the time it took develop the current product, and any loans required to start up the business must be paid back plus interest.
That’s not even counting expanding the work force. Almost all of the smaller builders out there have employees, who come with not only labor costs, but HR and admin costs.
What I’m saying is that you have to see the big picture of establishing a successful business and not the small picture of building a good DiY effect pedal.
NO DOUBLE STANDARDS
Then there’s labor. How much do you make? How much would you like to make? These guys are businessmen. They want to have a house and a car, put food on the table, send their kids to college and go on vacation. So after all of the cost of parts, admin, taxes, R&D, promotion and advertising, and paying employees, the gear makers need to charge enough so that they can live and provide for their families.
I wouldn’t settle for anything less so why should I be surprised when someone wouldn’t either. A company like Boss uses cheaper parts, made in foreign factories and makes their profits by selling in volume. A smaller, boutique builder is using higher quality, more expensive parts and building here in the USA with all the costs associated with that so they’re going to charge more. So when a smaller company makes a Tube Screamer for $100 more than it’s mass produced counter part, don’t be surprised.
Like I said, this isn’t really a post about worship, but since a lot of us are buying gear and reading reviews on forums, I thought this bit of perspective would be a good addition to the conversation.