The Electric: How Much Do Pedals Really Cost?

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.

THE POINT

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.

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3 thoughts on “The Electric: How Much Do Pedals Really Cost?

  1. Pingback: Worship Tech Roundup | Worship Links

  2. Pingback: The People Vs. JHS Pedals | Real World Worship Leading

  3. moonshiner

    It always amazes me that when it comes to music and musical related occupations that people always think its a hobby. well for some it is and for some it isnt. the beauty of capitalism is that if you provide a unique product or service you should be paid for it. If you think one brand or service is better for less money then buy it. If you feel it worth it then buy it.

    To be a legitamit business now days there are taxes,workmans comp, supplys, brick and mortor and a living to be made. the same people that complain about high prices are also complaining about low wages as if there is no coralation.. its ok for baseball players to make 100,000 a game but if a CEO make half that its corparate greed.I

    I am a pedal builder mostly out of production clones with a few mods or what i like to think of as improvements . My friend is also a pedal builder . i wont build a pedal for less than 100 dollars. I am a guy building in his basement. the box is 10 bucks then at least a couple for paint and sand paper. then the switche is 5 bucks the jacks are 4 the vero is 1 the pots are 2-3 a piece and knobs a buck or two. I could go on but i spend an average of 35 per pedal on parts. then time i can do a fuzz pedal in anout 3-4 hours and klon in about 5 hours . for me to make minimum wage i need to get at least 75 a pedal and this is a skill . electricians and automechanics make much more than minimum wage and electrical engineers makes 60-100 grand a year. so somewhere inbetween thats where i am 15-25 an hour usually 15 if i dont make any mistakes. one small mistake in electronics and nothing works. one bad transistor can take hours to figure out. i had a broken wire that looked fine it took an entire sunday afternoon and monday night to figure it out.i need to get at least my friend rarely sells them for that much.I have spent hundreds of hours learning electronics hundreds of dollars on tools and parts. In the end i mostly do it for the fun. The extra money is nice and helps put food on the table.Its worth what someone will pay for it in the end . Look at Klon Centaurs they sell on ebay for over 1000 dollars and up to 2700 dollars.i can make one for about 50 dollars that sounds if not exactly like an original it sounds better in its own way.

    lets not forget the most imortant thing of all. The idea and invention that takes place when designing a pedal.i have come up with a few ideas but nothing unique or groundbreaking thats for sure. So in summary high custom pedals are worth what people will pay for them just like everything else .

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