Recession and today's top makers?

December 6, 2008 at 06:13 AM ·

 Six months ago I had more freelance work here in the U.S. than I could handle, now I am thankful I fall go back to Greece for a regular philharmonic job.

 

I also have a rather pricy early 20th century Italian that I cannot move (I'm hoping to buy a great modern in its place). 

I wonder if this recession is hitting the great modern makers? Someone told me Robin in France is not doing that well, but then again he was coming out of favor when I left Europe a few years ago, so it may have nothing to do with this recession.

 

Will prices go down at all? Will more want modern fiddles because of the huge difference in price between older fiddles and newer ones? Especially since the best makers today are making some HUGE sounding fiddles!

 

In other words, how will this affect the modern fiddle market?

Replies (76)

December 6, 2008 at 10:05 AM ·

I don't know about the market in toto - it's more complex than meets the eye, when certain fiddles qualify as "investments" and not just "purchases".

I can say a few things about pricing though. The price of an item like a violin made by a famous maker basically has three components: 1) cost of materials and labor; 2) overhead and other expenses such as advertising; and 3) profit. If the instrument is made in a country where there is a different currency, then you can add 4) the exchange rate factor.

In times of recession, Component 1 cannot realistically be reduced without affecting quality, Component 2 can be reduced slightly (curbing back on advertising, for example), Component 3 may be reduced (if possible: what if the maker has a stiff mortgage to pay?), and no one can do anything at all about Component 4.

Therefore, just having high prices doesn't mean automatically that there is much of a margin to reduce them. I speak from personal experience - this summer when the Dollar hit a record low of 1.60 against the Euro, I actually sold some of my violin cases in the U.S. at a loss!

December 6, 2008 at 08:29 AM ·

I have no idea how the prices of older instruments may be affected by a recession, but as for custom made instruments, I would like to point out that most makers have their order books full for at least the next 6 months, many even for a year or more. For this reason, I don't think they are under great pressure to reduce prices, at least not the ones who have waiting lists. This may however change if the recession is deep and prolonged and causes their waiting lists to evaporate at some point. Let's hope the situation won't get that bad.

December 6, 2008 at 09:51 AM ·

Dimitri makes a good point about exchange rates, instruments from U.K. makers have become a lot more affordable to U.S. and European players.

December 6, 2008 at 10:19 AM ·

Benjamin makes a good point too, however a 1-year waiting list means that when the customer placed the order, Countrywide was still peddling subprime mortgages as if there would be no tomorrow and depression was a word more associated with Prozac.

Will customers place orders now, that is the question.

December 6, 2008 at 11:50 AM ·

I'm curious about this too.

What I know so far is that I've certainly had some savings evaporate into thin air, just like a lot of other people. Wish I'd had that money invested in violins! But one needs to keep some operating capital liquid because of the nature of our job. Even a maker with a waiting list can go for six months or so without income while working on several instruments concurrently.

I don't know what the overall trend in instruments sales has been lately. That's something a dealer would be in a better position to know. Since modern instrument prices are on the low end of what professional musicians often spend, is it possible that a poor economy will actually favor these? Or will people slow down on buying at all price levels instead?

I don't think I've had anything fall through due to financial reasons yet. Well, maybe one. The guy's wife said that if he bought the new violin, he'd need to sell his old one, and he decided to stick with what he had (meaning that he decided to keep his old violin along with his wife, ha ha).

The bottom line for me is that it's too soon to tell. Jeffrey Holmes carries a wide variety of instruments, so is in a better position to see trends in the overall market. Maybe he'll comment?

Reducing prices? In my case, I doubt that there's much room for that. If a maker does all the work himself, mostly by hand, and has no assistants, this isn't a very profitable business. If prices dropped much, I'd be better off keeping the instruments myself as a retirement investment, and driving a school bus for a living. ;-)

December 6, 2008 at 03:40 PM ·

Data on this topic are notoriously thin and unreliable.  And slow in coming, unlike from the stock and bond markets.

I suspect that any sort of purchase that really depends on trading another instrument will take more time to come to fruition, and will take place at a lower price (eventually).

On the other hand, I would bet that some of the money that might have flowed to marginal "investment grade" instruments (i.e., old Italians that are borderline cruddy) could easily find its way to modern makers if they are still at a lower price point.   [This considers only the behavior of buyers who intend to use the violins in question.  It would take a real change of fashion to interest collectors in modern instruments as such.]

Unresolved in all of this is the very top end of the market.  Will investors frustrated with financial instruments (hah) and fearful of inflation put money into collectibles, driving prices up?  Or will slowing growth in Russia, China, and Korea pull the plug on some of the really silly eight-figure "prestige" purchases that we keep hearing about? 

 

 

December 6, 2008 at 05:05 PM ·

Stephan has hit the nail on the head as to the reliability of data. Fables of "sold out" makers are one thing--I know from first-hand that many makers who talk of long lists are completely lying. For one instance, last year my shop had an inquiry from one such (top-level, household name) maker who had nine instruments stacked up unsold in his shop looking for homes, and he's not the only "booked-up" maker I directly know about with unsold inventory. If you've ever been on a waiting list and had the "good luck" of having an ordered instrument show up early (long enough to be respectable--perhaps the maker decided that "you need it more than the next person in line" or you're somehow otherwise "special", but not so long that you start thinking about going out and finding something else) you've been had, to put it simply. This is a perennial issue, though, not tied up with today's economy.


That aside, no one likes to say how their business is doing, especially when times are hard, but after the fact I will tell you that every single violin retailer I spoke with late this summer and this fall was spooked, and that sales had dropped nearly to zero in many cases. I spoke with one rehairer who went one entire month without doing a rehair, for instance! Apparently every customer decided that their bow would function OK for another month or so.

Almost immediately after the election that broke, and I am aware of much more business in the last couple of weeks, all around, than in the previous couple of months. It does not appear that the upper end has been harmed, either--in times of trouble, hard things with long term value are better to have than volatile cash sometimes, at least as part of a diversified plan. Student violins appear to be popping, too, perhaps as a result of back-to-school combined with post-election optimism. Being more involved in sales than making since building a new shop in the fall, I have not felt out my fellow makers on this, and so I don't have any idea how they're doing with their own instruments at this point, but I suspect things are looking better for them, too.

I do not know if this is permanent or temporary. One problem in the $10,000-50,000 range has been the drying up of credit, which is often used for this type of instrument, for beginning pros and students, using, for instance, parents' credit. Still, we have many more people looking in this range this month than there were two months ago, so perhaps the problem was more related to fear than reality.

Other peoples' experience and contacts may vary from my snapshot of the market based on who I talk with. As one of my favorite financial blogs puts it, this information is my personal opinion only, not a recommendation to either buy or sell. :-) I am, at this point, feeling pretty optimistic, though.

 

.

December 6, 2008 at 05:01 PM ·

Stephen Symchych wrote:

"...  It would take a real change of fashion to interest collectors in modern instruments as such."

___________________________________________

Stephen, there are already quite a few people who have collections of contemporary instruments, or are working toward that goal.

Here is one example:

www.amatifoundation.org/historicalcollection.html

December 6, 2008 at 05:17 PM ·

I was glancing through a recent copy of the Strad in a bookstore a few days ago and saw an article about this. If I remember correctly, Sam Zygmuntowicz said he has lost one commission since the recent economic crisis, but Claire Givens said that her shop had one of the strongest summers ever.

December 6, 2008 at 05:29 PM ·

Yes, when I took off to teach my summer workshop class in California, things were fine. Soon after I came back, things were different. I suspect that by the time STRAD has had a chance to print their latest, things may have changed again. If you watch gold or the Dow, you can see that things are very twitchy these days.

December 6, 2008 at 09:52 PM ·

In my case that new violin from a US maker is going to set me back an additional 25% more than 6 months ago because of the Canadian dollar, not to mention that stocks also lost in some cases up to 40%.

 

 

December 7, 2008 at 03:50 PM ·

David wrote: "The bottom line for me is that it's too soon to tell. Jeffrey Holmes carries a wide variety of instruments, so is in a better position to see trends in the overall market. Maybe he'll comment?"

OK David; I’ll give it a go.  Hope it's not too boring a read.

To state the obvious, there is certainly a great amount of economic uncertainty presently.   The difficulty in projecting what will, or might happen, is that things are “uncertain”.  No one really knows where this thing stops, and how long it will take recover.

Like you, I’ve been around long enough to see a couple of recessions, though this one seems to have come on faster, and effected more people, than the last two I can recall.  Jobless rates (especially here in Michigan) are very high…  and this effects many surrounding the directly effected industries, and can translate into reduction in funding for orchestras and other musical arts.

I’m certainly no economist, but I can offer my experiences in two areas: 1) My own experiences, so far, concerning this recession. 2) My experience in past recessions.  As I also studied the market of the past, I can also comment on observations I’ve made concerning the market, especially since the 1920s.

Just so others understand where I’m coming from, my “market” concerns generally instruments from $15,000 up and bows from about $3,500 and up (old and contemporary in both cases). I don’t deal with commercial instruments or rentals… and the market may certainly be affected differently in those areas   I am a very small shop (I don’t have employees or sales persons, and work from a small restoration studio).  In general, the trend of my business before the banking difficulties was upwards, so I’m not suffering from the financial woes Michael D. indicated others have complained about…  and I have very loyal clients… though I have noted some changes in behavior (buying habits).  Would things be growing faster in a better economy? I assume they would, but I really don’t know for sure.  Things are the way they are.

1) So far, during this recession, I have noted that fewer “inquiries” are being made, though that in itself does not translate into fewer clients who actually buy something.  Generally, I’d say that those who are making inquiries presently (at least with me) are serious and ready to purchase something that fits their needs.  That’s actually good for my business, as I have slightly more time for restorations and the dreaded required paperwork.

I have had two significant instances where I believe the economic situation has negatively affected specific sales.  Both cases occurred during/right after the bank crisis.  Both concerned serious instruments (one low and one mid 6 figure).  One client had sponsorship funds dry up.   The other had the bank delay (no funds available), then negatively change the financing details for, a pre-approved loan.

On the other hand, I have a few “new” clients who have switched over funds from their investment portfolios to purchase instruments or bows… not that they believe they are going to make a killing, but rather because they wanted something nice and figured they’d rather have it (their acquisition) than stocks at this point.

The buying habits I mentioned concern what clients are actually buying.  I’ve sold many more bows than instruments in the last few months… which correlates to my observations during the last recession (see #2 below).. but there is still demand for  midrange (up to $60K or so; including contemporary maker's work) instruments.

2) In the last recession, I worked for a larger firm, so my observations are based on my experience there.  Then, prices (demand) for certain instruments stagnated, while others did not…  however sales did slow (in a delayed fashion).  I noticed, as I have so far in this recession, that many players (working types) were generally more willing to sink money into a nice bow than spend a ton on a new instrument.  It makes sense really.  The amount required to by a rather significant bow is often less than what it might cost for an instrument….  And (assuming the instrument already owned is a good one), performance wise, you might make as significant a difference, or even more of an improvement (more bang for the buck) dollar for dollar with a bow, if choices are carefully made.

I also noticed that some contemporary makers had difficulty selling their output, while others (with well established reputations) seemed to do just fine… though I'm not sure if more effort was required in marketing by those makers.  I can think of a couple makers who actually “made” their reputations in a recession market.  Seems to me that the better makers tended to hold their prices steady longer, but didn't lower them.

3) Past US market history (based on older catalogs, sales data, etc.) indicates a definite downturn in prices during the depression…  and some similar behavior to the general market (stocks, exchange rates, foreign market changes, etc.), but the peaks and valleys seem to come at different times (both delayed and possibly anticipatory).

Now, I was one of those who Michael talked to (I believe).  To say I’m not “spooked” (who wouldn’t be), might be stretching things, so I can accept his report as accurate…  but I’d say on the whole, the reality of my own situation is fine.  I have a backlog of restorations, and serious clients are still looking for instruments and bows.  Concerning living makers: Contemporary instruments & bows are still great buys, and are still in demand.

Have I changed my own habits (what I’m buying, what I’m not, etc.)?  Yes, I have.  I am buying things I really would rather have on a longer term basis (restoration projects, or irresistibly special items), have my eyes open for desirable bows, have decreased my stock of relatively easily replaced items (cases, etc.), reduced extraneous expenses where possible, and am tending to be more on the conservative side when it comes to market value appraisals (consulting).

Last thing...  What about those amazing 8 figure sales at the very tip top of the market that Stephen mentioned?  Well, the last one was to a foundation...  and was a rather special instrument... but the very top end of the marketplace isn't really populated by mere mortals anyway.  These sales are, more and more, resembling fine art sales... and I don't know about you all, but my Van Gogh viewing is restricted to museums...  I don't believe I'll ever have one over my fireplace.  :-)  In any case, a good portion of these types of sales are being made to organizations that have already earmarked funds for such a purchase, and may have targeted specific instruments for acquisition.  The effects of the world economies likely reaches those who make these kinds of decisions further down the road, if at all.

Check with me in a year or two and we’ll see what the long-term effect of all this is, eh?

Nice to see you here Dimitri.

 

December 6, 2008 at 09:48 PM ·

Andreas, BTW, what moderns are you considering?

 

 

December 6, 2008 at 11:00 PM ·

[quote] Stephen, there are already quite a few people who have collections of contemporary instruments, or are working toward that goal.

Here is one example:

www.amatifoundation.org/historicalcollection.html

[/quote]

David:

I've often wondered about that as an interesting project, but wonder about the Amati Foundation.  Since you're on his "buy list" you probably have more insight than the rest of us, but when I looked up their tax returns on the web I saw next to no activity.

 

December 7, 2008 at 01:11 AM ·

Stephen, I don't know a great deal about the "Amati Foundation". William Townsend, the chairman, is some kind of tech and internet mogul, and the founder or co-founder of the internet search engine "Lycos". He also makes violins. Have only talked to him a few times. I think I've seen him post here before.

I picked this as an example because there was a public website I could link to, and I didn't think there would be any issues about compromising his privacy.

Here's the Wikipedia link for him:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Townsend


 

December 7, 2008 at 04:17 AM ·

 I cant say that I have played as many moderns as some people on here, but I have played a lot of them. For me the best have been Zyg, Needham, Belini, Burgess, pretty much in that order. For me these are the best makers in the world, but this is just my take on it. I would add that Needham and Burgess are beyond consistent. 

 

If I could sell my fiddle I would  order a Needham, probably, and then pocket the rest of the money. But I am afraid that in this economy the turn of the century Italians may not sell easily. 

 

Oh and David, I too know many in Europe who are already collecting great moderns, Mr. Larsen of Larsen strings comes to mind. 

December 7, 2008 at 08:12 AM ·

I realise this is a US based website and most of the readers/posters are probably in the US, so they might be forgiven for ignoring that there are human inhabited areas outside of US borders. 

However, it leaves a very bad stench on the internet as a whole and on this website in particular whenever statements are made in such a way that an unsuspecting reader will get the impression that the US is the place where all the good guys are, in this particular thread good violin makers and nowhere else.

Are you really serious that you believe the best violin makers are all based in the US, not a single one deserving that attribute anywhere else? Or were you just being sloppy with your wording?

December 7, 2008 at 10:43 AM ·

Hi Benjamin,

Forgive them but accuse them of bias to the point of a stench? 

Surely Mr. Tespolulos, who is from Greece, may be excused from the commonplace (but still fallacious) accusation of bias based on nationality, and he was quite clear that he didn't presume that his judgment must be shared by others.

If you can offer a serious opinion about top makers from outside the USA (some of whom have in fact been mentioned positively here in previous threads), by all means do so when the subject arises.  That way you can satisfy your own breadth requirements rather than chastizing others for not doing so when we don't know what instruments they have played (and that because they are often pretty discrete about the ones they don't love).

December 7, 2008 at 12:25 PM ·

I believe we makers in Europe feel the same situation. But everything is closer and faster to reach compare to the USA. In a circle of 60 miles work about 50 makers /dealers. In Munich around 30 of them. I think this number double the last ten years and everybody fights for best service and price.

I think Dimitri can tell us more about the situation in Italy and Cremona. Still 200 makers there? I guess some have a daily fight for Bread and Butter.

 

December 7, 2008 at 01:48 PM ·

Deleted by me.  :-)


 

 

 

December 7, 2008 at 03:08 PM ·

@Andres

all one would have to do is use rather common devices of English, such as "some of the best", "among the best", "one of the best" etc etc

December 7, 2008 at 03:51 PM ·

Benjamin wrote: "all one would have to do is use rather common devices of English, such as "some of the best", "among the best", "one of the best" etc etc "

Hey, can you manage that in Greek?  :-)

December 7, 2008 at 11:19 PM ·

Stench? I'm on the internet, and I don't smell a thing. Perhaps it's your wording?

December 7, 2008 at 10:31 PM ·

Benjamin K wrote: (directed to Andreas Tespolulos)

"I realise this is a US based website and most of the readers/posters are probably in the US, so they might be forgiven for ignoring that there are human inhabited areas outside of US borders.

However, it leaves a very bad stench on the internet as a whole and on this website in particular whenever statements are made in such a way that an unsuspecting reader will get the impression that the US is the place where all the good guys are, in this particular thread good violin makers and nowhere else.

Are you really serious that you believe the best violin makers are all based in the US, not a single one deserving that attribute anywhere else? Or were you just being sloppy with your wording?"

_______________________________

Hi Benjamin;

If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Tespolulos has been involved with that group of violinists who have tried a large number of instruments from all over the place, including Europe.

If so, this started as one violinist’s quest to find instruments for his sons, and ballooned into something involving many high-level musicians, a host of instruments including some high-value antiques, numerous back-to-back comparisons in performance halls, and trips to Europe to include violins made there. The “ringleader” of this group (Canadian by birth?) attended graduate school in Russia, and his sons are receiving part of their violin training there, so it’s difficult to make a strong case for US favoritism.

I was present for one of these “playoffs” and can’t disagree with the conclusions they drew on that occasion. Though I may not be at the top of their list, they’ve certainly earned my respect.

December 7, 2008 at 10:27 PM ·

Some are not aware of just how difficult it is to try out top makers. Unless you know someone who owns one or are willing to travel long distances you are pretty much unable to do your own testing and have to rely on others testimony.

There was no way I had the opportunity to try out European makers in my time frame. And there are many that I would have liked to try. There were some US makers that I did not have the opportunity to try. One could go on for years testing. Many makers don't even have anything for people to try

When all is said and done all the testing in the world still doesn't guarentee you exactly what you've previously tested.

Easier to buy a new car or house than trying to buy a new fiddle. 

 

December 8, 2008 at 12:15 AM ·

Here is one thing that will keep new violin prices lower: the large influx of young makers, eager to

make their reputations and capture some market share. As I look at the listing of modern makers for Shar and other dealers, there are more and more makers I don't recognize, all privy to the best modern methods and materials. There may in fact be too many newly-minted luthiers for the market to absorb. So potential buyers will be looking for value in the form of $7000 instruments by undiscovered and talented makers rather than commissioning something many times more that may or may not satisfy them in the end.  

December 8, 2008 at 12:30 AM ·

Oh Scott, great point !!!

yep,it's all in the sound -  forget the price !!!

December 8, 2008 at 01:18 AM ·

"Though I may not be at the top of their list, they’ve certainly earned my respect."

I did not and do not question whether the four makers named in his personal top 4 deserve respect, they surely do. What I do suggest is that it is disrespectful to others to say "the best" instead of a phrase along the lines of "some of the best".

"There was no way I had the opportunity to try out European makers in my time frame."

I did not say nor suggest there was anything wrong with choosing one's shortlist by geographic constraints. There is a difference between "the best" and "the best within 2000 miles", although even then, I would rather use "among the best within 2000 miles".

December 8, 2008 at 01:30 AM ·

I read this thread from top to bottom and did not read or perceive that anyone here posted that the best violin maker's are from the U.S. I missed that post I guess.

As far as the economy goes- as the world  progresses through the recession which in a year's time could easily turn into a depression if you analyze the market factors such as unemployment in countries which exceed 10 percent (this may happen in the U.S. as well within 12 months). What will happen to the violin industry? If you divide it into three pyramid segments here's what you get.

Top of the pyramid six figures and up -  People who buy these instruments have the cash or access to it. As a matter of fact sales may increase and values increase as investors diversify out of the equity markets. So this market will not be adversly affected.

Middle of the pyramid- Modern makers and mid level five figure instruments will suffer the most. Modern instruments are not an investment, just a tool for the middle income player who can afford and desires a new instrument. As the sluggish economy limps along this segment of the industry gets hit the hardest. Many modern makers will seek other employment in order to survive as sales slow down and then dry up.

Bottom of the pyramid- new makers especially chinese. Now begin to make violins which are comparable to modern makers but charge 75% less. A modern comparable violin which used to sell for 20k is now sold for $5000 by the chinese makers because more people can afford them and they have perfected the art of making them. They will win out in the end.

The world is changing- watch the U.S. auto industry. When they fail guess who will take over China-it's coming-only a matter of time. Look at the number of Chinese makers entered in this year's VSA Competition. There may come a day when american makers are greatly in the minority and all awards go to the Chinese in a U.S. competition.

As the U.S. government has commented "we are in uncharted waters economically".  Watch out for hazards ahead!

 

 

 

December 8, 2008 at 04:07 AM ·

Mr. Wiemann;

Many of the points in your post seem to be stated with authority, or stated as fact. There isn't much information in your profile, so to make your statements easier to evaluate, could you please provide some background on your training in the violin business and in economics?

Thanks

December 8, 2008 at 04:34 AM ·

Undergraduate and graduate degrees in business and economics. Involved in business which includes weekly travel to foreign countries in Africa, Latin, South America and throughout Europe. Operating with foreign economies on a weekly basis.

Collector and broker of violins both within and outside the U.S. Thus a true global view and outlook of the violin trade while interacting with people in the violin business in many different continents. Observations based on present and past economic indicators, but most of all by interacting with foreign makers/dealers.

In reality the truth is that the violin trade has been in a recession for a while- much more so in Europe and other countries before it commenced to affect the U.S. industry. As was mentioned in a post above-just have an honest conversation with some of these people and they will let you know-often times "off the record".

December 8, 2008 at 04:47 AM ·

Thanks.

December 8, 2008 at 06:28 AM ·

Benjamin wrote:

“What I do suggest is that it is disrespectful to others to say ‘the best’ instead of a phrase along the lines of ‘some of the best".

He was commenting on what I wrote:

“For me the best have been Zyg, Needham, Belini, Burgess, pretty much in that order. For me these are the best makers in the world, but this is just my take on it.”

 Benjamin, did you notice I said, “For me,” twice, and then ended it with, “but this is just my take on it.”

 When did I say that these makers were better than those in Europe? I said that TO ME they were better than all the others I have tried, which by the way does include most of the big name makers in Europe. But the point is I am not saying they are the best makers, I am saying that TO ME they are the best makers—just one man’s opinion, nothing more!

And if I had said, “some of the best,” as you suggested, I would have been lying to those who read this website. Why? Because TO ME they are not some of the best, they are the best…..they are not “among the best (as you also suggested to say), they are the best, but again, it is just MY take on it.”

Mr. Burgess is right, I do know the four session players that Mr. Burgess was referring to, and I know the “ring leader” he was talking about as well. When my brother and I came to L.A., we hired him to write scores for us, and we “rented his ears” for the mix downs. When he found out that I was in the market to sell an older violin and buy a great modern he included me on many of their “try outs.” He and the other three earned my respect because they have great ears, and are great players.

 That is how I got a chance to play so many moderns, including two very famous Zygs and a very famous Belini (owned by three high profile world famous soloists). I also got the chance to play many other moderns they had out here. I also told them about my extensive experience playing moderns in Europe, but they already knew those makers because as Mr. Burgess pointed out, they had actually spent a lot of time in Europe just to play them! They knew those makers better than I did, and I have spent most of my life in Europe!

And Mr. Burgess is right that the "ring leader" spent much of his life in Russia and he has done recording projects all over the world! I am from Greece, and he's recorded and wrote charts for artists in Asia, Russia, Western Europe and Eastern Europe. So where is the bias? And besides, as I said, this is only my opinion, I never claimed to be an final infallible god-like  judge of modern fiddles. I simply said that FOR ME these were the makers that do it FOR ME. 

I am sorry this started this controversy because I just wanted to know the affect of this recession upon all of this (I really want to sell my older fiddle and by a great modern and pocket the remainder, which should be substantial!).

I answered the question Rob asked about modern makers because I feel fortunate to have been around when much of this violin trying was taking place here, and I understood why he asked the question—it really is hard to play many of the great modern makers.

Oh and Mr. Burgess, you are high on their list, and mine as well. The three violins you had out here a while back were all world class instruments! Everyone was greatly impressed!

 

OH and Benjamin, before you think that this is some type of conspiracy between Mr. Burgess and I, you should know that I have never met or communicated with the man. I have tried his fiddles and have been blown away by them, that is it. 

 

 

 

December 8, 2008 at 02:08 PM ·

Hi Robert,

Many Chinese are coming to Japan and Korea for jobs and also to escape the one-child policy and having their second child here without the authorities knowing. I'm also curious how China will develop in the future.

Thanks,

Craig

December 8, 2008 at 03:02 PM ·

Hello Craig,

True case in point- three or four years ago I met an independent violin maker in Dublin, Ireland. He confided in me that he was having great trouble selling his own handmade violins, they were around $7500 U.S. as I remember. Nice instruments.

I suggested that he might look at some of the chinese instruments being made. Perhaps start a rental program and start selling these instead. He told me he would look into it.

Six months later I come through Dublin again. As I walk into his shop I see a brand new chinese violin on display. He tells me he looked into it and for the price and quality he is buying these violins directly from China that he can not compete.

Now he just does repairs, sells these violins and has a rental program. He has adapted to the economy and many others will in the future. This is not to say that "all" modern makers will stop making, but many will as the market changes.

December 8, 2008 at 05:48 PM ·

I wouldn't be surprised to see many musicians liquidating vintage bows, keeping values flat. Personally, I have some name French/English bows I'm considering selling and looking for a good modern bow. What if the government actually pushes mortgage rates down to 4.5%? I'd rather get in on the bottom of the housing market than have some mediocre and over-priced bows sitting in my case. Things are uncertain for everyone, so for a while, cash will be king, especially as orchestra endowments teeter and musicians are thrown out of work as they surely will be.

A local maker showed me his $5000 violin, which was quite impressive. Handmade, not imported from the far east, and a good sound. This is the kind of value people will (and should) be seeking out.

December 8, 2008 at 06:07 PM ·

I don't think that violin makers having difficulty making a living, or difficulty selling their violins is anything new, or necessarily indicative of any kind of recession in the violin business. It's always been this way.

There are many schools turning out "violin makers". Add to that the number of people who try to do this without formal training. A very very small percentage end up making a full time living this way. Some get out of the business completely. Others mostly do repair, or have a retail store, and make an occasional violin, or none at all.

I'll take a wild guess, and say that maybe 1% of those wishing to be full time makers manage to pull it off. Whatever that figure, I'm quite sure it's up substantially from 30 years ago. That's not to say that things won't get worse.

Our Presidential economic advisers, high-level investment people, and large corporation leaders have done an arguably poor job of predicting the future, so what does one make of it when an economist lays out the future of the violin trade?

In "off the record" conversations with dealers I know, they seem to be doing OK. But maybe these people happen to be particularly well situated, or have unusually strong reputations.

 

December 8, 2008 at 09:24 PM ·

Mr. Burgess,

You are correct in that no one seems to be able to accurately predict the economic future.

My analysis and observations pertain more to individual modern makers and in reference to the recession (topic of the thread) and what will it will do to modern makers- not to the dealers to which you refer. These are two different segments of the market.

With an economic downturn recession/depression the chinese become a viable "player" in the modern maker market . This is a market that has been emerging for the last ten years.

 

 

December 8, 2008 at 09:26 PM ·

I doubt that top makers will feel a need to discount or drop prices to move violins and violins from China will have very little effect on the bottom line as far as top makers are concerned. If anything mass produced violins may have the effect on introducing others to take up the art and eventually move up to high end products.

I am aware of makers who feel that they will be raising prices within the next year and I don't think their demand will taper off but I feel that most will hold prices for now.

There are already Chineese makers in the US charging over $20k for their product. Is it possible that they will discount the product to $5k? That might be fine for wages in China.

Remember, the economy has forever gone through corrections and  always up and down through time. 

A top maker is in demand, and it doesn't matter where he/she originates from, the big question is how many top makers are there going to be?

If it were me, I'd sell the old Italian, perhaps take a lower price, and invest in real estate and buy that great modern.

 

 

December 8, 2008 at 09:24 PM ·

 Robert,

Whatever the future of the economy, I highly doubt that Chinese instruments will ever appeal to any but the lowest end of the market. Even if they begin to make superior instruments, I don't remember a country that has so marked itself by taking shortcuts in its products, whether in pet food, baby formula, lead-painted toys, etc. Who even knows if they're using green wood, or pretty-looking varnish mixed with cheap or ingredients that won't fully cure? 

December 8, 2008 at 09:40 PM ·

Scott,

I am not referring to factory made cheap instruments. I am referring to high quality handmade violins. There are many professional players who both own and play on these better made violins in concerts (often leaving the old italian at home). The fact is unless you know  them they will not reveal this fact.

These instruments are made with european tone wood and exhibit the finest workmanship. I am not promoting these modern makers or their instruments just making a global observation of the question asked in this thread.

The reality is that great instruments can be made in china or the chinese in other countries that will be attractive to both professionals and buyers in this "modern maker" market.

I am not referring to something that will happen- I am referring to a phenomenon that is already happening as is true in many other industries as well. Most consumers have no idea how many products are now made in China and sold with mainstream labeling worldwide.

Like it or not China is the emerging giant economically in almost every product they produce.

 

 

December 8, 2008 at 10:27 PM ·

This is quite an interesting discussion....

Things in Italy are difficult now but  they were already difficult prior to the current crisis.  Italy had a traditionally weak and devalued currency, the Lira. In the time of the "Liretta", Italian  makers could sell a violin abroad (paid with strong currency)  and live many  months with the money.... that does not occur anymore with the Euro...   Makers with unsold violins in Italy are not a new sensation, Scarampella tried in vain to exchange violins for food and Rocca asked the local authorities to be declared legally poor...   Antonizzi wrote a letter - from prison -  to Bisiach asking for .... socks!!!! But even so they continued to make their violins...   perhaps the same will occur with contemporary makers, but that is difficult to say. 

The scenario for players is far from being good but even so there are many many music students in all parts of the world, including the Orient.  

I've been making only violas for years. I have comissions from the ex Iron Curtain countries, from very fine players with very low salary in their native countries. A fine viola player worked for many months as a quartet player in a cruiser ship in order to buy one of my violas.  The standart of the instruments in the ex communist countries is very low and they need good instruments to make auditions for schools and orchestras. 

I have a viola being tested by a .... Chinese player that studies in Yale. There are 30 million piano students in China, the number of violin students may be much higher. Soon or later these players will need better instruments, new and old ones.

www.manfio.com

  

 

 

December 9, 2008 at 12:01 AM ·

Andreas,

I am very curious to know if the moderns you tried sounded better than your old Italian.

I tried to email you privately but the email funtion didn't seem to work.

Robert:

I realize you are talking about high end top quality violins but where do you think all these amazing Chinese violin makers are going to come from? Are you suggesting that China is about to produce loads more amazing top makers that will load the market? There are not many top makers and they come from all over the world.

What China is good at is cheap mass production. There are great violin makers in China I'm sure but for every great maker there is also 10,000 that are middle of the road .

One great maker can only produce a certain amount of violins in a life time, compare that to population growth and new violinists starting at the age of 3.

 

 

December 9, 2008 at 01:11 AM ·

Robert Wiemann wrote:


"My analysis and observations pertain more to individual modern makers and in reference to the recession (topic of the thread) and what will it will do to modern makers- not to the dealers to which you refer. These are two different segments of the market."

________________________________

In fact, most of my post pertained to modern makers, and mentioned dealers only as a post script. If argumentative tactics are in play, please let me know.

_____________________________

Robert Wiemann additionally wrote:

"With an economic downturn recession/depression the chinese become a viable "player" in the modern maker market . This is a market that has been emerging for the last ten years."

____________________________________________

Granted.

However, looking at the bigger picture, and using Japan as an example, the following might be said:

There is a period of time when products are considered cheap junk.

Followed by a period of time when quality has improved to the point where people consider them viable products, and a good value for the money.

As this process continues, the source standard of living goes up, along with cost of living and production costs. After a while, price is no longer the the primary incentive. Is price the primary attraction of Japanese cars any more? I don't think so. A price break will always be attractive, but there will always be a market segment where quality prevails.

I don't think there's a way to predict what section of the world will hold the "quality" reputation next. It might be China, or the tenacious Germans might be unwilling to let the "quality" reputation diffuse entirely beyond their borders. The Japanese, who have moved a significant part of their manufacturing elsewhere, may keep a handle on their reputation as well. Honestly, I don't see why it couldn't be anywhere in the world.

Why is it that Japan, with early gains in the commercial stringed instrument market (like China), hasn't followed through by becoming the violin making leader?

December 9, 2008 at 12:27 PM ·

"Why is it that Japan, with early gains in the commercial stringed instrument market (like China), hasn't followed through by becoming the violin making leader?"

The Japanese are very good at manufacturing standards and logistics (just in time production etc) but that does not necessarily spill over into arts and crafts.

I visited a stringed instruments fair here in Tokyo, held at Budokan a couple of months ago. There were quite a few Cremonese makers, including "big names" but of course the majority were Japanese makers. Even the most obscure Japanese makers who most people will never have heard of charge between 22.000 and 40.000 USD for a violin, whereby the majority appears to price their instruments around 30.000 USD. I would be surprised if they could gain any export deals with their Japanese prices. Yes, many of them make fine instruments, but are they worth paying a premium? I am not sure where the incentive to buy Japanese would come from if you don't live here.

December 9, 2008 at 01:00 PM ·

Thanks, Benjamin.

I've never been to Japan, so that's a valuable insight into what can eventually happen with emerging markets.

December 9, 2008 at 01:42 AM ·

some interesting opinions in this thread.

Having never met Mr Musafia, I assume he deliberately over simplied his point.  In reality, much more factors into price than meets the eye.  The price function (or curve) is actually quite a complicated factor for economics, and can be difficult to generalise (demographics, GDP, inflation, money supply, status, strata, propensity for investment, elasticity, etc etc).  Also, price does not necessarily equate to value.

The question was how will a recession affect the TOP makers and prices.  Likely, hardly at all. 

Despite the mass production by certain manufacturers over the past ten years or so, a violin falls into a niche market: ie not into the mass market.  Demand and supply for niche markets very often have dynamics that are markedly different from the mass dynamics. Will demand for a quality violin fall off?  I think not.  Best/good players will always want best/good violins, and I think we will always be blessed with best/good players.

What will likely occur is a shift in the demand curve.  In times of stress, consumers will refocus their priorities.  People will place greater value on quality, in a long-term horizon, and will forgo purchases that are short term or do not have lasting quality.  This means the niche market will continue, but may slow in terms of volume turnover, as people save-up for the quailty they desire.  

For the mass market. likely the prices will fall quickly.  The mass market is driven by volume, and competition.  Profits here are not determined by price per se, but by margins.  He who can keep his margin by driving down prices can out-compete his rivals, and win market share. Consequently, the mass market producer will always seek the lowest cost of capital, and the higest volumes. It will be interesting indeed to see how a global recession creates shifts in the demand, price, cost, supply curves for the mass market violins.  Will China continue to be the lowest capital cost base, or will the Chinese themselves shift to cheaper places?

Many mass-market players may cease. Top niche makers will continue: prices likely will not fall, though volume may level off or dip in the very short term.  

 

December 9, 2008 at 01:33 PM ·

"I've never been to Japan, so that's a valuable insight into what eventually happens with emerging markets."

I am not even sure whether prices in Japan have gone from low during Japan's emerging market phase to high since it has become a developed economy. It seems to me that prices in Japan have always been high for the locals.

To understand the Japanese market you have to understand Japanese society. Historically, Japan has been a divided country with warring clans keeping each other in balance. In order to keep this balance a system of stubborn loyalty emerged. This system expected loyalty from everybody to the point of self-sacrifice. Every Japanese alive today is a descendent of people who adapted to always be team players and put their group above all else. Anybody unable to adapt to that system would have been killed along with all their offspring.

As a result, group think is very much part of Japanese mentality. Individuals do not matter, the group always comes first. Even the grammar of the Japanese language is influenced by that. For example, Japanese verbs usually come in pairs, one to express an activity done by a member of your own group and another one to express the same activity done by a member of another group. In other words, everything is about "us versus them".

And this is how they do business. When Japanese companies buy something, they usually buy within their own clan, that is to say from another company within the same conglomerate (called keiretsu in Japanese). Even when they import goods from overseas, they will have a trading company specifically for this purpose. That will make the goods much more expensive than if they import them directly, but the money will stay "within the family" so it doesn't matter.

Even if they don't have such an import company within their group of companies, they will still prefer to buy from a Japanese importer than buying directly overseas. In this context, the Japanese importer becomes part of "us" while overseas becomes "them".

Of course this practise results in inflated prices and that leads to a general perception of things being more expensive than they might otherwise be, which in turn leads to a perception that something may not be kosher if the price is noticeably lower than average.

In the context of export, Japanese companies will perceive all non-Japanese buyers as overly price sensitive because if you are used to the Japanese way, then everything else must look to you as if price is the only thing that really counts. Consequently, they will try to offer goods below the price they perceive to be a fair price in Japanese terms.

For violin makers this self-sacrifice may be just too much to ask for and so they may not even bother to try to sell instruments overseas. After all, they should have enough loyal customers at home who will continue to stay loyal even if prices elsewhere are lower.

In the past it was the prospect of death by the samurai sword which would have kept you loyal, in today's Japan there are other factors which have replaced that, the most important one might well be the language barrier. Ichitaro Yamada (the Japanese John Doe) may well find it tempting to order a Gliga over the internet for 1500 USD instead of buying it from Kurosawa music store where it costs 6000 USD. However, he feels insecure because there is no Japanese explanation of the terms of purchase and what if these foreigners charge his credit card and don't ship any violin? Where would he go? The Japanese police? Wouldn't that be embarrassing? For sure they would tell him that he is a fool for ordering things over the internet from a foreign company in a foreign country!

And indeed, the (unwritten) liability of Japanese companies goes much further than that of companies elsewhere. Companies here will take responsibility for things that would be unthinkable elsewhere, and they do that not because the law demands it, but because they don't want to their good name damaged. I have not purchased a violin from a Japanese violin maker so I cannot tell you how this would translate into the business practises of a Japanese violin maker, but I would not be surprised if you get life long repairs and maintenance included in the 35.000 price tag. On the other hand I would not be surprised either, if they charge you and arm and a leg for maintenance on their own instruments. In any event, most Japanese violin buyers will probably be happy to pay a premium for a violin from a Japanese maker or a Japanese importer, and this will keep the price level high.

If I was to buy a violin from a maker in Japan, I would very likely buy from Dmitri Badiarov, a russian born violinist-luthier who is married to a Japanese lady and lives here in Tokyo. He charges Western prices, not Japanese ones and he seems to have a strong following, especially in the historically informed baroque performance world. Interestingly, some top Japanese artists play his instruments (e.g. Terakado and Bach Collegium Japan). I don't think they buy from him because he offers instruments for less than what Japanese makers usually charge. They will buy from him because he's an Italian trained luthier who happens to be local.

Now, if more foreign violin makers fall in love with Japanese women, get married and move to Japan to do their craft, that could potentially be something that has an impact on the local market. Anything else is very unlikely to change anything.

December 9, 2008 at 02:13 PM ·

This might be of interest!

As one of the few dealers in Europe that stock a good selection of new makers work I can tell you the World is changing fast.

I used to represent (In Europe) a Chinese maker that has done very well in VSA competitions of late and probably sold 10 of his instruments in the past 3 years or so. This might not seem a lot for one maker but remember I don't go back to him complaining about 'set up problems' sound problems...etc etc. And of course he then has  3 instruments per year in his order book....not to mention my advertising and promoting his work.....

Recently he decided to up his prices because of the value of the Dollar (US) v Pound and a few other considerations.

Anyway the long shot of this is that his price per instrument to me doubled! He is a good maker and at the price I used to charge they easily beat the competition.....but now in a higher bracket it is the end of our relationship.......I have other European makers whom I like better.

Not sure what this means  to everyone except that China will not always be known as a cheap place to get quality instruments (one day)

cheers

Sean Bishop

December 10, 2008 at 01:22 AM ·

Manfio

How interesting.  It wasn't more than 4 or 5 years ago that makers at least in this country, were complaining about "chinese violins" and how inferior they were, and now at least one maker (yourself) is interested in opening up the Chinese market for your own instruments. 

I guess China is not so inferior any more

December 10, 2008 at 01:15 PM ·

Yes, China isn't just a producer, but already a consumer of instruments from other parts of the world. Carl Becker & Son set up a branch there a few years ago, and invited one or more other American makers to be represented through them. From what I understand, that business is doing well.

December 10, 2008 at 02:03 PM ·

Yes, they have started looking for good instruments for top players, and top players will look for those small details that are present only in good instruments that, today  - and the past - are produced in a small number.

I've heard sometime ago that a Chinese Conservatory had got 70 Steinway grand pianos...  and that there are 30 million piano students in China.  They have a huge interest in our high forms of art, now that most of the people here do not care about that.

www.manfio.com

December 10, 2008 at 02:58 PM ·

The posts above seem to reinforce my observations that China is the emerging market in all segments of the violin industry including vintage instruments. Apparently the Becker family realizes this and perhaps even have a "chinese" line of products.

Interesting that even Musafia has cases which are made in China now. Proves that  "made in China" made does not necessarily equate to cheap quality.

December 10, 2008 at 04:06 PM ·

Robert Wiemann wrote:
"The posts above seem to reinforce my observations that China is the emerging market in all segments of the violin industry including vintage instruments."

__________________________

Mr Wiemann;

As far as I can tell, your prior observations had to do with China as a manufacturer and exporter, and mentioned nothing about their consumption of foreign goods. I think that's an important point which was missing. The emerging markets which have embraced Western classical music have become consumers of equipment made elsewhere, from sheet music to violins to pianos, and these growing markets may be one thing which has supported the prices of high level instruments.

December 10, 2008 at 07:02 PM ·

Mr. Burgess,

Consumption of goods by the chinese was not discussed in this thread at the outset but was later. Mr. Burgess you commented you have not been to Japan-anywhere else in Asia? India, Korea, China?  What are your international credentials/experience? Fair question as you questioned mine.

To think that a country that has a population of 1.5 billion (and this is with a one child per couple government policy) or 20% of the world population (1 in 5) is not going to be a consumer is a little naive. Having done business in Asia I can assure you that the Chinese will eventually produce almost any product  (including pianos) in the music industry at a high level (as previously posted they already do but use mainstream labeling which is not recognized as being chinese). They do not order sheet music from U.S. companies.

Well known dealers I have spoken with have commented that China is just starting to become interested in the finer instruments thus they are starting to open shops in Shanghai or Bejing. Important to note is that  they also tell me if you do not have a national citizen from China running you business or at least heavily involved you will not be successful with the local population. (see well written post concerning Japan above). It is not easy for foreigners to break into the economy inside China.

No country in the world can produce goods at the price of labor and materials that China can in today's market (could change but I don't see it happening anytime soon  the germans, hungarians, romanians, czech etc. can not). That applies to the music industry as well as most others . I am not promoting this or endorsing it- it is just a fact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 10, 2008 at 10:46 PM ·

Good heavens, Mr. Wiemann;

I’m beginning to think that you’re kind of a slippery guy to have a discussion with.

This thread was about the economy, and how this would affect makers. I think you were the first to mention China, but only as a producer and exporter. If China was relevant in your “analysis”, then shouldn’t you have included the flow of instruments both in and out of China?

Yes, China may someday produce pianos on par with a Steinway. When that happens, how much will they cost, after the cost of living there has increased? Refer again to the development of Japan, and also to Mr. Bishop's post about the doubling in price from a Chinese maker whom he represented.  Look at the cost history of Japanese automobiles, and also whether Korean automobiles have made a significant dent in the US market.

My credentials in international business? Practically none, except that my wife is a manager at the corporate headquarters of a multi-national, Japanese owned corporation with global sales, and manufacturing in a number of countries, including China. So naturally, I hear about these things every night when she gets home, whether I want to or not. ;-)

If you believe that China is just starting to become interested in the finer instruments, then I might question your afore-mentioned credentials in the fiddle business!

We can both load our credentials in a gun and shoot them at each other, but shall we stick to common sense and relevant examples instead? :-)

December 10, 2008 at 09:37 PM ·

Mr. Burgess,

You write " If you believe that China is just starting to become interested in the finer instruments, then I might question your afore-mentioned credentials in the fiddle business!"

I do not believe it, I have been told this by some of the top dealers in the world that I know personally. It is a fact.

And as a matter of discourse I could care less about your approval as you write  "I might question your afore-mentioned credentials in the fiddle business!"  As I am not "in" the fiddle business nor chose to be.

It appears that your gun is out of ammo.

December 10, 2008 at 10:05 PM ·

Mr. Burgess,

Collector and broker- I interact with dealers and makers throughout the world- have even spoken with and met you in person. I am not "in" the violin business. Do not know if I can make it any plainer to you.

I believe with this one and most likely last time that I have ever responded  to a discussion here on this site that  I am wasting my time and probably yours as well.

December 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM ·

Hello Mr. Wiemann;

I've been reading this thread as it's developed and realized that I believe we've also met/talked.  You're a pilot, correct?  Was it for a commercial airline?  If I'm correct I believe you were involved in the delivery of an instrument between myself and a larger firm at some point... though I can't recall if it was directly from my hand to yours.  I assume you're still involved in that business... and that is, or was, your primary/initial connection to the international fiddle business?  Might you have been made aware of the Chinese demand for high-end instruments (from other countries) by delivering them to China yourself? 

December 11, 2008 at 01:34 AM ·

Mr. Wiemann

You're a commercial aircraft pilot? That's why you say you're not "in" the violin business? And that's why when I asked about your background, you were able to write,

"Involved in business which includes weekly travel to foreign countries in Africa, Latin, South America and throughout Europe. Operating with foreign economies on a weekly basis."

??????

If so, this makes me a little concerned about who might be up there in the pointy end of the plane! :-)

December 11, 2008 at 01:42 AM ·

Readers:   This marks the conclusion of chapter IV  ----   more to follow--- shortly....

December 11, 2008 at 02:24 AM ·

Hi,

Is Wiemann  Violins on the same level as Gammuto Violins?

Thanks,

Craig

December 11, 2008 at 02:29 AM ·

Coleman says: "Is Wiemann  Violins on the same level as Gammuto Violins?"

Or Coleman violin, perhaps? 

Boy I was going to suggest that Mr Wiemann, whose worst sin has been to disagree with Mr. Burgess, might want to hang around, that most people aren't jerks here, but I'm starting to think he has this place figured right.

December 11, 2008 at 02:31 AM ·

Hi Michael,

Just asking. Laurie is very good at sorting these kinds of things out.

Cheers,

Craig

December 11, 2008 at 02:58 AM ·

I don't quite understand what the big disagreement is here. It seems to me that there is more agreement than disagreement. It seems to me that everyone agrees that China has come a long way and that it will continue to play an increasingly important role in the world economy, both as a supplier and as a consumer of goods. The only slight disagreement I spot is about the future cost of products from China. On the one side we may assume prices of Chinese products will continue to be rock bottom, on the other side we may assume that prices will increase over time. I tend to think that in reality it will be both. China will probably continue to be a main source for low cost products, economies of scale alone should continue to give them an edge in that respect. But at the same time, I believe China will also become a source of expensive high quality products. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.

As for running a side business, there is nothing wrong with it. I am in the technology business, but as a European living in Japan, I desire certain products I cannot always easily get here, for example certain Italian coffee roasts or other European food items. I have been importing some of these things for myself for some time and often shared the shipping cost with others by ordering a little more. Now, does that place me in the food import business? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. I haven't registered a company for the purpose, but I have been thinking about it. If and when I do, I would probably not deny to be in the food import business, instead I would point out that it is more of a hobby style side business, rather than a bread earner. It seems to me that Mr. Wiemann's involvement with violins may be along those lines. If so, then perhaps he should present it as such, but I wouldn't conclude that there is anything wrong with running a violin related side-business just because the owner is an airline pilot. A friend of mine studied at the Royal School of Music in London and he's now an airline pilot :-)

December 11, 2008 at 03:36 AM ·

Greetings,

>A friend of mine studied at the Royal School of Music in London and he's now an airline pilot :-)

He must have had trouble with his boeing I suppose.

Cheers,

Buri

December 11, 2008 at 03:44 AM ·

 I agree with Mr. Burgess on this one. It really does look like this man misrepresented himself through cunning words. 

 

 

December 11, 2008 at 03:45 AM ·

LOL,

Thanks Buri that made my day!!

Craig

December 11, 2008 at 03:48 AM ·

Haha, Buri, that was priceless!

December 11, 2008 at 05:11 AM ·

Since a recession is happening I was also wondering if the prices of violins cost will drop. I'm looking for a maker who I would commission a violin at a very low price but it's kinda hard to find one. Would makers lower there prices more now to attract buyers? Right now I'm holding off on a major purchase because the economy is unstable.

December 11, 2008 at 06:02 AM ·

Vincent, with little experience of this market, and absent any qualification to pontificate except my keyboard and internet link,  I'll venture a guess.

Prices from makers are not going to drop much, if at all, in the near future. However, shops have more incentive to move product: after all, they usually have multiple mouths to feed.

An important concept to remember in times like these is the velocity of money. Rather than hang onto an item holding out for top dollar, it frequently makes more sense to move products and keep the ball rolling, so to speak. It's generally better business to move several items over a given time, than to leave money tied up in an overpriced asset.

Of course, at the very pinnacle of the market, I would guess that there's a tendency to hold fast on prices, for various reasons.

Again, all this is uninformed speculation. But then, that's the joy of the net.

December 11, 2008 at 02:15 PM ·

Apologies if I've offended anyone. Whatever one does for a living, or however one combines jobs and hobbies isn't an issue for me. My curiosity had more to to do with what I perceived as possible misrepresentation, and less to do with the opinions expressed.

Scanning for this, and also incongruencies, is a mental process I've learned to go through whenever I send out an instrument to someone I've never met, so maybe it's become habitual. :-)

I'll see if I can find a "treatment center" for this affliction.......

Apologies again.

December 11, 2008 at 10:21 AM ·

LOL Buri!!

PRUNES FOR EVERYONE!

December 12, 2008 at 05:23 AM ·

Vincent Le wrote:

"Since a recession is happening I was also wondering if the prices of violins cost will drop. I'm looking for a maker who I would commission a violin at a very low price but it's kinda hard to find one. Would makers lower there prices more now to attract buyers? Right now I'm holding off on a major purchase because the economy is unstable."

______________________________

Vincent, I don't know the answer to your question, so I'll try to provide information which might contribute to a conclusion instead.

If a violin maker must reduce prices too much, they won't make the "break even" point, and it will be more profitable to get a different job. This will vary by the local cost of living. Economies outside the US and central Europe have an advantage right now when it comes to making a "basic violin". The complete picture goes far beyond this, but I'm lacking enough information to say just how far it goes. In addition, there will always be a few who will operate at a loss for love of the art, just like some musicians do.

If I could accurately identify those willing to operate at a loss, or those entering the business (with low prices) who will eventually become the "big names", I'd be buying them myself.

 

December 12, 2008 at 05:22 AM ·

Thank you very much Mr. Burgess for your response. I must be hard for a violin maker to lower there prices to that extent. Maybe some makers do but I don't know. I guess violins made in workshops can afford to lower there prices compare to individuals.

December 12, 2008 at 06:15 AM ·

I venture a guess that living costs in the place the violin maker lives, play a very significant role when it comes to being able to offer the work at lower prices.

I have been talking to several European violin makers over the last few months and this has been evident while looking at the prices quoted by Czech violin makers, more so than elsewhere. Makers in the capital quote prices significantly higher than those in the country side. The ratio of living costs between the capital and towns in the country side is noticeably higher than the same ratio in other industrialised EU countries. The prices quoted by violin makers across the Czech Republic mirror that ratio fairly well.

One might be tempted to conclude that the best Czech makers happen to live in Prague and the lesser mortals live in the Czech countryside, but that is definitely not the case as some of the most highly acclaimed Czech makers do not live in Prague, including one who is also a very "big name" internationally.

Interestingly, that maker happens to be described in some publications/sources (of European authorship?) as the violin maker who has won more awards than any other living maker, while the same description is often used by some other publications/sources (of American authorship?) for another, different maker, who is also still alive and happens to be an American. Now, I have no way of verifying this myself, nor do I really care, but I find this interesting because it illustrates just how little currency the word "best" actually has. It seems to me that the word isn't even worth the proverbial 2 cents anymore. Different kind of recession, but also caused by oversupply, overuse of "best" in this case ;-)

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