Violinist influencers? Beware!

May 3, 2023, 12:43 AM · It was only a question of time before also the world of violin accessories fell victim to deliberate misinformation. Making the true victims of course the consumer. Let me explain.

Recently we were contacted by the secretary of a famous artist (I will be deliberately vague here for obvious reasons). The purpose was to ask if we would be interested in having this artist review one of our cases and post the video online. So far, why not?

So we asked what the conditions were, as well as questions like would it be a comparison test? Would other case makers be involved? Standard stuff, just to get the picture.

The answer was, quite frankly, astonishing. To summarize, for $10,000 we would get a good review, for $20,000 a very good review, and for $30,000 a great one.

Two considerations. First, sums like that are available only from deep pocket corporations, not small family businesses, who are thus unfairly excluded from the process. Second, paying for a good review from a famous artist is not only blatantly unethical, but downright deceiving to the buying public as well.

So if you see any rave celebrity reviews online about industrially-made violin cases, caveat emptor!

Replies (21)

May 3, 2023, 12:44 AM · Wow.

Thanks for the heads up.

May 3, 2023, 1:03 AM · Scary! People like that deserve to be exposed in my humble opinion.
May 3, 2023, 5:18 AM · Well done....
I praise your honesty..... :)
May 3, 2023, 5:26 AM · Dimitri, I'm sure you already know that some players will try to make similar arrangements with violin makers.
In many sorts of marketing situations, in any kind of business, it's difficult to know what's really behind an endorsement.
May 3, 2023, 6:26 AM · What would they charge just to be photographed holding one? Cheeky indeed, but does anyone actually believe celebrity endorsements?
May 3, 2023, 7:12 AM · I'll give you a fab review in return for a free case.
May 3, 2023, 7:34 AM · Here's the thing. All celebrity endorsements ring untrue; but we remember them anyway. I still remember those television ads in which Riccardo Montalban was mispronouncing "Cordoba" in his own language to pitch a Chrysler that sported "rich Corinthian leather" (which doesn't even exist) - and that was in the 1970s!
Edited: May 3, 2023, 7:56 AM · From the same era everyone's favourite British boxer Henry Cooper famously encouraged us to "get the great smell of Brut" aftershave. Nobody believed for a second that he actually wore the stuff but half a century later his name invariably evokes the brand (which still exists). Get the right celebrity on board and they needn't utter a word.
Edited: May 3, 2023, 10:15 AM · Check out Orson Welles' drunken Paul Masson outtakes.
Sadly, Brut is my other half's favourite scent, so I'm forced to wear it, to my mortification. (I gather it was the submariners' favourite before every sub was a nuke with unlimited supplies of fresh water for washing)
May 3, 2023, 10:33 AM · I can't wait to start seeing "(X Player) plays in a (X Case Maker) Case" at the end of recital programs.
May 3, 2023, 11:13 AM · Not too long ago some laws were put in place in the US that had all the reviewers doing disclosures about getting free products etc. I wonder if this has now dropped by the wayside.
Edited: May 3, 2023, 12:55 PM · Andres - that is absolutely correct. However this might not apply to international law and we are talking about the Internet/social media so there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to virtual platforms. This is more common in the sports world where athletes regularly sign an endorsement contract to promote a certain product. I guess it’s more shocking or maybe even looked down upon by some in the classical music world because it is not a for profit industry. Someone like Joshua Bell or Itzhak Perlman doesn’t need to seek out endorsement deals. Companies approach them. Sounds like this person is just trying to make a few extra $$$ with a few Instagram posts. Hopefully this person reports it on their taxes. :)
Edited: May 3, 2023, 4:58 PM · Many musicians experienced some kind of hardship during the pandemic. For instance, a famous violinist had invested in multiple real estate in the UK and was struggling to keep up with payments nearing a mental collapse. How many other examples are out there but despite all challenges, practices as reported are highly questionable to say the minimum.

As a 2nd thought, was the agent a legit representative of the famous musician? If so, would the represented musician aware of his/her agent's practice?

@Mr. Musafia: thank you for sharing this experience as most of us, as consumers, are not aware of such practices. This is noble and highlights once again your high moral standards. Warm Regards.

Edited: May 4, 2023, 1:19 AM · Personally I think there is a difference between product placement, endorsing, and actually reviewing. The latter, if handsomely paid for, would be subject to possible excessive embellishment, which would be then unethical. The rest is a lot more straightforward.

Of course we work with celebrities as well. Joshua Bell, for example is on his third Musafia. But he paid for the first one; when it needed refurbishment we simply gave him a new one for free, and we did that again with his third case.

The difference is we refurbished and sold his first two cases, using all the proceeds to create a fund which offers the Joshua Bell prize in a local music competition for kids (Google "premio Joshua Bell Arisi").

Other companies simply give cases for free to medium- and high-level celebrities with a few conditions like posting it on Facebook and Instagram. I'm friends on Facebook with a lot of them so that's how I know. In a way I think it's cheating a bit but it's not illegal so, OK fine.

One of these soloists told me she used the gifted case for two weeks, got sick of it, and returned her del Gesù to her 15-year-old Musafia (which she paid full price for). I admit that gave me some satisfaction :-)

May 4, 2023, 1:53 AM · @AC, thank you indeed for your kind words, very appreciated. To address your points, yes, the email addess was legitimate and the artist has almost 1 million followers on Instagram, so I don't think economic hardship is playing a role here, just, well, greed.
May 4, 2023, 11:30 AM · I suppose that it isn't unethical to ask someone to pay for a service being offered--"if you give me $xxx, I will endorse/review your product." I mean, OK, pay the famous-person for them taking the time to write a review, or don't. But the sliding scale based on the positivity of the review is ridonkulous (not to mention $30K!!), and I've been in the music biz for four decades. It would be interesting to find out if this scam was devised by the agent/manager, and the artist is unaware. I have had a couple managers like that. Keep it classy out there, folks! PS. Thank you for making me try to remember how Ricardo Montalban said "Cordoba."
Edited: May 4, 2023, 2:13 PM · I think it's unethical to ask someone to pay at least $10,000 for a "good review" if no review or a not so good unsolicited review would cost anything less.

Sounds like this "review" is really a request for advertisement dollars. We'll promote your product (and ourselves) based on what you're willing to pay. It's something a tennis racquet company desperate for sales might dream of. Let's get a prominent former player to positively "review" our incredible new tennis racquet aimed at the over 60 crowd, even though they wouldn't ever dream of playing with it.

May 4, 2023, 2:19 PM · There's a lot of "X virtuoso carries their Strad/DGD/other-expensive-antique in a Y case, so it must be a great case" out there. But I certainly imagine that if Hilary Hahn were to review and endorse a case (or Ray Chen, or another virtuoso with a big online following, or for that matter TwoSet), it would have real marketing impact for mass-market cases.
May 4, 2023, 3:54 PM · It would have been interesting to know how the violinist and their representative propose to quantify review quality ("good," versus "very good," versus "great")--bigger smiles, better adjectives?
Edited: May 5, 2023, 1:57 AM · Companies making use of celebrity endorsement isn’t a new idea, in the violin world or elsewhere. I think what sticks out the most in Dimitri’s story is the brazenness of the influencer in laying out a paid positive review scheme. I don’t think it’s really new for people to exchange money for more favorable reviews, but I think in the past that kind of thing was kept more quiet and done with handshakes and nods and perhaps some paper bags of cash, and the people having these conversations were more likely to be conducting them either over the phone or face to face.

In this age, it’s become a lot more common for people to drum up business by approaching prospective customers online. When you can already pay to manipulate reviews that show up for your business or to get likes on social media or to skew search engine results in your favor, it isn’t surprising that individuals are looking for their own ways to exploit the capabilities and blind spots of the online world.

The offers like the one in the story always sound outlandish because they frequently come from unfamiliar sources and the actual benefits that they afford are often questionable. The more desperate or outlandish the offers, the more hollow they tend to be. It’s especially disappointing if that kind of offer comes from someone who shouldn’t need to make it.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine