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Remember this the next time you think a custom bass is overpriced...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bassmonkeee, Jun 24, 2004.

  1. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    Here's a very sobering article from Forbes Magazine about Lakland (luckily, a success story):


    If profit margins are that small for someone selling 1000-1300 basses a year, imagine how low they are for someone making 20-40 basses a year....

    So, the next time you think a bass isn't worth the $3000-$4000 that a small, independant boutique luthier is asking, do yourself a favor, and keep your mouth shut about realities you simply don't understand.
  2. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Interesting read... especially considering I own a skyline.
  3. mike mcd

    mike mcd

    Dec 11, 2002
    I still would rather buy a bass from a maker who isn't cashing in on cheap foreign labor.

    I would also like a $100,000 "grant" from my dad to start a business! :eyebrow:
  4. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Cashing in???? *** are you talking about, this is the FIRST year,, Lakland has even made a profit, & you call that "Cashing In"????

    Perhaps, everyone should just exist,,, sucking down the losses...
  5. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
  6. Jon Burnet

    Jon Burnet

    Jan 21, 2001
    Memphis, TN

  7. mike mcd

    mike mcd

    Dec 11, 2002
    I think you guys are taking my comments the wrong way. There are plenty of high end bass builders who are able to stay in business and make a profit without having to look for the cheapest labor possible.

    What provoked my comment was the fact that the article mentions how much money Lakin received from friends and family to start his business. The article protrays this as more of a money making venture than a desire to make instruments out of the love of doing it(which I understand-it is in Forbes- a magazine about money, not bass guitars). It then states that fret installers in the US make as little as $8.00 an hour, so how much do you think the poor guy in Korea is getting to make your Skyline?

    Again, it is not my intention to slander Lakin or any Skyline owners. I was just offering my perspective, which is that from what I have seen, it is possible to produce instruments in America, pay people at least minimum wage, and make an excellent intrument. Carvin and Ernie Ball, among many others, are two companies who have shown it is possible.
  8. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    He's not in it for the money if he's taken so much loss and still stuck with it.
  9. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I'm not an economist, business owner or luthier, but I wonder if he might have started out with too much money (or too many injections of cash), so that ineffiencies in the process could be papered over rather than dealt with? Speculations aside though, the few Laklands I've played have been great instruments, so hopefully Mr Lakin will be able to continue in business (while sparing some time for ethics as well as fiscal profits).

    Back to Bassmonkeee's original point, we do need to remember that with boutique basses we're paying for high grade parts, exotic woods, expert assembly and superb customer support. I certainly continue to get value for money out of my Sei bass, not only because of the way it plays but also because of the excellent customer care that Martin Petersen gives to his customers.

  10. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    To me the most interesting part of the article was the number of basses sold: 1300 total over a year. That's not very many!!!

    If you asuume it was JUST sales in the United States, that's like 2 basses sold a month per state :meh:

    If you considered only the US made models, that was 300 total...or only one per state every 2 months :eek:

    mike mcd,

    ANY small business requires money, BIG money, to get going. It's not uncommon for them to take years to make a profit which means in the meantime getting more loans or investment.

    The company I work at today has fewer than 100 employees, I've been here 5 years and we are not yet profitable (possibly next year we will BREAK EVEN). In the meantime we have had tens of millions of dollars invested into our company.
  11. mike mcd

    mike mcd

    Dec 11, 2002
    Again, it was not my intention to slander or flame Lakin or Lakland basses. I could understand how my intial comments could be perceived that way. My interpretation of the article was that Lakin didn't want to join his father in the tire industry, was given hundreds of thousands of dollars to make basses, sunk in a financial hole, and was able to dig himself out of it by shifting production overeseas to increase profit margins.

    I was just feeling unusually patriotic at the time and have been thinking about these issues as I ponder my next bass purchase. Certainly, Lakland is not alone here. Tobias, Smith, Sadowsky, and others have all taken a similar step with their businesses. I don't have a problem with them making money, and from all accounts these are honest and hard working businessmen. It is not my intent to attack their character or the quality of their basses. I was just wondering about the ethics of it all, particulary since the context of the link that bassmonkee provided was that people have false perceptions of the profit margins involved in the bass industry.
  12. My guess would be more than $8.00 an hour.
    This is not a third world country we're talking about here!

  13. kazuhank


    Nov 12, 2002
    Portland, OR
    Korea is definitely not the 'cheapest labor possible.' The bottom line for me is that without the Korean Skylines, I would never have had the opportuinity to purchase the 5 Lakland Skylines I have owned. I thank Lakland for expanding their product line to meet my price point. :hyper:
  14. Thumper


    Mar 22, 2000
    Syracuse Ut
    I've done my part to help Dan, 3 USA Lakies :bassist: After a 20+ bass boutique merry-go-round, I have settled on a 55-94 as my all time favorite fretted and number 1 bass, it beat out a lot of VERY prestigious luthier's products (check my profile). I found it interesting that my personal bass hero, Geezer Butler is also playing them.

    My thanks to Mr. Lakin and MacFarland for building my dream production bass, and ending this infernal G.A.S. :hyper:
  15. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    Microsoft Product Designer


    could you provide a list of names?


  16. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    its definitely an interesting article. none of these guys are getting rich, thats for sure.

    I greatly appreciate the time and effort it takes to put out a beautiful boutique instrument.....

    personally I am not interested in buying a mass-produced, or foreign produced version of a US Boutique bass though, not when companies like Fender make great sounding USA basses at a cheaper price point than what the Skylines or Metros go for....if I am going to buy a Boutique bass, I am going to save up the extra change and buy it from the actual builder

    the difference, for me, between Lakland and Sadowsky and Lull is that Sadowsky and Lull are expert technicians and set-up people, whereas Lakin is a businessman. sure Lakland hires great techs to work on their basses but I think there is some extra magic in the set-up and fret detail work of someone like Sadowsky, Browne, Lull, Nordstrand, Elrick, etc etc
  17. danshee

    danshee Banned

    May 28, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    If you really analyze the high-end bass industry, they really don't make that much money. Sad, but true. No Maserati or 911 in the garage most of the time. It is also very expensive to do business within the Us as far as manufacturing a product, another sad but true fact. Every so often I talk to Dean, the "Dean" from Dean guitars. Cool guy and he lives by me, and does business in and out of the US. His US made Guitars are beautiful, precise, and $4000 to boot. His Korean stuff his dirt cheap, but not garbage either. He was going over costs of business with me and I learned quite a bit from him. For example, it costs Fender only $25 to produce a MIJ Strat. That's how they can sell them new at Guitar Center for $99. How do you compete with that? In America, we want cheaper, better quality instruments. It costs at least $99 just in labor to make one in the US. We want it all and we get it. We're the largest musical instrument purchasing country in the world. So, I agree with this some of you in this thread that if you want a new Lakland, Fodera, US Spector, Etc., Pay for it. These companies make beautiful stuff with really low profit. Really! If we don't support them, who will? No one. Then none of us will be able to enjoy their great instruments.
    I'll end off my wordy tag here with another insightful comment from Dean, " How would like to be in a business where your profits go down every year?" :(
  18. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Crap. It says I gotta sign up. Could someone cut/paste the article here? And/or PM or e-mail it to me?
  19. Danshee, I hate to be "politically correct" but "MIJ" is a racial slur. You can just as easily say "Japanese Strat."

    I have always wondered about the prices of basses like Lakland, Sadowsky, Lull etc. They are Fender style instruments with one piece, bolt-on necks, slab bodies. I just don't see how they cost the same as laminated neck and body instruments, many of which are neck through the body. I'm not saying these guitars are a ripoof, I just don't know where the money goes.
  20. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    The money goes to quality construction of parts, assembly, etc... Something that Fender discarded years ago.