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Signature/Artist series basses for semi-famous musicians: why?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Troph, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Yes. I like the fact that the instrument is associated with the artist.

    12 vote(s)
  2. Yes, but only because I like the instrument, not because of the signature.

    294 vote(s)
  3. Probably not. I tend to avoid them unless I find a good deal.

    55 vote(s)
  4. No. I can't stand them, personally.

    39 vote(s)
  1. Troph


    Apr 14, 2011
    Kirkland, WA
    Is anyone else turned off by these? In my case, the idea of marketing a bass to me by associating it with a semi-famous bass player from a current band is a complete backfire.

    Even if I happen to be looking for a model with exactly the same specifications as an artist series, I will usually go out of my way to avoid them. After all, why would I want to be associated with another active bass player, unless I were some kind of huge fan, or playing nothing but covers of that band's music?

    There are a few exceptions that seem to work, perhaps because they're iconic models from world-renowed greats. Marcus Miller's 70s Jazz. Jaco's Bass of Doom. Or even The Funk Machine, if Fender would make one. I completely understand the desire to purchase those instruments, almost like a tribute to the greats.

    But Mark Hoppus? James Johnston? Chris Aiken? Pete Wentz? Nate Mendel? Pancho Tomaselli? (The list goes on and on...)

    I have nothing against these guys. I'm sure they're great people, and good musicians. But they're certainly not icons, and their basses aren't icons either.

    Perhaps I'm just not in the target audience? If not, who do these artist series instruments appeal to? Teenagers who idolize these bands?

    I assume that they must sell well, or else they wouldn't be worth the trouble to make!

    I realize that the model name and the headstock signature don't impact the quality of the instrument or its sound. But why should I have to tell people who Mark Hoppus is every time they ask what model I'm playing, when i don't even care who he is? (And I'm really not trying to pick on Mark Hoppus here, honest.)
  2. Mendel is the bass player in arguably the most prolific rock band of the last 20 years.
  3. Troph


    Apr 14, 2011
    Kirkland, WA
    So, you would buy one then?

    FYI, I knew I'd be stepping on toes by mentioning names. But I stand by my argument. Nate Mendel is part of a famous band, but is he widely renowned amongst bass players to the point where people want to clone his instrument?
  4. Einherjar


    Dec 1, 2012
    Lakewood, CO
    Well, I bought a Squier Matt Freeman signature model because I wanted a new p bass, liked the look, and it just so happens that he was the inspiration for me to start playing bass 12 years ago. I was happy for him to get some recognition from an instrument company for his playing/influence. Even if not everyone appreciates or knows who he is. :p

    That said, I have absolutely no ****ing idea who James Johnston is, but after being impressed with the quality of the matt freeman squier, I've been considering picking up the Johnston jazz bass because it's a decent price for a lpb jazz with matching head stock. Though I probably would have already bought it if it wasn't a signature model of someone I knew nothing about.
  5. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    You're coming at this from the wrong angle IMO. I had no idea who Mark Hoppus was until I bought the sig bass online for cheap.

    The fact of the matter is that I really like the bass a lot! (I was going to build a parts bass that was similar, but the beat up Hoppus was CHEAP!) I have had sound guys from lots of venues (some of them pretty big) rave over the sound of my bass.

    Mark who? The bass friggin rocks!
  6. esa372

    esa372 Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA

  7. ishkabibble


    May 10, 2010
    San Dimas, CA
    I'd honestly argue that you have your argument the wrong away around if your comparing 'fame'.
    Stop thinking in the mind of a bass player or a musician.
    Regardless of how prolific Marcus Miller, Jaco or James were in their recording, the average layman isn't going to know jack about them. They're musician's musicians.
    Those other guys are probably much more famous, even if you personally don't know about them, which in the eyes of a businessmen is a much more viable and profitable avenue to pursue.

    And there also is that they'd probably be they're cheap to produce because they require little modification to their already existing production lines.
  8. markorbit


    Apr 16, 2004
    I wound assume that as most of these basses are in the more 'affordable' price bracket they are aimed towards the younger generation. I couldn't name four of the six bands they play for. Maybe a typical 16/17 year old would be equally puzzled or unimpressed with James Jamerson... works both ways I guess.
  9. Wallace320

    Wallace320 Commercial User

    Mar 19, 2012
    Milan, Italy
    AFAIK (and signature models I been thru) the greatest you (the artist) are, the faithfullest the signature to what you actually go out an' play
    Think about, say, Victor Wooten, Billy Sheehan John Patitucci, Nathan East, Marcus Miller, Steve Bailey...

    The shadiest you (the artist) are, the most approximative the pretendin'-to-be signature model is
    You name all the others

  10. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Well like someone has already said, if their instrument requires very little or no work by the manufacturer (Fender in every case here) to put into production, it's a good way to sell an otherwise regular old Precision or Jazz bass. And maybe for a little premium also.

    As for whether it's a reprehensible practice or not, my opinion would mostly hinge on the bang/buck ratio. For example, the Jaco relic for $5800 (retail) is an absolute tragedy of bang/buck. It's the $2500 Jaco Jazz drug around behind the shop and hit with a pellet gun and belt sander for a little over twice the price. Bzzt, thanks for playing - Fail!.
    The Reggie Hamilton bass, OTOH, is your basic meat&potatoes jazz bass for about the same price...

    And so on.... You just have to make that judgment on a case-by-case basis.

    Finally, often the reason for a signature bass is it incorporates some set of features that the artist thinks is important. That can make it worth it by itself. Eg. the Tony Franklin has an unlined ebony board and a hot Jazz PU at the bridge position. That's not available in the regular Precision line.
    The Carvin Bunny Brunel has some features related to balance that Carvin's main line of basses doesn't have. It also doesn't have a cost premium over their other basses either. Double win if the features are what you want.

    So lots of things to consider when it comes to signature instruments. Some can be really specialized and/or way way too expensive (eg most Fodera sigs), but others can have pretty wide appeal for costs similar to main line meat and potatoes basses....

  11. i have a matt freeman bass i love.

    did i buy it because of him? no.

    is he a huge influence on me? no.

    i like him, i wouldn't buy a sting model or hoppus, because i personally don't care for them. i also wouldn't buy a bass that "screamed" signature model, but the freeman and a few others are fairly understated. no one has ever noticed it is a sig model that i know of, other than me.

    to each his own......
  12. smcd


    Jun 28, 2009
    Boston, MA
    Fender is trying to sell basses to kids who are learning to play. They figure they already have their market share of seasoned musicians, so they cast a wide net to try and bring in a younger crowd. It's a cheesy tactic, and in my mind it cheapens the brand, but it must be working.
  13. i've been playing for about 13 years, i didn't buy a sig because i'm part of a younger crowd. (i know you weren't pointing in my direction) i think sometimes they just offer something slightly different. i couldn't find another olympic white p with a maple neck for well under $500, the freeman worked out well for me.
  14. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Fender sells plenty of basses to kids that can't play. Is that a good reason not to buy a Jazz bass?

    If a bass gets the job done, does it matter if the signature on the headstock says Fender, or anything else?
  15. Bassmunnky


    Jul 3, 2004
    New York and Philadelphia
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball MusicMan Guitars
    Depends how old you are..and if you wear depends.
  16. 33, no depends, far more equipment than what is practical. i don't need signature basses to make impractical purchases.
  17. Kingbreaker


    Feb 12, 2013
    I thought it was bizarre to see a Thurston Moore signature fender guitar.

    Thurston Moore plays for Sonic Youth. Weird. Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, I guess.
  18. Yes, people from bands with tens of millions, if not more, albums sold must be semi-famous.

    Pretentious much?

    I'm generally not interested in buying signature basses, but that's because the standard models are usually what I fancy.
  19. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I am not turned off by the concept at all. I am turned off by some of the basses but that is true of more than a few non-signature models as well and from many other manufacturers. I love the Tony Franklin, the Roger Waters, the Matt Freeman, and the James Johnston. I'd consider a couple of the others. The rest I have zero interest in, Jaco's included. Oh, and I actually own a Reggie Hamilton, the one I love above all the others. I judge them all exactly the same way I judge any other bass. They either have features I want or they do not. They either look attractive to me or they do not. They either meet a need I have or they do not. Out of the list above I knew exactly one name before I joined TB. I quickly learned about one more because he is mentioned at least once every 20 minutes here. I did not bother to look up Reggie Hamilton until I started to look at his signature model closely. He is an excellent musician, a great guy, and he hangs out on the thread devoted to his sig occasionally. There is no reason why I would avoid being associated with him and of course no reason why I deserve to be either!

    The only reason I would refuse to buy a sig that I liked would be if the artist it honored was someone whose character I found truly heinous. I can't think of one off hand. I know of artists whose personal lives were tragic and often because of their own failings. My heart goes out to them, the ones that are still alive. I can't think of any bass playing Hitlers.

    Signature models that are at least somewhat faithful to the original will naturally reflect the features that some actual working musician finds useful. That makes it likely that they will appeal to other musicians as well. Some may indeed buy basses only because they carry the names of their idols but many more recognize and desire a nice collection of features on a bass when they see one. Reggie Hamilton plays for a wide variety of people in a wide variety of situations. I play in a church band rotation and the musical styles we play are just all over the map. One of us actually had to try to play the bass part to the Hallelujah Chorus a couple of months ago. I got off easy that night, I only had to stand in the choir loft and attempt to sing it! The versatility Reggie built into his signature model to prevent him from having to lug 5 basses to every gig works just as well for me. It is simple as that.

    If you find the concept of a signature bass offensive, I guess I can see where you are coming from and you certainly don't have to buy one. There are many fine signature models out there though and I think you do yourself a disservice if you refuse to consider the ones that could really work well for you simply because they are sigs. If nothing else, note the feature list and mod another bass to have the same features while looking as little as possible like the sig. I may end up doing that with my Reggie Hamilton because I kinda want a five string version too now and the only one Fender makes is the unaffordable, to me, Custom Shop version. I do have a Standard Jazz V that could be converted however....

    Ken :D
  20. DudeLeap


    Feb 11, 2013
    Don't forget Sunny Day Real Estate and the Jealous Sound!