Handmade Music Clubhouse

Cigar Box Guitar Headquarters - CBG HQ

This question was asked by someone in the comments section, but I thought it was worth a discussion:

I started out writing a very long post about this, but decided to cut it back to a few short ideas with some questions:

Basic CBGs - like the typical first build: fretless, 2 or 3 string, through neck, bolts for nut and tuner, a piezo,...  run about $10 in parts and take about an hour to build once you've built your first one.  But the question is, does anybody really sell these?  I don't mean does anyone try to sell them or have them up for sale, but really sell them?  If so, to whom?  In what venue? For how much?  I couldn't imagine buying one, or if I did, I couldn't imagine paying more than $20 for it.  But that's me.  Is anyone's experience different?

The better ones - decent tuners, bone nut, well-placed and well-dressed frets, good intonation, good action, decent electronics ... take more money and time to build.  My last couple of builds cost somewhere between $30 and $50 to build, and took a good week of after work and weekends.  And a lot of experimentation to get them to sound and play the way I wanted them to.  I love them - play them all the time as "real instruments" in my band and on my own, and they stand up to that use, i.e. they're not just novelties or "rootsy". 

But I don't think that, even if I could bear to part with them, I could sell them for enough to get my time and materials out of them.  And I didn't go all-out on materials - I could have easily made these cost much more in parts, and I don't believe that would increase their market value by a cent.

So I guess the basic questions are:  What kind of CBGs actually sell?  Who buys them?   Where do they buy them?  And what are they willing to pay for them?  Is selling parts and kits the only way to get this hobby to be self-sustaining?

I think I'd be happy to get enough back to pay for the hobby, but I don't have high hopes of that.  Luckily they don't cost all that much to build, and they're tons of fun ... so it's probably ok if the hobby doesn't become self-sustaining.  But I am curious...

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Replies to This Discussion

THanks Mike... very valuable marketing info you have shared. Nice earner by the sounds of it and I would think you are in a tough market seeing as these are not as popular as say a ukulele or similar in this neck of the woods. Good on yer!

Mike S said:

My g/f attended a 'build your business' weekend seminar and used my fledgling, sometime/part time building hobby as a model. As part of the info needed for this she grilled me about how many I had sold (about 25 or a couple more), who had brought them and where etc. It broke down like this.

Of all sold, nearly half went to women.

Of all sold just more than half were already musically inclined to some degree, mainly guitar but piano/keyboard/uki got a mention.

None already played slide. All wanted to.

Most were adult ie 20+ years old with a median of about 35-40.

CBG type sell about twice as well as fully electric 'paddle' type. Genuine cigar boxes were the most popular. Diddley Bows sold slowly but steadily.

'Novelty' type body boxes, promotional tins, liquor boxes etc mostly sold to non players.

Fretted and non-fretted sell about evenly. Nail frets sell slightly better than 'pro' frets.

Type recognition (Hey cool, a cbg/3 string/old school blues guitar!) is effectively zero. They are not part of the New Zealand musical scene. Yet. Once they are explained/demonstrated it's '**** me! I can do this!'

Prices range from NZ$125-300 for a cbg type depending on frets (if any), pickup, neck material and box type and size.

Full electric 'paddle' type range from NZ$220-350.

Remember, all of the above applies only to New Zealand and my personal experience. Your mileage may vary.



bil andersen said:


I'd love to see multi string CBGs... like mandolins etc.

 

I like instruments with double or even triple courses, too.  This is the Greek Baglamas CBG I was talking about above.  Three double-courses of steel strings, tuned Dd aa dd.  The deeper box gives it that authentic baglamas sound - it's different from a mandolin, deeper, more complex sounding.  Scale length is about 14.5".  It's loud and piercing enough to play with a drummer, unplugged.  My band has two percussionists in it, though, so mostly I do plug it in.  It's got two piezos, and just a volume control. 

 

 

Hi Mike

Read your reply, very interesting.

Just wondering what size and type of nails do you use for frets and how do you fix them?

I've tried using nails a few times but have had no real success, hope you don't mind me asking.

all the best

Chris
Mike S said:

My g/f attended a 'build your business' weekend seminar and used my fledgling, sometime/part time building hobby as a model. As part of the info needed for this she grilled me about how many I had sold (about 25 or a couple more), who had brought them and where etc. It broke down like this.

Of all sold, nearly half went to women.

Of all sold just more than half were already musically inclined to some degree, mainly guitar but piano/keyboard/uki got a mention.

None already played slide. All wanted to.

Most were adult ie 20+ years old with a median of about 35-40.

CBG type sell about twice as well as fully electric 'paddle' type. Genuine cigar boxes were the most popular. Diddley Bows sold slowly but steadily.

'Novelty' type body boxes, promotional tins, liquor boxes etc mostly sold to non players.

Fretted and non-fretted sell about evenly. Nail frets sell slightly better than 'pro' frets.

Type recognition (Hey cool, a cbg/3 string/old school blues guitar!) is effectively zero. They are not part of the New Zealand musical scene. Yet. Once they are explained/demonstrated it's '**** me! I can do this!'

Prices range from NZ$125-300 for a cbg type depending on frets (if any), pickup, neck material and box type and size.

Full electric 'paddle' type range from NZ$220-350.

Remember, all of the above applies only to New Zealand and my personal experience. Your mileage may vary.

I sell 4 string CB Ukes.  I focus on the nostalgia, artwork, and the fact so many professional muscians have taken them up. I sell mine from $125 to 350. The high end would be for unique box.. very old, history of the time, and it is a sweet uke.  Average costs are $165-185 depending on the box. They are all combo acoustic/electric.  I like most of you try to come out of it with 100 bucks or so for my labors of love.

you have said it all my friend. I couldn't agree more.

Yep, that about says it all...I haven't tried to sell one yet, and probably won't until I run out of space to keep them..  If I did sell one that I built, I'd probably just try to get most of my money in materials out of it, mostly so I'd have the spare change to tackle the next built without feeling guilty about it. 

i,m going to say this about the interest in these at the club i play at. Keepin in mind you're limited by the tuning your in as far as variety of  your songs. Every week i,m asked if i have brought my little cigar box guitar. And these are music lovers who go out every thursday night to hear people play. So there is interest there music wise.

I'm new to CBG's & just built my first one and a Canjo. However I have been in sales/marketing all my life, from door to door to v.p. of sales & marketing. I'm currently selling walking sticks @ farmers markets & music festivals and considering adding CBG's & canjos to the mix.

Here's a couple of basic things to consider:

1. Whose  your market? Middle age men, teens, professional women?

2. How do you reach that market? Music shops, festivals, farmers/flea markets, online?

3. How much to charge? material, labor, overhead, profit? (0Make sure you include booth fees, gas, etc to overhead costs.

4. What's your competition doing? Do you under sell them/higher/lower?

5. What's the sizzle? How to you build excitement/demand for your CBG?

And the big question?

6. Are you a salesperson? Are you willing to go out & sell your product and yourself - can you take rejection?

I know a lot of very talented artist you couldn't sell water to a thirsty man. Or they believe that selling is beneath them. Hence the term "Starving Artist". Selling is hard work, but when you're selling something that you are really passionate about it can be fun.

The main thing to do is start small attend a few local craft shows and always be refining your product/marketing/sales approach based on the responses you get.

For most of us we may want to only sell a few in order to feed our CBG habit. But if your serious about building a business these suggestions may help.

i for one find what you said right on and somewhat motivating. I,m a so so guitar player, singer etc, who made the 1st one for myself- turned out ok put my 'slide' skills to work and played it at my club. someone saw it later came up with a box and asked me to build him one. It was on that 3rd or 4th build that i saw the 'cbg light'. Now they have become artwork 1st guitar 2nd. the selling of them is a whole other story, and you hit on it. hanks. Taking my 8th and latest to my lawyer today,can't wait to see his reaction.

I have a few insights on this topic.

First, if you have a job KEEP IT!

Don't try to turn a great hobby into a business, it will only disappoint you. I've been doing it full time for nearly 2 years now and only because I haven't been able to find a job. It takes working 8-12 hrs a day, 6 days a week or more to build inventory.

I try to have on hand instruments in multiple price ranges, Tier-1: $20, Tier-2: $40-$60, Tier-3:$75-$90, & Tier-4: $100+

Each week at the farmers market for me is comparable to fishing.... bring all the bait 'cause you can never tell what's going to bite.

I've had weeks where nothing but $20 canjos & $40 unitars have sold, and I've had weeks where I couldn't give a canjo away. I've had $75 stick dulcimers ignored for a full month, then suddenly in 1 day sell out all I had on hand!

Frankly, you need to have enough diversity to satisfy any potential customer on any given day. But eventually everything sells.

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