We had a bass come in for a pickup replacement and some other work today. It's quite interesting to say the least.
Here it is. A Lakland. Cool! It has our NP5 pickup in it! Wait a sec. Then why does the owner want us to change out the pickup?
Well we opened it up and discovered that it's not our pickup. It's a copy.
And not an exact copy. It has Neodymium bars on the bottom and shorter pole pieces. Apparently the owner is not happy with the sound of this pickup.
Lakland used to buy NP5's from us. They stopped a couple years ago. Now I know why.
I looked for this bass on their website and couldn't find it. There was a confusing post on Talkbass a while ago too. But nothing that was that conclusive. When this bass showed up my suspicions proved well founded.
I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand I'm quite flattered that they like the basic design enough to copy it. On the other I think it could be very confusing for the bass playing public to see and hear a bass like this and assume that it's our pickup and then have a wrongful impression about what we make.
Not sure what to do here, other than this blog post. Maybe I'll look into legal options.
As I get ready to head to another NAMM show in a week my head is swimming with random thoughts.
I started working for myself at the very beginning of 2003. I was planning to just make bass guitars. I wanted a humble shop all to myself and I wanted to build what I had in my head. I can remember that I was going to sell 4 string NJ basses starting at $1200. Seems crazy now. Might have been crazy then.
Fast forward 11 years and I have a pickup company that employs 10 people in some capacity. We build OEM pickups for some major major companies. Such as:
Sadowsky - I never imagined in my wildest dreams that Roger would ask to try out some pickups, let alone decide to have us supply him with PJ5 sets and all his single coil J pickups, both 4 and 5 string. Wow. Thank you Roger!
Ibanez - I owe a large debt of gratitude to Tim Cloonan of Callowhill Basses for really helping get Ibanez to notice us. It was almost 3 years from first contact to first production order with them, but it's easily been one of the most significant things to happen to my business. The order volume and support we've gotten has been humbling. We are most grateful indeed for the wonderful partnership that has developed between us. I can't reveal any details at the moment, but expect a lot more great stuff from us and Ibanez.
Warwick - We brought an OEM salesman onboard early last year named Pete Chiovarou, and he has been outstanding. One of his biggest achievements so far has been connecting us with Warwick. Warwick now distributes our products all over much of Europe and as of this NAMM show you'll see many basses and even guitars (coming soon) with OEM Nordstrand Pickups in them. Again, I am absolutely amazed to realize that my name is going on a product that will be installed in basses that were objects of severe GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) when I started playing bass over 20 years ago.
Beyond these big three, the list of OEM companies that we've supplied over the years is extensive and impressive. Fodera, Ristola, Valenti, Cliff Bordwell, Roscoe, Modulus, Callowhill, De Geir, Mayones, Tino Tedesco, Le Compte, Martin Keith, Mike Lull, Jeff Mallia, Mollerup, Overwater, AV Guitars, R Basses, Normandy Guitars, SEI Basses, Soller Guitars, LedBelli Bass Guitars, Stambaugh, Allan Tomkins, Scott Ambush, Utrera Basses, Jerome Little, Xylem, the list goes on. Somebody slap me. Wow.
And we've sold pickups to all kinds of name players too. Well, some we didn't sell to them directly, we sold them to companies that were making instruments for them. But nevertheless, one way or another, our pickups have ended up in the hands of players like Stefan Lessard, Juan Aldrete, Jerry Watts Jr., Owen Biddle, Pino Palladino, Calvin Turner, Chris Tarry, Mike Kroeger, Chazz Frichtell, Bruce Stone, Michael Rhodes, Darryl Anders, Juraj Griglak, Walter Jones, Igor Saavedra, Edo Castro, Mark Egan, Darrell Freeman, Koko Powell, Rafe Bradford, Andy Cichon, Roland Guerin, Rob DiSantis, Chris Wood, Steve DiGiorgio, Bryant Siono, Gilles Loes, Dave Swift, Derrick Hodge, Tim LeFebvre, Steve Jenkins, Tommy Harron, Rick Skatore, Robin Ruscio, Amanda Ruzze, Ben Williams, Ben Jones, Will Birkhead, John Giblin, Travis Carlton, Hershel Yatovitz, Michael Thompson, Tye Zamora, Josh Smith, Vail Johnson, Scott Pazera, Brandon Gilliard, Keith Duffy, Federico Malaman, Marc Browne, Tom Hamilton, Paul Turner, YIKES! I know there are many many more but I don't keep track and I forget.
Which is not very smart I think. Were I to have an effective marketing plan, I'd take advantage of all of the above and put together a good campaign. But I don't think in terms of "how can I sell more and more PICKUPS?" Or "how can I make more and more MONEY?" Because that's not what gets me going.
What gets me excited is great music. And helping musicians make great music with inspiring pickups and instruments (and occasionally in my studio). That is the singular focus of what I do and what I am about.
So, in these weeks before NAMM I start to worry that maybe I'm not doing it right. Maybe I'm blowing it with my lack of marketing. Maybe I should have tons of artist demo's at our booth and have artist signings and maybe I should be competing for top tier players and maybe I should have endorsement contracts, and maybe I should give pickups to all the players I like and maybe and maybe and on and on.
And then I think maybe this was all a big mistake and soon the fun will end. Maybe I'll wake up and none of this will have happened. Then I'll go see my therapist and we'll start talking about my childhood again. Ugh.
And then I calm down and realize that everything is as it should be. That all of this has happened and is happening. I am both lucky and skilled at what I do. And I have a shop full of great people that believe in all this as much as I do. I am truly blessed with the way my life has gone.
I will start working on some effective marketing. I have to. We have grown to the point where we can't afford not to. Also, I want to see what is possible. What will the next ten years bring as we grow and evolve into a "proper" company with a marketing department and a sales staff and an R & D division and a production floor?