ARTIFACT exhibited our new Guitar Accessories Collection at the Nashville Guitar Show last weekend. Over the years we've exhibited our handmade products at: Renegade Craft Fair, NYNOW, CAPSULE, American Craft Council, Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, and countless regional Pop-Ups. These shows have as many similarities as differences.
I've never walked the Nashville Guitar Show and I'm not friends with anyone who has. I was going into it blind, but the cost of a booth was a fraction of a fashion trade show, and I would be completely surrounded by vintage guitars. Why not?
The retail landscape is very different from when I started ARTIFACT in 2010. I was building the brand before the groundswell of demand for artisanal and handmade erupted. It did not take long for that space to become diluted by marketers (Heinz "Artisanal" Ketchup comes to mind), charlatans, and novices.
With covid, many took up leatherworking and other maker crafts. Now there are more leather goods on the market than ever being sold by hobbyists with zero overhead who have only begun their 10,000 hour journey.
For the survival of a maker business, it's about barrier of entry and discovering less explored product categories, where quality still matters.
So... I'm setting up at the Nashville Guitar Show for the first time without reconnaissance. I'd be smart to have zero expectations but my mind never allows that to happen. My first "oh crap" moment is when I discover out of all the vendors set up, I am the only one not using the black polyester drape table coverings provided by the promoter. I brought my own glorious table coverings, vintage retail fixtures, and even tables to provide an ARTIFACT experience that communicates our values of quality, utility, and timeless design.
There were serious brands exhibiting here but it felt like The Twilight Zone as I scanned the sea of black polyester tables. I stood and reminisced the spectacular booths I've seen over the years at New York and Las Vegas trade shows.
Day one of the show felt like I was selling massages at a car wash. The crowd had guitars and only guitars on the brain. I brought my 1957 Danelectro U2 guitar as a merchandising prop but I was asked to sell it 100+ times. As the day wore on the public settled into the realization the vintage guitar market is bananas. You can see for yourself by watching the video I posted, where I walked the show before it was open to the public and shot 4k video of breath taking guitars with equally breath taking prices.
Eric strums a $55,000 chord - 1964 Fender Strat in Lake Placid Blue
By afternoon, people where entering the ARTIFACT booth and exploring product. This enabled me to snap out of my brief Willy Loman internal spiral and engage. So much insightful feedback and praise was willingly shared with me by a musicians of all backgrounds. It was product development nirvana. There were also introductions and conversations regarding potential partnerships that would be amazing. Fingers crossed!
When you enter a new product category, you're starting at ground zero. You have to build relationships and listen intently to garner as many insights as you can. I was a professional guitarist long before ARTIFACT and nothing would tickle me more than to develop our guitar line, but it's a two way street and ARTIFACT's survival depends on objective business decisions. Hopefully, we get traction addressing what I feel is a void in the market for beautiful, clean, highest quality amp covers and guitar accessories.
I've been told people no longer read but I have over a decade of experience as a maker, designer, and small business owner. I excel at learning things the hard way, which means I have a lot of stories.
Let me know in the comments below what you want to hear about, and I will share in print and even video. Until then, stay curious.
Owner | ARTIFACT