The festival "Graines de Guitare" will celebrate it's third edition next weekend. 16 luthiers and 12 guitar-related exhibitors and a rich musical program awaits the visitor.
Every three years the ASIA Symposium is held. It is actually taking place right now - for those of you who are interested here's the link:
It is worth checking out - we are taking pointers for our Symposium from them - we don't have the same level of resources, but they are a good example of what a bunch of luthiers can accomplish when they get together… Something to strive for.
We have created a Facebook group for the EGB. It was evident that we needed to find better ways to communicate among group members & this seems to be the simplest and easiest way. I have added all members I could through the contacts I have. There are quite a few missing - so email me or ask to be added to the group!
The fb group is for internal communication - it is a closed group accessible to all full members who have paid up their dues. So, post, converse, keep up to date!
This EGB blog on the EGB page will continue with news and posts which are interesting to all, not just members. Once we have the new website up and running we will also have an EGB forum, with different access levels and dedicated threads.
Pierre Journel from the Guitar Channel interviewed Kathryn Dudley, the author of the book "Guitar Makers". She will be attending the EGB Symposium (and the HGGS), so I think this is pertinent to the upcoming program. Well worth listening to.
Here's the link.
Pierre Journel runs the "Guitar Channel", an online guitar site which has a lot of interesting videos, interviews and info. Check it out -
The Friday before the HGGS, Oct. 30th, the second EGB Symposium will take place at the Estrel. We are working on a program that is going to include a rich variety of offerings. Kathryn Dudley, author of the book "Guitar Makers" about the luthier scene in the US, has agreed to come. We will also deal with CITES and alternative woods - the Leonardo Project will demonstrate non-tropical woods and conduct a "blind test" for skeptics. And there will be much more to come! It is shaping up to be an interesting day, with a rich choice of topics and many opportunities to participate actively. One of the goals of this year's Symposium is to mobilize our members and to start projects like a workgroup dedicated to collect and present information about regulatory issues (like CITES, the Lacey act, WISIA, etc.). Also the day will be dedicated to networking, getting to know each other, and to discuss ways in which the EGB can grow and serve the luthier community. We do hope you will join us! We will make more information available as it develops, but at this point we just wanted to make sure that you save the date!
More info on the EGB Symposium page
Please be aware that the Symposium is a closed event, open to EGB members, HGGS exhibitors, the press and guests.
After the Symposium the EGB General Assembly will be taking place. It is important that you attend! Every 3 years the election to the board has to be conducted - that's this year! We will provide more information about the election, possible additions to the board and issues relating to this in time for you to familiarize yourself with all of this.
We will also send out a newsletter with the agenda - there are quite a few topics which will need to be discussed and decided - we want to chart the course for the EGB for the future and we need you to participate actively in shaping this association and its goals. We will also present the report for last year's activity and financial situation.
Until now the EGB has focussed mainly on the organization of the HGGS and consequently there has been little visible activity, a complaint we have heard every now and then. A large part of this has to do with the fact that all of us are doing this on the side while running a business and have limited time and resources. However at the Winter meeting in Vienna earlier this year we gained valuable help - several members stepped up and are now working side by side with the original core group on the HGGS organization, so we can now dedicate more time and energy to the EGB agenda. Remember we are not a service provider, we are a community effort and things only happen if you get involved and pitch in! Jacco Stuitje is currently working on the new website which will greatly expand what we can do online. We expect to change over in the coming weeks.
Another new show will take place in Santa Barbara, California, September 29 - October 2, 2016. It seems that there are still some exhibitor spots available. This is an
exclusively acoustic show! If you are interested contact Kevin for more information. A
gorgeous setting and a great program will make this a nice event to attend!
This coming week will see the first edition of the Memphis Acoustic Guitar Festival. Quite a few of the exhibitors we will encounter in Berlin this Fall are also exhibiting there. Friday June 5th
to Sunday June 7th. We wish them all the Best and much success!
The Woodstock Guitar
Festival is taking place the weekend before the HGGS. Check it out - you may want to visit! Some of the world's premier builders will be present, plus an interesting program of
concerts and clinics and workshops. Highly recommended -
Here is a link to Questions and Answers about The Holy Grail Guitar Show (concept, selection etc.).
To address some recent questions that seem to be of general interest you can now find a Q&A section in the sidebar. We will develop and continue it, so check back every once in a while!
EGB presents: INLAY & ENGRAVING with William ‘Grit' Laskin
Members of EGB have the chance for a rare treat: William ‘Grit’ Laskin has offered to come to Europe for a workshop in Spring of 2016. It would be hosted by Spalt Instruments in Vienna. We are now determining if there is enough interest to organise such a workshop.
The workshop will be a combination of hands-on work as well as theoretical teaching. Prerequisite for participants are basic inlay skills (experience with having cut and inlaid shell) and some tools are required to bring.
5-day intensive (8-10 hours/day)
minimum 8-10 participants, maximum 15
cost estimated somewhere between 900 - 1500€ (not including travel & accommodation) depending on format
If you are interested please let Tania know by replying to this email: Tania Spalt firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Though I inlay and engrave semi-precious materials on the guitars I build, following a tradition long-established for musical instruments, these techniques can be applied to any wooden object’ (Grit Laskin)
This is from a sample curriculum of a seminar Grit offered to give you an idea what to expect:
By the end of the week the student could expect to
• have experienced working with varieties of shell, stone (recon stone) and Ebony
• learn what to consider when creating a design in this medium
• surprise themselves with their ability to draw!
* learn my techniques of hand engraving – ultimately, how the graver becomes your pencil and brings a collection of blank inlaid substances to life – and will successfully engrave (among other things) what is considered the most difficult subject of all: the human face.
WILLIAM “GRIT” LASKIN, a professional guitar maker since 1971, builds steel-string, classical, and flamenco guitars that are known and coveted around the world.
The dates for the EGB Symposium and the The Holy Grail Guitar Show are as follows:
Friday, Oct. 30th: EGB Symposium
open to all EGB members and exhibitors as well as guests. The EGB General Assembly will also take place - it is open only to EGB members. We will publish the program as it develops.
Sat & Sunday, Oct 31st and Nov 1st.: The Holy Grail Guitar Show 2015
The Festival Guitare Issoudun
As a matter of principle and collegial courtesy we try and avoid date conflicts with other shows or festivals. Therefore we are not very happy to have to announce that unfortunately a date conflict with the 27th edition (congratulations, by the way!) of the Festival Guitare Issoudun could not be avoided this year. We offer our apologies, especially to those luthiers who will have to choose which event they want to attend. With this in mind we are working at announcing the list of luthiers selected to exhibit at the HGGS as soon as possible. We will do our best to avoid this conflict in the future.
The Festival is taking place from the 29th of October to the 31st. The guitar exposition takes place Oct. 30th and Oct. 31st. It offers a rich program, rounded out by master classes, concerts, workshops. A great selection of luthier-built guitars will be on display. Please check it out!
Le Festival Guitare d'Issoudun
Pour des questions de principe et de courtoisie, nous nous efforçons d'éviter que différents salons se déroulent sur la même période. Malheureusement, nous devons annoncer que nous n'avons pas été en mesure d'éviter ce problème de date cette année, puisque le Holy Grail Guitar Show 2015 se déroulera en même temps que la 27ème édition du Festival Guitare d'Issoudun (Félicitations, au passage !). Nous présentons nos excuses, particulièrement aux luthiers qui auront à choisir entre les deux événements. Nous essaierons donc de publier la liste des luthiers sélectionnés pour le HGGS rapidement et ferons de notre mieux pour éviter ce genre de désagrément à l'avenir.
Le Festival Guitare d'Issoudun aura lieu du 29 au 31 Octobre, le salon de lutherie quant à lui ouvrira ses portes les 30 et 31 Octobre. Le programme du festival est complété par des master class, des workshops et des concerts. Le public pourra y admirer une superbe sélection d'instruments de luthier. Jetez y un oeil !
The Fuzz Guitar Show is taking place in Göteborg, May 9-10. Spring in Sweden!
This show seems to have taken its clue from the HGGS - a format that is getting popular!
takes place on March 15th in Milan - rather short notice, but very reasonable rates. The same outfit (associated with a big Italian retailer/music magazine) is doing a show in fall, this one more in the character of a trade fair:
SHG #40 (one
of the oldest shows around) Nov. 15th, also in Milan.
This is for informational purposes only. The EGB does not endorse any show nor are we affiliated with any show except The Holy Grail Guitar Show.
Our purpose is to inform luthiers about opportunities for exhibiting their instruments. In our view, the more such opportunities exist, the better - the more potential customers we reach with our instruments, the more our niche in the market will benefit. It is also a good thing that more shows are willing to accommodate the specific needs of the small builder.
So - there are quite a few shows around - new markets to explore and venues to help promote the handmade boutique guitar! Pack your bags and travel!
The Holy Grail Guitar Show isn't the only one - we are going to compile a directory of guitar shows, trade fairs and events, in Europe and around the world. Currently many
builders are attending the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA.. But there's some opportunities to exhibit closer to home: I've already mentioned the Paris show "Guitares au Beffroi" - if you can't
make it there you may want to visit the Milan show "Guitars and Beyond". Let's liven up the European builder scene and participate - we'll have more listings soon!
Applications by professional luthiers for an exhibitor spot at the 2015 edition of The Holy Grail Guitar Show are now being accepted. Please go to this link on the HGGS website to apply:
The application process will close on February 10th. Applications submitted after that date cannot be considered.
A few words about this:
We decided to stick closely to the format of the 2014 edition, as it has proved very successful. Feedback from visitors and exhibitors about the last Show will be used to improve the experience for both visitors and exhibitors, as we want to make this next Show an even better one. There are 115 exhibitor spots available. We expect that there will be many more applications, so please be aware that having exhibited at the previous Show or being a member of the EGB does not guarantee an exhibitor spot. Applicants will be notified about the status of their applications as soon as possible. Please be patient, every application will be considered carefully.
The exhibitor fee has been raised to EURO 700. Last year’s show was organized largely on a volunteer basis, something which we cannot repeat in this form. We are mindful of the need to keep things as affordable as possible, however certain jobs require professional help, which in turn requires a larger budget. Among other improvements the lecture and concert programs will be expanded, to make the Show even more attractive. As the Show is well on the way to establish itself as the gold standard for handmade guitar shows, we want to ensure its sustainability and further development.
The Holy Grail Guitar Show is destined to become the yearly destination de rigeur for guitar lovers and aficionados worldwide
Last year was all about the first Holy Grail Guitar Show. The EGB agenda had to take a backseat to this major effort - but I think it paid off handsomely. The Show was an unqualified success! Lots of visitors, good media attention and coverage, quite a few sales. Above all the spirit present during the Symposium and the Show was very gratifying - I think both visitors and exhibitors had a great time - and I have to say, I was very impressed with the quality and originality of the instruments on exhibit! Great work, everyone! It was a truly historical occasion.
Work on the next Show has started already. This coming year we have the advantage of our experience and also of being able to start much earlier with the exhibitor selection process, giving builders a head start on preparing instruments for the Show. We will shortly announce the date and other details and should soon be able to open the application process for a spot at the next edition of the HGGS.
Please remember - this is an invitational show. Obviously it would be great to be able to offer everyone who would like to participate a table, but unfortunately that will not be possible. One thing which became quite clear during the last Show is that FEW people seem to take the time to read our communications - there were some misunderstandings because of this. So please read what we send out carefully - it is in your own interest!
The primary goal of the Show is to promote the handbuilt guitar in general - to raise awareness among the public that there is a great alternative to the factory-built
instruments, and to expand the market for our creations. In this way the Show will ultimately benefit ALL guitar builders, not just the ones exhibiting. To make it a successful show
we have to offer the visitor and the media a varied and interesting mix, and feature both well-known builders and newcomers. New exhibitors must also have the chance to show their
We now also hope to have time and space to work on the EGB agenda - there are quite a few projects and ideas about what the EGB can do for the luthiers' community. Over the next few weeks I will present some of these ideas and I would also like to invite those of you who want to contribute or have suggestions to let us know. During our General Assembly at the Symposium we decided to create the post of an administrative director to coordinate and be in charge of these activities, so that we can build a viable infrastructure and maintain it.
One of our projects is to create a comprehensive calendar of guitar shows - there are quite a few out there and the opportunities to exhibit are not in any way limited to the HGGS! Here's "Guitares au Beffroi" that will take place in France in March!
It has been hard to keep up with the blog, I have to admit - a lot of work organizing the show and then there were also the guitars that needed to be done. They have now safely arrived in Berlin and so there's a little time to catch up. I'll be following them tomorrow.
This show has been a long time coming. And it still feels a bit unreal that it is actually going to take place this coming weekend. We are enormously excited and gratified by the response it has already received, indicating that there was a real need for such a show to happen in Europe. Will it live up to all the expectations? - I don't know. Will it be a success? Well, as someone recently said - it already is a success! The simple fact that it is finally taking place is in itself a huge success!
It took a lot of work and has cost us personally in time, effort and lost productivity in the workshop. So it needs to be said again - this show is conceived as a community effort. Without all of you builders helping and pitching in it will not continue to happen. Our little group has embarked on this venture with little knowledge of the amount of work facing us - thousands of details to be kept track of, and a myriad little things to figure out. As the show kept growing we found ourselves overwhelmed at times, drowning in the demands our brainchild constantly issued to us. But all's well that ends well. We are proud to have come this far - and we hope all this work will pay off with a splendid show, for exhibitors and visitors alike. I also hope that you will respect our intentions and the fact that this has been a labor of love, created purely with volunteer effort, by people setting aside time from their own work to offer this to the community. Many of you haven't experienced such a show, I know - it is not the Messe or NAMM - it is something different, and I ask that you come with an open mind and heart to enjoy the company of colleagues and visitors, to see all the wonderful instruments - and I promise it will be a great weekend, hopefully just the first of such occasions!
Have a great Show!
Interesting item in the news today - please check it out. What this means for us independent builders is not quite clear yet - but it foreshadows a trend that will certainly change the nature of the guitar retail business. We will be watching this closely...
The new book Guitar Makers by Yale professor of anthropology Kathryn Dudley is a must read for anyone working in the field of guitar building. She touches on and explores a lot of the themes and concerns which have led me personally to work on/for the creation of the EGB.
Having experienced the American luthierie scene and the way guitar builders there view their work and life in the context of a community, sharing information, helping each other, I was surprised by how different the situation is in Europe.
Born out of the spirit of the late '60s, with more than a tinge of hippie idealism, the roots of American modern lutherie are far from the European model, grown out of the medieval guild system, with its mistrust, secrecy of methods and territorial angst.
One of the main misson objectives of the EGB is the fostering of a community, of creating a platform for this spirit and of helping guitar builders navigate the rapid changes happening today, on so many levels. Much of this is addressed here - essential reading!
Time for the first EGB project - we want to create a dictionary of luthier's terms in as many European languages as possible. This way luthiers will be able to communicate better among themselves across borders and also be able to communicte with their clients (at the Show and elsewhere). The dictionary should include various sections covering the terms for:
all guitar (and bass) parts
There might be some of you out there who have such a dictionary in one language or the other. If so, please share. We will collect them and assemble a master dictionary. I will also publish a list of terms in English we would like to have translated and would be grateful to receive your feedback and translations.
We will then publish this dictionary on the EGB website as a resource for all.
Die aktuelle Ausgabe von Grand Guitars enthält einen guten Artikel über die Holy Grail Guitar Show! Information über die Show und das Konzept. Natürlich auch jede Menge anderer interessanter
Artikel - also kaufen! Wir danken für die Unterstützung!
Grand Guitars Magazine has published an article about the "The Holy Grail Guitar Show". We thank them for their support!
Summer is upon us and I noticed that we haven't posted anything here in a long time! We are still very busy with the Holy Grail Guitar Show preparations, and we've neglected the EGB agenda and site a bit in consequence. I'll try and come back to it more often - we are continuing to welcome more members (again, we might be a bit late in posting them here, due to the HGGS work load). As the show preparations hopefully will steer into calmer waters now, we can come back and work on the EGB agenda again. CITES among other things has become a topic we want to address - the travel associated with the show has shown us the necessity for good up to date information about regulations, resources and where to go with questions.
The show. We're just coming up for air now - the exhibitor list is pretty much complete and we're full. We are looking forward to welcoming more than 110 luthiers to Berlin! We started out with thinking of maybe 50-80 max, but it has grown, not to say exploded! This will be one of the largest boutique shows in the world, and certainly a first for Europe! We are now focusing on PR and on getting the details for the show nailed down. You may have visited the new show website (thank you Emma and Juha for the mad effort in getting it out!). If not, go there and check it out - it will have updates and the full program for the show. Kora is doing a great job with the facebook luthier profiles and Tania is juggling everything behind the scenes. I will post background information here, about the show concept and the EGB Symposium on Friday (which will not be open to the public and is therefore not mentioned on the show website). So please stay tuned and come back often - we have discontinued using the newsletter due to spam problems - so this will be the place to get updates!
We have just published the exhibitor list for the Holy Grail Guitar Show! This is just the first installment - we are adding names periodically as they are being confirmed. So, more to come! But browse through it and you can already see what a great collection of builders will be sharing the floor with you! Please share this among clients, friends and others you might think will enjoy coming and visiting the show. Also look it over and if there are changes you would like to make to your listing, let us know. We are stoked - already this looks like it is going to be a world class exhibit!
Dear Colleagues - it is done. The show will be a success. We have reached the critical mass of exhibitors confirmed and there are still more confirmations in the pipeline. It looks like we will have a full house - more than we initially intended, and filling the location to capacity. This week we will publish the exhibitor list and start working on sponsorships and publicity - for this we also need your help. Please spread the word, use social media, contacts you may have, and invite people to come! Let's create buzz and excitement and make this the event in 2014 for guitar lovers to attend!
"Our beloved luthier brother Rolf Spuler passed away on April 18th, 2014, after fighting a year against a difficult illness. So sad news. Rolf was a dear friend of mine, we've known each other for 15 years or so, regularly meeting at guitar shows, enjoying lengthy discussions about guitars and life in general. Rolf was among the first luthiers invited to exhibit at The Holy Grail Guitar Show, and even though he told me at that time about his condition and that he couldn't exhibit and most likely not even visit the show, he was still hopeful to perhaps beat the illness. Rolf was a great designer and luthier. Loved his witty sense of humour, too. Rest in peace Rolf, you will be greatly missed."
- Juha Ruokangas / EGB Vice President
we are now well on our way to make The Holy Grail Guitar Show 2014 in Berlin a reality!
We are proud to have come this far and confident that we will succeed in making this a great Show, and hopefully only the first of many to come.
There has never been such a Show in Europe - a Show designed to showcase the handmade guitars luthiers around the world, and especially in Europe, are producing today.
All of this has been a learning experience. This is our first Show as organizers and in the past few months we have learned a lot about what goes into putting on such an event – the complexity of details, bureaucratic hurdles, the financial juggling on multiple fronts. We have also found that organizing an event such as this for the first time poses unforeseen challenges and sometimes requires adjustments to the course. One thing that soon became apparent was that the EGB and the Show have to be separate things. Originally EGB membership was required to participate at the Show. It quickly became clear that this was not a good way to do it – so now the Show is open to all qualifying luthiers.
It seems that there were (and maybe still are) some misunderstandings and misconceptions about what the EGB is and about the workings of the Show. Some of it is the inevitable language problem we face, some of it is our failure to communicate clearly, and - not the least – people are not properly reading what we send out! Looking at some of the feedback we have received from some of you over the past few weeks I have decided that it is necessary for me to provide an account of our activities. I believe it is important for us as EGB to be as transparent as possible in our actions and our intentions.
When we first decided to launch this project, on a rooftop in Montreal in 2012, it seemed a far away goal, not much more than an idea that had been kicked around among us and other colleagues for years. But on that summer night a core group of luthiers emerged, willing to step up and do the work to make it happen. I invited them to come to Vienna, to sit down together and take the first steps towards making this a reality.
During our Vienna meeting we talked about what we felt would make a great Show from the standpoint of the small independent luthier. We defined the principles and the philosophy guiding us in the organization of the Show and we founded the EGB, the Association of European Luthiers, as a vehicle for organizing the Show. We decided to name it “The Holy Grail Guitar Show”. The quest for the “perfect guitar” has driven builders from all over the globe over the years. It has spawned countless interpretations, variations and approaches to an instrument of unparalleled versatility.
This is an invitational Show. Exhibitors are selected. Originality and quality are important criteria for selection.
It is an international Show, with the main focus on Europe. No one country will dominate. A balance has to be maintained between the respective nationalities.
It is a showcase for professional luthiers. Handmade instruments crated individually with excellence and dedication.
First of all, we needed to spread the word, to contact luthiers everywhere, to alert the media. Our first official event was the Press Conference in November 2013 in Berlin, where we announced the formation of the EGB and our intention to have the Show take place in Berlin the next November. A small number of builders from several countries joined the founding members for this. Originally we had planned for about 15 builders to attend but as more countries were added we ended up with 20. It was a test run also, to see if we could handle such an event.
We now had to find out what such a Show would cost. We wanted to make it as affordable as possible. The Holy Grail Guitar Show is not designed to create a profit, but to cover the costs along with a margin of safety. We had to find out if we would be able to attract enough exhibitors to support the Show before we could sign a contract with a venue. A complex budget needed to be created, balancing the need to have enough people to finance the Show while at the same time limiting the numbers so we could still properly manage it. The risk involved meant we had to take it step by step.
First we sent out a pre-register letter, to gauge interest among potential exhibitors. It seems that some have understood this to be their application or even their acceptance as exhibitors. This is not the case.
The number of positive responses gave us the confidence that we had a shot – and showed us the desire and need among fellow luthiers for such a Show to happen.
The next step was sending out the application itself. A positive response by the luthier to this means that the applicant will now be considered as potential exhibitor. A selection among these applicants will be made with a view to the criteria we have established.
We have tried to make it clear at every step that, as much as we regret this, it will not be possible for every applicant to exhibit at the first Show! We very much hope that in the future we can expand the Show and offer more builders the opportunity to exhibit. We will have around a 100 exhibitor spots available this time and we have sent out over 300 invitations. Applications will be kept on file for the next year’s Show.
The official deadline for applications has now passed. But we have decided to accept and consider further applications, as we can see that many builders we had initially invited have misinterpreted how the process works and have assumed they were already registered as applicants.
This is the first “Holy Grail Guitar Show”. We want to establish the Show as a prestigious event, showcasing top talent from around the world and featuring a great variety of interesting builders, to attract visitors and luthiers for years to come. Our first priority is to make sure that this Show will be a success so we can continue and make it a yearly event.
Selection will take into consideration the luthier’s professional standing and the quality and originality of the builder’s work. An important criteria will also be which country the luthier comes from, in order to proportionally “share the cake” among the participating countries.
There will be a waiting list for any spots which should open up due to circumstances. Also, all applications submitted will be considered for spots at future Shows.
If a luthier is selected for the Show we will send her/him a contract and a handbook with details about the Show. Once the contract is signed and the deposit paid, the spot at the show is confirmed.
By luthiers for luthiers.
This whole enterprise, the EGB and the Show, is initiated and organized by us on a volunteer basis. It is our commitment to the idea of providing a platform for small builders, of fostering a community of luthiers dedicated to excellence and the growth and development of the art and craft of building guitars, that has been our driving force. We are not an event-management company, or a large corporation. We ourselves are small builders with limited resources – our time and our financial means are, as with most luthiers, rather tight. But we are lucky to have, and all of this would not be possible without, the help of Emma, Kora and Tania, our wives who have stepped in to manage the countless organizational challenges and details such an event provides. Our thanks go out to them –
We are happy to announce that Grit Laskin has agreed to hold a seminar during the EGB Symposium. Grit is one of the world's foremost inlay artists as well as a master luthier.
As we are continuing our work on organizing The Holy Grail Guitar Show, we are mindful of the feedback and questions we receive. It helps us with clarifying our ideas, with communicating to exhibitors about what to expect, and to learn what they think would make a good show for them. This is, after all, the first such show we are putting on, and even if among us we share a vast experience attending all kinds of shows, we are new to the task. So feedback and ideas are helpful to us in charting our course.
This is from an email we received after I had posted the conditions for exhibitors at The Holy Grail Guitar Show. It made some good points, and I’d like to use the following exchange to illustrate the reasons behind our format and why we think this is the best way to go:
Re: Holy Grail Guitar Show conditions
“Respectfully, I urge you guys to revise these conditions. I don't understand the philosophy of forcing everyone to show their instruments exactly on the same terms by prohibiting personal expression -- a standard based on the "lowest denominator". Tables constitute an unprofessional way of exhibiting high-end products; they are an amateurish thing. As it is proposed, I believe this will be boring for the exhibitors, and especially for the public.”
I can see that we will have to explain to people who haven’t been to either Healdsburg or Montreal why this is a better format for our work. If you take the Frankfurt Messe as model I guess I can see your point of view – but this isn’t meant to be Frankfurt or NAMM lite in a low-noise format. It’s a different animal altogether and different rules apply. We are not trying to compete with Frankfurt or the NAMM, they have a different function and serve a different clientele.
While I do think for a lot of small luthiers the idea of being able to show at NAMM or the Messe still represents the step into the world of the big boys - “Now we are true professionals! We have arrived!”, this does not square with our long-time experience. These trade shows are designed and geared towards large industrial companies, just as most guitar magazines generate their revenue from, and in consequence cater to the large manufacturers. The business model operating here is highly disadvantageous for the individual luthier. The expense involved in exhibiting at one of the large trade shows, the noise, the lack of focus, the wrong target group, the endless amount of tire kickers hanging at the booth asking for picks, stickers, posters... We are different from the large brands offering cookie-cut instruments, forced to resort to loud advertising and branding to make an impression.
Let’s go though your points one by one and see if I can explain.
“I agree with not having any advertising, or amplifiers without headphones, in order to stimulate conversations. But putting my guitars on a table presents for me the following problems:
- Lack of space. One table = four guitars are too few. If every luthier is limited to that, the length of the visit and the stay of the attending public is being limited too. The more guitars, the more conversations and the longer and varied the experience would be.”
We want 100% focus on the luthiers. It is correct that at The Holy Grail Guitar Show we will forbid pop-up posters or other large elements protruding upwards at the tables. Everyone will have the same size table, no more, no less. We will require that the master builder be present at every table - not the marketing guy. Why such crazy rules? Because this way a rich luthier cannot steal attention from the others. One can't buy 5 tables to show how much bigger he is than the rest. That is the wrong kind of competition – the kind we don’t want. You also have to understand that 4-5 guitars are usually a whole lot for people who produce between 10-15 high-quality handcrafted instruments a year. And one guitar can stimulate plenty of conversations – the most talked about instrument at the last Healdsburg show was Matsuda’s new creation. He had 2 guitars on display. As visitor at The Holy Grail Guitar Show you will have 100-120 top-shelf luthiers to choose from, so there’s no shortage of attractions. Most people will wish they had more time to spend there.
“- Lack of presentation. The guitars are the protagonist of the show, and to better present them I have to use lighting, and specific guitar stands that show them not vertically but angled, in playing position, etc. On a table you cannot do this properly; any exhibition of a certain level is based on booths.”
We want provide an affordable platform for the individual luthier who typically has little money to spend on advertising and promotion. If we would try to organize an international luthier event and simultaneously offer booths that need to be built (and paid) by someone, we would end up having a mostly local German show populated by luthiers from within a decent driving distance from Berlin. Few other European luthiers would bother. Very few luthiers from outside Europe would come. All the pro guys know how much work and expense is involved in exhibiting at the industrial style shows where booths are required. Stands can be made to show the guitars in a playing position, lights can be clipped to the table - all these solutions have been tested and proved satisfactory at the Montreal and Healdsburg shows.
“- Lack of personalization, branding, or decoration = Lack of fun. If we put our guitars on a table, they are just guitars on a table. Allow me to ditch the poetics here: guitars don't speak for themselves: we do. An exhibition with tables is not a "show"; it is more like a country fair, or a flea market.”
Well, here we may be at a philosophical divide - between the music industry and the world of fine lutherie. If you need these things to have fun, then admittedly maybe this will not work for you. We think the guitars should speak for themselves. We are individual luthiers making a living through quality and originality, not companies depending on a large advertising budget. The show is totally about content, not contest. Quality, not quantity. Rather than a flea market, try to picture this as something like a high end art exhibition with the added element of music. Blinking neon signs, pop-up posters, banners or obtrusive noise don't play any part in such an event. Believe it or not, such a show is an uplifting experience for both the luthiers and the visitors.
“- Lack of value. At the Frankfurt Messe I get a stand of 8qm for 2.100€. Here my instruments will be confined to a 1,62 qm for 550€. The HGS space is then more expensive than at Frankfurt.”
Actually the total space assigned to the individual luthier is more like 6qm. But the real value here lies in more substantial things – the contact with the public, with fellow luthiers, and with the ability to have a customer able to focus on the instrument. The public we attract is not the one thronging the Messe or the NAMM in search of goodies and star autographs – they are serious people willing to spend 3K to 5K, or even into the 20K range on an instrument – they want to be treated with the same respect they accord our work. There is nothing dowdy or cheap about this kind of format – and as you can see from the roster of luthiers who have attended the Healdsburg and Montreal shows, even the NAMM or the Messe cannot compete with the quality and quantity of builders showing their work there. In addition you get the EGB Symposium on Friday, where you can mingle with your colleagues, network, attend seminars, and the Luthier’s Dinner party – values you will not find anywhere else. Remember the Berlin Press Conference we held last November – the way the luthiers enjoyed each other and the instruments! This is going to be bigger and even better!
“The idea / concept of The Holy Grail Guitar Show has brewed for years in the minds of those of us who have exhibited at MGS, and there realized the dramatic difference in how great such a show can feel in contrast to the big trade fairs. When I heard MGS is no more, I felt really sad to not be able to go there anymore, after having exhibited there 5 years in a row. In contrast, I've exhibited at Musikmesse 14 years (!) in a row. It must be difficult to understand the depth and urge with which we, the experienced professional luthiers, need The Holy Grail Guitar Show, unless you've been there and done that enough times. I am absolutely convinced that our concept is the sole concept that can work if we desire the big names of lutherie around the world to say "yes" to us.”
Vice president, EGB