The Death of Boutique Pedals: Is Boutique Over?
Is the boutique pedal world feeling the pinch of global factors out of their control?
The Death of Boutique Pedals? A bold statement, but does the recent news of Fulltone Pedals closing herald the end of the boutique pedal world? Are rising international costs, and an oversaturated marketplace the death knell for boutique effects? When Josh Scott of JHS Pedals releases a video entitled “Is Boutique Over?” should we listen?
The Death of Boutique Pedals?
Is “The Death of Boutique Pedals?” something we should expect to see on the horizon? Is Josh Scott on to something when he says” Is Boutique Over?”
I’ll start by saying that I think the boutique pedal world is currently over-saturated. For example, in the last five years, I have lost count of how many Tubescreamer and Big Muff variations I have seen, played and written about. This certainly makes it harder and harder for certain designs to stand out from the crowd and for both existing and new boutique builders to make a profit on their designs.
On top of this, there are now significant outside influences which are having a huge impact on smaller pedal builders.
The international fuel crisis, the two-year global pandemic and how the impact on global supply chains all play a part. A lot of these supply chains still have not caught up and many large global brands, including Fender, have stated how this has affected their production. Therefore, small boutique builders will feel it even harder, as their pockets aren’t as deep.
Los Angeles-based Andy Mooney told The Australian Financial Review that while sales had surged 35 per cent to about $US945 million ($1.3 billion) last calendar year thanks to an extraordinary spike in demand for guitars, Fender could have grown by 50 per cent had it not faced myriad supply chain disruptions.
Additionally, financial analysts are predicting that many countries are potentially about to enter into a recession. Plus, there is still a war waging in central Europe, which has affected production of components for certain builders. The vacuum tube shortage has now been resolved, but prices are now 35% higher at least and could rise further.
These factors are all out of pedal builders’ control, yet some will affect them directly and have a huge impact on their bottom line.
Pedal Builders Struggling
We saw Mike Fuller recently state that he is closing his operation, downsizing, and selling up his small factory. He plans to move his Fulltone brand to a much smaller model to keep his trademarks and protect his patents. He has said he cannot afford to put his personal money into the business, and that it is no longer viable to make a profit.
Will Boutique go mainstream?
Mike Piera of Analogman recently had to re-make a lot of his pedals. The reason for this was that he was sold a bunch of fake components and only realised after he had built a batch of units.
This meant he had to take them all apart and re-solder genuine components, which he had to source, to make his King of Tone pedals.
What is also of interest is how Mike has started working with MXR pedals, who are owned by Dunlop. Together they are producing the Duke of Tone pedal and it will be branded MXR, though built and distributed by Dunlop. A move that another boutique pedal builder, Paul Cochrane made last year with his Timmy pedal. Then there was Jeorge Tripps, a giant in the early ’90s boutique pedal world, who now heads up and works exclusively with Dunlop with his Way Huge pedal range.
Josh Scott makes an announcement
Then we have the video below entitled “Is Boutique Over?” which was made and uploaded by Josh Scott of JHS Pedals, another pedal builder who started in the boutique world. Josh knows full well the cost of labour in the USA, the price for quality components and the cost of marketing in an oversaturated marketplace.
Therefore, I think we may well see the death of ‘some’ boutique pedal brands over the coming months and years. However, it may just evolve further with more partnerships with larger companies. As with anything in business, there will always be survivors who weather the financial storm.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
- Fulltone OCD v2: Fulltone/Thomann
- Fulltone closing: Loopnet
- Fulltone statement?: TGP forum
- MXR Timmy pedal designed with Paul Cochrane: Riff City
- Way Huge Way Huge Smalls Russian Pickle: Thomann
- Way Huge Smalls Supa-Lead Overdrive: Way Huge
- Way Huge Swollen Pickle MK IIS: Thomann
- mxr-duke-of-tone-analogman-king-of-tone-clone: MXR
I think this is just a load of bs. Plenty of other boutique builders have made it work [EQD, Chase Bliss, Old Blood Noise, Demedash to name a few who make truly unique pedals]. Mike Fuller is/was a bigot who people didn’t want to work with [Guitar Center, Reverb etc all stopped selling Fulltone pedals] anymore.
Yep – the writer of this article has an agenda to get clicks by being doom and gloom. Yes the market is saturated – dead or dying? Gtf outta here.
No. Not even close.
Boutique started as single-builder operations from homes as a small side-business. If anything, it may mean somewhat of a return to that.
In this instance though, Mike Fuller is an insufferable twat who would f-over end sellers left and right–I worked at two and had occasion to speak to him once; I wouldn’t want to repeat that.
I am very suspicious of the supply chain “issues”.
Buy what you are able to right now, and buy directly from the pedal makers whenever you can- it increases their profit margin. That’s all we can do for now.
If you’re not extremely wealthy today, you’re getting robbed by those that are. Eat the rich.
I mean, supply chain issues are very real. Go to DigiKey right now and observe the ludicrous lead times. And that’s just electronic components.
I wasn’t clear- I know the supply chain issues are real, I’m suspicious about the cause.
No, it’s not over. A couple well known builders who have said and did some outrageous things are now gone (thank God). The business model is doing very well for some and others are struggling like any business. The pandemic has made it more difficult to source parts because most all of them come from China.
Not even close. Some will fall, yes, but the pedal business has been oversaturated (same with synths, really). To me, the only brands that might be in trouble are those who continue to do business as they did at the start of this boutique era, the early 2000s. The designers and the users have evolved; give us something amazing, and we’ll gladly pay up.
Most people would love to make a living doing what they love to do. I bet his employees didn’t buy a ranch with land and a studio. Only the strong survive.
What is boutique essentially?
I just bought a Benson germanium fuzz…boutique or just expensive. I also have a Snouse BB2 on order…boutique?
Some consider JHS boutique.
So, what is boutique essentially, or what is it not?
Boutique used to mean point to point hand soldering. Now it just means any pedal over $175.
Everytime I hear some death seeker spouting off about the death of something in the music world I laugh.
Boutique is not dead but I hope it evolves with new builders with fresh ideas. The world does not need anymore Tube Screamer or Klon clones. I’m 58 so I am pretty set with the gear I like and use. But, I hope the younger generation of guitar players benefits with new tools and new sounds.
As has already been said, Fulltone was a good riddance.
Wish the same thing would happen to Mason Marangella/Vertex Effects, a known scammer, but for some reason the retailers keep his products…
Boss is best. my DD200 can make all the tones. Most of the boutique makers came from Boss to begin with. I have a boutique board but almost never use it.
Companies that stand by their products, especially if it is resold, have my appreciation and respect. And loyalty. An example is SushiboxFX, who treats a used buyer as his customer, just as much as the initial buyer. Companies like Fulltone aren’t service-oriented and did not ever have my business. When I heard stories of his arrogance I stopped considering buying one of his pedals. There are too many other companies who are worth supporting for me to waste money on him.
His name is Paul Cochrane not Tim
Well spotted, fixed that! Cheers
Sounds very similar to what is happening in Eurorack world. Some companies will disappear, some will remain, and others will come to be. For larger companies, the effect are layoffs a la Fender. For others, it’s massive price gouging like Moog and Gibson.
The only real problem in the pedal market is that it is choked with redundant and overhyped products, almost half of them made by con artists copying roughly open-source designs, then enticing buyers with fancy cartoonish graphics. At least half of this junk just needs to go, and another half of it is overpriced. A lot of these pedals are overcomplicated and no fun to use too, totally defeating one of the core principles of using stomps in the first place: no thought required, plug & play. What was an embarrassing variety of choices has become nothing more than simply embarrassing — another sign of the times in the sad, slow degrade of the state of guitar.
I don’t think it’s over at all.
Not the truly “boutique” market.
I mean, when you get down to it, it’s mostly a niche market for people who want to spend money on something unique and/or exclusive.
In today’s pedal world there are simply far too many brands referred to as “boutique” that are not.
Like I say…the market is always there for high quality, unique, or (and especially) exclusivity.
I know because I am a builder.
What I cannot do, however, is provide mass quantity manufacturing to discount stores/catalogs…and that’s perfectly fine by me.
These days there are so many affordable options out there, that someone can pretty much buy every effect that does everything you could want to fill the board for relatively little cash…just take a look at the Chinese clone market.
That doesn’t impact my business at all.
Again, those are NOT who truly “boutique” pedals are designed for.
They are designed for discriminating players who appreciate and have disposable income to spend on high quality and esoterics of design….and as I mentioned, some degree of exclusivity whether it be in the uniqueness of a particular design or simply due to low number production.