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