If you follow this blog and/or our facebook pages you may have noticed a gigantic controversy that happened yesterday. First off, I owe you, the reader, customer, former customers, and potential customers, a gigantic apology.
From the beginning of Wampler, I've always encouraged my employees to work on what I would call their "personal brand", meaning that I want them to understand that the social media platform is groundbreaking. It allows one to help others, share your knowledge with the world, and unfortunately sometimes hurt others. This can be great if used for the right purpose. I've allowed and encouraged Jason Wilding and Alex Clay (and others before them) to post on our company blog if they have content that brings value to those reading it. In fact, everything I do is an attempt to bring you, the reader, value in some way, whether that's by information, education, and/or entertainment.
Yesterday it got out of hand. I woke up to a blog post about Phil Mcknight (popular youtuber) with a title that had....emm colorful language in it. It went on to rant about the power of gear "influencers" and how it's important for them to know the subject they are broadcasting to the world. Granted, the content and general idea was correct. Phil said that you can tell the value of a pedal by looking inside of it, then he went on to say the exact opposite and say that you can't judge a pedal by looking at it. He pointed out the use of "SMD components" and "PCB mounted jacks" as proof. Even Robert Keeley jumped into the conversation to explain how these were actually far superior. However, the blog post in general came off like a bitter angry person. I can't share disciplinary actions but I do want you to be assured that the situation was handled internally swiftly, thoroughly, and appropriately.
I just want to extend my most sincere apologies to you. I want you to know that I've set up precautions to *never* let this happen again. And, I understand if you want nothing more to do with us - though I do hope in time you do forgive us.
Lastly, I think it's appropriate to give Jason the space to speak about this as well, where he was coming from, and his thoughts on this situation.
Unfortunately, I seem to have upset some people with my blog yesterday. I understand if the bad language, or the style of the piece, offended you and I would like to apologise for that. Unreservedly and completely.
Having said that, can we take a look at the entire situation from a broader perspective? One of the reasons I’ve been with Wampler for so long is that I am not a “yes man” when discussing issues with Brian. He has always encouraged me to be outspoken, to speak in a way that will make people stand up and think about the issues – and let’s remember what the real issue is here – it was to start a conversation that was being overlooked again and again. Brian had offered multiple times to have the conversation in private, or on a video collaboration with Phil, but it was rejected – we noticed that Phil had made a blog piece stating that no one was trying to tell help him and show how he was wrong… But this is exactly what Brian was trying to do – and continued to do so after publishing his blog piece.
In my position, I have to read all the forums and watch all the videos, I often start to notice patterns, comments and questions – and sometimes these are not based in fact, they are based on emotion. For example, a lot of people talk about pedal clones (and companies that do them), but where is the discussion about Strat copies or Plexi amps? At what point is it wrong to clone? That can’t be answered because it’s based on emotion, somethings “feel” wrong, and other things “feel" fine. We have always tried to help our viewers/customers by digging in and looking for the facts behind it. Any one of Brian’s recent videos about TubeScreamers will show that better than I can explain it here. A lot of people won’t like it, as it’s uncomfortable to have their thoughts and beliefs challenged, but at least then the conversation has been started.
Many of the things I have noticed since reading the reactions to my blog, is that many people who objected to it were overlooking the original issue. And that is to understand who is in the position of being an industry influencer. Phil said in his response video (that I watched once late last night and appears to have been deleted this morning) was that he is just a guy giving an opinion. I don’t doubt for a minute that is what he feels he is, but when you have 128k subscribers and you are giving opinions, you are influencing people in their choices. He is an industry influencer, and that is said as a compliment. He has built his channel to such a position that he can influence people to make a purchase, or not make one. One of the reasons I got so mad when writing the piece (which I fully admit that I should have backed away from the anger) was because I read the comment thread under the video, and it is safe to say that his comments had influenced the people watching it. Now, I – or we – do not have a problem with opinions, but what I have a problem with is when those opinions are presented in such a way they appear to confirm a myth that damages the industry we work in, and in turn, can lead the customer to a gear choice they are unhappy with because it’s not right for them.
Before Facebook, YouTube and gear forums, there were magazines. And if a magazine said that a pedal should have been much cheaper than it is just by looking inside, they would have upset many people who expected a higher standard of proof. Social Media has meant that people can now upload what they want, when they want, and it does not have to be accurate. Maybe accuracy isn’t as important as it used to be for some of us these days, maybe we don’t consider the value of accurate information. I don’t know. However, at the end of the day, it does nothing but hurt the end customer. This was the point that I felt I had to stand up for you, the customer, and to give balance to the video. Albeit in a way that was incorrect. If you look past the bad language choices, you see that every point I made was referenced to give the customer the chance to decide for themselves, rather than have it decided by one YouTubers opinion. A lot of people have asked why I am sticking up for a competitor’s product, but it doesn’t matter who’s pedal it was, this is not about JHS, this is about the entire musical instrument industry and the way it is viewed.
I can understand that some were upset by my comments and I am completely open if you would like to discuss this with me personally - I am easy to find on social media.The blog on the Wampler site is one where Alex and I hav the freedom to speak as we wish, although it is safe to say that should something like this come up again, I promise you that I will not use that kind of language, be more diplomatic, and leave the anger at the door. It’s in no-ones interest to let passion turn into anger –the last thing we all want is for that to be the issue, rather than the discussion we are needing to have.
Regular readers of this blog… I’ve been a good boy in recent times with almost no ranting, with little or no intention of deliberately highlighting things that will upset people… I know, quite unlike me. Forgive me, loyal readers of thine blog, if it has become boring.
Having said that, you might want to get the popcorn out. I’m not going to descend into some epic rant here because I believe in providing the evidence for you to make your own mind up - but I am also going to be cross-referencing stuff… So, get comfy, as to be able to fully understand what I’m saying you’re in for the full monty with reading this blog, two other pieces and watching a review of a competitor’s pedal. You might need to listen to a podcast as well (although to make it easier, I’ve transcribed what Brian and Blake said at the bottom).
Now, I hear you ask… what is this all about? Well, you could say I watched a video recently that pissed me right off. You could say that, and you’d be quite right. The video in question was full of such outrageous comments and statements that I feel the person who said it should have known better. Much better. Brian commented about it on the podcast (he basically stated his disbelief at what was said) and was then contacted by the reviewer in question who completely failed to understand why we, as pedal builders, would be upset by it. With this in mind, I’ve taken it upon myself to lay the facts out clearly.
Before I go further, I need to highlight a couple of things. I need for you to understand what a gear influencer is. It’s highlighted fully here. It talks about how they get paid (if they do), who pays them and goes on to explain what the difference is between a demo artist and a reviewer. If you still have the will to live after that one, read this one – it’s all about production techniques and why pedals cost as much as they do when a top-level USA based company produces them.
The person that got this rant going is a gear reviewer. He did not receive any payment for the video, he bought the pedal himself, so it was an honest one from that perspective. He was under no obligation to paint the pedal in any light other than his own. However, regardless of that, I feel that when you are going to put yourself out there to do this, you need to be careful in what you are saying because the casual observer can take what is said and draw the wrong conclusions.
I need to make a statement now before I carry on… so here it is. I am completely and utterly bored of people talking the purest horseshit imaginable about production techniques and parts used, and then basing the value of the product on their misunderstanding of how all this actually works.
There. I said it. It’s out of the way… So, in order to make my point, I’m going to have to break some of this video right down, line by line, and expose just how dangerous saying this stuff is. I say these kinds of comments are dangerous because it gives an unfair perception to the customers about the value of pedals, and what goes into them to bring them to market. To put it simply, it’s dangerous because it’s total crap.
During this video, in particular from the 6-minute mark onwards, he’s carelessly throwing around the price of things. “$1.50 for the power jack”, “$1.50 for the input and output jacks….” He even goes as far as saying “Parts wise, there is nothing to validate the cost of this $230 pedal.”
The devil is in the details.
OK, let’s rip this little section apart a little. First of all, his estimation of the cost of parts is so far wrong you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve spoken to Josh Scott and Robert Keeley, looked at our own price/rate (who I’m pretty certain you can agree to represent a fair panel of this industry), and the average cost of an input/output jack is no-where near as expensive as that in the numbers we buy them in. One of those companies (based on the 2017 figures) had a failure rate of just over 0% (on 21K+ pedals produced during that period). Another had a failure rate of just over 0% (based on 29K+ pedals made) and the other had a failure rate of just over 0% (based on a total output of 35K+). Of all the information I could gather, the only issues happened were due to human error in the production process. So, tell me again how a more expensive jack from Switchcraft would increase the value of the pedal to the customer? You have to admit, a combined failure rate of literally just over 0% based on 85K+ units really is quite remarkable.
Regarding pricing of parts, take a look at these.
One of them is $0.10, and the other is $2.26 (prices right at the time of writing, they are subject to change). Just for complete transparency - here are the places I am getting these pictures and prices from.
Although the page clearly states that these images are for illustration purposes only, I can assure you if you put the two different parts in a pedal and pointed to them with a screwdriver on a YouTube video you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Also, I’m not saying that Josh uses either one of these parts in his pedals, I’m just showing what a pointless exercise this all was... One of these parts is 2260% more expensive than the other. So, what is the point of looking at them in a pedal and passing comment on their value to the product, or in fact, their literal fiscal value at all?
I could go on and rip the rest of it apart, but it would just descend into me ranting, and I’m really trying not to, so here are the direct quotes that really annoyed me.
8:11 “I think honestly though; this pedal should be 130 – 150 dollars tops.”
8:18 “Even though it sounds good, I betcha it would sound better with some better parts.”
8:27 “Looking at these parts these are about the same quality components you get in a BOSS pedal so, it’s not like you are going to go down a lot in quality when you go to BOSS, it looks like they were put together in the same way.”
Having read what I say in the original piece about production costs, R&D, guarantee, (and let’s also factor in that Andy Timmons is paid a commission on each unit sold), how the hell can someone ascertain the cost of a pedal by a cursory look at the circuit board in that way? How does this person then go on to KNOW what would make it sound better? And most importantly… how are they able to compare it to a pedal by another company – especially when the only thing that compares the two companies is that they both make guitar pedals… the processes and intentions are extremely different between the two.
I’m having a hard time in keeping this all on point, so I’m going to stop now… Just remember what I said in the other piece about costs associated with making a pedal in the USA and think about comparing a pedal like this one to a boss pedal and only using your eyes to make that comparison. Don’t think about the location of the manufacturer. Don’t think about a limited lifetime warranty (which is what JHS offers to a pedal bought in the USA). Don’t think about artist commission. Don’t think about anything at all. Just look at the pedal guts and openly make uneducated and outrageous bullshit assumptions about them, and then broadcast them to 128k subscribers.
I will, at this point, acknowledge that he does say "We know we are not paying for parts when we are buying pedals - that's a wrong road mentally and you'll upset yourself. it's kinda like when you go for breakfast and you think about how much eggs and bacon cost"... but if that's the case, why go on to say all the other crap?
I’d like to thank Robert and Josh for their openness in discussing the cost of parts and their failure rates so frankly with a competitor. Just goes to show what a wonderful relationship we have in our little corner of the industry, and also explains why we kinda stick up for each other.
Transcription of Blake and Brian's podcast conversation - original here (Episode 193, from 45:00).
Brian: “This particular You Tuber had a JHS pedals… he liked the sound of it, and he opened it up, and he started talking about how he didn’t feel it was valuable enough because it had surface mount parts and look at this, you know, the way this is done, I’m not a big fan of that, you know, I don’t like these kinds of…”
Blake: “For real?”
Brian: “And, I’m sitting here, like, getting…”
Blake: “Not the surface mount thing again?!”
Brian: “YES! And I’m sitting here… And this is the guy with 200k subscribers or something like that. And I know the guy… super nice guy… and I thought about it and should I and just be like “Dude, why didn’t you do three minutes of research – we have an entire blog about this discussion. Literally, you type in surface mount v. through hole and it like pops up. It takes like, no research. We did it for you.”
Brian: “And he used to have music stores! You know how this works! There are profit layers… From distributors to retailers etc etc. And that’s the only way you can sell it around the world. You are not going to make a pedal in your garage and sell it in 500 stores. It’s just not going to happen.”
Blake: “It’s a different thing and we’ve beat that horse to death”
Brian: “Yeah, and I don’t want to hit that again – I guess… It was just a disappointment. To see one of my favourite YouTube channels not do due diligence. And research it a bit more thoroughly.”
For the sake of balance, here was the response to Brian's original comments, in a blog piece. I note how the real issues were not addressed, hence this blog being written.
Well hey hey! Normally, I don't write many of these blogs, normally because i'm too busy doing the youtube's and the breadboarding (aka circuit design). Plus, Jason and Alex are way more interesting than I am.
In January a combination of things happened to me, and us as a company. One of those being that our company became recognized by probably the worlds best business guru, Gary Vaynerchuk. I know, I know, you don't care about business, you care about tone, right? Of course, we all do! Regardless, I wanted to take a minute and write a piece that we can reference back to every time we get business questions (and to be honest, we get A LOT of questions about how we do our marketing). As you read the following paragraphs, please understand that I'm coming at this from a place of love, and a place of wanting to help you if you are starting a business, trying to run your guitar/amp/pedal/whatever business, or just feeling like things overall are feeling impossible... like it's impossible to get ahead, and improve whatever it is that you're going through right now. I also want to point out first and foremost: The business isn't just me, it's Jason, Alex, Jake, Cathy, Jeff, Jerry, Amanda (of course), Travis, Max, and just about everyone that's ever worked for us.
That being said, I bring you: "Why good things never come easy."
Don't let anyone ever tell you "it can't be done", or that something is impossible. In 2005 or so, I started writing a few books to help guitar players learn how to modify their guitar pedals. It was intended to be a book that would simplify electronics and bring it to a bigger audience than just Engineering nerds (no offense nerds :p ). A little later I started building pedals and eventually quit my work as a remodeling subcontractor to focus full time on all things guitar tone related. So many people tried to discourage me, even some that were close to me.... but I kept going.
Around 2010 or so I learned of a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk, and bought a book called "Crush it!". His book excited me so much that I drove all of my employees, friends, and family nuts with his ideas and business principles, and insisted that we follow his lead. I think I've bought that book (and his newer ones) about 50 times and sent it to various people over the past years in hopes it would help them actually.
Fast forward to 2016... I found out that one of our customers knew Gary himself after I posted something about loving GaryVee's videos, who invited me up to their office, which lead to a chance to meet Gary (AND be in one of his videos)...
...which lead to Gary asking if I'd like to be part of his next book. That book is available today, and to all of my entrepreneurial friends: You've got to check it out - it's fantastic! Here it is... Oh, and make sure you check out page 48
However, that's not why I'm writing this. I'm saddened, humbled, and overall more than anything... grateful.
I'm saddened that people still don't believe in themselves. That they talk theirselves out of trying, out of taking a risk, the negative self talk defeats them before they even TRY to start anything. Even talking to people at other companies at NAMM, I'm astonished. When they ask how we do what we do, I have no problems telling them. The most common response: "Wow, that seems like a lot of work!"
Are you kidding me?! Seriously? If you own a business and you aren't going to give it 1000% you're going to get beat. Your competition, at some point in time, will take your lunch money and shove you down in the dirt (metaphorically of course). This applies to musicians, and writers, and creatives of all types. It applies to high school seniors who are wondering what to do with their life. It applies to those in college who feel stuck, or are doing what "Mom and Dad said I should do" yet have no passion for that area in which they (or more correctly their parents) have chosen.
Success is simple: BUST YOUR ASS AND BE PATIENT. That's all it takes. Work harder than everyone else, like your life depends on it. Do everything possible to improve your situation. Are you having money problems? Do something about it. Throw out the TV, and sleep less. Learn new skills. Are you upset because your coworker makes more money than you? Do something about it. Change. Change. Change! You can't have change in your life without changing yourself. But remember - life is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't expect some magical way to "Get rich/find love/become successful with these 3 easy steps!"
I'm completely humbled and grateful for our customers and friends who believe in us. We exist purely to make your world a little better. Granted, we aren't curing diseases here, but it's incredibly satisfying to meet those who have just a little bit more joy in their life because they are coming home after a long day's work and playing on that new piece of guitar gear that makes them happy. Or, they write a song and send it out to the world and that song affects other people. Grateful isn't a strong enough word. Just please understand that all of the youtube videos I do, all of the podcasts, all of the facebook, instagram, twitter, and snapchat posts that my team and I put out - they are for you. They are for your enjoyment, entertainment, and/or education. You'll notice we don't "sell, sell, sell" on 99% of our posts. We don't look at our business that way. We believe we are in the people business, not the guitar pedal business. I go to bed thinking how can I make your life better with what I have to work with and I wake up with the same thought. For now that looks like guitar pedals, but who knows - maybe it's amps, or guitars, or VR instruments, or something entirely different in the future.
To all those that have helped us get here, and to those who work for me, have worked for me in the past, and/or put up with me, I'm indebted to you.
Day 1, Wednesday – “…there’s two L’s in Hell…”
It started like any normal day, not enough sleep and getting up to get the kids off to school… Once they had gone there is that horrible moment when I catch Mrs Wilding’s eye and she looks sad. She doesn’t like me going away - we are one of those weird couples that spend 24/7 together and thrive on it so it’s very hard on her as let’s face it, I’m off to California with my peers and she’s at home - but she accepts that it’s a vital part of the job so she puts a brave face on. Once I’d got my shit together and packed up, I got in the car ready for the drive to Heathrow. Now, the journey up is usually indicative of my week and unfortunately, this year was the drive from hell. It was absolutely pouring down, in the most English way, all the way there. I don’t mind driving in the rain, but when you have visibility of about 50’ and people are going past you at what looks like about 100 and they don’t even have their lights on it’s just plain scary. The English, what are we like?
Arriving at Heathrow I quickly found my travel buddies, Tom Quayle (who was about to have the biggest show of his life due to his Ibanez signature model being officially released), Jay Henson, Jake Willson and David Beebee, and we started settling in for the long journey to LaLaLand. We got on early due to Jake being picked out as needing extra attention by the customs guys (so we blagged on through the line with him) and found our seats. The flight was barely 1/10th full so we spread out and for once, got as comfy as possible. The best thing about the flight is that this is the chance I get to truly catch up with Tom (who everyone who is connected to me on Social Media knows I love like a brother) and as usual he unwittingly gave me about 10 guitar lessons during the flight! Bonus. The conversation with everyone was as random as usual - it went from theology to philosophy, music to movies, life to death and a lot about how our kids are trying to send us to an early grave. The highlight for me was when we were talking about how people misspell, or mispronounce, our names that led to a conversation about what our Darts names would be, Jake “There’s two L’s in Hell” Willson and Tom “Legatenstein” Quayle. Believe me, 9 hours into the flight when half of the group had been drinking somewhat it was much funnier than it sounds written here.
The absolute worst thing about the NAMM journey is US Customs. We’ve usually been up for 24 hours at that point and you are made to feel like a terrorist coming through… So, we puckered up and prepared for the inevitable. For once, we sailed through with barely any waiting and I found myself on the shuttle heading to the Wamplers and NAMM. Arriving at the hotel at around 9pm, I was almost dead on my feet – I got a text from Brian saying he had just left the convention center (he’d had to rewire one of the boards) so I had time to unpack… when I got the message they were back. I walked to their room and Amanda was half passed out already (not a good sign) and the first thing we said to each other was “You look as tired as I feel”. You would have thought that we’d all just hang for a bit and get some sleep, but no, that would be far too logical. I poured myself into bed at 2:25 having drunk a little too much.
Day 2, Thursday – “…my wife really fancies you…”
BOOM, 4 hours sleep. Thanks Jetlag, you are a cruel mistress. I Facetimed my family then staggered down to breakfast. We got to the show and I had a nightmare getting my badge so was about 30 minutes late getting to the booth. I was greeted with the booth being packed and poor Greg facing it on his own… This is the busiest Thursday I can remember at NAMM. It seemed like we were packed ALL day. The first couple of days tend to be all about the meetings and I was lucky that I didn’t miss any (a wise man doesn’t book the early slots). It’s usually the day that we all fly off in order to see industry friends around the immediate area as well and them dropping in to see us – it was a delight to see the likes of Seymour Duncan and Phil X – who I actually got a photo with this time based on the statement “Hey Phil, let’s have a photo together as my wife really fancies you”. Thursday is a bit of a blur to be honest, we had a LOT of people come by and they all loved the new pedals.
After the show we went out to someplace somewhere to eat. I don’t actually remember where. But, I think it was a Pizza. Probably was. We went back to the hotel via Target to get some supplies, accidently bought a ton of beer, and went back with the intention of being in bed by 11 so we would be prepared for the day ahead. Amanda did this… Brian and I on the other hand… 2:05 I went to bed after we talked about the new releases, next releases, our kids, our lives, absolutely everything. And we had the first discussion about my favourite time of the year… April 1st
Day 3, Friday - “…Nah mate, you’re talking bollocks.”
4.5 hours sleep. **sigh**. Up, Facetime, breakfast, show. Got there on time so had a moment to properly catch up with the guys on the booth. It still kinda freaks me out a little to see Groover Jackson and Bruce Egnator just walking around, and then there’s Dave Friedman, and Joe Morgan… most importantly Jerry Best, Steve Elowe, Paul Wilson and Avi Elkiss – the guys who make Wampler work from the manufacturing and distribution perspective, in other words, the guys that do the real hard work! Friday was also insanely busy, even more so than Thursday. It’s great, but it’s a nightmare. However, getting to meet Andy Martin was a highlight, he’s as cool in the flesh as he is on video!
Lord Thomas of the Quayle rocked up to the booth about 11:20, he was due to play on the booth at 12 but he had no patience so instead of 30 minutes everyone got almost an hour of unadulterated Quayle. That was the strangest part of the trip for me, it was the first time we got a little PA on the booth so Tom could use backing tracks… When I met TQ at Heathrow airport for my first NAMM in 2012 (effectively my first NAMM buddy) I instantly liked him and what a journey it’s been since then. We are now what you might call family friends, we talk regularly about the real world, he’s been a musical mentor to me… we did the Dual Fusion in 2013, I’ve seen him progress into this world class virtuoso and I don’t mind admitting that I got a fraction emotional when he was surrounded by a large group of people just marvelling at what he does best. Improvising. Yep, this was mainly improvised.
Yep, I know it’s portrait instead of landscape but this was for FB – people tend to hold their phones upright ;)
After the show (which included me sliding down the railings outside that Amanda assured me looked cool, but the massive bruise I’ve been left with meant it was anything but) we went out to meet up with some of the members of our Facebook Tone Group which was just ace. We all sat around drinking beer and eating food, just hanging out – for us this is what it is all about. The people, we do this as we are all the same, just people looking for great tone, so to directly connect with the people we help along the way is incredible. I ate too much, drank a little and just had the best time. Thank you guys for coming out, it was awesome. So… back to the hotel for an early night. As usual Amanda went to bed and Brian and I went to the firepit by the pool for a quick drink… we were joined this evening by a few other residents, one who quickly and with the deduction skills of Sherlock Holmes realised I was “European, probably British” and basically took over the conversation for an hour. The conversation actually started with him telling me that Princess Diana was murdered by MI5, to which I replied “Nah mate, you’re talking bollocks” and the conversation went on from there. He was mainly interested in talking about politics… which considering we appeared to be polar opposites on that subject it went quite well, he was much more drunk than I was so I’m not ashamed to admit I kinda walked him around in circles for a bit and then forced him to contradict himself repeatedly without him realizing it. I was actually being my online internet troll persona in real life! And no, he’s never been to a shithole country before... Once he had left the inevitable happened… we went to bed around 2:30 after Brian fell asleep mid conversation after a few beers were drunk!
Day 4, Saturday – “…two middle-aged guys loaded with camera equipment trying their hardest to get into a high school dance…”
The mad day. I arrived really early so actually got to try the new pedals properly. Although I was slightly hungover, I really enjoyed the day as so many people came by just to chat and hangout. We had Andy Wood on Synergy, another performance from Tom and it was all just incredible. I just don’t know where the day went. So many people! I had a load of meetings with dealers, saw some incredible playing and hung with friends – in particular PapaGates himself, Brian Haner, who is one of my favourite NAMM buddies and one of the few people who can talk as much rubbish as I can with the sole intent of saying everything and nothing at the same time... Perfect.
As the show was ending and it quietened down, I ran over to see the “competition” and had a great play through a load of Keeley pedals (Super Phat Mod is HUUUGE), hung and chatted with Robert, sat on Stefan Fast, trolled Josh Scott, checked out Chase Bliss and popped up to see CatalinBread which was kinda weird. It felt empty, obvious since Nic’s death it’s not the same as he would always be there, but no Howard… Scott… I dunno what’s happening, but I didn’t hang around long enough to properly find out. I just couldn’t.
After the show we popped into Downtown Disney to see our friend’s band play, and Brian and I trundled off to the annual pedal builders party… Rather stupidly we didn’t check the address and rocked up to the place it’s always held. We were denied entry by a well-dressed woman stating it was a private party. We told her we had been invited… when she dropped the bombshell that this was a high school dance did we realise how bad it looked… I mean, two middle aged guys loaded with camera equipment trying their hardest to get into a high school dance… we made our excuses and left VERY quickly. Once we arrived at the correct location it was wonderful, this is the only time we all get together so the conversations are tremendous. I shared a lot of abuse with Stefan Fast, trolled the crap out of Josh, laughed with Robert and shot some video with Andy Martin. We had a very interesting conversation outside that concerned how one of us had been totally disrespected by a heavyweight of the regular effects industry. I won’t go into details, but there is a video up, and it’s been heavily edited. Us ‘boutique’ guys kinda stick together and there are a lot of us now that have lost a lot of respect for that one guy. I’ll leave you to work out how that was! The venue was open to the public and there was Karaoke happening as well – a lovely lady called Bunny who must have been about 60 sang some incredible older lounge Jazz stuff in a really low register so everyone who sang after her was just treated to a load of drunken pedal builders chanting “BUNNY! BUNNY! BUNNY!” over and over. I honestly have no idea who started that **ahem**.
We got back, intended to go to bed early… beers, firepit, 2:10….
Day 5, Sunday “…Where’s Heidi?”
Got up super early as it’s the day I go home and I’m always really excited. The booth is always quieter on a Sunday so we all did loads of playing and everyone just floats around to see everyone else. April 1 was discussed a lot, hugs were had, goodbyes were said and at 5pm I walked outside, got smashed in the face by the heat and jumped on the shuttle to the airport. I arrived at the airport before TQ did, and he woke me up when he arrived (I know, how classy am I – I was snoozing as I was sat forward in my seat) and as with the rest of the journey, we just flew through customs and made our way to the plane via the Sushi bar. A couple of years ago we were served by a hilarious woman called Heidi and we wanted to be entertained by her again, but our calls of “Where’s Heidi” were greeted with “She got fired because she… well… kinda…” and we stopped him there, we didn’t want to taint her memory!
The plane was half empty again so we spread out and slept for 6 glorious hours. Once again, Passport control was easy and before I knew it I was doing 100 miles an hour past Stonehenge, home and into the arms of my family and one stupidly excited dog.
NAMM is great, but it’s bloody hard work and extremely tiring. It’s the only time I get to spend one on one time with Brian and we make more plans in those 5 days than we do in the next 360. I see the most inspiring players and come back a better player. Unfortunately for me and my family I was completely dehydrated when I got back and the next 2 days were a complete write off. I blame Brian. It’s always his fault.
Winter NAMM is right around the corner, and with the weeks leading up to it come the crazy of preparations to setup the booth, layout the board and get any marketing materials (shirts, stickers, etc) together. One of the biggest things that NAMM is known for is the plethora of new gear that is showcased by most every company. Some designs are reworkings and updated versions of existing products, brand new designs, or something completely out of the ordinary designed to make a huge impact on the patrons and tone chasers who keep up with NAMM news down to the wire.
Herein lies the issue with presenting at NAMM: what’s the best practice in regard to showcasing new products? In years past our brand-new pedals were given first looks on our social media platforms, either from visitors to the booth snapping a photo, us uploading a sneak peak, or your favorite YouTube or gear channel doing a quick video where someone showcases what we’ve got new. This year is a bit different for us though, because our ideals have shifted a bit with what we’re aiming for. NAMM is a stellar event, but it’s also a tidal wave of new information that overtakes all gear outlets for the days leading up to it, during it, and for weeks to come after it. We’ve got several new designs that we’re extremely proud to have ready, but the question comes in as to whether they’ll get lost in the shuffle of new stuff? Each product Brian and our team has worked on has many hours invested, tone-wise along with aesthetics, marketing plans, and the usual release details that often go unnoticed by most people when we release something new. Are we doing a disservice to ourselves showing our whole hand starting out?
So, our question comes down to this: Despite the designs being done for upwards of 5 new pedals, what do we show at NAMM? Do you go full-blast and hit everyone with all of the information at once, or take a select few and really hammer them home before introducing more? We’ve seen some companies showcasing their NAMM releases already, with the same idea applying of getting ahead of that tidal wave of information and making sure their product is visible and not lost in the mix. We follow a fairly punctual release schedule, so if a design isn’t mentioned at NAMM then it’s a pretty sure bet it will be following suit in a timely manner. This gives us time to prepare, get demos together and the pedals ready to ship to dealers without the tease…or is teasing part of the fun of it?
What do you think? Would you rather know in advance what’s coming up to prepare your wallet and board, or is it like knowing what you’re getting for Christmas, where the magic of the surprise isn’t there? In the end we want happy customers, so we’re curious to know what you personally think and would like to see?
Following on from bDub’s video about the 12 things he’s learned making videos for YouTube (see below), I thought I’d piggyback that and make 12 things I’ve learned being the main social media guy for Wampler in the last 7 years. For those of you who don’t know, I’m the guy that has been the constant with the social media for Wampler since early 2011. Other people have worked with me during that time, most notably Alex who’s been with us for almost 3 years now, but, most of it has been me and my warped sense of humour.
- People have opinions and they think they are facts. People are passionate about music, and they are passionate about their opinions associated with them. Especially when it comes to favourite guitar players. They may love the blues, or shredders, or whatever, but there are a LOT of people who misunderstand the concept of opinions. They have the final word and are prepared to destroy all those who dare to disagree! Let’s face it, we’ve all got into arguments on social media over pointless crap with strangers, but recently it appears to have hit new highs. My ban hammer finger seems to get twitchy much quicker these days.
- Memes are made to be stolen. One of the things that has caused me the most headaches is irate people shouting (well, typing in caps) “YOU STOLE THIS FROM MY BLOG WOT I MADES IN 2013” or something. The unfortunate thing about meme’s and graphics is that once they are on the internet, they spread like wildfire and it only takes one person to download it and put it somewhere else and all traces of the originator are lost forever. Subsequently, there have been times when things I’ve made have come full circle and come back to us, which makes me chuckle, and there have been cases when well-known outlets have been downloading stuff from us directly to reshare… It’s a difficult one, and one I try not to get grumpy about, but… you know… sometimes when a repeat offender does it over and over it becomes obvious and I let myself down and make a snide comment on their thread. I should know better really.
- Everyone thinks that you are the face of the company and you better not show any trace of personality. This is one that happens to me often. I quite often get a *insert expletive here* who thinks he can come on to my own social media presences and tell me off for putting them down when they act like an arse to either me or my actual real-life friends. I’ve been called many names, most recently a Nazi. As you can imagine, that wasn’t particularly nice but I’m a big boy now and sticks and stones and all that...
- Everyone thinks that because you work for a company like Wampler it’s all jamming with Brent Mason, making fancy meme’s and drinking fine wine with Seymour Duncan at NAMM and nothing else. Nah… it’s mainly planning strategy for marketing, B2B selling, watching market trends, trying to predict market trends, justifying decisions made about the current market, the future market and maintaining relationships. Basically, it’s about moving little grey boxes around the world. Sometimes you get the fun stuff, but it’s really really rare.
- Everyone is a world leading expert. On everything. No matter what evidence you place in front of them about running a business, they still don’t see why they should buy a pedal for $200 when they can buy a soldering iron and parts from “Hanks fishing tackle and Radio Spares for $35 and making it their damn self and it being just as damned good”.
- People think that who you are online is who you are in real life. What people have to remember is that working from home and doing online stuff can be kinda boring. When I get bored I partake in the age-old English past time of taking the piss. Although I do it in my real life, I pretty certain I’m not the stereotypical grumpy Englishman people think I am, or appear to be – here’s the thing, I often have to play bad cop to Alex’s good cop when dealing with trolls and people who don’t know when to stop talking. I dunno, maybe I am grumpy… but my wife tells me I’m not, and I’m not man enough to disagree with her on anything.
- People will tell the world with righteous indignation about bad things with a company on social media before even venturing into speaking with the company about the issue. Or, they will expect you to be online to sort their problem out 24/7 and have the answer for you in seconds. How many times have you seen “I’ve not received a response from them when I mailed them”… most of the time it will be 2 am on a Sunday, they’ve emailed you through the website and 10 minutes later they’ve gone out in public slamming you for the problem and your unprofessional way of not getting back to them. It’s massively frustrating, but you know, I’ve got to poop at some point!
- People will look for a correlation of events and try to draw conclusions from them, and they’ll do it all the time. “Yeah, well, Brian said he likes Uni-Vibes and next doors cat looks like Brian’s, he said the word vibe and wet in the same paragraph in a video in 2016 so I KNOW that a WampVibe is coming this year!”. Or something like that. You’ll know when stuff is coming because we’ll tell you. I mean, it’s not in my nature to tease people at all or anything like that **ahem**
- You get free stuff, all the time. I expect some of you have seen the pictures I post online of ‘my’ gear. The main thing is, it ain’t my gear. It belongs to the company (and others). I actually own 2 electric guitars, about 5 or 6 pedals (none of them are overdrives or distortions) and no amp. So, when I do gigs and take amazing gear, people think I’ve got amazing gear coming out of my arse. I don’t. I’m just lucky that this particular job means I have to have it here, for marketing. So, you know, it ain’t all bad…
- You spend all day chatting on social media. This is the one that confuses me the most. I am prolific on social media when I’m working, within the realms of my job – watching and analysing. But, once I take the work hat off, I disappear completely for a period of time. I am a family man and I protect the relationship with my wife and kids fiercely, so when I walk away from the computer, you won’t catch me on Facebook. I work from home and it’s 7 days a week, virtually 365 days a year, making multiple posts over multiple platforms for multiple brands. I keep in touch with a lot of our artists and dealers on FB and most of my relationship building is done there, so when I walk away, I walk away. It’s that, or I’ll end up being divorced.
- Fundamentally, most people (and companies) do not understand the concept of social media marketing. Which, in terms of other companies is great!! Hahahaha – KIDDING! But, I spend a lot of time watching and learning on social media, seeing what others are doing, analysing what we are doing and then making decisions on how to proceed based on what I see. I do have to say though, it’s a big rush when I see some of the biggest companies in the world blatantly taking our style and doing their version of it. It’d be better if I got 10% of the fee though! I speak to a lot of people who are allegedly marketing experts and most of them don’t get it. Don’t get demographics, don’t get what it means to try to get into people’s heads in the best possible way. A few do, and when I find them, I talk to them a LOT!
- A lot of people want to take your job. I understand that, completely. I have a cool job and people can think they can do better. Especially on the graphical side. We’ve, well – I’ve, really honed the look of the range in recent years graphically. We made a conscious decision on our look and I’ve continued to produce the graphics according to that plan. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read “Your pedals look shit mate” or something. It’s usually a graphic designer from the other side of the world who’s looking to get the work for themselves. Unfortunately, unless they want to do all the other stuff I do as well, it probably won’t happen. Because you see, we don’t all have one job at Wampler, we have about 4!
Thank you for listening to me ramble and for your support of this blog, this is my first one of 2018 and I hope to be filling your eyes and minds with more irrelevant crap in the future! Despite what I have written above, I genuinely adore my job and interacting with people as much as I do. It's one of life's simple joys to be able to connect with so many people, from so many cultures, from so many countries, each and every day...
... and, there is a lot more to this, but I'm not going to give all my secrets away!
We had a great year here at Wampler and for that, I'd like to thank you all for your part in it.
Throughout this year we've launched ourselves back into the release schedule (after an extremely quiet year before) and seen some instant classics being put into boards all over the world!
First up was the Dracarys, a brutal high gain pedal that not only brings the brootalz but also more classic rock tones.
Ethereal - finally! Yeah we know, we first showed it 18 months ago and many people felt like we kept delaying it, we didn't, we just wanted to make sure it was right. And safe to say, Brian made it perfect!
Next up came The Doctor... inspired by a conversation that Brian had with Brad Paisley that led to some prototypes (SkyLine and WheelHouse) a few years back, finally released into the main line in 2017.
Speaking of Brad Paisley... The Paisley Drive Deluxe was up next. Having used the Paisley Drive now for 7 years Brad, Brad wanted us to incorportate his other favorite Wampler pedal into a unit, the Underdog. The Underdog has not been available for years and years now, so this was a welcome release for Brad fans everywhere!
And finally, the big one. Our most requested pedal EVER. When we bought out the Tumnus 2 years ago it was so well received it kinda blew us away, but we couldn't help but notice people wanted a full-size version and, well, they wanted it to be Wamplerized. Mainly with a three band EQ. We had a few hairy moments upon release as there was an issue with it, but we did everything we can to put it right for our dealers and most importantly, for you.
So, that was our year in pedals. We are extremely excited to bring you new stuff next year, I'm telling you now, it's already shaping up to be an amazing set of releases! Watch this space!
As always, it's not just about the pedals, we get up to all sorts of nonsense online as well, we host THE best gear group on Facebook, we have our regular FB page that we post stuff ranging from useful right down to extremely silly, we have a lively Instagram page, we tell stupid jokes on Twitter and Brian is always bringing it on our You Tube channel. What it is, I'm not sure, but he brings it. As you are reading this, you probably know about our blog, but it's worth checking out should you stumble across it. Finally, as tone chasers ourselves, we bring you the Chasing Tone podcast... We sometimes even talk about gear on there!