I sold my first guitar pedal in February of 2020. It was an amazing feeling then and it continues to be an honor every time I see a Siren Pedal making it on someone's pedalboard. I've learned a lot about the business of guitar pedals since then and I am continuing to learn more and more about this amazing industry each and every day.
My journey in this space has been an amazing one. I have met so many great people, have expanded my knowledge about guitar pedals and guitars, and have also learned a great deal about my own strengths and weaknesses as an artist and musician.
However, like anything new in life, you are going to get the bad with the good. I've made my fair of mistakes and have had several hiccups along the way and those are the items I want to focus on for today. So, if you are looking to start a guitar pedal company or perhaps you just launched one or doing DIY projects on the side, I want to make sure you can avoid the pitfalls I found myself in during my first year of business.
With all that said, let's jump into it. Here are the five things I wish I knew before starting a guitar pedal company.
1. SCARCITY IS KING
When I started Siren Pedals, I was in love with brands like Wampler, Earthquaker, and Walrus. I wanted to have a robust pedal line with my own version of famous circuits like Blues Breaker, Big Muff, and RAT so I launched with 3 pedals and followed up with 3 more a few months later.
That was a a big mistake. In the world of guitar pedals or really any business, scarcity is king. Just think about other companies like 1981 Inventions, Browne Amplification, or even Analog Man. They have 1 or 2 darlings, sell out, build a waitlist, and rinse and repeat. On paper, their pedals aren't vastly superior than anything else out there but the marketing hype built around them is astounding. People desire things which are hard to get.
2. PAY TO PLAY
There have been a few videos out there recently about other artists thoughts on this entire pay to play model that exists in the guitar pedal world. I'm part of the engine that fuels it but it is one of the few paths you have as a new guitar pedal company. No one knows you. You have no brand equity. The best next step is to reach out to someone who has influence and ask them to review your pedal in exchange for the product which often also includes a marketing fee.
It's one of the unfortunately realities of the space. It's a very expensive marketing move and necessity to really thrive which I knew more about before diving in.
3. MASTER ONE, NOT MANY
Now, this next lesson is something I already knew before going in but I had to relearn it. You should never be a jack of all trades when it comes to social media. Instead, you should just master one.
I made the mistake early on of stretching myself and Siren Pedals too thin by being active on Instagram, Facebook, here at YouTube, and a few other platforms including our blog and podcast. I quickly became of mediocre at a lot of them but not great with any of them.
If you are going to be active on social media, choose one platform and go all in. I wish I would have done that from day one.
4. YOUR TRIBE IS EVERYTHING
As I mentioned in the beginning of this video, one of the biggest blessings in this entire venture are all the great people I have met along the way - specifically, Siren's customers.
Your first customers are your biggest fans and cheerleaders. They are willing to take their hard earned money and invest in you which is quite the honor. I'm so thankful for every person who has invested in our products.
Build this tribe early and support them.
5. DON'T IGNORE THE FUTURE
This last point is the one item I think all new guitar pedal companies are facing. We get so excited about the idea of launching a guitar pedal company or creating that one pedal that we ignore how much the industry has changed or is changing.
For instance, let's talk about DSP technology or digital signal processing. Think about the type of pedals Strymon produces or even some of the more compact DSP options out there like the Walrus Mako series.
This is the future of our industry. Analog pedals will always have their place but DSP technology continues to grow and expand and it is a completely different beast - an expensive one at that which is why a lot of companies like mine have made that shift yet.
So, if you plan to start a guitar pedal company, you can always start in the analog space, but understand you will eventually have to cross that bridge to stay competitive.
As we wrap up, creating Siren Pedals has definitely had more plusses than minuses. I have learned and grown so much with this venture and like I said earlier, there have been many more victories than defeats but if I can help you minimize those losses by not making the same mistakes I did than I served my purpose with this message today.
If you are beginning that venture today, good luck with it and have fun! Please don't hesitate to reach out to me.