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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:06 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 16, 2003 12:27 pm
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Location: Kingston WA
I am still making and accepting orders for keyed flutes and key retrofits - since that seems to be what everyone wants these days! Am trying some new things in the process and new ideas that will help prevent any significant wear and tear on my hands.

I just wanted to make this clear. Any change to this status would be reflected on my website.

Am not so sure I will be maintaining my CITES permits into the future and may just simply end this when the APHIS permit expires in December. Boxwood and Mopane will still be available for International orders, as well as other non-CITES woods that I might decide to use. In general I have noticed a significant decline in international orders from Europe especially where the buyer must also obtain a CITES permit. Most of the individual $5 permits that I ordered in the spring expired before they were used. I ordered 6 more for the fall in early August and so far the DMA hasn't even cashed the check that I sent. I have only one international order pending that requires this and that person cannot obtain their permit until I get mine and the flute is inspected and the permits signed. At a certain point I will decide that this simply isn't worth the hassle or cost - especially if the individual permits that I have to have on hand end up expiring mostly.

Am seeing a decline in orders in general. I think many are sensing the inevitability of the current economic bubbles popping and nobody I know is benefitting from the Trump Tax Cuts. I certainly am not. I usually get 5-10 Folk Flute orders a month but this has slowed to a trickle. Fortunately a backlog of keyed flute orders is keeping me busy. I go back to the beginning of the Bush years when orders more or less stopped for several months (actually this happened during the first few years of both Bush Administrations) and sense that it will be similar but on steroids this time. This always happens after the Republicans pass tax cuts benefitting the super rich - this is a fact, not a political statement. A recommendation to my fellow makers - get prepared for this. For my Nancy and I it has meant getting any credit card debt paid off monthly, becoming spendthrifts and actually putting money in a savings account for once. I need to buy a bunch of silver for rings and keys while it is still in the $14/oz range because it will soar when things hit the fan!

Casey

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2018 2:29 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 24, 2002 6:00 pm
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Location: Sevilla, Spain
Besides, do you think flute market is getting crowded? I mean, most of flute players sell instruments to get new ones, there are lots of antique flutes and makers continue producing new instrumets. There are more flutes than players!
S.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:50 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 12:44 pm
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Location: Washington State
I just found out something interesting. An acquaintance of mine who imports Chinese instruments said that China had no permit requirements for exporting instruments containing CITES woods. AFAIK, the only wood in common use that does require a permit is 'zitan', or small-leaf Indian rosewood. Maybe it's CITES I instead of CITES 2? Otherwise, musical instruments apparently don't have enough "quantifiable" wood to justify restrictions. Only lumber is restricted.....20,000 erhus exported annually(mostly to other parts of Asia), most made of some type of dalbergia. If you don't know, an erhu contains quite a lot of wood, probably triple or quadruple that of a flute.

On the other hand, the snakeskin does require a CITES permit, on every single erhu. I guess it's OK to kill trees, but not OK to kill snakes.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 4:16 pm 
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Location: BC., Canada
Is the increase of crafted, musically first class, inexpensive common sense delrin flutes for all seasons and reasons, the influx of modern makers, home makers, use of pvc, and consequent increase of used and antique flutes on the market, lower sales, all adding to the CITES' bombshell effect? Will all this market change lead to a correction in flute prices in general and new flutes in particular?

Best wishes,

Keith.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 1:55 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 5:47 am
Posts: 178
Location: Surrey/Hants border, England
I own a delrin flute, (just purchased it), & it has all the tone & quality that I will ever need, as an amateur.

The more affordable these are, the more people will buy them, (no fuss about storing, or 'oiling', etc).

These can, & are, being made for £150, & that is a sensible price for a beginner to pay out.

(It equates to a chromatic harmonica, or a solid wood ukulele.)

I'd start saving for your retirement, if I were you. :D

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 9:44 am 
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Location: Stockton, NJ
IMHO, I don’t believe that flute prices are a function of supply and demand. In reality, if a maker can’t recoup the cost of production and generate a reasonable profit, he will most likely stop making flutes and move onto something that provides a living wage. With low demand and if buyers are not willing to pay the costs of the better makers, the market will collapse, flute prices will not “correct” themselves. All that will be left will be less expensive flutes, think delrin, Pakistani and a few makers with lower costs of production - however they manage to make ends meet, whether by using less expensive materials or by saving time without the meticulous care of the “better” (and more expensive) makers.

I don’t think that any flute makers are rolling in the dough and can simply cut their prices. Correct me if I’m wrong.

John


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:02 am 
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jjdura wrote:
IMHO, I don’t believe that flute prices are a function of supply and demand. In reality, if a maker can’t recoup the cost of production and generate a reasonable profit, he will most likely stop making flutes and move onto something that provides a living wage. With low demand and if buyers are not willing to pay the costs of the better makers, the market will collapse, flute prices will not “correct” themselves. All that will be left will be less expensive flutes, think delrin, Pakistani and a few makers with lower costs of production - however they manage to make ends meet, whether by using less expensive materials or by saving time without the meticulous care of the “better” (and more expensive) makers.

I don’t think that any flute makers are rolling in the dough and can simply cut their prices. Correct me if I’m wrong.

John


You are not wrong :-)

The first flutes that I ever made were Native American flutes, and I got into making them during the "Renaissance" of these instruments when they were surging in popularity and there were not a lot of skilled makers. Even at the peak of that time, there were no makers who were rolling in the dough, and at best most of us were making a very modest living doing something we liked. But in response to the popularity of the instrument, suddenly there was a massive influx of new makers, most of them weekend hobbyist makers who wanted to earn some extra money doing something they liked. I saw the writing on the wall and began to diversify my flute making so as not to be dependent upon a single niche. That market eventually took a dive and many of the part-time makers vanished. Even the absolute best of the full-time professional makers struggled a bit and in order to keep their market share they attempted to undersell each other. This hurt everybody in the end.

The result was a lot of sub-par flutes and a bunch of makers squeaking by on low wages.

This is the perennial problem with any type of craft such as flute making. There are always makers who are willing to work cheap (or cheaper) in order to stay in business, which is perfectly understandable, but enough of that sort of thing leads to buyers having this expectation that flutes should be cheap.

I'm a pretty efficient maker and I've spent a lot of time streamlining my methods so that I can make flutes quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality. But there are limits to this. Outside of a fully automated "factory" there is only so much speed that a solo maker is going to achieve without compromising quality. So my assessment is that many of these makers who are working with Delrin are not simply more efficient than others, but rather that they are willing to work for a lower wage. Delrin is not a cheap material. It's actually on par with buying rosewoods, so it's not a savings for the maker to use it. It is not easier to work than wood, and it presents it's own challenges in getting it to look good. I've made a lot of Delrin instruments and I can say with some authority that it doesn't work faster than wood, and in many cases I've found just the opposite. Boring and reaming is slower because you have to avoid heat that will melt the material, and I have to spend more time sanding it to make it look good.

So what this means is that the less expensive Delrin flutes are really a safety net for makers. Players tend to think that because the flute is plastic it should be cheaper, even though there is absolutely no reason for them to be so (based upon my previous observations). Therefore, makers are willingly working for less money to capture the "entry level" market or at least keep one foot in it. This is a reasonable economic move, in the same way that many makers are willing to wholesale or consign instruments, getting less money for their work in order to have the security of larger markets. But this does effect player expectations, and if a large percentage of capable makers all rush to undersell each other or capture the low-end market, suddenly the perceived value of flutes has been lowered.

This is not universal, of course. There are top makers who don't play that game and who stay busy because they have the reputation to ask a living wage. They may know leaner times now and again, but they ride it out and are often still in business after the dust has settled. A friend of mine who makes Native American flutes and who has survived the various fluctuations in that market once commented on the phenomena of "everyone racing against each other to see who can make the least amount of money for their work", and how that phenomena ultimately sabotaged the very makers who instigated it when suddenly their market disappeared.

I've heard people say that this is the way the free market works. Competition and the ability to produce a good product at lower prices is the nature of it. That is certainly true on one level. The problem is that we live in a culture that does not value art very much to begin with. Musicians face this every day. People think music should be free, somehow. And artisans (such as flute makers) are already working for very modest compensation. Part of my own unwillingness to cater to the notion of "cheap flutes" is because I don't want to contribute to devaluing my fellow artisans (or myself). It's a bit like an unofficial "union" for flute makers :-) I think that if makers are producing a really good product they should do their best to ask a living wage. I've known makers who have been at it for years, have real skills, but who are willing to make $15 an hour for their time just to be secure in the market. It's an individual choice, but that just hurts everyone.

Recently my creative partner on my Boehm headjoints traveled to Japan and got some of our headjoints into Yamano Music (largest music store on Earth). He had lived in Japan before and he made a very interesting observation on the cultural differences. He said that Japan, as a culture, values artisans far more than we do in this country. Hand-crafted instruments or anything of real quality is much more recognized and valued, and people will pay for it. He was generalizing, of course, but he felt that if you bring something to market over there that is absolutely top quality, players will think nothing of slapping down the money for it. It's not that they have more money available to them, merely that they perceive more value in art than Americans do. I don't know how universally true this is since I've never been there and this is all hearsay. But I thought it an interesting observation nonetheless.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:57 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 16, 2003 12:27 pm
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Flute making has provided me a decent wage for the last 15 years ever since I got some sage advice from a friend whose career was as a marketer in the music industry. Vertical stratification and being aware of opportunity costs and making ruthless and frank price adjustments so that one activity got paid the same per hour as any other (for instance one key takes about the same amount of time and money to make as an entire Folk Flute - which is why I charge the same amount for each) was the key. I've been at this long enough that I have a reliable and expanding client base with much repeat clientele.

Like guitars and automobiles there will always be some degree of demand. This is less sensitive to the number of makers and more sensitive to the state of the economy. When people stop buying guitars and cars they usually stop buying flutes at the same time and its usually because the Fed or the US Government has caused a bubble to pop resulting in higher prices for everything and increasing unemployment. The explosion of homeless encampments here in Seattle and elsewhere are leftovers from the bubbles that popped a decade ago. The contrarian economists that I follow who have been correct about past bubbles popping are saying we are in for a doozie. Soon.

Precious metals are going to shoot up so I am buying silver like crazy for flute rings and keys. My retirement income plan includes having an inventory of flutes to sell for a decade or two and so I am investing for this.

Ah! Delrin vs. wood. Perhaps the primary reason I don't like Delrin is the fact that I don't like machining it. Also one of the best suppliers of Blackwood is just 3 hours south of me. I also have a huge pile of it that was partially turned into clarinet parts from wood harvested in 1979 that I got very cheaply from American Science and Surplus. With these resources, why would I even consider Delrin? Properly sealed and cared for the Blackwood can survive the deserts of the SW and the Middle East.

Casey

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36+ Years as a Flute Maker!
Ergonomic Flutes for Small Hands since 1986
http://www.caseyburnsflutes.com
http://www.folkflutes.com


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