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It seems like this is a difficult business. More and more craftsman are dropping off the map. Rafael Navarro, Fred Lebayle, Benjamin Allen, Liu Shizhao, Phil Barone, etc........ I just did a review for a JX Custom tenor mouthpiece and have heard from 20-30 people who wanted to order one but the maker isn't responding to emails. Is this a case where an artists mindset is not in sync with a business mindset I wonder? I was thinking of all the art galleries around my area. The artists just focus on creating their masterpieces and then hand them off to the galleries. It seems like they don't want to be bothered with the interpersonal back and forth of dealing with customers. I can see how making something you think is amazing and then having a customer who is unimpressed could wear thin on an artist or craftsman pretty quickly..........
 

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Is this a case where an artists mindset is not in sync with a business mindset I wonder?
I'd say you're right. The same goes for musicians. Very few good musicians are able to handle the business of music either. Note how the successful bands are usually run by singing drummers…
 

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Despite a shrinking market, in the last few years I have seen an incredible number of new makers or sellers (not only mouthpieces), some fare well and others are farewells.

You can only dilute business so much.
 

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Interesting question Steve and funny you should mention the behavior of artists. My mother manages a small art association in northern New Jersey and they are trying to run a show for young and unknown artists. She went around to many of the colleges in the area that have programs and very few of the art students/artists-in-training had any interest in showing their work. She wondered how they are ever going to make it as artists if they don't care if anyone ever sees their work or not.

It seems to me making sax mouthpieces is just a tough business these days with lots of competition and a well developed marketplace for used gear. I'm not sure it's an artistic disconnect as much as just a supply and demand issue.
 

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I think Navarro is into moving horns. If someone else makes it the business is a lot easier!
Also Barone is selling horns.
I think Ben Allen had a lot of health problems
Lebayle...well according to posts here ...just be aware, read them and make your own decisions.

As fast as people leave more enter. Usually they dont last long. Doing good work, providing customer service and running a business is a lot of work. I think a lot of new makers come in and make a little splash and think it will last. Then the real work happens and you dont get magically wealthy in the way they imagined it would be.

The guys that stick around who are actual makers do it because the love the work. If you dont you are not going to last.

Ive been at this for over 15 years. I still struggle to improve designs and execution. I dont know what I would do with myself if I didnt make mouthpieces and I pretty much sell as many as I want to make. I used to get worried about new makers...I have not kept a list but in that time there have to have been 50 or more come and go.

I think guys think they are going to be the next Jody or Theo but without the years of building respect and business. Its pretty much like anything else in life...when the real work begins people vanish.

Note: Im not accusing the listed guys of being lazy..Barone worked for years but Navarro wasnt around long in when you consider the scheme of things....but in general X Mouthpiece company you hear about tomorrow will likely be gone in 18 months.

Keith..I dont think its a supply and demand issue. I think its a dream vs reality issue. If you go into this business to get rich you are doing it for the wrong reasons and living in a fantasy world. Can you make a living at it? Yes...but it doesnt happen overnight. If dedication does not outweigh need or greed say good bye to that establishment/maker.
 

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Yes, it is the old issue of doing the work vs. running a business. I've done it many years doing the work and falling short on the business side and somehow survived until I simply got tired of new guys coming in and stealing / plagiarizing my stuff, and, most importantly, making a crapload of money doing so.

It was a different business but the underlying principle is the same. I toughed it out for 15 years and then I was completely burned out, working 2 jobs but I don't regret one minute nor any of the nights / weekends spent to make a deadline. It's a learning process in every possible respect, including respecting those who chose a similar path.
 

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I agree with Steve.
The main reason I don't want to enter the refacing market is simple: I'm a musician and want to focus on that. I'm quite happy refacing from time to time but not on a daily basis. I actually feel better making one "work of art" per year than doing "work" all over the year. At least that's how it would feel, regardless of the quality outcome.
 

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... Note how the successful bands are usually run by singing drummers…
Now, wait a minute ... I've recently been playing in a big band that has an excellent singing drummer. We're currently doing about two free gigs per year (& no paid gigs). Can I conclude that if we put him in charge, the band would become successful?
 

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Is this a case where an artists mindset is not in sync with a business mindset I wonder? I was thinking of all the art galleries around my area. The artists just focus on creating their masterpieces and then hand them off to the galleries. It seems like they don't want to be bothered with the interpersonal back and forth of dealing with customers. I can see how making something you think is amazing and then having a customer who is unimpressed could wear thin on an artist or craftsman pretty quickly..........
Well... I know one guy in particular who is a much better mouthpiece maker than a businessman... but I digress.
 

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The thing with accessories or appendages such as mouthpieces is that there are huge profits to make, much bigger margins than saxophones. Raw materials are cheap so a canny entrepreneur can afford the marketing (which sadly can include shills, freebies for reviewers, loud marketing hype etc.etc.) Often the real artisans aren't so much into that kind of thing. They rely on word of mouth, and sadly fashions and fads can take over that kind of honest endorsement.

I'm no mouthpiece artisan of course, but I am a producer/entrepreneur. Luckily for me I am non-profit so can do it almost as a hobby, or labour of love. If I had to make a living from it I'd be different kettle of fish but as it is I have survived. I think there may be quite a few who get fed up with sending things out for review or giving to endorsers because in this case it is so completely subjective those things almost become meaningless.

So you either go with the over the top with Better Call Saul type of marketing hype or you just settle into a little niche and get on with it hoping you can survive.
 

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Well, duh! Business Schmiznizz. They are obviously being made obsolete by 3D printers. It’s started, folks. Resistance is futile. 8-O
 

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Well, duh! Business Schmiznizz. They are obviously being made obsolete by 3D printers. It’s started, folks. Resistance is futile. 8-O
No 3D printer can replace the soulful finished craft executed by the gentle hands of a blessed refacer who puts love and faith in his work. There's soul in music and so it is in music related craftsmanship. Maybe one day these printers get perfect finishes (or maybe they do already) but if you want character in a mouthpiece, you need some degree of imperfection I'd say.
As for the moment all that I hear from 3D printed mouthpieces without handmade finishing sounds quite artificial to my ears - nothing I would seriously care for at the moment.
 

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You can only dilute business so much.
It seems to me making sax mouthpieces is just a tough business these days with lots of competition and a well developed marketplace for used gear. I'm not sure it's an artistic disconnect as much as just a supply and demand issue.
I agree with these posts and am actually surprised at how many new brands have shot up and succeeded, at least for a while. Part of it seems to be like fashions that come and go. Navarro was like a firestorm. Yet, in spite of all the new makes, the vintage market appears to be doing quite well, which is rather difficult to comprehend. Add to this that the bulk of the market is in tenor mouthpieces and there must be many, many individuals with loads of mouthpieces. Otherwise, it doesn't add up with the saxophone losing altitude as an instrument at a steady pace. It may get a lot worse yet, but thankfully there are also makers who have been around for a long time with what is hopefully a faithful base of costumers and will survive.

Well... I know one guy in particular who is a much better mouthpiece maker than a businessman...
Ditto!
 

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I kinda wonder just how many you need.
I don’t think there’s a shortage of makers at all.
Maybe a shortage of competent makers, but not a shortage in general.
I would only argue that the baritone market is barely catered for at all.
And even those that do make Bari pieces, just rehash old high baffled pieces that are plentiful anyways.
 

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I would only argue that the baritone market is barely catered for at all.
And even those that do make Bari pieces, just rehash old high baffled pieces that are plentiful anyways.
Eric Greiffenhagen, for instance, does a *bit* more than that.
 

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Baritone mouthpiece makers ? True, there aren't many, but how many do you need when, as well as Erik Greiffenhagen, both Ed Pillinger (PPT) and Eric Falcon (Saxquest) are turning out high quality examples ? Theo Wanne also makes one - the "Wanne Durga."
 

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No 3D printer can replace the soulful finished craft executed by the gentle hands of a blessed refacer who puts love and faith in his work. There's soul in music and so it is in music related craftsmanship. Maybe one day these printers get perfect finishes (or maybe they do already) but if you want character in a mouthpiece, you need some degree of imperfection I'd say.
As for the moment all that I hear from 3D printed mouthpieces without handmade finishing sounds quite artificial to my ears - nothing I would seriously care for at the moment.
Thank you for your sentiments (Im not going to get into the 3d issue here). Ive been making pieces for over 15 years. I dont claim to be a mpc god or perfect. However, I constantly strive to improve my craft. I have literally been told by a number of well known makers that my process for making pieces is "Over the top crazy". I literally play test every mouthpiece and make final adjustments to pieces with a horn in my lap. Makers tell me "Everyone is going to sound different on a piece". That is true. However, there are adjustments in a piece that cannot be measured when making, baffle adjustments are IMHO critical. This is one reason you find fewer and fewer pieces with rollover baffles. There are some designs that are more forgiving than others. This is why some companies who machine pieces have eliminated them. If a rollover is not perfect it acts like a dam, reducing power, killing resonance and clarity.

For me, the longer I make pieces, the more important the "Horn in lap" method becomes critical. Its not because you are going to sound like me but rather feeling the response of the entire piece and assessing the depth and color of the pieces initial tone. There are minute changes across the entire piece..the facing, window, length, thickness of the table, baffle height and shape as well as chamber size. These elements react to very sensitive changes. Its my assertion that no machine can adequately asses them. Music is a human endeavor. Addressing these variables creates a piece from one that plays well to one that can eventually disappear from awareness. My goal is to help give players the tools they need to make music and to not have them think about gear. Gear should never be a distraction from the creative process.
 
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