The Maker and The Kickstart

I am back! I did not mean to be away from publishing for this long, however an unfortunate happenstance in my family meant my focus had to be somewhere other than this blog. Now that I am back, I will be exploring marketing topics on a weekly basis – right here every Monday.

For the past month, I have been working on a business project. It includes using a Kickstarter and some third-party manufacturing. For those reasons, and because I am a guitar player, I was excited to find Fryette’s Valvulator GP/DI Kickstarter project.

Fryette A.K.A. VHT

Honestly I missed the rebrand. I follow amplifier companies like Orange, Traynor, Victory (now that it actually exists) and BadCat very closely; Fryette/VHT never quite made it onto my radar. The only thing I have heard about the company is that Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom singer/lead guitar) uses VHT power amps in his live set-up, and I read that 5-ish years ago.

My lack of knowledge aside, VHT-now-Fryette has a strong line-up of amplifiers and tube-based devices that range from a vacuum tube buffer and power supply to 120-watt 3-channel KT88-tubed face melters to small-ish 30-watt class A EL84-powered heads. Steven Fryette, the company’s namesake, founder and product designer, has 40-years experience making noisy electric devices, and the company itself is 25 years old.

So a company with two-and-a-half decades under its belt has created a Kickstarter campaign. Some may dismiss it as something the company shouldn’t have to do; I think they are missing the point.

Size Matters

Fryette’s lowest powered amplifier is 18-watts and that’s is it is running at half power (it’s the 30-watt head linked above). The majority of it’s products are tube amplifiers that must sit on top of or nearby a speaker cabinet, barring the intervention of other cool-but-expensive technology. The product they are Kickstarting is a 1-watt amplifier that does not need a speaker cabinet. It can be used with headphones or directly into a recording preamp or into a speaker cabinet or any combination of those (and more).

That means the product is a new direction for the company that may not be accepted by the guitar-playing public, so a Kickstarter makes perfect sense. There is a strong statement made if the project is fully funded: the investment necessary to get the product on retailers’ shelves comes from people that have confirmed their desire to see the product on store shelves. Being part of that investment also has positive consequences.

Funders get a sense of pride from being intimately connected to a product in addition to a reward. That direct connection will enhance Fryette’s reputation as funders tell friends of their monetary participation. On that note, the rewards for being a funder deliver everything from the simple (t-shirt and company sticker) to top-shelf (one of the three production prototypes or unit #0001).

Everybody wins, assuming there are funders.

Be Convincing

Integral to a Kickstarter campaign is showing that the product will be useful to the end user. If that value cannot be communicated, it is nigh impossible to secure backers for the project – few will invest in a product that will not give them something.

Luckily for Fryette, convincing potential funders of the product’s value is easy. After all, it is an amplifier designed to make beautiful noise, so simply find ways to show off its noise-making capabilities!

Demonstration videos explain different facets of the final product have been uploaded every week. They range from comparisons between traditional speaker cabinet/microphone recording versus recording directly using the amplifier to waveforms of playing dynamics being used to show how much more satisfying it is to play through a tube amplifier instead of a digital simulation.

Pretty Pictures

It is also clear exactly what the product is. Last week, images of the front and back panel were uploaded, complete with an explanation of what every knob, switch and plug does. This weekend, images of use-cases were uploaded.

These images are normal for a finished product (instruction manuals are a thing), but at this stage, they fill the same role as the videos that have been uploaded. Knowing what the device is capable of is key to a guitarist, especially one that is considering investing in a product that is just a prototype right now.

When Do I Get My Amp, Man?

Between February and March of next year, assuming the project is fully funded. Fryette notes that every other variable keeping the product from being produced has been eliminated; the company knows what it is doing, so the only question is money.

I sincerely hope the project is fully funded. For a generation of apartment dwelling, on-the-move guitar players, a 1-watt tube amplifier that can go directly into a USB powered 2-input recording device or front-of-house mixing console is an excellent innovation.

Does that mean it will be accepted? Heck no; the world is full of great ideas that never made it off the ground. Keep an eye on the project’s Kickstarter page, contribute if you love the idea, and start counting down to November 5th.

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