Creating the world's largest music instrument sharing service
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Fretish acquires Sparkplug. Thousands more instruments to rent. Thousands more users to rent instruments to (when everything returns to “normal”).

Boston, MA, April 15, 2020 – Fretish, LLC (“Fretish”), New England’s leading music instrument sharing service, announced today that it has acquired Sparkplug Marketplace, Inc. (“Sparkplug.it”), the original peer-to-peer music instrument rental marketplace and community.

Founded in 2014, Sparkplug introduced the “sharing economy” of music instruments to working musicians. Playing a prominent role at SXSW and other music festivals, Sparkplug quickly became an invaluable resource to musicians needing gear while on tour or heading into the recording studio. Within 5 years Sparkplug grew to several thousand users with an equally impressive number of listed instruments and recording venues.

Fretish was launched in 2017 by serial entrepreneur Sam Tharp. With a strong focus on developing a musical community and instrument sharing service, Fretish quickly became the number one platform for New England musicians – including hobbyists, Berklee students and professionals – to play fine instruments on an as-needed basis. Within 3 years, Fretish participated in the music tech accelerator program Project Music Portfolio at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and has been lauded as the future of MI by some of the biggest musical influencers on YouTube and Instagram, including Paul Davids, Mary Spender, Ryan “Fluff” Bruce and many more.

“We created Sparkplug in order to empower musicians. Building this platform into a thriving community and enabling our thousands of users to earn money on some of their most valuable assets – sometimes to fund a new record or extend a regional tour – has been incredible. Equally amazing has been connecting musicians all over the world with access to instruments and equipment they would otherwise have been unable to afford or find” said Jennifer Newman Sharpe, CEO of Sparkplug. “It is an incredible opportunity for Sparkplug to join forces with Fretish – a company that shares our values, vision, and priorities – to bring instrument and gear sharing to even more musicians.”

“This acquisition was made to bring the two biggest music instrument sharing services together on to one platform,” said Sam Tharp, CEO of Fretish. “By combining our assets – the users, instrument listings and recording studios – under the Fretish brand, we will achieve a critical mass that creates a defensible, unique value proposition no other MI ‘selling’ marketplace can match. If you are a musician that needs to rent a guitar, bass, amp, effect pedal or other quality gear, then Fretish is your go-to resource.”

How Fretish users will benefit from this acquisition:

  • Thousands of additional instruments available to rent – in the US and around the globe.
  • Thousands more prospective customers to rent to.
  • Set rental periods by hour, week or month. Plus, create custom quotes.
  • New mobile app (to be introduced in a few weeks).
  • Improved pricing! Joining the service is free. Listing gear is free. Whenever your gear is rented through the platform there is a 4% transaction fee.

The combined assets will operate under the Fretish® brand at https://fretish.com.

Terms of the deal, which officially closed on January 1, 2020, were not made public.

Remember: Stay safe and healthy. Follow social distancing/isolation guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). When the medical community says it’s safe to come back into contact with others, then Fretish will help you get back to the business of making music.

About Fretish

Fretish® is a trusted community and peer-to-peer marketplace for musicians to list,
discover, and book unique guitars and gear for rent. Whether the available instrument is a Martin flat top guitar for a night, a Dunlop Wah pedal for a week, or a Fender Jazz Bass for a month, Fretish is the easiest way for people to showcase their instrument collection to a wide, yet qualified audience. By facilitating bookings and financial transactions, Fretish makes the process of listing or booking musical equipment effortless and efficient. Fretish was founded in July 2017 and is based in Boston, Massachusetts.
About Sparkplug Marketplace, Inc.

Sparkplug Marketplace, Inc. is the first peer-to-peer music instrument and recording studio rental marketplace. For professional musicians, their selection of thousands of instruments in music-centric locations like New York, Los Angeles, Austin and more help players secure their instrument and equipment needs as an alternative to backline services. Recording Studios and instrument owners use the mobile app to monetize their underutilized fixed assets. Sparkplug is trusted by thousands of musicians around the world. The Company is based in Brooklyn, New York.

Another happy Fretish user
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Spark Joy by Kondoing Those Unused Orchestral Band Instruments

What’s the hottest trend these days? Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. And Fretish is all about hopping on trendy bandwagons – sharing economy, peer-to-peer, et al. Heck, trendiness is our jam.

It may be the dead of Winter, but Spring is just around the corner. And it’s never too early to start planning what to de-clutter in your annual Spring cleaning ritual.

Particularly for households with children about to leave for college (or graduate from college), soon-to-be empty nesters, there’s one big de-cluttering opportunity: orchestral band instruments that will never be played again. First, ask yourself this: does this string, woodwind or brass instrument spark joy? Whatever your answer, Fretish can help.

No Joy Sparked: Sell it! Join Fretish (it’s free). List the instrument for sale (also free). Set the price you want for the item. Set the fulfillment options (in-person pick up or include shipping). And then post the listing to your social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter to increase its visibility. You could also email the listing to the band director (or PTA) at your child’s old school and s/he could let the incoming class of students/parents know about the available instrument. Fretish handles the payment processing, so the payment will go directly to your bank account.

Major Sparking of Joy: Can’t bear parting with that instrument? Share it! You’ll continue to own the instrument, but you’ll be able to monetize your collection while giving another up and coming musician an opportunity to play/practice on it. Join Fretish (it’s free). List the instrument for rent (also free). Set the nightly rental rate you want for the item. You can also set the rental to be for several weeks or months at a time. Simply specify the terms you want in the instrument description field. Set the fulfillment options (we strongly recommend to only offer in-person pick up/drop off for instrument sharing). And then post the listing to your social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter to increase its visibility. You could also email the listing to the band director (or PTA) at your child’s old school and s/he could let the incoming class of students/parents know about the available instrument. Fretish handles the payment processing, so the payment will go directly to your bank account.

What are you waiting for? Get started now.

Aren’t sure what type of instrument to list? Any of these instrument types have a home on Fretish (along with a suggested monthly rental rate):

  • Flutes – $17 – $25/mo
  • Percussion – $13 – $40/mo
  • Mellophones – $50 – $60/mo
  • Clarinet – $17 – $60/mo
  • Trumpets – $19 – $50/mo
  • Flugelhorns – $36 – $46/mo
  • Saxophones – $36 – $70/mo
  • Trombones – $25 – $60/mo
  • Oboes – $33 – $90/mo
  • Tubas – $80 – $100/mo
  • Violins – $16 – $25/mo
  • Violas – $19 – $40/mo
  • Cellos – $38 – $80/mo
  • French Horns – $36 – $60/mo
  • Baritones – $40 – $60/mo
  • Euphoniums – $50 – $70/mo
  • Piccolos – $20 – $30/mo
  • Bass Clarinet – $60/mo
  • Alto Clarinets – $50/mo
  • Bell Kit – $29/mo
Avis Shuttle Bus at LAX
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Key Learning From NAMM 2019

This was my first time attending “the NAMM show” at the Anaheim Convention Center. The event is, by any measure, the biggest trade show for musical instruments (MI). Every exhibitor was bringing their “A game” to the event, spending a significant amount of energy and resources to highlight their newest product lines. For three days I walked miles of floor space seeing/hearing the latest gear, meeting with potential partners, bumping into rock/pop stars, demoing product and reconnecting with friends & colleagues. The scale of this annual event is awe-inspiring.

And yet, by 3pm every day, I found myself hitting a proverbial wall. The sounds of percussion instruments, human voices and amplified instruments began to merge into a virtual hammer on my ears. I struggled to speak loudly enough over the din of noise when engaged in conversation. I only caught every third or fourth word from people that were speaking to me.  This isn’t just my own personal experience.  A number of people who attended NAMM this year said similar things to me, unaided.

NAMM is a must-attend when you work in MI. And I learned a ton over these past three days. But, I think my biggest lesson came from something that happened shortly after dropping my rental car off at Avis. Immediately after I checked the car in and received my receipt, I hopped on to the shuttle bus to take me to the airport.

Here’s what transpired next:

  • The bus driver greeted me at the door.
  • He asked which airline I was taking.
  • He took my bag and placed it on the luggage rack near where I was sitting.
  • When bus was 3/4 full, he asked the riders on the bus if anyone objected to us immediately leaving for the airport.
  • Everyone agreed.
  • He sat down in the driver’s seat and began driving slowly towards the exit of the car rental lot.

He then began speaking to the entire bus, “I didn’t want to wait until the bus was too crowded before we left for the airport.
You’re people, not cattle. You deserve some breathing room. You want to get to the airport on time.
Before we leave the lot, I want to ask you a question, ‘Have you brought everything with you?’ I don’t know what you packed but here are some things that people sometimes forget: Eyeglasses, cell phones, laptops, jackets. How about the rental car keys? If you still have your rental car keys, please leave them with me and I’ll return them for you. Otherwise, you’ll get charged for a replacement set of keys and that will be expensive. I don’t want you to have to pay for a set of keys that you’ll never use again. Have I jogged your memories? Has anything been left? I take your silence to mean that we have everything.”

By the end of this short dialog, the bus had reached the end the rental lot. As no one had forgotten anything, we exited the property and headed towards the airport.

The driver continued speaking:
“Here are the airlines that people are taking (he then listed the airline names as reported to him from the passengers as they entered the bus) and these are the terminals in which you will exit (he then shared the exact terminal number to the corresponding airline). Did I forget any airlines? Does everyone know which terminal they are getting off at?
You can see that I’ve placed the luggage near where you are sitting so you can monitor it throughout the drive. At each stop I will pick up your luggage and remove it from the bus for you, so you won’t have to worry that someone else will accidentally remove your luggage.”

And, just as he had promised, when we arrived at a terminal stop, he would get up from his seat and take each passenger’s luggage off the bus, placing it on the sidewalk. It occurred to me after I got off the bus, as I was walking to my gate:

  • This driver cared about my experience on that bus ride.
  • He wanted me to feel safe. To not have to worry about catching my flight. Or pay for things that were unnecessary. Or to lose anything of personal value.
  • In short, he actively worked to make that the best possible experience I could have on a shuttle bus. He was pleasant, professional and methodical. He was, without question, the best bus driver I have ever received a ride from.

My expectations for bus rides had been limited to fundamentals like:

  • Safe driving
  • Getting from point A to point B
  • And not much else

This ride was a revelation to me. An entirely unexpected epiphany.

With his commitment to identifying all the things that could make a traveler unhappy – communicating his awareness of these things clearly and, at the appropriate time, to everyone on that bus – and proactively making sure that those things did not come to pass, I began to rethink my NAMM experience. Yes, it was big. Yes, it was important. But, was it all that it could be? Had the experience of the attendees and the exhibitors been fully considered by the organizers? Or, was the entire enterprise focused on making it “bigger” – bringing in more participants and monetizing every possible activity? Could NAMM be remade into something beneficial, on a more human scale?

This bus driver set off a light bulb in my head with his example of creating the optimal experience. I don’t have all the answers yet, but I’m committed to re-examining all aspects of sharing musical instruments between peers and applying those observations into the DNA of Fretish, with the customer’s perspective firmly at the center of all decisions. Thank you Mr. Shuttle Bus Driver. You taught me such a valuable lesson.

But wait, there's more! Get your Fretish listing seen.
How To

Pro Tip: Get your Fretish listing seen

It never gets old.  I love receiving the notification that someone has registered with Fretish.  It feels equally good when someone requests to list their musical gear on the platform.  Being the world’s largest peer-to-peer music instrument sharing service means your gear will be seen by qualified musicians looking for short term rental (or outright purchase).

But, once you’ve joined and listed your instrument(s) on Fretish – which is completely free to do – are there any steps you can take to increase the visibility of your listing?  Absolutely!  Here are just a few of the recommended steps to take once your listing is live:

  • Tell your friends about your listing on Fretish, in person and via email.
  • Check sites like Craigslist to see if anyone is asking to borrow or purchase an instrument just like yours.  Reply to their ad letting them know you have just the thing and include a link to your Fretish listing.
  • Share your listing on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest.
  • Create a demo video of yourself playing the instrument and post it to YouTube with a link to the Fretish listing. Conversely, you can now embed that YouTube video into the description field of your Fretish listing so people can actually hear what it sounds like.  See this example.
  • Like and tweet other instruments on Fretish to grow visibility on social networks.

Have any other suggestions?  Send us a note to let us know.

The Verdict on Sharing Gear Through Fretish
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Case Closed – Sharing Gear Beats Borrowing Gear

A recent piece titled The 7 Laws of Borrowing Gear From Other Musicians was posted to the Reverb Blog.  The vast majority of comments to the blog post were some variation of Nigel Tufnel’s “don’t touch it” reaction in This Is Spinal Tap.  Very few saw the need or had interest in letting other musicians borrow their gear.

The post began with an anecdote of guitarist Larry Carlton showing up for a UK gig and his amplifier not arriving.  Yikes, stressful.  Larry called on his social media followers to let him borrow an amp for the night.

As it turns out, for touring musicians, this is not an uncommon issue.  Two years ago in the summer of 2017, Dweezil Zappa had the head stock of his Gibson SG (in)conveniently removed by the baggage carrying staff of American Eagle Airlines while on tour.  Total suckfest.  But, Dweezil made lemonade out of the lemons that life handed to him.  On Instagram, he listed the next three cities of his tour and asked for fans to let him play their guitars for those remaining shows.  His followers responded with dozen of offers – deepening his connection with the Zappa fan base while giving him something to play on stage.

So, the need for temporarily using other musician’s gear is real and ongoing.  Plus, it can produce win-win outcomes.  Fans get to hear their music and artists get to perform (and presumably get paid).

On the whole, most of the Reverb suggestions were well-reasoned and prudent, especially in the context of borrowing an instrument.  But, what if the model for instrument consumption was about “sharing” (aka renting) – just like exists for homes (e.g., Airbnb) or automobiles (e.g. Uber or ZipCar)?  If sharing was the context, like the instruments listed on Fretish, then some of the laws in this blog post would need an update, as I detail below.

The writer, Rich Maloof, started with “Be selective” as the first law, by which he meant don’t borrow expensive gear.  Well, when you’re on a sharing platform, you should be selective based on what you need to play, not on the value of the instrument.  Why?  Because the value of the instrument is going to be reflected in the price you’ll pay in order to use it.  On Fretish, people who make their instruments available for sharing set their own price.  Generally, this results in higher quality instruments costing more for a sharing (rental) period.  So, a Martin OM-28v would cost nearly $55/night while a Yamaha acoustic would be $10/night.

Because you’re paying someone to play their instrument in a sharing context, then the law to “Acknowledge graciously” is somewhat moot.  Yes, by all means thank the instrument owner for letting you use their gear.  But, you won’t need to buy an extra pack of strings or buy someone cup cakes as a way of paying them back.  You’ve already paid them – with money (which has been done online by Fretish as the payment processor).

The last revision to the “7 Laws” blog post pertains to Rich’s final suggestion, in which he offers two options one could take if a borrower were to damage a musical instrument.  Option B, he says, is that they should flee the country.  NO.  There are not two options – whether you are borrowing or sharing!  There is only one option: You make the instrument owner completely whole.  Because payment information is captured up front from a renter on Fretish, the ability to make the instrument owner whole is fast.  Thankfully, since Fretish launched in 2017, all transactions on the platform have been positively rated and reviewed, with no instruments damaged, lost or stolen.

This court is adjourned.

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New Year, New Pilot with B&G Guitars

As 2019 begins, we’re excited to announce a new pilot. Fretish has partnered with B&G Guitars to share their hand-crafted electric guitars with musicians in key cities throughout the United States. If you’re a guitarist, then you’ve probably seen B&G Guitars demo’d on YouTube by Guitar, Guitarist and TonePedia. But, have you been fortunate enough to actually play one of these custom built masterpieces? Because B&Gs are not mass produced, you may be challenged to find one in stock at your local guitar shop. To fill the gaps, Fretish has leveraged its network of recording studios and individual collectors to make key models available.

We currently have four B&G models available for musicians to “try before you buy” in Austin, Boston and New York City.

  1. Austin – Little Sister Private Build in Tobacco Burst Finish
  2. Boston – Little Sister Crossroads with Cut Away
  3. Boston – Little Sister Private Build in Tobacco Burst Finish
  4. NYC – Little Sister Private Build in Lemon Burst Finish

Take these guitars home. Plug them into your own rig. Explore the different pickup and tone combinations. Avoid the audio pollution of a big box retailer. And, if you decide you want to make a custom order for yourself, head to B&G’s website to submit a request. Or, if the guitar you’re playing is the guitar of your dreams, let us know and we’ll sell it to you directly (less the cost of renting the guitar).

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Going to 2019 NAMM? Let’s connect!

Fretish will be at Winter NAMM this year from Thursday, January 24 through Saturday, January 26.  This will be our first time attending the trade show.  We will not have a booth.

However, we’d love to connect with you – especially if you are an:

  • Instrument manufacturer
  • Music retailer
  • Orchestral instrument rental company (strings, woodwinds, brass)
  • Music instructor
  • Instrument collector
  • Social media “influencer”
  • Journalist, blogger or well-connected person in the music space

Fretish has a lot planned for 2019 and we believe there are a variety of mutually beneficial ways we can work together.  So, leave a message below, send me a tweet or old fashioned email if you’d like to meet up.