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.

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.

How To

How To: Find Cool Guitars and Gear for Rent in Locations Beyond New England

A big challenge faced by new marketplaces – like Fretish – is to generate sufficient “supply”, so when consumers arrive at the site they actually have stuff to consider renting or buying.  Supply, in the case of Fretish, equals musical instruments – very nice guitars, basses, amps and more.  Fretish started in the summer of 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts.  And as you would expect, the instruments listed and the visitors to the site are primarily from New England.

We are now faced with an interesting problem – a good problem, really – which is that people from around the world are learning about the first peer-to-peer music instrument rental marketplace.  They want to play cool guitars and gear in the comfort of their own homes – whether that’s in Chicago or the UK, France and New Zealand.  However, they don’t see gear listed in these areas (yet).

So, how to address this challenge?  Increasing the amount of advertising is the most obvious answer.  And that is something we plan to do in the months ahead.  But, to really grow an audience on a sustainable, global level, there needs to be a groundswell of positive word of mouth by musicians.  “Hey, you’ve got to check this out” resonates more when it’s coming from a peer (or multiple peers) than from some TV ad running on the Olympics.

Below are some ways to help grow supply on Fretish.

  1. Tell Your Friends About Fretish – In person and via email*
  2. Contact people who have listed cool instruments (ones that you are interested in playing) on sites like Craigslist – especially, people who have described in their listing that they really don’t want to sell their instrument but need money.  Ask them if they would consider renting the instrument to you through Fretish.  Explain that they can A) join Fretish for free, B) list for free and C) keep the instrument and make money by renting it out.
  3. Follow Fretish on FB/Twitter/IG
  4. Forward the Fretish How It Works video to fellow musicians
  5. Forward the Fretish for Guitar Builders video to luthiers you know
  6. Visit Fretish.com
  7. Like and Tweet Instruments on Fretish to grow visibility on social networks
  8. Register with Fretish (it’s free).
  9. List an instrument for rent.  It’s free too.  Plus, when your peers see that you’ve listed gear, then they will follow suit.
  10. List an instrument for sale.  Ditto.

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* This pre-drafted email below could be used to describe Fretish to your musician friends.  Make sure to BCC all of the people you are sending this to (for privacy and common email etiquette).  And feel free to adjust to your own “voice”.

Proposed subject and body copy:

Subject: Sharing new musical community/marketplace called Fretish.

Body:
Hello.

I’m writing to pass along information on a new guitar community and marketplace that I think you might appreciate.

I recently discovered a peer-to-peer guitar rental marketplace called Fretish at http://fretish.com. It’s a bit like Airbnb, but instead of renting out your extra bedroom or guesthouse, you can list that extra guitar from your collection that regularly goes unplayed. In fact, with the extra cash earned by renting out some of your gear through Fretish, you could add to your guitar collection. You also have the option to list your instruments for sale.

There’s no cost to join Fretish. There’s no cost to post an instrument for rent or sale. You set the price for renting your instrument. You can set dates when your instrument is not available for rent. And you can define the terms of who you will rent to (example: must be smoke-free, climate controlled environment; rental provided only under supervision, etc.). How does Fretish make money? All transactions made through the site have an 11% processing fee, similar to how a consignment shop works.

So, how is Fretish a community? Music brings people together. And that’s what Fretish strives to do. Fretish is a community of, by and for musicians. It is built upon the principles of respect, honesty, encouragement, trust and discovery.

For more details, visit https://fretish.com/en/infos/how_to_use.  Or, watch this How It Works video.  Have additional questions?  You can write to Sam T, founder of Fretish, with questions here: https://fretish.com/user_feedbacks/new.

Thanks,
[Sender Name]

========================================

Finally, the more Fretish knows about where you are located and the type of gear you are interested in playing, the better we can target our marketing efforts.  So, if you have the time and interest, please consider following these additional steps:

  1. Contact us – https://fretish.com/user_feedbacks/new
  2. Tell us:
  • Where you live
  • Which music-oriented YouTube Channels you subscribe to
  • Which music-oriented Facebook/Twitter/Instagram accounts you follow
  • The names of any off or online publications you regularly read/watch/listen to
How To

How To: Set Up a Really Good Listing

You’ve heard about Fretish.  You’ve visited the site.  You’ve joined (it is free).  And now you’ve decided to list one of your musical instruments (which is also free).  So far, so good.

But, how do you maximize the quality of your listing to get the most clicks on the Rent button?  Here are some tips:

  1. List one instrument per post.  Highlighting your entire collection, or even just two pieces of gear, in a single listing is a recipe for confusion and dissatisfaction.  It’s also true that consumer response drops dramatically when people are given a choice between multiple items to pick from versus a single item.
  2. Before photographing your instrument, clean it.  Does it have finger prints on the body?  Give it a quick wipe with a cloth.  Are there any broken strings?  Replace them with new strings.  If it looks like you take good care of your gear, then other people will feel compelled to take good care of it.
  3. Post multiple high quality pictures of the instrument being offered.  Show the front of the guitar, the back of the guitar, the body, the neck, the head stock.  A separate blog post will go into greater detail on what constitutes “high quality”, but here’s a quick rule of thumb: If a picture is blurry, dark or shot from 10+ feet from your instrument, then it’s not a high quality picture.  And, as a general rule, don’t use manufacturer or stock images of your instrument.
  4. Write a succinct, accurate title.  This will typically include the year the instrument was made, the brand, the model, the country of origination and any distinctive upgrades or accessories. For example: 2018 Fender American Professional Series Telecaster with Bigsby.  The finish of the instrument (blonde, sunburst, etc.) can, of course, be included.  But, if you have decent pictures, including the finish in the title may be redundant.
  5. Describe the guitar with facts and relevant anecdotes.  What type of wood is the body made from?  What type of wood is the neck?  The fretboard?  What type of pick ups does the instrument have?  How many settings on the pick up selector switch?  Are there any mechanical or aesthetic issues with the instrument?  Be honest.  Potential renters really need to know these things.  Then, there is information that isn’t critical to know, but may draw the reader in, such as: When did you buy the guitar?  Are you the original owner?  Do you take any special care when storing the instrument?
  6. Embed a YouTube video of you playing the instrument.
  7. Don’t be afraid to detail the conditions of who you will or will not rent to.  Don’t want your instrument to be played at a gig?  Say so.  Don’t want your instrument in the home of a smoker?  Say so.  Set clear guidelines of your expectations as an owner about how and where your instrument should be played.
  8. Set a price.  The price you set for your instrument will have an obvious impact on a person’s willingness to rent.  There are many ways to approach this, so let’s tackle this topic in greater detail in a future blog post.
  9. Provide a specific, accurate pick up/drop off location.  When renting out an instrument through Fretish, it is strongly encouraged to fulfill orders through in-person pick up and drop off only.  Shipping instruments for short term rent can be costly and have other unintended consequences.  The pick up/drop off location you choose is entirely up to you.  Most people select a safe, public venue (e.g., Public Library, Police Station, etc.) for their pick up/drop off location.  Sometimes exact locations are not provided as part of a listing.  This approach has downsides.  For example, when people conduct a search by city or town (and you haven’t provided an accurate or specific pick up location), your instrument may not appear in the search results.
  10. Share your fabulous new listing to your social media accounts.  Let your network know you have gear to rent.