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.

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: Maximize Good Rental Experiences (For Instrument Owners)

It’s not uncommon for me to hear from guitar owners, when I tell them about the peer-to-peer music instrument marketplace Fretish, “I could never rent my instrument to someone else.  I’d be too afraid something bad would happen.”  Fair enough.  Some musicians may never be open to join the “sharing economy” when it comes to their precious gear.  In fact, I do not list all of my instruments for rent on Fretish.

However, almost every guitarist I’ve spoken to over the past year has either borrowed an instrument from a friend, or conversely, has let a friend borrow one of their instruments.  This willingness to share gear among musician friends has been reinforced in surveys conducted by Fretish where 80+% of guitar owners have confirmed to have let a friend/acquaintance borrow an instrument.  So, what explains this disconnect?  Borrow = OK, Rent = Panic Room?  Perhaps the root issue is fear of the worst case scenario.  That’s valid.  And there are ways to mitigate risk.

For those musicians who are open to renting out their gear, here are some of the options (and tools) available to you which increase the likelihood of a pleasant and satisfactory renting experience:

  • Only rent to people you know and trust.  (i.e., those same friends you let borrow your gear for free)
  • Only rent to people who have previously rented through Fretish before and who have high feedback ratings.
  • Structure the rental period to be supervised (at a location and time duration of your choosing).
  • Only offer in-person pick up/drop off when renting.
  • An Owner has up to 3 days to review a rental booking request. During that time they can communicate with a potential renter through the Fretish messaging system. Ask them anything (e.g., Are there small children in your household? Is your place climate controlled? Are you a smoker?). If something doesn’t feel right, then they have every right to reject the rental request.

Also, don’t start by listing your “crown jewels” for rent.  Ease your way into the process of renting. Start by listing an instrument of modest value from your collection. If you’re pleased with the transactions you have had with the less-precious instrument, then start adding instruments of greater value.

Lastly, if you absolutely, positively do not want to rent your gear on Fretish, you do have the option list the instruments for outright sale.