Some thoughts on the recent pedal craze that was punctuated by the Chase Bliss/ZVEX Bliss Factory ordeal.
I love guitar pedals, in fact I think pretty much anyone who plays guitar or bass probably does. Yes we may argue over how many pedals you need, or which pedal has that vintage tone, but we all love them all the same. So quite frankly, it makes sense that when two rad pedal companies work together on a custom built collaboration, people are going to want that pedal!
But what no one talks about until after the fact is how the want for exciting new pedals, especially limited releases like the Bliss Factory, soon turns to a wave of vitriol online once the pedal has sold out. I actually first started writing this after the Ayahuasca debacle, where the poor owner of Chase Bliss was roasted alive by some so called fans for only making a limited batch of these fuzz pedals. But why do builders only make a limited number of something? Is it corporate greed gone boutique to drive up prices? To drive up demand? To create a sense of elitism? Well usually it is because they either ran out of the components they need to me more. Or it is because the pedal sucks to build and they choose not to do it anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure Joel from Chase Bliss came right out and said “yeah, I don’t really like the Ayahuasca as a pedal” (paraphrasing). Not everything is a global conspiracy these days. You know what turns these limited releases into a huge problem though, it’s probably you, the consumer.
Are These Pedals Under Priced?
This is a question that gets thrown around forums, YouTube comment sections, and the like anytime a pedal is listed at $400 by the manufacturer and then is bought up by re-sellers who will list it for $1000 on Reverb.com the next day. Sure, in some senses the pedal may be under priced. You could make the argument that if someone is willing to pay $1000 for a Chase Bliss/ZVEX Bliss Factory than it is indeed worth $1000.
But what is in it for those two companies if they only charge $400 for it? When it is re-sold online for a grand, they don’t see a cent of that sale. It doesn’t do anything aside from (maybe) give them the marketing boost of saying hey, our pedals are really great. So great in fact, people will pay anything for them. But is that worth missing out on the $600 in sales? Hell no it isn’t. And look at how it backfires so to speak, if that was their goal (it wasn’t)! People are now sending searing emails saying it is the pedal makers’ fault for making a limited release and that they should have known better that this would happen. They priced it at whatever they thought it was worth, and whatever made sense for their businesses, and then we all inflated the price ourselves.
Re-sellers Only Re-sell Because You’re Buying
Let’s be very clear about one thing. People only buy these pedals with the intention of re-selling them for more money, because they know people will pay anything for the pedal. They are fully aware that despite all the flack they may get online, if they list the $400 Bliss Factory, they will get $1000 from someone. And that same person who spent $1000 may even be running to their computer to post on thegearpage.com about how it is such a shame they had to spend $1000 just to get the pedal they so wanted.
It is not the job of the pedal maker to make sure no one exploits the popularity of their product. Limited releases are 9 times out of 10 not a marketing ploy, and result from limited supply of necessary components. If you can only source about a thousand special transistors you need, you can only make about a thousand pedals.
So instead, maybe we as a guitar pedal community need to stop putting these pedals on a pedestal. If you didn’t get a Bliss Factory, so be it, go get an equally as functional and inspiring Fuzz Factory. Don’t immediately go online and look for a re-seller, only to bemoan the practice later. If you stop buying them from re-sellers, then no one will buy them with the intent to try to re-sell them for profit. We need to self regulate here and let limited releases be limited releases where not everyone was meant to have one. And quite honestly, why do we all need more $400 pedals? That’s not a criticism of Chase Bliss or ZVEX, but I’ll take a $400 guitar over a $400 pedal any day, these pedals probably aren’t even going to be the “secret weapon” that changes your tone, gets your band famous, or makes you a better player. It’s just a pedal. A damn cool pedal. But just another pedal in a sea of hundreds of awesome pedals.
It blows my mind that a simple guitar pedal has people running to their computers to lay abuse on some pedal makers. They don’t profit off of this madness, they don’t do it to cause controversy, they just wanted to make a cool pedal idea come to life. Pedals are one part of a much larger guitar rig which is one part of a much larger life lead by an individual. Your time is much better spent voting, enacting change in your community, or just practicing the guitar!
But Matt, You’re Just Jealous
And to anyone saying I’m just writing this because I’m upset that I can’t afford one, you’re half right I guess? Yeah, I can’t afford any of these pedals even before they were hitting reverb for over $700. But I’m happy with my board of $100 Boss and MXR pedals! They do a lot for me and the way I play guitar, and while I may not own any “expensive” pedals, it doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in the them, it just means that right now, I know they aren’t an essential part of my guitar playing life. Pedals are tools, they can be used in all different kinds of ways, by all different kinds of players. I’d love to try an Ayahuasca, Bliss Factory, King of Tone, whatever the craze is. I bet they are awesome pedals! That doesn’t mean we need to turn ZVEX and Chase Bliss’ email inboxes into a war zone….