In the review of my experiences and thoughts on the inaugural Deloraine Stringfest I said the major element missing were the proud, passionate and profitable tree-growing farmers – the first link in the chain from tree to instrument, farmer to artist. I was the only one exhibiting at Stringfest representing existing and future growers of blackwood and other special timbers.
From a business/market process point of view the Stringfest exhibitors (luthiers and tonewood merchants) were all pushing in the one direction. The luthiers were promoting and selling their instruments to players and performers, while tonewood merchants were promoting and selling their timbers to the luthiers – links in a chain. But there was little action in the opposite direction.
Why do we need action in the opposite direction? What action?
Markets work by an interplay/tension between supply and demand. The push and pull of the marketplace. If we are to encourage farmers to grow our special timbers for us then we need to provide as much incentive and information as possible. Trees are a challenging investment at the best of times so Stringfest provides an ideal forum for providing market, price and demand information in BOTH directions back to the farmer/tree grower all the way to the consumer/artist. All that passion, dedication and commitment can help drive some significant market activity.
At Stringfest the tonewood merchants should be looking to both sell their tonewood timbers to luthiers AND buy suitable trees/logs from farmers, and establish long-term relationships with tree-growing farmers. It would have been great to see some “LOGS WANTED” signs showing at Stringfest. Even some information telling people about what goes to making a good tonewood log, species, sizes, indicative prices, etc. The average farmer has absolutely no idea about the tonewood market. This needs to change and change quickly, so the more information the better.
Similarly Stringfest provides an ideal opportunity for luthiers to talk to tonewood merchants about their wood requirements and indicative prices. I saw plenty of this happening at the weekend, hopefully with some positive outcomes.
At Stringfest I spoke to a number of people who had trees they were interested in selling and I pointed them towards the tonewood merchants. I heard of a number of follow-ups being arranged which was great. At the moment the Blackwood Growers Coop remains more a dream than a reality. As the Coop develops then building relationships and markets with sawmillers and tonewood merchants will be an important goal. Hopefully in the future I will have “LOGS FOR SALE” as part of my Stringfest display.
Stringfest was not really marketed at the farming community but the farming community needs to be brought into the audience in future.
The question of the future supply of our special timbers was definitely the “elephant in the room” at Stringfest, especially given the extraordinary political events on the Friday. Stringfest provides a brilliant focus and opportunity to help resolve that question and remove the elephant once and for all. I’m already thinking about next years festival.