Where Are Artist Guitars Made? Are they Made in Australia? Which Factories do you use?
We have more than 20 factories, and it varies. We have lots of different sub-factories that we might use to make our pickups or our hardware. But we have over 20 factories pretty much at all times. They're all in China, and they're all factories that make export goods. We use the same factories as all the other brands you know that make instruments in China.
Do all the parts come from China as well?
Most of our parts come from China, but we get things from almost every country in the world. Some of the wood, for example, the spruce might come from America or Alaska, and we might have rosewood (when we're doing guitars with rosewood) that comes from India. So, we use parts from all over the world.
Can you tell me why Artists Guitars are not made in Australia?
The whole point of Artists Guitars is to appeal to beginners or dedicated amateurs, and that sort of customer can't afford to go out and spend $2,000 or $3,000 to buy a guitar. So, we look for the most cost-effective way to make a guitar for somebody who's not a professional and not a collector. They don't have lots of money, but they still want to play music and want to have fun. The best value for money is buying guitars from China, so that's what we did. We get really good quality guitars from China, but at a much better price than what you would be getting from a branded product.
How do the guitars get from China to Australia?
We ship a number of containers every month out of China. The factories will finish the products, and we have our own QC that goes in and checks the products. Then the products are put in containers and get shipped all around the world. We have containers going to Australia, direct to New Zealand, the USA, and the UK.
How do they get to the customer in each of these places?
In Australia, we have our own warehouse, which is our St. Peters warehouse that a lot of our customers would have seen. But in every other country, we have professional warehousing and delivery companies to look after the warehousing for us. And, they will get our orders electronically and ship the orders out every day when we get them in.
How long does it take to go from a guitar idea to having a guitar to sell?
To go from having an idea to getting a guitar ready to sell probably takes about 12 months. The process that we normally go through is that we will come up with a couple of ideas or some suggestions that our customers might've made to us. And then, what we do is we make some mock-up pictures of those guitars with different pickups and different features. Then we'll send those out to our customers so that they can tell us what they like and dislike.
And that's one of our Artists Guitars surveys, which we do about twice every year. After we get that feedback from customers, "Yeah, I really like this colour," or, "I really like that body shape or those pickups," we then come up with a product specification for the factory we want to use for that model. The factory will make a sample, which takes a couple of months, and our QC will quality control that sample. After QC has quality controlled that sample, we might get back to them with a couple of changes or adjustments, for example, we might need a higher neck angle, or a lower action, or thicker body, or thinner body. After all those changes have been made, it goes into production. From going into production, it probably takes about three to four months to be produced, and then finally, about one month to ship it to the destination country: Australia, New Zealand, the UK, or the USA.
Sounds like it's a really long process. Since the guitars would be made in China and are sold in other countries, is it difficult to make sure their quality is good?
Something that we do that's quite unique is that we have every one of our guitars quality-controlled by our own QC staff. We have three QC staff based in China that check the goods. And they're some of the strictest QC that I've ever seen. Now, that doesn't mean that every guitar is perfect because you are still dealing with the imperfections of making something from wood. But, we have much stricter quality control than anybody I've seen in China.
Do we check the quality again in Australia or at the destination country?
We don't recheck guitars in Australia, and that's just because of how many guitars we ship every day. It would be impractical to do it. And the setup that the QC guys do is quite intense. So, it's quite well-done for that level of guitar. We do have some videos and some setup guides that can help you to fine-tune your guitar and make it play better. And we do that because we want to get a great value guitar. If we make the guitar too expensive, then it makes it too hard for people to buy it, and then it stops them having that chance to play music, or they might get a lower quality guitar at the same price.
Yeah, that makes sense. So, you've mentioned that the factories we use are typical factories that a lot of musical instrument manufacturers would use. And you've mentioned that our QC at Artists Guitars is somewhat stricter than the QC that we would find elsewhere in China. Do you think that makes Artist Guitars better than other manufacturers?
There's one other thing that we do that is different between us and a lot of other brands. Because we've imported the products ourselves, we can afford to spend extra money to buy better material. So, if you're a big brand name, every extra dollar that you're spending on the product has to be approved by somebody down the line because it's going to increase the price. Whereas for us, we don't have such a complex distribution so we can spend more money on better quality products. And we quite often get higher spec products than what one of the major brand names would use because they're more worried about the price, and we're more worried about the quality. So even out of that same factory, we would generally have a higher spec'd guitar than other major brand names buying from the same place.
So what would you say to people who think all Chinese products are bad quality products?
I think what you'll find now is in terms of value for money, Chinese instruments are really quite good these days. You can get some really exceptional guitars under $500, and they're so much better than they were 10 or 15 years ago. I first went to China more than 20 years ago, and at that time, it was really difficult to get any sort of quality. We basically had to teach the factory how to make guitars. But, as time moved on, they've gotten better at making guitars, and they've competed with each other to make better guitars. The quality is really quite good now. Some of the things that the factories use these days are just as good as any other factory in the world. They're using the same machinery, the same components, so you can get some really well-made guitars out of China. And I think the only thing that holds Chinese guitars back these days is that they don't get some of the very high-end products, like having Seymour Duncan pickups or expensive machine heads that some of the other brands would use. But, if they had all those expensive hardware options on them, I think it'd be pretty hard to tell them apart from some of the other much more expensive guitars.