Selling Reeds to Students

When to sell your hand-made bassoon reeds to your studentsWould you benefit from selling your own hand-made reeds to your students? How much should you charge? Is it worth it? There have been times in my teaching career where it has been a wonderfully convenient thing–and then other times when it has caused me way more stress than I bargained for. Learn from my mistakes and avoid your own!

When It Worked

When I was in college, I made a lot of reeds. Enough reeds that I always had extra to sell to students. I would make 10 at a time, keep the best ones for myself, and then sell the rest to my students. At first I felt a little bad about selling second-rate reeds to my students, but they were better than the reeds available at the music store, so I kept at it. Occasionally I would even sell them my good reeds–but only after I had played on them for a few weeks. I made good money this way, and none of my reeds went to waste.

When the Going Got Tough

Five years later I was still selling reeds to students, although it wasn’t as convenient anymore. I wasn’t making reeds regularly for myself, so I didn’t have leftovers to sell. I would only make reeds for myself a couple of times per year. Because of this, I required my students to order reeds from me at least two weeks before they needed them. That way I could slap a few together if I didn’t have a stockpile. I also moved to cane that required less finishing work. In college I used Rigotti and Jones. I then switched to cane from Bob Williams (Detroit Symphony). I made some money on the venture, but I’m not so sure that it was worth the hassle.

I also found that I was inadvertently giving my students my best reeds. Because I was cutting the tips during their lessons, I couldn’t say, “Oh, this reed is too good. I’m not going to give it to you.” Had I set aside time each week to work on reeds, I wouldn’t have been nearly as frustrated (or sold all of my best reeds). But when you have a newborn and haven’t slept in five months, reedmaking become less of a priority. Live and learn.

When I Stopped…Kinda

Now that I’ve added an adjunct university teaching job to my schedule, I no longer have the capacity to make reeds per student demand. I was barely making it work before, so I decided to drop that complication from my life. I warned my students a month in advance that I would no longer be selling reeds. Can you guess what happened? My reed orders shot through the roof! My students ordered far more reeds than they used to when I let them buy reeds as needed. Now I’m planning to sell reeds only in August and the first week of January. That way I can mass produce them, guarantee that my students have good reeds (but not my best ones), and still make a profit.

How Much Should Each Reed Cost?

I’ve been selling reeds for $15 each for ten years. Time for a price adjustment! I’m thinking about raising the price by 30-50 cents each year from now on. Here is a snapshot of what other reedmakers are selling their reeds for:

(Price per reed, before shipping)

  • Dale Clark: $20-25
  • Tom Hardy: £15 (about $22)
  • Scott Miller : $21-30
  • Eryn Oft: $25
  • Scott Vigder: $16.75-18.50
  • Kim and Frank Wangler: $15.95

So is selling reeds to students a good fit for you? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

 

 

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