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Musicians Can Make Money Renting Their Gear With Sparkplug

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It’s a common problem in the touring music community. Touring Band X amp breaks down before their show in Minneapolis. They scramble to seek out rental companies, but none exist. So the band calls the venue to ask for suggestions. The venue calls local musicians in town they think might have the amp the band needs. No luck. Touring Band X has to swing by a Guitar Center, “buy” an amp and then return it the next day with the excuse “er it doesn’t go to 11. We thought it would reach 11.”

Just last week I had a day off in Columbus and wanted to record a new song. I Googled around for recording studios, but all were either booked or didn’t get back to me. I found one from a friend referral on Facebook – under the wire!

Sparkplug looks to fix this ongoing problem – and help make musicians money along the way.

“It’s very similar to the model of AirBnB, but for for creative tools,” one of the founders, Jennifer Newman Sharpe, mentioned to me via Skype from Sparkplug’s Brooklyn office.

Sparkplug was co-founded by Julia Wilde, Charles Ridley, Jennifer Newman Sharpe, and Jonathan Eshak and officially launched in June. Recently, Michael McDonald, founder of Mick Management, has jumped on board as a partner and adviser.

With Sparkplug, owners can list their equipment, instruments, rehearsal or studio space and potential renters can search by city and category to find what they need.

Once a request is sent by a potential renter, the owner has 24 hours to accept the request. The owner gets paid 24 hours after the rental is completed. And if there are no claims, the full deposit is returned to the renter.

Owners can “add on” features and services, like a piano tuner or recording engineer if renting studio space, or delivery service if renting equipment.

There’s an internal messaging feature so the renter and owner can communicate about any details prior to the official request.

Sparkplug charges the renter at the time of the reservation 30% of the replacement cost of the piece of equipment as a deposit. If equipment comes back to the owner damaged, Sparkplug will deduct any damages from the deposit and give that to the owner. If the item needs to be replaced, Sparkplug will cover the full cost of replacement (up to $5,000).

It’s a beautiful interface, very intuitive and easy to navigate. I tested it. I setup two accounts and rented a mic stand from myself. All worked well, but the owner was kind of an dick when I showed up. I was going to dock him a star in his review because he smelled, but added it back when he slapped me on the ass as I left his apartment. Go team!

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Unfortunately, Sparkplug doesn’t offer any services for hire (other than the add-ons when equipment is rented).  It would be nice to see a way for freelance musicians, front of house engineers, live recording engineers, piano tuners, stage hands, merch sellers, lighting specialists, guitar techs, drum techs, or other specialists to offer their services for hire through Sparkplug. Musicians are constantly in need of these kinds of services while on tour and no other platform offers this in an organized way.

Sparkplug is currently available in the US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Because it’s a NYC based company and they have been promoting it locally since the Beta launch this past March, the majority of the active listings fall within NYC’s borders. Many other major cities lack inventory. For instance, if you need to rent an amp in Minneapolis today, well you’re out of luck.

SO, musicians should get their equipment listed wherever they live and potentially start to earn some moola!

Any creative avenue to help musicians make extra income, I’m all for. And aside from the earning potential, this is a great way to build community amongst touring musicians.

So dust off that saxophone, snap a photo and add a listing for it. You never know when a touring band may need one last minute!

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

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Comments (15)
  1. seriously

    Ok great idea but looked for equipment in Nashville which is a big music town. Nothing.
    Hope this grows


    Reply
  2. Cmonbro

    :( this aint the way it’s ‘sposed to be…


    Reply
  3. Dave Buerger

    This idea sounds dumb. NO WAY would I rent my gear to a stranger! I won’t even let some people I know use my gear. Hate to make generalizations, but musicians often treat other peoples’ gear like a doormat. Forgettaboudait!


    Reply
    1. Ari Herstand

      That’s what the naysayers said about AirBnB “no way I would let strangers stay in my home.” Now they have a $10B valuation. This new sharing economy lead by Lyft, Uber and AirBnB is actually getting people to trust each other again.

      Worse comes to worse, your gear gets destroyed and Sparkplug replaces it.


      Reply
  4. Willis

    So, you can be a gear pimp now as a way to make a living in music? Risk vs reward = not happening.


    Reply
  5. CH

    Love this! Why not put equipment that’s not currently making you any money to good use? If I was in a jam and my own EQ failed on me, I’d probably use this to find a replacement quickly.


    Reply
  6. CH

    Love this! Why not put equipment that not currently making you any money to work! If I was in a jam and my EQ failed, I’d probably use this to find a replacement quickly.


    Reply
  7. Adam L.

    Nigel Tufnel will be a billionaire with this model!


    Reply
  8. Cmonbro

    Upon further internalization. I like this idea in terms of necessity.. as a smaller pawn shop maybe or studio you can make some extra bucks on cats that need stuff day off etc.. and local.. or fly into town and need a keyboard xyz..

    but to position it as some “make extra money cuz your music makes none and you bought all this equipment that makes none” just prolongs the inevitable ..

    Position this as the SIR killer and maybe you can make some thaaaangs happen..


    Reply
  9. FarePlay

    Sad.


    Reply
    1. Not really

      Ari points out a good thing here. Musicians need to rent their equipment to get by, financially.

      One of the things I really appreciate about Ari is that he is pointing out ALL of the ways we need to make money today, since he, nor none of us, can make it on our art alone.

      For those that came before him, they called it ‘Sell t-shirts’. But that was kind of degrading they way it was put.

      Ari has a way of making it feel okay to do that type of shit, and we need to. God Bless Ari! The king of ‘don’t just sell music, sell t-shirts, rent equipment, sell your time with experiences, etc.” Life is good for the musician that is willing to rent their time and equipment to others and to sell t-shirts on bandcamp and spotify! Life has never been so good for those of us that embrace this new economuy and Ari is our leader! ”

      I, for one, say thanks to Ari! Others may bristle, but I think that selling your time, renting your equipment, etc is juts part of the course for new artists. Just like Ari does. He is a genius.

      Thank you, Ari, for pointing the way forward. Its inspiring and fruitful. If you haven’t already, sign up for bandcamp, band page, and now sparkplug – these are the roads to freedom us musicians. Ari is championing them, and he is right. We should follow. This is the right path for us. If only Bowie, Lou Reed, and others would do the same, the world of music would be better…


      Reply
  10. jrome

    What a cool idea. renting instruments to musicians. What will happen next?


    Reply
  11. G.D.

    Nice idea, but I can’t imagine renting something to a stranger that I love enough to use myself. We’re musicians, Ari. We are WEIRD ABOUT GEAR.


    Reply
  12. Micah

    This is great!!
    I live in north-west Tasmania, farming country.
    If I wanted a lap steel, or a resonator I wouldn’t bother
    With something like Sparkplug. But I don’t wanna only play lap-steels and resonators.
    I wanna play everything I can get my hands on!!
    I’m about to sign up and list what instruments I do have.
    Great article, I’m sharing!


    Reply
  13. hank@nv.net

    Those with any real experience renting kit to musos will probably demonstrate a lack of excitement over this service. There is a reason for rental houses, and there is a reason all but the high-end of those house gear that looks like it went to battle last week and got no shower after the fight.


    Reply

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