Musicians traveling with expensive instruments often run into big hassles and pay dearly to keep their prized pieces safe. A new company called Sparkplug is trying to make touring more affordable by bringing the sharing economy to musicians.
Modeled after popular peer-to-peer economy companies like Airbnb and Uber, Sparkplug provides a community where musicians can rent high quality gear, instruments and recording space from each other.
“I’m a musician," says co-founder and CEO Julia Wilde," and as part of my own experience, and from doing A&R, it was always a problem and you just assumed you couldn’t do anything about it.”
Many musicians fork over big bucks and buy a full-fare seat, though frequent flyer miles are often not part of the perks as cellist Lynn Harrell found out the painful way. His $5 million, 300-year-old constant companion Cello Harrell was once granted a boarding pass and miles, until Delta stripped Lynn of half a million miles and booted him from their loyalty program. "An object doesn't have a loyalty experience," a Delta spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.
Many guitarists have suffered greatly at the hands of airline baggage handlers. Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket was forced to check his guitar and found it smashed upon arrival. The airline did not compensate him for this loss. Recently when John McCauley with Deer Tick was boarding a US Air flight on his way to play the Newport Folk Festival, his axe was denied a place in the cabin. Instead of risking damage, he and his wife, singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton, opted for Amtrak, prompting Senator Jack Reed of Deer Tick’s Rhode Island to get involved. US Air refunded McCauley for his unused ticket and paid for the Amtrak fare. Read Jack’s letter asking the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to clarify the Federal Aviation Administration rules about musical instruments as carry-on luggage.
Sparkplug hopes to save musicians from these perils with a thriving sharing community. Smaller guitar shops and studios are invited to get involved in the community as well, so they can gain notoriety and share their resources with traveling artists. Sparkplug launched last June in New York City and they are expanding soon to San Francisco and Austin.
Community transparency and a sizable deposit brings a level of security. Wilde says they've had no damage complaints thus far. Security features are in place and both the renter and rentee can give feedback on their shared experience.
While they are building their communities, the company founders closely monitor the boards. “We can see when people are looking for an instrument or a space, and if they can’t find it, we try to fix that,” says Wilde.
Sparkplug could be just the solution you've been searching for. If you have musical equipment you haven't used in awhile that is becoming more like furniture, let others enjoy it and make some extra cash. Traveling lighter, making some money and meeting more of your fellow musicians... who knows what kind of creativity that could spark.
Visit Sparkplug to find out more.