Custom guitars get ‘Kickstart’ at SXSW

Originally appeared in News@Northeastern on April 3, 2013
Kevin Tully and Dave Barry, right, cofounded Moniker Guitars, an online custom-guitar manufacturer that has generated serious buzz in the music industry with its new line of semihollow guitars.

Moniker Gui­tars, an online custom-​​guitar man­u­fac­turer co-​​founded by North­eastern alumnus Dave Barry, debuted its new line of semi­hollow gui­tars ear­lier this month at the South by South­west Music Gear Expo in Austin, Texas.

“We received a lot of great feed­back and now we’re in the process of closing a bunch of deals made at the event,” said Barry, who grad­u­ated in 2006 with a degree in music industry. “Once people get a chance to play our gui­tars, they are blown away by the sound, the quality, and the price.”

Last year, Moniker moved its head­quar­ters from Boston to Austin, a city known for its live music scene, and recently launched a Kick­starter cam­paign to help raise $50,000 to man­u­fac­ture the new line of elec­tric gui­tars. The new axes fea­ture F-​​holes like those on acoustic gui­tars, giving them what co-​​founder Kevin Tully called a “more sus­tained and brighter sound.”

Moniker allows users to choose the color, shape, or even text for the neck of their instru­ment, which costs between $700 and $1,000. Plus they’re envi­ron­men­tally friendly, using the same water-​​based paint known for giving Fer­raris their spe­cial luster.

“The big com­pa­nies are not going to pro­duce a custom guitar for you unless you’ve sold a mil­lion records,” Barry said. “Musi­cians are excited that we’re able to pro­vide them with some­thing most people thought they’d never be able to have—a one-​​of-​​a-​​kind guitar they can call their own.”

Moniker’s pop­u­larly has exploded since its first appear­ance at SXSW, when Tully and Barry show­cased pro­to­types of their custom-​​made gui­tars in a coffee shop. This time around, they show­cased pro­fes­sion­ally pro­duced models, which gave musi­cians and industry insiders the oppor­tu­nity to demo their product.

“We were on the floor of the Austin Con­ven­tion Center with some of the biggest names in the music busi­ness,” Tully said.

Friends rep­re­sent Moniker at IDEA events like NEXPO. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Barry and Tully have received funding for Moniker from IDEA, Northeastern’s ven­ture accel­er­ator, which helps stu­dents and alumni get their busi­nesses off the ground through coaching, men­toring, and gap funding.

Though there is a large geo­graphic dis­tance between IDEA and the company’s head­quar­ters in Austin, the two have remained in close con­tact. Moniker has net­worked with ven­tures like U-Turn—which raised more than $200,000 on Kick­starter for their new turntable—and has arranged for friends in Boston to con­tinue rep­re­senting the com­pany at NEXPO, a bian­nual entre­pre­neur­ship expo­si­tion hosted by IDEA.

“We were lucky to be a part of IDEA, and we def­i­nitely want to main­tain those con­nec­tions as long as pos­sible,” Tully said. “We are con­stantly in touch with the team in Boston, who has done so much to help us become who we are today.”

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