As a guy who tried and failed to learn to play the guitar many years ago, I’m continually jealous of anyone who can lay down a dangerous solo without even breaking a sweat. These days I just watch from the corner, playing the first eight notes of “Here Comes the Sun,” while everyone else does Pete Townshend windmills in unison.
Reverb, an online instrument market based out of Chicago, is here to serve those of you still in the rock and roll game. The startup grew from the city’s successful Chicago Music Exchange to be a dedicated online storefront for anyone looking to buy or sell quality music gear. Ranging from pedals to vintage and custom-made guitars, Reverb is likely to have an instrument to help ignite your musical fancy.
I sat down with Reverb CTO Yan Pritzker, who refused to validate the extensive Rock Band and Guitar Hero training of my college years as legitimate musicianship.
What is the backstory behind Reverb?
Reverb was founded by David Kalt who has been a successful entrepreneur as well as a musician. He decided that he wanted to get into the music business and ended up acquiring the Chicago Music Exchange. For two and a half years he ran the store and they had a lot of great success and it had become internationally known as a vintage and rare dealer.
His pain point was actually selling gear online using eBay and he decided that the next step was to solve that pain. That’s where the concept for Reverb came about: to create a marketplace for musicians that’s really tailored to people who love music and shopping for gear and for people who are gearheads and collectors. Unlike eBay and other online markets, Reverb is a highly specialized approach to catering to musicians and doing a better job with that.
Are you a musician yourself?
Absolutely. Everybody on our team is a musician. I was the first employee at Reverb and what attracted me to this vision was both my strong technology background and my background as a musician.
What does Reverb offer that other online marketplaces don’t?
I really thought, as David did, that nobody was addressing the market for making a nice place to shop for used gear that wasn’t the standard clinical, dry shopping experience, but a place where you could come and find the best stuff from reputable sellers and have a great experience.
We offer a higher grade of inventory and we really try to curate what happens on our site; we approach every seller with individual care, which is something that eBay simply can’t do on a per category basis. We’re helping people get the best listings up there with the best pictures, educating people on ways to sell their stuff.
We’re building out a price guide and bringing that Kelley Blue Book experience to vintage guitars and other instruments. You can actually look up and figure out what that thing that’s been sitting in your closet is actually worth.
What’s the most interesting item you’ve seen listed on Reverb so far?
We have a lot of interesting things. Right now there’s actually someone selling these oil can guitars. It seems to be a new trend: people trying to make guitars out of everything.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I think the challenge has really been to understand what kind of sellers are out there. We didn’t really have an idea of what kinds of people are out there selling stuff until we got up and running and now we’re seeing that there are a lot of custom builders attracted to the site.
I think the challenge is for us to understand which types of sellers are a good fit for the buyers coming to our site. There are people who are looking to collect guitars and buy vintage stuff. There are people who are looking to buy these one-off unique items, and there are people who just want to save some money buying used equipment.
Connecting the right buyer to the right seller is the biggest challenge and it’s something that we’re constantly working on.
If you could pick one item on the site right now to own, what would you choose?
I’d probably go with a vintage archtop. I’ve been really into those and they can be kind of expensive, but I really love that old wood grain. The aged look of a nice guitar is something that’s hard to beat.
What’s next for Reverb?
One of the things we’re working on next is bringing that kind of Airbnb curated experience where the homepage will be more about collections. We want to create an experience that gives the buyer a much better view of the kind of things they’re looking for and bring more intelligence to that. We want to bring that curated and user-specific experience to people as they browse the site.