View Full Version : Alternative ukulele sales model

02-12-2010, 10:32 PM
Disclaimer: This thread will only make sense to people who live far away from places with stores that actually carry a wide range of ukuleles. So if you are from Hawaii the below will not be appealing to you at all, but it might fill you with a strange mix of pity and schedenfraude.


As we all know one of the best / worst parts of playing ukulele is that the instrument is cheap enough that one can really start to indulge in purchasing many different types of ukes. The differences are not always mind blowing, but it's simply a lot of fun to explore a new instrument.

But I personally do not like having more than 2 or 3 ukues around the house. So what I find is I buy and resell fairly quickly. I've come to appreciate the price difference between my original purchase and sell amount really amounts to a rental cost for the instrument.

I recently sold my beloved kiwaya at a $150 loss, but after I had it for a year. Which means I paid around $12 a month rent for that instrument. I sold it because a Dias custom stole my heart and the kiwaya was just collecting dust. For me even though I loved the kiwaya I felt it was a crime against art itself to let such an awesome instrument sit unplayed.

And I've sold several other perfectly fine instruments simply because if they are not being used I want them out of my house.

So, here's the question: Are there others like me? And, if so, why doesn't someone start a ukulele rental service with option to buy? I am dying to try out a KoAloha pineapple - and suspect I would even buy one - but I am really not ready to commit to a full blown purchase without getting to hold one in my hands. Wouldn't it be cool if someone would rent me one for $50 a month, with the option of buying? If after one month I don't like it, with a rental service I can return it at a low cost of $50.

Could you imagine a service where there was a directory of hundreds of ukes that one could rent? Maybe you'd be required to give a large deposit. Maybe you'd have to establish yourself as a trusted client before they would let you rent a higher end uke. Maybe the rental prices would need to be proportionate to the value of the uke. ($1 a month for a dolphin, $100 a month for a unique custom build.)

Anyways, my main point is that I suspect, based on my own behavior, that there is a potential business model in renting out ukes as opposed to just selling them...

Am I onto something, or is the potential for client abuse and ukulele damage too great?

And if the business model won't satisfy this need - how about a ukulele collective - where a group of people buy ukuleles together and then rotate the instruments? I would love to join with twelve other people who like high end instruments. We each pay $100 a month - $1,200 a year. And for a year we each get one really high end instrument for a month and then rotate.

At the end of the year we could find a creative process (with a large luck component) to settle who gets to keep what instrument. The end might hurt a bit, but we would all end up really educated about the range of ukuleles.


02-13-2010, 12:47 AM
I think you already mentioned the main reason this won't work well....uke damage. Renting a uke sounds wonderful....until that little nick, bump or scratch happens (and we all know they do happen). So you've scratched a rental uke. Now what?

02-13-2010, 12:52 AM
Rental services have been pretty common with pianos and concert grands for a long time. In europe there is also the possibility to rent e.g. guitars, basses, drum kits on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly base. Most of these services include the possibilty to buy the instruments afterwards and reqire a deposit of about 20%/Value. Occasional damages are included in the calculation. I don´t know if there is such a service especially for ukes, but the german uke-club (www.ukulelenclub.de) offers members some rental instruments (Brüko, Risa, Lanikai) for free.

So, while I am not sure that a specialized uke- rental service would be suitable as a sustainable business- model, I really like your idea of a private rental-club for high-end ukes.

02-13-2010, 02:29 AM
I think this is an awesome idea and I've always wished a rental service like this were around. To try a uke, I have to buy it and sent it back to resell like you mentioned. This would definitely be a better way to try them out!

02-13-2010, 02:45 AM
Just buy the optional uke renter's insurance and no worries. After all, it's just a rental. Oh and don't forget to put new strings on it when you return it. Our local music store has the option to rent-to-own on all their instruments. They are really overpriced though. This would be cool if somebody could pull it off.

02-13-2010, 02:55 AM
I don't know about the business model, but I "collect" for the same reasons you do - ukes are relatively cheap, and I find I just can't get a good idea of what I like by strumming them for a few minutes in a store. I have to live with the instrument for several months. I like your idea of considering the loss when you sell one as a rental fee.

I would definitely go for the rental idea, if it meant I could do extended try-outs of all the ukes I wanted to. Another way of doing it would be to have a buy-back provision at a guaranteed fixed percentage of the purchase price, assuming the uke was still in good condition. Non-collectible ukes in good shape seem to fetch 50%-75% (including shipping) of their new cost, from what I have seen.

02-13-2010, 07:35 AM
As good as this idea is, in order to make sense business wise it would cost the renter as much as it does now when you buy, try, and sell at a loss. That loss is your rent, and the loss is directly proportional to how long you've had the instrument, where you originally bought it, the demand of the marketplace, and the condition when you sell it. I guess the only difference in a rental model is your upfront cost: instead of full purchase price, you are renting. But there's a certain mindset that comes with renting: some folks don't treat the instrument with the same respect as when they buy it.

I also see a lot of potential problems: renters who don't return ukes, then initiate credit card charge backs; etc.

It might work as kind of a hobby, between members who trust each other, but even then, we've seen the recent problems here on UU with sales in the marketplace.

I'm not sure how even a private collective could make this pay. Although it is certainly an interesting thought. Very interesting. Hmm...

02-13-2010, 07:40 AM
Here's another idea.

What if twelve members (pick a number) who trusted one another, got together and all put in a unified sum of money into a pot--say, $200 each.

Then everyone voted on a number of ukes to buy. The ukes revolved for a set period of time between members. At the end of the year, members sold the ukes and returned the balance in equal shares.

02-13-2010, 02:20 PM
This is already done with student band instruments. I did it when I wanted to try out an oboe for a year. At the end of the year, I returned the student oboe and bought a better one. The shop cleaned and adjusted the rental and sent it out again.

Here's what you do: get on Ebay with a spare uke, offer it up as a rental, not purchase. Get the full value of the uke up front, when it comes back, refund the deposit minus the rental and any repairs.

See if anybody's interested. If so, get prepared to pack and ship ukes for all your spare time.

02-13-2010, 02:52 PM
I agree the band rental business is well established, so it must work. Apparently you can do the same with orchestra stringed instruments, such as the violin. I doubt a ukulele is more fragile than a violin. Here is a place that rents them with an option to buy or move up:


Of course the price to rent a violin from them for a term is more than a good entry level ukulele, because good violins cost more.

02-14-2010, 04:14 AM
We have a local music store that sells ukes and offers an 80% trade in on a return for a different uke. Pretty much guarantees a "resale" value of 80% of the oiginal purchase price....