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U N DER T H E HOOD

Kepma Guitar Joins the U.S. Market By Brian Berk

Chances are you’ve never heard of the Kepma Guitar Co. But thanks to this story, as well as others like it, that’s about to change. According to JD.com, Kepma is the No. 1 brand of premium acoustic guitars in mainland China in terms of unit sales, selling more than 25,000 guitars per month. But up until now, Kepma, founded in 2008 by Jack Peng and Kevin Lui, only had products available in China. That’s about to change, as Kepma USA will make its official debut at Summer NAMM in Nashville at Booth No. 57 this month. Products will be available starting next month. The U.S. music industry has struggled with obtaining and maintaining offshore manufacturing while trying to become more competitive “first in the ‘70s and ‘80s with Japan, then with Korea in the ‘90s and, of course, China throughout the new millennium,” Kepma Guitar Co. said in a statement. “The goal was to keep seeking the next lower-price factory — lower labor cost, more primitive locations or huge capacity mega-contract manufacturers that essentially make most of the industry’s guitars. This process often meant new replacement factories each model year, factories going out of business due to unkept payment or purchase promises, or at least, inconsistent production due to an ever-changing and unreliable labor force.” The company added, “The bottom line is, [manufacturers] have no control over a factory they do not own. In fact, most U.S. guitar company owners could not even tell you the name of the factory their products come from on any particular day, as outsourcing by contract manufacturing is more common than not.” Peng certainly experienced this frustration. He would see “good’ and “bad” factories. He would see factories that have inconsistent quality from one production run to the next. He would see the exact same production lines pay more (or less) attention to their work based upon what brand they were running for that day. So, he decided he would have a guitar factory that would be

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"I literally rolled my eyes. But when I got to the factory, I noticed a gorgeous reception room. I took a tour of the factory. It was the cleanest and most efficient factory I have ever seen." —Tony Moscal

more like U.S. premier guitar makers. Peng incorporated technology to ensure consistency, quality and predictability. He also selected skilled employees and trained them to believe in his philosophy of making each guitar as perfect as possible. He used his engineering qualifications to study and understand the science behind wood, vibration, tension, steel and the tonal ramifications of each of these. Peavey and Ampeg former executive Tony Moscal, partner at Kepma USA, explained the decision to introduce Kepma to the U.S. market now. He knew a woman in China from his Peavey days, as she also worked for the Mississippi-based manufacturer, handling factory selection and purchasing. After Moscal left Peavey in 2015, he reached out to her. “She said, ‘You need to meet my brother-in-law. He has a Chinese guitar factory,’” Moscal told the Music & Sound Retailer. “I literally rolled my eyes. But when I got to the factory, I noticed a gorgeous reception room. I took a tour of the factory. It was the cleanest and most efficient factory I have ever seen. And I saw the product and thought, Wow, these are really nice guitars. I said on the tour, ‘Who are you? How come I don’t know about you?’ And then when they told me they sold more than 20,000 guitars a month, it really caught my attention.” Approximately 250 people work in the Kepma Chinese factory, three of JULY 2019

Profile for Music & Sound Retailer

Music & Sound Retailer July 2019, Vol 36 No 7  

In July’s Summer NAMM issue, we take an in-depth look at the NAMM Music Education Advocacy Fly-In, make the long trip to Italy to visit Proe...

Music & Sound Retailer July 2019, Vol 36 No 7  

In July’s Summer NAMM issue, we take an in-depth look at the NAMM Music Education Advocacy Fly-In, make the long trip to Italy to visit Proe...