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The next guitar hero

Fender, Gibson and Ibanez: Move over. There’s a new guitar hero on the music scene — and his name is Dave Barry.

Barry, AS’06, cofounded Moniker Guitars, an online custom-guitar manufacturer that allows users to choose the color, shape or even text for the neck of their instrument, which costs between $800 and $1,000. The odds of creating two axes with exactly the same design, Barry said: One in 27 billion.

“We wanted to blow the roof off the guitar industry and do something no one has ever done before,” he explained.

He and business partner Kevin Tully, who handcraft each signature guitar, showcased a variety of designs at South by Southwest, a popular music and film festival held in Austin, Texas last month.

Casual musicians and professional guitar players, many of whom Moniker sponsors, raved about the signature series. And Barry would know what a serious guitar player looks for in his ax: Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, he said, inspired him to start “modifying guitars and bring my playing to another level” at an early age.

Barry and Tully 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.

The custom guitar entrepreneurs used the money to build an interactive website and purchase water-based paint, which is known for giving Ferraris and Lamborghinis their special luster.

“IDEA was integral to helping us get to where we are right now,” Barry said, noting the student-run program’s business acumen. “Without IDEA, I don’t know how we would have gotten started.”

Barry, a graduate of Northeastern’s music industry program, is also working with Jim Anderson, a lecturer in the university’s department of music, to set up a co-op position at Moniker.

He praised Northeastern’s curriculum for imparting life-long lessons that he could apply to his burgeoning business.

“At Northeastern, I learned how fragile the whole music industry is and how everything can change in a heartbeat,” Barry explained.

“You have to be prepared to adapt,” he added, “but we are the pioneers of electric guitar mass-customization and I believe we have set the bar very high.”

His not-so-long-term goal, he said, will be to expand Moniker into the bass guitar-manufacturing sector. “There’s a bass player in every band,” he quipped.