Custom guitars get ‘Kickstart’ at SXSW

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.”