NAMM 2013 Guide to Selling Ukuleles

It’s tough trying to sell ukuleles in 2013. The selection of ukuleles gets more bloated every year. Recent new entrants include Eastman, Godin and Lâg Guitars, Moku and AmiAmi.

Looking at Ukeeku and Ukulele Underground‘s coverage of the music trade show NAMM it’s clear it’s too late to put out a well-made, sweet-sounding ukulele and expect anyone to give a shit.

Here’s your complete guide to ukulele selling tactics of 2013:

Get them endorsed by a dead guy:
Bill Tapia ukuleles (Ukeeku was particularly scathing about these in his NAMM roundup).
Martin’s IZ tribute ukulele.
Peavey’s Jack Daniel’s ukulele.

Hire musicians that can make any uke sound great:
Benny Chong and Byron Yasui for Kamaka
James Hill and Bakithi Kumalo for Kala
Yuna playing for Taylor
Sarah Maisel for DaSilva.
Gerald Ross and Ken Middleton for Ohana.

Make it gaudy:
– The route one of making your ukulele stand out. This has been a successful tactic for Luna so they’re stepping up their game with mermaids, fairies and dragons.
– The Mahalo “art series” goes with skulls, hearts, spiders and signs of the zodiac.
– Collings go with flowers, spaceships and snakes.
– Even the tuners are getting in on the act with Swiff’s cartoon tuners featuring aliens, batman and a reindeers.

Banjoleles and Resonators:
Magic Fluke’s new banjoleles (one designed by Janet Klein)
Kala’s banjolele and resonator ukuleles.
– Guitar resonator specialists Beard has introduced Beard ukuleles (no match for the moustache ukulele of course)

Outdated selling techniques:
– Mahalo go with cultural appropriation, sex and dancing Gangnam style. Knock it off, Mahalo.

Shapes and sizes
Eleuke’s peanut shape
– Kala have made their pocket uke even tinier. One day it really will fit in your pocket just like a pocket chord dictionary.

View Comments


  1. tony boland February 1st, 2013 11:40 pm

    “Bloated” about describes the Namm ukulele hype to me. I’m sure there are some beautiful ukes on display but the whole mad rush to “cash in” on a craze might just signal the beginning of overkill the uke. Hope I am wrong….but?

  2. Ron Hale February 2nd, 2013 1:01 am

    Just noticed that Takamine are making ukes now, too, Al.

    Been ignoring NAMM. Yawn. Snore…

    Tappy uke? Iz tribute uke? So where’s the John King Memorial Ukulele? In the pipeline, probably.

    Hey, if you don’t know Jack Daniels…you don’t know jack. And loads of ukers do know Jack Daniels. And by extension – jack.

    Never have liked having pros/expert performers demoing guitars/ukes. They play their top-tier material, material that the rest of us never will be able to play.

    I can’t relate to that. Why not have someone play basic stuff, stuff that we can play or realistically hope to play so we can evaluate the instruments on our terms?

    Luna, again. Yvonne de Villiers is an artist. She’s not about to make plain instruments. Skulls, spiders, kids love them. Adults, as well.

    The Collings designs are really quite nice. And I love the alien tuner. The designs can be seen as gaudy, but there’s a tradition of gaudy uke designs. These new designs are reminiscent of the older ones. Not necessarily a bad road to travel.

    Janet’s design is adorable. Perfect for a duet with a certain Parlor Boy after his recuperation.

    Are you sure someone isn’t being over harsh with Mahalo? The photos look to me like they’re just having some good fun. If their hula is an issue with some it’s certainly not one with me.

    Sex? Do a YT video search on “ukulele burlesque”
    (one of my regular searches) and you’ll see that the mighty uke is a favorite for this entertainment.

    Sex goes with the ukulele like hey goes with soul sister. Like I’m goes with yours. Like Danielle goes with sandwiches.

    Why, didn’t the Founder himself say that the purpose of the ukulele is to get laid? I do believe so.

    Looks like Bartt’s having some fun Gangnam style. Hope that’s not considered appropriating Korean culture.

  3. Marc February 2nd, 2013 2:18 pm

    Best. Post. Ever.

  4. Allan February 2nd, 2013 2:57 pm

    “Kala have made their pocket uke even tinnier” – Freudian slip no doubt, but probably true :(

  5. Woodshed February 2nd, 2013 8:56 pm

    Marc: Glad. You. Liked. It.

    Allan: Hahaha! I suspect that might also be true.

  6. Jim T. February 6th, 2013 8:16 pm

    It’s just history repeating itself. The same thing happened in the mid-1920s, when the uke was the best-selling instrument in the mainland U.S. Lots of people wanting to make money, lots of efforts to differentiate product, a race to the bottom to create inexpensive product: these are the bulk of the vintage ukes that people are happily buying on ebay today. (Johnny Martin tenor, anyone?) But if anyone’s worried about the uke’s popularity getting out of hand, take heart from the fact that the L.A. Times referred to the uke as a “fringe” instrument in its coverage of NAMM. That’s history repeating itself, too.

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