Networking the Gear Needy with the Gear Endowed – an Interview with Sharingear.com’s Mircea Gabriel Eftemie

Look, I want to level with y’all: our lives would be better if we didn’t have to deal with gear. I know, this is Gear Gods. We’re supposed to all be in love with 50-piece drum kits and walls of cabs large enough to barricade the trenches in WWI. But you also have to admit that it’s all kind of a pain in the ass, especially when travel is involved. If you’re on a flying gig you’d better be packing light. If you can’t afford a big van you’d better be packing light. Packing light saves a lot of headaches, albiet sometimes (though not always) at the expense of tone. But here’s another option: don’t pack gear at all.

That’s one application of the new website sharingear.com, which puts those in need of a gear rental directly in touch with musicians who’d like to make some cash loaning out their surplus. So if you’re flying out to the other side of the country, or over an ocean, you can network with like-minded musicians and work out some fair trade of Greenbacks for green bills (or whatever weirdo color the local currency is). Of course you could also make the exchange a longer-term affair if you have a whole tour in the works.

The main idea I like is that you’re networking with other musicians in the process. You might even be able to book a couple more gigs from the connections, or work out a place to crash. It can be a struggle, all this transportation of impractical heaviness, and the more available solutions the better.

I had a chance to chat with the founder of sharingear.com, Mircea Gabriel Eftemie, about how the service got started and how it’s growing.

Gear Gods: When did Sharingear.com open its (virtual) doors for business?

Mircea Gabriel Eftemie: We released a very rough version and an invite-only platform in mid November 2014. This was mainly to test the service with a small group of users, and gather results to carve out the proper functionality and a good user experience, but also to see if we could create a sustainable business.

Did you begin by networking with some gear rental providers or did you always envision the focus as directly musician-to-musician?

After some market research, we came to the conclusion that our service would be best suited for touring musicians. From up and coming to semi-established bands that would tour 2-3 times per year. It actually happened by coincidence that Emil Nödtveidt from Deathstars reached out to me, in regards to a show they where doing in Copenhagen. They where in need of some good cabinets, so I basically had one of my friends deliver 2 Mesa/Boogie cabinets to them at the venue. My friend received payment, made money from his gear, and Deathstars played on some good quality Mesa/Boogie cabs: a win-win situation. If you think about it, Deathstars are an established band, so in conclusion it works for anyone touring.

We have also teamed up with Scandinavia’s largest backline rental company, which is called Soundforce. They have been in the business for many years, and most of their clients are within the B2B area, which are festivals, events and venues. With our service we are able to channel touring artists, and even create new customers for them. They on the other hand, are able to control bad paying customers through the service, due to both a rating system and a payment system. In this way we can verify and validate customers. They also have the ability to quickly register and showcase new equipment through the mobile app, while they are on location or at their warehouses. They receive all info via email notifications when there is booking and so on.

When you started Sharingear.com were you simply looking to start a business and then brainstormed to think of what you could offer? Or did it arise from a problem you personally had and you thought “man, I wish there was a company that did this… wait, why don’t I just start doing that?”

It was basically a combination of things. I was very inspired by the AirBnB model and the whole collaborative consumption concept, also coined as the sharing economy. Then it hit me, I thought why not apply the same model for the touring industry. I mean, everyone owns the same standard equipment and everyone has the same transportation costs. Why not make a different distribution channel for expenditure that can end up being beneficial for musicians. If everyone has a possibility to make some extra money and save costs, why not create a platform for all to help each other out. After being in a band for so many years, touring in so many countries and having to deal with equipment and the logistical aspect, I thought it’s about time we gathered every part in one place. It was always a hassle to find the right transportation, festivals always missed out on tech riders and on top of that when we weren’t touring our technicians always would have to dig through word-of-mouth to find new jobs. In other words it’s a way to streamline touring and concert production and I think the music industry has always been the last to move on to new things, especially when it comes to technology, so its about time we did something about that.

Blood Eagle @ COPENHELL 2014

You’re based in Europe, right? What is it about the European touring scene that makes gear sharing a more standard occurrence there? Why do you think that musicians in North American and Canada are less prone to do so?

Gear sharing is standard all over the world, it’s a mentality that has been around for years between musicians. Bands usually borrow equipment to each other when they for instance are on the same bill, unless it’s a full tour production where everyone shares the entire backline they have payed for. The whole idea in the beginning was actually to help smaller bands team up with bigger bands. In this way a headliner would make the extra revenue on their backline, and the supports would have a chance at playing a larger crowd – it would be a win-win situation for both in the end. I think the North American market could become better fit, due to the long distances. Bands could eventually tour more cost effectively by playing primary markets and leave out secondary or tertiary markets. So in the end its more about quality shows than quantity, reaching a potential audience instead of increasing the risk in those aforementioned markets and burning your self out as a band. An example could be a band flying from L.A. to N.Y. renting gear from a local band that set up a show, and vice-versa. I know the reality is quite different for smaller bands, due to their economy and so on.

How has the user response been? Was there a lot of interest at once or was it more of a slow build?

The user response has been absolutely fantastic so far, but we still have a long way to go. We are creating a new market when it comes equipment sharing and with that territory comes a new mentality, which also has to be adapted. This requires marketing efforts in order to create awareness for the platform, so it is a combination of many things. Great things don’t happen overnight, so it is a slow build that will eventually accelerate.

Do you find that you have more people participating in Sharingear.com looking to rent out their gear, or more people looking to do the renting?

There is both demand and supply, which means both sides of the marketplace are covered. At the moment we are looking into building the supply side, focusing on musicians who would like to make money off their equipment.

sharingear - van

Do you provide coverage for the renter in case their gear is damaged?

Yes, we want our users to be comfortable renting their equipment through our service. That’s why we’re guaranteeing the gear’s safety on our system. If gear is damaged or stolen during a rental period and the renter is unable to reimburse for the fair value of the respective gear, we will cover the cost up to 10,000€ for instruments listed on our platform. When that is stated, I also would like to point out that it is important to read our terms of service, because we only cover equipment that is rented out in hardcases.

I noticed that a lot of the testimonials are from metal musicians, e.g. Stephen Carpenter, Peter Dolving, and Jeff Walker. Is your primary focus the metal community?

Not at all, but it’s a great place to start, because heavy metal musicians are just much more passionate than the rest, and usually the ones with most equipment that do all the heavy touring. On top of that I have been in a metal band touring for 10 years, therefore my network is mostly within the metal community. I have toured with the Deftones, The Haunted, and done work for Carcass, so its great to have these guys from established bands vouching for the service – its also another way of validating the concept. I know that Steph usually rents out some of his gear for studio use – which means this concept is already part of the offline world and has not been digitalized yet.

Is there a specific type of musician who tends to provide the best gear for rental? Would it be touring musicians with off time? Or weekend warriors who never did much gigging and have stacks of unused stuff? Or is it a mix?

It’s a bit early to tell, but it looks more like it is the weekend warriors, which is great. As I mentioned earlier, it would be great for up and coming bands to work together. Lets say your band teams up with another band and split the transportation costs for a show in a different country/state. Both bands rent the gear locally, delivered to the venue. This way you help the local economy, and you wont break your back carrying all of your backline – then its party time and off to the bar, instead of carrying all of your heavy equipment into the trailer.

Do you worry that the growing market share for tiny, portable amp modelers will decrease the demand for amplifier rentals? Do you think that in another 10-15 years our guitars will just connect wirelessly to our phones and then from there to the PA with no heavy gear transport needed?

Blood Eagle @ COPENHELL 2014

I think you should ask that question to anyone that loves the sound of a tube amplifier. If you ask me, real-time digital simulation of amplifiers will never recreate the analogue audio. From my personal experience all of these solutions have the same algorithm, and in the end they all tend to sound the same, crunching out the same sounds, no matter how they are skinned. Think about the vinyl vs. streaming concept, better sound quality and so on. But that is just me, and in the end its personal taste – it also comes down to what type of genre you play, and what the equipment is best suited for.

Do you get less cabinet and drum shell rentals compared to heads, guitars, cymbals, and pedals, because of the prevalence of backlines, especially in Europe?

I think its quite the contrary, because string instruments are much more personal. Heavy equipment such as cabinets, amps and drums are more exposed to the wear and tear from being out on the road. I therefore think that people are more inclined in renting the aforementioned. On the other hand we’ve had many different type of use cases, so again its quite early to tell.

Is there a particular piece of gear, or a category in general, that you wish more people would offer? Is there anything you have too much of?

Since we are new on the market we have not been focusing our marketing efforts for the classical musicians. I would love to see a harp being listed on the service, and in general more classical instruments.

Since you offer a pretty unique service, are there any common misunderstandings about what Sharingear.com is?

I think the only misunderstanding is the way the name is spelled. Many people spell it with two G’s, but it is spelled SharinGear with one G.

Anything else you wanted to say in closing?

Sharingear is not only a peer-to-peer platform for equipment rental but also a platform for concert and touring production. If you are a musician, technician or driver, you will be able to find new customers, and charge your clients through our service. This means upfront payments and transparency on the work and services you offer. Go to www.sharingear.com to create your profile and help us spread the word to the industry.

Thank you for the interview, I appreciate it!

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.