How does Ludwig Keep Prices down?

pcastag

Senior Member
Just wondering, it seems as if their USA made custom maples are about 1000 cheaper than a similar gretsch, DW even C and C. how do they do it? I know the legacy's are a bit pricier, I'm assuming the extra work installing the solid wood re-rings has somethind to do with that, but I'm really impressed at their price points for a USA made all maple drum.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
You mean Classic Maples. :)

There are a number of factors that make up any product's pricing. Sometimes it's simply because a company has marketed themselves in an elite bracket.

For Ludwig, while they make their shells as do DW and C&C (not Gretsch...) they don't finish the shells quite to the degree that DW in particular does. ludwig's gloss finishes are pretty nice, but they're not that glassy finish that DW gets. Lots of extra labor and expense there. I would also venture to say the DW's drum hardware (lugs, mounts, etc) costs more than Ludwig's, and multiply that by the number of pieces attached to all the drums in a kit. Even a few $ per lug adds maybe $150, which has to be doubled for DW to make money, then doubled again for suggested retail price - that's a $600 difference right there.

In regard to the cache that a name possesses, DW and Gretsch seem to charge more just because they can... because drummers expect the prices to be higher... because DW and Gretsch have positioned themselves that way.

Bermuda
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
You mean Classic Maples. :)

In regard to the cache that a name possesses, DW and Gretsch seem to charge more just because they can... because drummers expect the prices to be higher... because DW and Gretsch have positioned themselves that way.
I'll admit that when I was younger I was like alot of people and blinded by the price. If BMW automobiles cost that much, they must be great, right? But in terms of drums, I like the playability of my Ludwigs (I'm on my fifth Ludwig kit - or sixth, I think) and I never worry about them on a gig. Whereas when I owned DW (never really owned a Gretsch) I'd just worry about them whenever I took them out. I can't live like that ;)
 

charliedrummer

Senior Member
I'll admit that when I was younger I was like alot of people and blinded by the price. If BMW automobiles cost that much, they must be great, right? But in terms of drums, I like the playability of my Ludwigs (I'm on my fifth Ludwig kit - or sixth, I think) and I never worry about them on a gig. Whereas when I owned DW (never really owned a Gretsch) I'd just worry about them whenever I took them out. I can't live like that ;)
Bo, could you elaborate on your last statement about the DW's? Did you worry about them because of fears they would get nicked up or stolen, or were you worried they wouldn't hold up during a gig? I'm curious because I've been looking at a Performance kit and want to know if there are any issues where they might not be as road worthy as a set of Ludwigs. Thanks.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Jon is correct to sight hardware costs as being a deal breaker. The cost of hardware on a ply kit, way eclipses the shell cost. The only exception to that being labour intensive finishes. Next to labour & general overheads, it's almost always the biggest cost component, but the actual cost per item for Asian sourced lugs may well surprise you. It's reasonable to compare brand specific lugs to general lugs of similar design from the same source in terms of price, because the quantities are there or thereabouts. A number of well used suppliers are more than happy to make lugs to pretty much any design you like, so long as it's within their manufacturing capability. As an example, if I wanted to have 1,000 (a fairly small number) tube lugs made to my own design, they would cost me, landed, around $3.75 each. Up that to 10,000 (about 200 3 piece shell sets), & the landed cost after transport & duty would be under $3.00 each, so $150 for a kit. Pot metal body lugs, almost irrespective of size & design, are cheaper still.

Lugs & stuff aside, applicable mainly to the volume manufacturers, the end user price is more down to general company overheads than the actual cost of the components. Large marketing budgets & artist programs jack the unit sales price up hugely. I suspect Ludwig's ability to compete aggressively on price is down to savings across all areas of their business. Tight control of distribution costs/margins, as well as retail margins, add to this ability.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Ludwig is also an older company, working in a factory they have owned for a long, long time, with at least some machines they have owned since before DW existed. And they are in North Carolina, as opposed to California. Ludwig is also owned by a larger company, which is owned by even a larger company. Certain upper level management duties are mostly like shared (like, who does the taxes) resulting in lower costs to Ludwig itself.

Quite simply, they have lower overhead than DW, which is a relatively small business.

Although that doesn't explain why Gretsch drums are so darn expensive, given how much they outsource, and how little of the company is even owned or operated by the Gretsch family anymore.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
The USA made Ludwig drums are definitely a good deal. I have a feeling that making their own shells has a lot to do with the pricing ability. As does the finishing as Bermuda pointed out.
Basically, Ludwig moved into a furniture making factory and converted it to suit their needs.
I am impressed with their R&D into hardware as of late too.
Ludwig is a viable contender in the Big Drum Company world.
They deal in high volume sales which also helps to keep the cost down. Andy pointed that out very nicely.
Gretsch has moved along a similar path to Ludwig but Gretsch doesn't have the shell making ability and the hardware innovating ability that Ludwig has.
C&C is Just an amazing company that really stays on their toes to keep their products current and their sales flowing.
dw is also an innovator that took the art of drum making into the 21 Century. They make all manufacturers stay awake at night.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Although that doesn't explain why Gretsch drums are so darn expensive, given how much they outsource, and how little of the company is even owned or operated by the Gretsch family anymore.
Ian, I'd just like to pick up on your point, & make a general/personal observation. I know I'll get flamed for this, but I'll say it anyhow - drums are cheap. I mean almost all drums are cheap. Not just the budget & midrange stuff either. The high end stuff is great value for money too, especially compared to other instruments requiring similar crafting time & skill. Drummers get a huge deal.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
Ian, I'd just like to pick up on your point, & make a general/personal observation. I know I'll get flamed for this, but I'll say it anyhow - drums are cheap. I mean almost all drums are cheap. Not just the budget & midrange stuff either. The high end stuff is great value for money too, especially compared to other instruments requiring similar crafting time & skill. Drummers get a huge deal.
+1^ This.Gretsch charges more,because they can.They're paying less money than you or I,or anybody buying Keller shells,because they buy thousands of them.

In fairness to Gretsch,on the other hand,they're staining and lacquering process is done by hand,and labor intensive.But I'm not convinced,that justifies the premium prices they charge for USA custom drums.

The Catalina line is what keeps the doors open,and the lights on.I don't know about the front office,buy the Ridgeland SC factory only has 5-6 people there.Yes...5 or 6.

Steve B
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Bo, could you elaborate on your last statement about the DW's? Did you worry about them because of fears they would get nicked up or stolen, or were you worried they wouldn't hold up during a gig? I'm curious because I've been looking at a Performance kit and want to know if there are any issues where they might not be as road worthy as a set of Ludwigs. Thanks.
No, the DW's are more than capable of doing whatever you need them to do. I don't want to give the impression that they're not capable. This is more of a "It's not you, it's me" thing. For the amount of money I spent on them, they were so pretty and beautiful, I was naturally afraid something would happen, all the time. Drums for me, believe it or not, are tools, and I don't want to have to worry about them. Ludwigs do that for me, especially considering some of the older ones I've owned. And my brand new ones feel broken in and I'm not worried should some show choir kid bump into them while they're dancing around. Maybe it's just that I've seen Ludwigs being repaired numerous times over my lifetime and feel comfortable knowing that whatever happens, it's fixable. When I see those spectacular DW gloss finishes, heck, even their FinishPly drums, I fear a good ding would not allow itself to be repaired. I just consider Ludwigs more solid for me - I don't subject them to abuse, but I don't worry so much about them getting abused!
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
In fairness to Gretsch,on the other hand,they're staining and lacquering process is done by hand,and labor intensive.But I'm not convinced,that justifies the premium prices they charge for USA custom drums.

The Catalina line is what keeps the doors open,and the lights on.I don't know about the front office,buy the Ridgeland SC factory only has 5-6 people there.Yes...5 or 6.

Steve B
Steve, my point is more towards the USA customs probably better reflecting a true value compared to other instrument prices with similar production costs, & the rest of the range being wholly reliant on volume to turn a modest operating profit. Like many manufacturing companies (cars, etc), the operating profit is centred around their midrange offerings. Many make very little, or even a modest loss on their high end stuff, & their entry level stuff is a brand fishing net.

Gretsch not making their own shells is a good way of reducing fixed overheads, & keeping overall production costs predictable. A most viable business model if you want to run an operation with few people. The weird thing is, if they were positioned as a so called "custom" drum company, they'd be labeled as "hardware hangers" by some less than complementary drum gear critics. Lucky for them, a long & successful trading history in the brand spares them from such (ill informed) critique.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I also wanted to point out too that Ludwig and Gretsch, are basically like Harley-Davidson and Ford. They are almost ubiquitous to American pop culture and if you're talking vintage stylings or classic looks, those would be the two companies one would consider. Like Fender and Gibson guitars too, Ludwig and Gretsch hold court on classic drums that the entire world knows about. Of course, economics dictates they don't charge too much, but like those other iconic American companies, they know they're in a comfortable spot regardless of how hard the economic times are.

One could argue how much better other companies are with their products, heck, people who ride motorcycles everyday probably like their consistent and unwavering Yamaha or Honda bike, but does that make as big a statement as that big, oil-leaking Harley-Davidson hog does when you roll in to Sturgis? No. Everytime I see a guitar player playing a Strat-like or Les Paul-like guitar, I expect to see the name "Fender" or "Gibson" on that headstock, just because that's how it is. Photographers are often swayed by the name "Leica" or "Hasselblad" instead of "Nikon" or "Canon". So I think it's just human nature.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Ian, I'd just like to pick up on your point, & make a general/personal observation. I know I'll get flamed for this, but I'll say it anyhow - drums are cheap. I mean almost all drums are cheap. Not just the budget & midrange stuff either. The high end stuff is great value for money too, especially compared to other instruments requiring similar crafting time & skill. Drummers get a huge deal.
I want to disagree with you.

But I can't.

Look at high end solid wood furniture. High end maple/oak/mahogany furniture can run thousands of dollars, without worrying about shells being in round, bearing edges, or the same degree or precision. A 1/16 of an inch difference in a drum shell is poor quality control, in a hand made armoire, that's "character." And never mind the difference in the amount of hardware.

Although furniture does contain much more raw wood. But not the detail in cuts.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
+1^ This.Gretsch charges more,because they can.They're paying less money than you or I,or anybody buying Keller shells,because they buy thousands of them.

In fairness to Gretsch,on the other hand,they're staining and lacquering process is done by hand,and labor intensive.But I'm not convinced,that justifies the premium prices they charge for USA custom drums.

The Catalina line is what keeps the doors open,and the lights on.I don't know about the front office,buy the Ridgeland SC factory only has 5-6 people there.Yes...5 or 6.

Steve B
Everything outside of those 5 or 6 people handled by KMS (Kaman Music Supply), the largest music instrument distribution company in America, who also owns LP, Toca, Gibraltar hardware, and well as numerous guitar and amp companies.

KMS is then entirely owned by Fender Guitars.
 

BobC

Member
No, the DW's are more than capable of doing whatever you need them to do. I don't want to give the impression that they're not capable. This is more of a "It's not you, it's me" thing. For the amount of money I spent on them, they were so pretty and beautiful, I was naturally afraid something would happen, all the time. Drums for me, believe it or not, are tools, and I don't want to have to worry about them. Ludwigs do that for me, especially considering some of the older ones I've owned. And my brand new ones feel broken in and I'm not worried should some show choir kid bump into them while they're dancing around. Maybe it's just that I've seen Ludwigs being repaired numerous times over my lifetime and feel comfortable knowing that whatever happens, it's fixable. When I see those spectacular DW gloss finishes, heck, even their FinishPly drums, I fear a good ding would not allow itself to be repaired. I just consider Ludwigs more solid for me - I don't subject them to abuse, but I don't worry so much about them getting abused!
I have two wrapped DW sets that I haul around all the time with no cases or covers. I just carefully put them in the back of the car and off I go. I'm not worried about them at all. Both sets look presentable after hundreds, and in the case of the Ultra Oyster White set, perhaps a thousand or more gigs. I have never been a Ludwig fan, to be honest. I always found old Ludwigs to be very harsh sounding drums, and they got pretty bad in the late
60's and into the early 70's insofar as quality, back when Ludwig was churning them out night and day to meet demand.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
How does Ludwig keep the prices down?
Simple; Ludwig rips off the other guy and passes the savings onto you! :)
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
Ha ha - you guys really have money to burn.

I bought two new 5 piece shell packs for less than this one Ludwig bass drum costs:
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Ludwig-Legacy-Classic-Liverpool-4-Bass-Drum-105312250-i1452848.gc

So, I wonder more often why Ludwig's are so expensive.

Partly kidding here. I know Ludwig has a full range of prices, from minimal to fairly expensive.
And also that their top range kits cost less than some other brands.
One more also - those two sets I got are Chinese.
I live in the US, so I'm willing to pay a bit more to keep my countrymen employed,
and the profits here.

I'm a hobbyist/enthusiast. I don't have income from playing drums.
If I did, I'd probably be running with higher spec gear.
And if it was a very high income, I might lose perspective on where most of the rest of the people in the world are at.

So - just a bit of an alternate viewpoint. Don't get your undies in a bunch over it guys. LOL
 
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D

drumming sort of person

Guest
In fairness to Gretsch on the other hand, their staining and lacquering process is done by hand and labor intensive. But I'm not convinced that justifies the premium prices they charge for USA custom drums.
Premium prices? What are you talking about? Their prices are WAY more reasonable than top of the line Sonor or Yamaha PHX (and they sound better too). If you price out their satin finishes (least expensive finish for their USA Custom line) you'll be pleasantly surprised.
 

Bull

Gold Member
I bought my CM Red Sparkles new,3 years ago. Prices have gone up quite a bit since then.
 
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