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Bass Central - Fern Park, Florida


Bass Central
Following the release of Superchops 4 Bass, a best-selling series of instructional repertoire in audio tape, video, and CD/book courses, internationally recognized author and bassist Beaver Felton opened the doors to Florida's Bass Central in 1996. With hundreds of bass guitars, amplifiers, and cabinets continually in stock, Bass Central houses one of the world's largest inventories of new and used bass gear which includes standard to boutique electric basses, electric uprights, acoustic bass guitars, high-end bass amplification, and lots of bass-related gadgets.

In this interview, Beaver Felton talks about operating Bass Central and Superchops 4 Bass.




How did Bass Central get started?

I had been playing and teaching professionally for what seemed like a zillion years, but I never got rich doing so. In the 1980's and 90's, I produced a lot of instructional material on a number of labels, and although critically acclaimed, internationally distributed, and very successful, I realized that I probably couldn't make a good long-term living off of royalties from them. However, my earnings did provide me with investment capital so the entrepreneur in me looked for other ways to accomplish this.

Around 1994, a private student of mine wanted a fretless 4-string bass, and I suggested a Pedulla Buzz. He asked where to get one. We looked around but had no luck so I called Pedulla. I had already enjoyed a pretty strong degree of visibility for my playing and tutorial materials through endorsements and magazine ads so they were familiar with me. I had actually already met brothers Ted and Mike Pedulla at past NAMM shows. There were no dealers around Orlando so Mike Pedulla suggested that I act as a dealer for my student's bass. I gave the student a great deal and made a few hundred bucks very easily in the process. The same student later ordered a Hexabuzz, a Pedulla 6-string fretless, so it was the same kind of deal which resulted in a quick, easy profit. From that point, the seed for bass retail was planted in me, and I owe part of the Bass Central concept to Mike Pedulla.

At that time, there were only a few bass-only stores in the country so I saw an opportunity. I talked to long-time friend, Dave LaRue, about the idea to open a bass shop and then went to work on market research, contacting gear manufacturers, financing, and so forth.

Luckily, most of the bass gear manufacturers knew of me and of course Dave's name added credibility so they were all onboard and quite flexible with opening orders. This all went down in 1995 and 1996.

With a ton of hard work, some good decisions, a bit of luck, and the right employees, Bass Central has grown every year into a more successful business. I feel confident in saying that we're among the top bass stores in the solar system.

What are the primary brands of basses that you keep in stock?

We carry basses A through Z, Alembic to Zon, and everything in between such as MusicMan, Spector, Warwick, Lakland, F-Bass, MTD, Fender, G&L, Elrick, Dingwall, Smith, Pedulla, Fodera, Godin, Hofner, Lull, Modulus, Sadowsky, Status, and a handful more.

What kind of bass amplification is available at Bass Central?

Eden, Ampeg, Aguilar, Ashdown, EA, SWR, Schroeder, EBS, Epifani, Genz Benz, Alembic, Demeter, Acoustic Image, Accugroove, GK, Phil Jones, Bergantino, and Sadowsky.

Which of your product lines typically sell the best?

Without looking up actual numbers on the books, my guesses for the top three best-selling basses would be MusicMan, Lakland, and Warwick. For amps and cabinets, the best sellers would include Eden, Ampeg, and Aguilar.

Other than basses and amps, what kinds of accessories do you sell?

We carry a wide array of strings, straps, floormount and rackmount effects, cables, rack cases, gig bags, and much more.

Have you found that bassists are purchasing more 5-string instruments than standard 4-string basses?

This varies greatly from brand to brand. Overall, there seems to be more 5-string players now, even starting with younger players and novices. With some brands such as Roscoe, Smith, F Bass, and MTD, we sell very few 4-string basses. With a few brands such as MusicMan, Alembic, and Fender, it's probably 50/50 between 4 and 5-string instruments.

Can customers place orders for custom instruments through your shop?

Absolutely.

What are some of the variables a customer should consider when purchasing or placing an order for their first custom bass?

You need to keep in mind your budget, the application of the bass, the re-sale value of the instrument, and the long-term requirements of the bass. Of course, you also have to consider the tone, playability, feel, and appearance that your performance requires.

Can bassists come to you for instrument repairs if needed?

Yes.

Are private bass lessons available at Bass Central?

Yes. I no longer have the time to teach, but Dave LaRue and our assistant manager, Mike Amico, teach.

Has the internet influenced the way you operate Bass Central?

Totally. With a specialty shop like ours, we couldn't stay in business without the internet and worldwide shipping so the way in which we represent items on the web site is crucial. Since every store in the world is at the consumer's fingertips and e-mailing for quotes is free, competitive pricing and customer service are extremely important to sales.

What percentage of your business comes through internet sales?

I'd say 80%.

What makes Bass Central unique from other bass shops?

Lots of stores claim to have the best sales and service, and there are some really good, reputable ones out there. Like other bass retailers, everyone that works here plays bass, and we know the gear. We place customer service as the number one priority, and I can assure you that we're among the top, if not the top, in sales. However, here's the absolute distinction. We have the largest inventory of high-end bass gear under one roof on the planet. We have nearly two million dollars worth of gear in stock. Building up our inventory over the years has always been one of my goals, and this offers the customer several advantages. Customers have the absolute widest selection of gear to choose from which means that the gear is readily available as opposed to having to be special ordered. Also, the equipment is in pristine condition. Unlike the vast majority of stores which display all of their gear out on the floor, especially basses, 80% of ours is still in the box. Instead of a bass with shop wear, dead strings, and lots of other player's DNA on it, most of what we ship out has never been played! With everything else being equal, practically everyone wants a "virgin" instrument.

Can you tell us about the Superchops 4 Bass series of instructional methods that you authored?

By the mid-80's, I had been through a few record deals that went bad, and although I was still chasing the dream with the group I was in, Chimera, I was starting to think of long-term financial security because you really have to do so at some point.

I had already been teaching privately for years and one night while playing in Cocoa Beach, Florida, I came up with the idea to produce an instructional audio tape series. Hot Licks, Star Licks, and Metal Method were already making them so I made some sample lessons and sent them to all three of these companies. Basically, they all replied stating that they thought I was a great player and had a great teaching approach, but since I was unknown, they weren't sure how to market my lessons.

Coincidentally, I was planning to compose, record, and submit some solo work to Mike Varney at Guitar Player magazine. He was a record producer/talent scout and had a monthly column called "Spotlight On New Talent" in which he featured the top three players out of hundreds of tapes he received each month. He helped discover a bunch a great players like Billy Sheehan, Paul Gilbert, and Yngwie Malmsteen so it was quite prestigious to be selected by him. I recorded the solo and sent it to him. Several months later, I was in a bad accident. While I was in the hospital, I got a phone call from one of my students who said I had been featured in the August 1985 issue of Guitar Player! There was the international recognition and visibility which I needed in order to have a chance with the instructional course. The endorsements starting falling into place which gave me much more credibility. To this day, I consider the Mike Varney feature to be the first domino in a sequence of events that played a major role in the success of my career, and I thank Mike for it whenever I see him.

The entrepreneur in me looked at strategy, marketing, and approach which helped me in deciding to divide the tapes into various techniques at different playing levels. I was really good at playing fingerstyle, slapping, tapping, using harmonics and chords, and I knew a decent amount of theory for a self-taught player so I chose those subjects to feature in the lessons.

For the next year, I worked on the series which I named Superchops 4 Bass. Released in 1986, it initially consisted of 10 tapes, but after much success, I expanded it to 19 lessons. The course was used and endorsed by a number of great players like Bill Dickens, Dave LaRue, Kenny Aaronson, Will Lee, and Victor Wooten. When I first met Victor in 1989, he told me that he'd actually bought and used some of the tapes! It also received stellar magazine reviews and was distributed internationally.

Hot Licks approached me about shooting a video which I completed in 1988. At one point, it was the second best-selling bass video next to Jaco's. Then, Hal Leonard contracted me to record eight lessons which they marketed as CD/book packages. I also did a 3-tape series on hard rock and heavy metal bass for Metal Method which was owned by Doug Marks. These did well, and I appeared in Metal Method magazine ads for several years. I produced a total of six more videos from 1990-1993, and two of them featured Roy Vogt who was much better than me on 5 and 6-string bass. These were all produced on my label, Superchops 4 Bass, like the original audio tape series. Another instructional products company, MVP Home Entertainment Inc., bought the rights to package and sell two of the beginner series which are still being distributed by them. I believe they were also converted to DVD which I'll probably do with all other videos next year.

My foreign distribution for the audio and video tapes was Yamaha in Japan, Lab Tech in Europe, and DBM in Australia so they've ended up on six continents over the years.

I also entered several other solo contests hosted by Guitar Player, D'Addario, and Marshall, always receiving notable mention and placing in the top percentile. Again, this added more visibility which turned into tape sales.

My image or name has appeared in countless ads, catalogues, posters, articles, and so forth which have all helped with the promotion of the Superchops 4 Bass series of tutorials. This name recognition within the bass community worldwide turned into a strong customer base for Bass Central so each domino led to and helped the next. Hard practice led to international recognition that helped the sales of the tutorials which in turn helped finance Bass Central and add to the credibility factor.



Contact Information

Bass Central
181 Oxford Road, Suite 107
Fern Park, FL 32730
Hours: Monday - Friday 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Saturday 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Closed Sunday
Toll-Free Phone: 866.802.2277
Web Site: BassCentral.com
E-Mail: sales@basscentral.com


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