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The Perfect Bass - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Perfect Bass
Created as a side project by James Bethea after his quest for obtaining a particular bass ceased with a disappointing buying experience, The Perfect Bass started its operations in 2002. Bethea capitalized on his career in technology and his background in marketing and web development to establish his own retail business and online storefront. Within two years of its opening, The Perfect Bass had grown to a level where Bethea felt he could no longer perform both his day job and run his bass shop effectively so he decided to leave his job to pursue his passion for bass gear and delivering the highest level of customer service available. Based in a retail store and warehouse located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, The Perfect Bass provides an inventory of products for every classification of bass enthusiast including beginners, recreational players, professionals, and collectors alike. Due to their online presence and maintaining a web site that is updated on a daily basis, The Perfect Bass has become one of the leading bass specialty stores in the United States. Aside from stocking one of the largest selections of new basses, amplifiers, cabinets, effects, and accessories, The Perfect Bass assures the satisfaction of all their customers through their 5-day money back guarantee whenever a product is purchased from them either online or via phone. With their competitive player pricing, no haggling or negotiating is ever necessary, and if you ever find a lower published price for an identical product from another authorized dealer, The Perfect Bass will beat that price.

In this interview, James Bethea discusses The Perfect Bass.

Which brands of basses, amps, and cabinets are available through your shop?

We carry some incredible products at The Perfect Bass. Some of my bass guitar favorites are Roscoe, MTD, Fender, Music Man, and Breedlove. For amps and cabinets, I'm really partial to Aguilar, Genz Benz, Epifani, and Glockenklang. This is not a complete list of all the brands available at The Perfect Bass, and we are constantly looking for new products to carry.

We are often asked about the products we choose to sell. The driving force behind our decisions to carry a particular product or not is whether a product line will deliver the value that our customers expect and deserve. This means that the product has to pass a critical test. Would we buy the product ourselves if we were in the market for it? If the answer is yes, we move on to a detailed series of criteria for product selection. These criteria consist of quality of product, quality of manufacturer support, availability, and pricing. It's quite detailed, but we go through great pain to make sure that we are delivering products that we would use ourselves and our customers will be pleased with.

I'm really excited about some of the new lines that we will be adding to our shop soon. Some are brand new, and you may see some that we had previously and are now bringing back. New gear is always fun! We always have our complete inventory available online through our web site.

Could you tell us about B.Y.S.I.B.Y.G.?

B.Y.S.I.B.Y.G. is "the bass you see is the bass you get. This is a simple idea, and I'm shocked that we were one of the first to really do this to the level that we have done it. When you buy an instrument through The Perfect Bass web site, you get that exact instrument, not one just like it. We use our in-house photographer and equipment to take really great pictures of every instrument that is available in our shop. The only exception would be some of the starter packs we have for beginners. That leads to the fact that 100% of what we have available on our web site is actually instock. Our inventory is updated daily, and you won't find a bass on our web site that isn't actually available to purchase.

B.Y.S.I.B.Y.G. ties into our quality control process as well. Every instrument is quality checked three times before it is shipped to a customer. The first inspection occurs when we receive the instrument. We take a quick visual to make sure there are no obvious problems. The second inspection takes place when we photograph the instrument for our web site. This is a detailed, white glove inspection to make sure the instrument is a "perfect bass." We perform this inspection under 2000 watts of professional photography lighting to make sure we catch the details. Finally, before every instrument ships, we do another white glove inspection and quick setup if there are any major tweaks needed.

What product lines are your best sellers?

Fender and Music Man are our fastest moving bass guitars which is really no surprise, but we are proud to hold the title of largest Roscoe dealer and to have the largest Music Man display in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Quam. We are also near the top of the list for a few other lines. Genz Benz has been very popular lately as well as Aguilar and Epifani. With that said, we feel that all of the products we carry are winners!

Would you consider most of the bass gear you sell to be high-end or do you have equipment for every customer across all price points?

We carry a good mix of both high-end and more economical choices. Originally, we were strictly high-end. That kind of hurt us though when we began to expand into more mainstream lines. We were known as a "high-end shop," and some buyers were hesitant to approach The Perfect bass because of the perception that they could not afford anything we carried.

Today, we would like to think that we have something for everyone regardless of skill level or budget. I have made a conscious decision to stay with bass guitars that will sell under a $7,000 ceiling. We might get a few pieces in that range, but it is a rare case. The product has to deliver the value, and if we don't see it or understand where the value is, we won't carry it. We also want to sell products that, for the most part, will be played, and there simply aren't that many gigging bassists that bring their $10,000 bass out to a club on Friday night.

Besides basses and amps, what kinds of accessories are normally stocked in your inventory?

We carry many popular brands of strings, cables, and straps. Most of our instructional selection comes from Hal Leonard. I will mention Norm Stockton's Grooving For Heaven series in particular. It's a great series, and we love Norm so buy his DVD's!

For electronics, we carry Bartolini, EMG, Fender, Glockenklang, Lindy Fralin, Aguilar, and Nordstrand. This is important to note because we get asked about electronics all the time. Customers will call and ask which pickup they should use in "XYZ" bass to get Marcus Miller's tone. The answer is simply that we don't know because every bass is unique. No player has the same hands and technique as Mr. Miller, but our staff is familiar with the general characteristics of the available electronics we stock so while we might not have the silver bullet answer, we can help our customers decide which direction they may want to go to approximate the tone they seek.

Do you sell used equipment?

It's rare that we sell used gear, but we do have opportunities to offer used gear from time to time. We will entertain trades, but we are very selective on what we will take in on trade. In general, we are not set up to do a lot of used business, but occasionally, you can catch some great used gear deals. Since we are so selective, you know that when you do buy a used piece from The Perfect Bass, it will be what you expect.

Can orders for custom-built instruments be placed at The Perfect Bass?

Absolutely! Nearly all of our bass guitar suppliers can do custom orders to some degree, even Fender and their custom shop. The most popular custom orders we receive are for my personal favorite boutique builders including Keith Roscoe of Roscoe Guitars and Michael Tobias of MTD. Keith and Michael are legendary bass luthiers that produce a truly exceptional product. We are proud to be purveyors of their fine equipment. We also have a new supplier that I'm personally excited about which we expect will generate quite a few custom builds as well. Check out our web site for the latest news.

Do you provide repairs on the instruments and amps that you sell?

Yes. If we cannot perform the repair here, we will help customers get the service they need directly from the manufacturer.

Is free and worldwide shipping available for most of your merchandise?

All of our shipping is currently though FedEx. We have found them to be a very reliable and safe shipper. Free shipping is offered on most orders over $100 but only within the continental United States. With some larger items, we are not able to offer free shipping, but most orders are covered. I'll add that we also insure every shipment large and small so if there ever is a problem, it will be taken care of.

International shipping is a bit different. We do not offer any free shipping outside of the continental United States, and some manufacturers have restrictions on where we can ship to. In general, we can ship anything within the United States. We ask that international customers call us for a shipping quote to their exact location as well as to find out if we are able to ship the product they have interest in to their part of the world.

Since you maintain one of the largest online storefronts for a bass shop, does most of your business come through internet purchases?

A very large majority of our customers come from outside of our home state of Louisiana. Our local business is very important to us though, and we certainly don't want to lose that local feel as we grow. I think that if there is one thing about The Perfect Bass that really sets us apart from our competitors is that we have been able to establish a national business without losing the personal relationship with our customers.

Are financing options offered with the purchase of any equipment?

The Perfect bass offers a layaway program with terms up to 90 days. We have stayed away from the store credit cards with no interest for 12 months and other similar offers that are available from the larger retailers in the industry. We have access to these same programs, but to the chagrin of a few of my key staff members, I have taken a principled stand against these types of credit offers.

It's no secret that much of the economic challenges we are faced with as a country are a direct result of greedy lenders and some consumer's appetite for buying more than they can afford. What most buyers aren't aware of when they agree to the terms of these "too-good-to-be-true" financing options is that at the end of the interest free term, they are hit with extraordinary interest rates which are sometimes well beyond 20%! From my perspective, this is usurious, and I am not interested in contributing to my customer's burden of debt. While we don't have some of the fancy no-interest financing options that some of our competitors offer, we do offer a very responsible layaway program that accomplishes the same result and allows us to sleep soundly at night.

Have sales of music-related products declined much over the recent months due to the current economic recession?

The economic conditions that exist today have certainly had an effect on all businesses large and small, and we are not immune to the problem. I'm thankful that I get to wake up in the morning and go to work in what I think is the coolest business in the world. We also have an incredible staff here at The Perfect Bass. These guys make it even that much more enjoyable and are the key to our past and future successes.

While we have felt the effects of the economy, the staff that we have still consists of the same great people we had before, and the experience we deliver to our customers is the same great experience. I believe that those two ingredients will keep our customers with us and allow us to grow despite the conditions of the market.

Regarding our larger competitors, I prefer not to focus on what is outside my window but rather what is inside my house. When we face challenges like we are all experiencing now, I take a look at the mirror and ask myself what I can do to overcome the challenges. I know that our success or failure has nothing to do with the outside world but rather what we are doing with the gifts, talents, and resources given to us. No government bailout, politician, or competitor controls our destiny, and with that perspective, we are able to stay focused on the value we bring to our customers.

We are here to serve our customers today, and we will be here when this season passes. With the hard work and dedication of our staff and the graciousness of friends like the IIB, we will be stronger for the experience!

Can students take private bass lessons at The Perfect Bass?

The Perfect Bass does not currently offer lessons. We are however in the process of putting something together on the educational front. Our local customers will be very well served when we are able to launch this new program, but in the mean time, we have partnered with the premier private musical instruction company in our city, Baton Rouge Music Studios!

Does your shop host bass clinics or other bass-related events?

Indeed! We've had several artists like Norm Stockton and Trip Wamsley perform at The Perfect Bass. We've also hosted manufacturer representative days as well as other events like our one-of-a-kind Guitars and Cars Show here in Baton Rouge.

For our out-of-state customers, we have a video podcast that covers NAMM shows, artist interviews, product reviews, events, and more. Look for much more video from The Perfect Bass in 2009. You can check out our podcast through our web site or subscribe via iTunes. We also have a YouTube channel where we post all of the podcast episodes as well.

The Perfect Bass

Contact Information

The Perfect Bass
6441 Jones Creek Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70817
Hours: Monday - Friday 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Saturday 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Closed Sunday
Toll-Free Phone: 866.751.3220
Web Site:

© 2009 The IIB