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May 6, 2021 - 6:57:19 PM
6121 posts since 10/13/2007

Gibson let the rights to the word Mastertone go and Gold Tone has adopted it and is selling an array of instruments calling them the Mastertone line. Of course this is a marketing tool that IMO may backfire. The people that know what Mastertone really means may find this irritating to say the least...Kind of like a ball player who hits 240 and averages 12 home runs a year naming himself Babe Ruth - The Sultan of Swat. The people that don't know the history of the term Mastertone won't attach any significance to the label and it will have no allure with them.

What do you all think about Gold Tone using this name which is revered in bluegrass history to market a Chinese made, non professional level, banjo?

ken

https://bluegrasstoday.com/gold-tone-now-offering-mastertone-brand-instruments/

May 6, 2021 - 7:15:32 PM
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2499 posts since 5/2/2012

First off, I am a Gold Tone fan. They build nice banjos at reasonable prices. So I got to thinking. There are complete, original Gibson Mastertones (varying in quality and desirability), TBs converted to 5 strings, parts banjos, etc. The line gets blurred, as I see it. My dream banjo is a Stelling, so I've never felt the urge to buy a Gibson, nor to really delve into the history of the Mastertone. I wouldn't know a genuine Gibson Mastertone if I held one in my hands (showing my ignorance here). That said, I'm not real excited about GT appropriating the mastertone trademark/label. I don't see the point, and it wouldn't be a selling point for me.  

Edited by - thisoldman on 05/06/2021 19:19:01

May 6, 2021 - 7:37:39 PM
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blazo

USA

295 posts since 5/16/2017

If Facebook buys Twitter and keeps the name Twitter, are you using Twitter or Facebook? Deering bought the name Vega -- why is there no uproar there?

I think you answered your own question when you said, "The people that don't know the history of the term Mastertone won't attach any significance to the label and it will have no allure with them." The people that are aware of the history will know the difference. I doubt Gold Tone is trying to put one over on anyone.

Edited by - blazo on 05/06/2021 19:42:35

May 6, 2021 - 8:07:05 PM

6121 posts since 10/13/2007

quote:
Originally posted by blazo

If Facebook buys Twitter and keeps the name Twitter, are you using Twitter or Facebook? Deering bought the name Vega -- why is there no uproar there?

I think you answered your own question when you said, "The people that don't know the history of the term Mastertone won't attach any significance to the label and it will have no allure with them." The people that are aware of the history will know the difference. I doubt Gold Tone is trying to put one over on anyone.


Sorry if I was not clear. I did not mean to imply that Gold  Tone was trying to put something over on anyone. My post was to the appropriateness  of dong this and to ask in general how it was received by the banjo community.

ken

May 6, 2021 - 8:27:10 PM
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13964 posts since 10/30/2008

It was Gold Tone's decision and investment to make. It's up to them to use the term with whatever good taste they can muster.

MY personal question is: will they try to enjoin neck builders from putting the MASTERTONE block in necks they build?? Just a question from a devilish advocate...

May 6, 2021 - 9:06:48 PM
Players Union Member

blazo

USA

295 posts since 5/16/2017

quote:
Originally posted by From Greylock to Bean Blossom
quote:
Originally posted by blazo

If Facebook buys Twitter and keeps the name Twitter, are you using Twitter or Facebook? Deering bought the name Vega -- why is there no uproar there?

I think you answered your own question when you said, "The people that don't know the history of the term Mastertone won't attach any significance to the label and it will have no allure with them." The people that are aware of the history will know the difference. I doubt Gold Tone is trying to put one over on anyone.


Sorry if I was not clear. I did not mean to imply that Gold  Tone was trying to put something over on anyone. My post was to the appropriateness  of dong this and to ask in general how it was received by the banjo community.

ken


Companies, company names, trademarks, what have you, get bought and sold all the time, many precisely because they have a history or a following. Company leadership changes, as do the technologies to make products, yet the name remains the same even though the product may change (for better or worse). These are certainly accepted business practices. Whether it is appropriate is subjective and would depend on which side of the fence you are on. If Gold Tone were to make a better, or even identical, banjo using the Mastertone name, would that make it appropriate?

May 6, 2021 - 10:06:41 PM
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rcc56

USA

3521 posts since 2/20/2016

I call it a marketing gimmick, and yes, in poor taste. But that's just one point of view.
And the use of "The Loar" on imported mandolins of mediocre quality seems just plain silly to me.
Of course, Gibson left the door wide open when they abandoned their banjo business and left the field wide open to anybody who wants to build.
And I'm sorry to say, but Gibson cheapened the Mastertone name themselves by building quite a few mediocre and even poor instruments; both in the 1970's, and much more recently. The last modern RB-3 that I saw was not an awful instrument, but it was nothing to write home about.


The use of the Recording King name on better grade Asian banjos and guitars does not bother me for some reason. Maybe that's because at least 4 or 5 companies made instruments with the Recording King label for Montgomery Ward back in the old days. At the same time, I think that the current Recording King operation cheapens their own name and reputation with their low end line.

At any rate, Gold Tone and Gibson have probably already butted heads about the use of the name. If it goes to litigation, it will cost money, no matter how it turns out in the end. That makes me wonder if such a marketing gimmick is worth the potential difficulties and expenses that might be incurred.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/06/2021 22:14:41

May 7, 2021 - 1:18:12 AM
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phb

Germany

2716 posts since 11/8/2010

I think the sad thing in this really is that Gibson doesn't produce Mastertones anymore (and for much longer any that deserve the name). And then that what before was a mostly descriptive term that wasn't trademarked but exclusively used by Gibson belongs now to just one company.

May 7, 2021 - 3:42:28 AM
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beegee

USA

22371 posts since 7/6/2005

I'm still slightly annoyed that Fender is calling their junk Chinese banjos "Concert Tones." but, they produced the originals, so....

May 7, 2021 - 4:03:33 AM

2539 posts since 12/31/2005

Not a big deal. Will it sell more banjos? No.

For a lot of people, their Gibson banjo is the largest purchase next to a home and car. For some, it's bigger than car. Having someone else slap the Mastertone designation on a lesser-expensive banjo touches a nerve. But those folks probably aren't GoldTone customers anyway. Plus Goldtone isn't trying to trick or confuse anyone. So, in the end, none of this matters. People will continue to buy the best product out there that they can afford.

As someone touched on above, the other thing that irks people about this is that it likely means Gibson will never produce a Mastertone again. We all knew it anyway, but it's an unwelcome reminder.

May 7, 2021 - 4:19:47 AM
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4622 posts since 11/20/2004

I understand it is marketing by Goldtone and Fender. A recognized name makes a product easier to sell. I equate it to "putting lipstick on a pig".
I feel it brings down the name more than it elevates the product. However, the only value to a name is it's ability to produce revenue, not emotion.
Both Mastertone and Concertone, were professional level instrument names in their time. As owners of originals, it is more personal and feels degrading or insulting. To a marketer, it is just about numbers.

May 7, 2021 - 7:09:51 AM

1711 posts since 2/4/2013
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I don't see much wrong with applying such an abandoned label to their best instruments whether it's a guitar, mandolin or banjo. Is it silly marketing. Perhaps but nearly everyone is at it.

Gibson abandoned the Coronet guitar design and a boutique builder bought the trademark some years later. Gibson sued and Satellite Amps didn't have the money to defend their legally held trademark. Will they sue Goldtone?

May 7, 2021 - 8:00:55 AM
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2648 posts since 2/10/2013

Names get "thrown around", and players endorse different makers, etc.. I am not interested in celebrities or names. I just want the best banjo I can get for the $$$.. Even when Gibson made decent banjos in Kalamazoo Mi., I preferred the Stellings. Some people are nostalgic for instruments made before they were born. They talk about the "pre war" sound and don't even know which war they are talking about.

May 7, 2021 - 12:12:12 PM

552 posts since 6/2/2011

So does GT calls banjos that do not have “Mastertone” spec mastertone? Meaing One peace flange , a three ply maple rim and flat head tone ring.

May 7, 2021 - 12:20:45 PM
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2539 posts since 12/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Richard Hauser

Names get "thrown around", and players endorse different makers, etc.. I am not interested in celebrities or names. I just want the best banjo I can get for the $$$.. Even when Gibson made decent banjos in Kalamazoo Mi., I preferred the Stellings. Some people are nostalgic for instruments made before they were born. They talk about the "pre war" sound and don't even know which war they are talking about.


It was the War between Freedonia and Sylvania.  There was a good movie about it with banjos:
 


 

Edited by - Brian Murphy on 05/07/2021 12:21:49

May 7, 2021 - 1:21:27 PM
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RioStat

USA

5486 posts since 10/12/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Texaspaul

So does GT calls banjos that do not have “Mastertone” spec mastertone? Meaning One piece flange , a three ply maple rim, and flat head tone ring.


Those aren't "Mastertone specs"...Gibson Mastertones have also had, ball-bearing tone rings, archtop tone rings, and tube-and-plate flanges in their history.

May 7, 2021 - 1:31:37 PM
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552 posts since 6/2/2011

So why the criticism of GT use of “Mastertone”, other builders put Mastertone inlays in their fretboards and even Gibson on headstock?

May 7, 2021 - 1:39 PM
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2778 posts since 11/15/2003

Ken
Im not sure how i geel about it seeing as im again a member of the mastertone club.

Id like to think that the name on a peghead or inlay block doesnt matter to a real picker and that a real picker only cares about tone volume and playability...but in the same thought...i must admit there is something real romantic about haveing the real McCoy with all the tees crossed and eyes dotted.

You know about a decade and a half ago chevy got into the nasty habit of slaping the SS logo on ever sub species 4 and 6 cylinder car they rolled off the line...we all know that logo was suposed to be reserved for high horsepower..never the less.. It sold more cars.

I think the real in the know people won't be taken in and gold tone probably wont be putting out any propaganda stating there mastertone line should be given the same credence as Gibson.

There is much that most any new moderen well made banjo can do...if it's in the hands of someone who knows what there doing.

This is just going to require more research on the part of the buyers / players and who knows..someday gold tone may ascend to the level of gibson...

As ive learned especially with this last purchase...we most all interject our personal bias when it comes to our opinion on banjos...there quality and the real ring tailed tooter of it all....there worth

Im sure we will cover these tracks again on tuesdsy ken.

Warp!

May 7, 2021 - 7:35:33 PM

2539 posts since 12/31/2005

OTOH, I have heard some Twangers and OB-3's I have heard are heads and shoulders over some of the 70's era 250s that had the Mastertone label.

May 8, 2021 - 4:04:56 AM
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2778 posts since 11/15/2003

Brian
You are correct sir....
The poor quality control era of gibson...the stinking 70's

You know i started with a 70 rb-800.
I know your thinking what 12 year old doesnt want the top of the line gibson for his starter banjo..right? WRONG!

NOTHING could be done for this banjo...we sold it and immediately went Japanese.
Every 18 months or so we would try a new rb-250..but to no good results...the asians in the 70's were kicking gibsons butt.

I think the first good 250 i brought new in 83...i actually took it to a hot rise concert and had pete wernick play it
He even said not bad for new..but then came the bigest banjo farce in all of banjo history...
The dreded horribile honey colored stew mac kit first run scruggs model..the only banjo to be worser in my opinion than the 70's era gibsons.
In 1989 i traded for my first pre war..a 1936 tb-1....it was then i knew what gibson banjo had been famous for..those old rims and pot metal flanges with a ryan ring on top or really any good ring made great sounding banjos.

Gibson turned the corner when they cleaned up the first run scruggs fiasco.
But as with every banjo maker...you have to cul the not so good ones out.

Nobody and i mean NOBODY, knows why you can build several of the same instruments side by side...banjos, guitars, mandolins..even kazoos...
And they will all sound different...some a bit better than othes...some EXCEPTIONALLY better than others....it those exceptionally better ones that we live for...the ones that make us want to play and finesse the tone out of rather than mash the tone out of it.
Me...im still working on the finesse part.

Warp!

May 8, 2021 - 10:12:36 PM
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112 posts since 5/21/2020

So since I took to playing banjo some 12 years ago most folk I know refer to similar banjo's to the Gibson Mastertone as Master Clones. Deering openly admits to building his business on the style of Gibson banjos because no one wanted their original designs. They asked their customers why they didn't like their designs and their customers told them they wanted Deerings to look and sound like a Gibson

Stelling banjos have a similar character to the Gibson. They build the Master Cross and the Master Flower

Huber has the TrueTone

Fender also produced a Master Clone the FB58 as have many other Asian builders. So why not Gold Tone. BTW The OB-3 "Twanger" modeled on JD Crowes' "Banger" packs a nice punch for it's price.

Bottom line is they all did it to make money. 

Edited by - FenderFred on 05/08/2021 22:17:25

May 9, 2021 - 6:53:01 AM

6187 posts since 9/21/2007

I wish people would learn the difference between copyright and trademark.

May 10, 2021 - 9:34:26 PM
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2031 posts since 1/10/2004

I've already expressed my dislike two or three times, and ultimately it doesn't really matter.

But Gibson did not "sell" Mastertone to Gold Tone as far as I know. Gold Tone figured or figured out the mark is available, so they are trying to just take it. For nothing, effectively. It's possible/likely that Gibson is having words with GT about this, though little it may accomplish. In the past they could lawyer up and bully everybody, I'm not sure that's much the case any more. At least with regards to banjos.

Brands do get bought and sold, and Gibson itself has been sold many times, but it was always Gibson with a connection all the way back to Orville making Mastertone banjos. Gold Tone has no such connection, beyond shameless Gibson-copying. They do make good and good value banjos, considering their source, but Mastertones they are not. Legal or not, using Mastertone on their Chinese banjos either cheapens the label to meaninglessness or is just plain pretentious.

May 10, 2021 - 10:18:06 PM
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1799 posts since 4/10/2005

Let's not kid ourselves. Gold Tone grabbed and is using the term precisely because of its connection to Gibson and associated cachet. It's tacky and low-class of them to even want to go there. It's even trashy.   It also puts potential shoppers with a modicum of self-respect and dignity in the position of wishing to avoid being seen as the kind of rube that would think having "Mastertone" on their Gold Tone burnished it with cachet.  But it's not illegal or fraudulent.   It is sad that the mark of a premium bluegrass resonator banjo won't be "Mastertone" going forward, but there is certainly no shortage of wonderful premium instruments out there that are doing just fine without the moniker.

BTW, RE Stelling and the term "Master"in model names such as "Master's Cross"--pretty sure that homages not the Gibson brand but cherished religious beliefs of the maker, as do some other Stelling model names and design symbolism.

Edited by - ceemonster on 05/10/2021 22:25:12

May 11, 2021 - 11:26:11 AM

6187 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by blazo

If Facebook buys Twitter and keeps the name Twitter, are you using Twitter or Facebook? Deering bought the name Vega -- why is there no uproar there?

I think you answered your own question when you said, "The people that don't know the history of the term Mastertone won't attach any significance to the label and it will have no allure with them." The people that are aware of the history will know the difference. I doubt Gold Tone is trying to put one over on anyone.


According to the public records from the trademark office, Deering filed for a new and unique trademark on "Vega", when it was denied their attorney called in.  After the call the trademark office declared that the Vega trademark was available to be claimed as a new registration by Deering.

In my experience (which has been associated with buying a company and acquiring their assets including intellectual property and trademarks-- "real job" stuff) when one "buys" a company, the trademark is transferred, not filed as a new mark.

For example, Bill Nelson sold to Martin -- the trademark transfer is clear in the records of the trademark office.  That same trademark of "Vega" was then transferred to Galaxy Trading.  There was no break.

Enter Deering who files a new trademark, which was denied, and took their lawyer to explain something, and was then granted.   What the lawyer said is not in the documents.  He could have said "my client bought the company and all their intellectual properly which includes trademarks and copyrights to their music publications (bet you did not know Vega published banjo sheet music).  Or he could have said "the owner of Vega went belly up, here is the bankruptcy auction announcement".

Deering has similarly filed new trademarks on Cole, Fairbanks, S. S. Stewart and others.

The main difference between Deering and the Gold Tone is that Gold Tone is only using the name "Mastertone" as a brand where Deering is pretending to actually be Vega (with a direct connection to the Nelson family).

Other than that, Deering's "Vega" and Gold Tone's "Mastertone" are exactly the same.

And as such, no one buys a Deering and thinks they got a prewar Vega.

May 11, 2021 - 11:54:57 AM

2129 posts since 2/12/2009

Why does the Deering Vega business need to be mentioned here at all ? The Deerings successfully won the right to use that name legally through the legal system in the US, all above board and in accordance with US law, job done ! GT a wholly Chinese company are appropriating the use of a "dormant" name associated with a rival manufacturer without it seems any legal application being made through the US system, therein I think lies the distinction between these two oft compared examples.

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