So that you may know you are working with true professionals, the following is for your ease of mind.
At Williams Fine Violins & Luthier Studios, we do not participate in “teacher commissions” or “teacher kick-backs”. This is the unethical (and in many places illegal) practice of paying teachers who refer their students to a violin dealer for a percentage of the final sale.
For violin dealers: There are many violin dealers who do this as a matter of business. They raise the price of their instruments 5-20% to help cover this “business expense.” Often called “commissions,” this practice is unethical since there is seldom any contract signed and 1040 tax forms are never discussed. This lack of any paper trail demonstrates that all parties involved know that this is an inappropriate game.
For the student: The student is not receiving any honest objectivity AT ALL from teachers who work for instrument commissions or kick-backs. All the student and their parents may expect is to have to pay higher prices for instruments and be hassled by the teacher and the shop for expensive “upgrades”.
For the teacher: Instructors who are in the practice of receiving such commissions will say that it is “fair compensation” for their expertise in selecting instruments. If this is the case, the instructor should openly say so at the very beginning of an instrument search and should inform their students of the extra profit they will make. An honest alternative is to hold a paid private lesson at any open, reputable violin shop and there play on, discuss, and teach their student and their parents what to look for in a new instrument. If it is not possible to schedule such a lesson outside of the teaching studio, then using time during a paid, scheduled private lesson to audition instruments and bows should be compensation enough. If the instructor disagrees, then we believe they should raise their lesson fees instead of receive secret commissions.
What to do: No matter what, look at every option when shopping for an instrument. Check out our instrument and bow buyer’s guide for reference. Have more than one teacher play the instrument and give their opinion. Most teachers will know within thirty seconds if an instrument plays well and those that have played on many student instruments will be able to give an opinion about your instrument. Ask your teacher directly if they receive any commission or “kick-back” from any violin dealer – and then ask if the teacher was ever going to tell you if you had not asked. Let them know that you would never want to be involved with anyone who profited from such a practice since it completely erases their objectivity. Only visit violin shops who do not participate in “kick-backs”. You will be saving yourself and many others money!
At Williams Fine Violins: We strongly disagree with the practice of teacher commissions and have made it very publicly known. If your teacher refers you to our shop, you can feel confident that they have your best interest at heart. We do not keep the sale prices of our instruments a secret from you. All of our prices are well-marked on each instrument and bow to keep any confusion down. Our sales staff is not paid by commission so they will not try to up-sell you or try to sell you something you do not need. We know that our inventory is of high quality so we are able offer 100% trade-in/trade-up on each instrument and bow worth over $100. We are open and honest with everyone we deal with and we will go the extra mile for you, our valued customer.