By Michael Raine
When Rod Bader was wandering around The NAMM Show in 2009 like he ’ d done so many times before , what was different this time was that he wasn ’ t there for business . He was just having a good time , immersing himself in music after a few years out of the MI industry . That trip to Anaheim , though , inadvertently pulled Bader back into the music products industry and sparked Blaze Music , the Calgary-based distributor for a range of unique and highly-regarded guitar products , including TonePros Guitar Hardware , DiMarzio pickups , Chicken Picks , Black Mountain Picks , Loxx strap locks , Luxxtone Guitars , and more .
With the exception of the five years preceding Blaze Music ’ s launch , Bader is a lifer in the Canadian MI industry . “ I ’ ve always had a passion for music . I started playing guitar when I was 11 and literally at my 11 th birthday party , I got turned on to music . My buddies were all over for my birthday party and one of my friends put Kiss ’ Double Platinum on the turntable . I literally went , ‘ That is the coolest thing I ’ ve ever heard ! How do I do that ?’ That would be the inspiration for music for my whole life ,” Bader cheerfully recalls .
He began working at a little MI store in Kamloops , BC in high school , teaching guitar and helping run the place , before going on the road with his band . As bands do , they broke up and Bader found himself in Edmonton looking for a job . There , he walked into a music store where he knew the owner and got offered a job on the spot .
“ I worked for them for two years before they went out of business . The receivers hired me to liquidate the assets over the next year ,” Bader remembers . After that , he joined Axe Music in Calgary , where he stayed from 1991 to 2001 . “ Then from there , I ’ d become really good friends with a few suppliers from going to NAMM Shows and I was kind of poached by the guys from Paul Reed Smith and Line 6 and stuff to help sell their products in Canada .”
It ’ s at that point in 2001 that Bader switched from the retail to wholesale side of the MI business . But as he explains , after a few years doing that , he felt burned out and in need of a change . And since his other love is cars , he took his sales skills over to Mercedes-Benz for four years . It ’ s after that stint that a friend suggested , “ Let ’ s go down to The NAMM Show and have some fun .”
Of course , at the show Bader ran into a lot of old friends and colleagues . There , it was TonePros Owner Dwight Devereaux who told him , essentially , that if he got back into the distribution business , he could have the line . Then , when a couple other old colleagues also suggested Bader get back into MI , well , the idea started to stick . A few months later , following his wedding and a vacation , Blaze Music was born .
“ It started with me , a bunch of money , and just a bunch of contacts . It ’ s grown now into three other sales guys across Canada who do a phenomenal job . We still keep everything small and my philosophy from day one was to offer ‘ a better mousetrap ,’” he says , noting his particular appreciation for rep Ray Verrall , who ’ s been with Blaze Music almost from the start .
By “ a better mousetrap ,” he means , “ basically , if you look at like TonePros guitar hardware , it ’ s basically bridges and tail pieces , but with a very slight twist that makes them unique and better . I didn ’ t want to sell the same stuff as everybody else sells . I wanted to sell stuff that I thought was a notch above or was innovative and above the norm .” Essentially , simple but unique and high-quality guitar products that makes musicians ’ lives better and sell well for dealers .
“ So , we do Floyd Rose products and they ’ re the best tremolo systems in the world . I do TonePros , the best bridge systems
in the world for stoptail-type guitars . We do DiMarzio because I think they ’ re the bestselling pickups and sound in the world . Then there ’ s little fringy things like the Loxx strap locks from Germany , which are the best strap lock on the planet . You know , we sell some of the coolest guitar picks in the world , that kind of stuff . Things that make everything better for you and better as a musician .”
In terms of working with dealers , Bader says it ’ s all about keeping it simple and fair . “ I think my biggest thing is we don ’ t do a lot of accounts . We ’ re pretty much Visa and Mastercard only , so there ’ s not really any issues . We don ’ t demand stores stock product and we ’ re kind of unique in the sense that we don ’ t have minimums , I guess you could say . I mean , there was nothing more frustrating to me when I was managing the store at Axe Music than when a supplier would come and say , ‘ Oh , if you want that , you ’ ve got to buy four of these .’ I ’ ve always thought that was the dumbest way to do business . My philosophy has always been , I don ’ t load up a dealer with products . Let ’ s get you buying stuff that you can sell through so that it affords you the money and time to buy more of the stuff .”
After riding the pandemic-generated guitar boom and experiencing his best year ever , in part thanks to one of his newest lines , The Music Link , Bader says the mission remains the same : maintain good relationships , be fair , and build a better mousetrap .
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Music Trade .
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