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Sparkplug Helps Musicians Rent Gear and Space from Each Other [updated]

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Sparkplug is a new site and service that facilitates musicians renting gear and space from each other. But they go beyond just a Craiglist-like listing to add a system with such features as clear procedures, deposits and id verification. It's potentially a great service but, in what I think is a simple oversight, you can't figure out who the people running the site might be which kind of contradicts their trust-building features.

[Update: I've been informed by co-founder and CEO Julia Wilde that Sparkplug is adding an About page with info about the founders today, three out of four of whom are musicians, so that's positive news. I think letting people know who you are is really important and something I've seen missing at times even from more established sites.]

Sparkplug strikes me as a startup that could do quite well. It's self-described as a “community marketplace where musicians and artists can rent instruments, equipment, and space from each other."

Such a service helps not only local musicians renting from each other but traveling musicians as well. Sparkplug is intended to be global but their inventory currently includes only the U.S. You can browse gear to see what's on offer.

It's All About Trust

For Sparkplug to succeed a certain amount of trust will have to be developed and, as they state on their homepage, they're working to provide that:

“When you list with Sparkplug, you’re renting to our identity-verified users. When you transact through our system, we take a deposit for your instrument, gear, or space and hold it for 24 hours after the reservation is complete. From our stringent security measures to our 24/7 expert customer care, we’ve got you covered."

You can also see from their FAQ that they're working to create clear procedures to help facilitate rentals.

So it strikes me as kind of odd that, at least without a user account, there seems to be nothing on the site that identifies who owns it or runs it and where they're located. There's certainly no information that's designed to be easily found for someone trying to decide if this is a legitimate service or not.

However an article in Paste mentioned co-founder Jennifer Newman Sharpe who turns out to be a lawyer in New York

And who would be more trustworthy than that?

Honestly I think it's just an oversight and perhaps not an issue to that many people once they see the pretty pictures of gear.

What's This Got To Do With Sharing?

On a side note, you'll see Sparkplug being described as part of the “sharing economy." That's not the old-fashioned “loaning stuff out for free" or “here, have some" kind of sharing. Instead it's referring to everyday people renting out their property (Airbnb) and possessions (Sparkplug) sometimes with added services (Uber).

So it's a Silicon Valley version of sharing in that it's transformed into something which can be both faciliated and monetized via startups such as Sparkplug. Which is actually a great thing except for the part where they call it sharing.


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