Keeley talks prolific streak, the dark times and new direction
ON THE THURSDAY we visited Keeley Electronics in Edmond, Oklahoma, a challenge had been thrown down: Build X amount of pedals by noon and everyone can go home. Keeley had every confidence his team would meet the goal. He was already in his swim trunks. Edmond is a suburb of Oklahoma City. Situated just north of the capital city, it was voted #1 in a poll of perfect suburbs by CNBC back in 2011, highlighting its school system and level of education of those living there. Keeley not only had to overcome the 2009 fire, but he also battled personal demons that lead to both personal and business-related debts. Today, the operation is a well-oiled machine with a clearer vision on what it means to be an electronics manufacturer and an eye on expansion.
“We could probably put out three things today if we wanted to,” explains Keeley. “Really. Not even joking. We’re having to force ourselves to hold back. We’ve dropped a few things this week too. Not everything is valid after you’ve put together certain packages. Some things aren’t as profitable either. I priced them low enough where it’s like, darn… too bad we had to price them like that at the time. One day we released our Caverns pedal, which is a delay/reverb. Smokin’ hot pedal. Worth every last penny of $249. The same day that MXR releases the Carbon Copy Bright for $149. We got no interest. And we had lots of money in development. There are two micro-processors in ours. It was an expensive thing. After a few months or so I dropped the price down to $199, where there is really no money in it then. Almost a loss-leader… and it eats up resources. So that one we decided to put to bed this week. Then it became popular. $199 for all of this processing power?”
The big news for Keeley in 2016 hasn’t been the $99 pedals, rather his $300 workstations. He unveiled a handful of new models at Winter NAMM this year and has since put together more ‘artist-specific’ tone stations, like the Hendrix-inspired Monterey and the Pink Floyd-esque Dark Side.
“One of the things we’ve learned this year is that more expensive pedals do better for us,” confesses Keeley. “They sell like hotcakes. That seems counter-intuitive, but we’re able to provide much more at $299 than we are at a hundred bucks. At $100, you’ll get a one-trick pony. At $299, you’ll get three, 12, 16 different things — so we’re beyond successful with our Workstations. Total game changer.”