The Boaz One situation hasn’t gotten any less strange

Guitars are being built – but questions remain as to what happened to a huge amount of money. And who is Mr G?

The saga of the Boaz One – the conceptual modular guitar with an extremely troubled Kickstarter campaign – continues. Boaz Elkayam, the project’s namesake, has denied knowing that backers were encouraged to pay for a second run of early-development guitars for over a year, on top of not knowing where the money for those guitars has gone. Yes, there’s a lot to unpack – let’s dive in.

So how did we get here? The Boaz One modular guitar had, on paper, a great start. The conceptual instrument raised almost half a million dollars on Kickstarter from backers who wanted to see it brought to life. But, like so many ambitious crowdfunding campaigns before it, the project had difficulty translating the lump sum of money into a real product.

You can go read our first article for a full rundown of what happened, but the short version is that COVID-19 (ostensibly) scuppered the planned timeline, and at some point in trying to power through the disruption, backers were told that early prototype guitars – made in the unpolished moulds – would be up for sale. These would be named the Plague Guitars, after the source of all the disruption, and were sold to backers starting in August 2020.

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For the first time since May 2022, there has been an update on the Kickstarter page, also posted to the related Facebook page for backers. Unlike those before it, however, this was written by Boaz Elkayam, not the company’s former communications manager Gordon Roberts.

The update begins by stating that the actual amount of funding available to Boaz Innovative Stringed Instruments was a lot less than the near-$450,000 amount that the website reports as “raised.” Elkayam claims that after Kickstarter fees, campaign management costs and other expenses, the company was left with less than half the stated amount – so just over $200,000.

In terms of bringing a conceptual modular guitar to market, and also delivering on all of the guitars promised to backers (for quite a low price per guitar – some packages gave you a full Boaz One for less than $300), this doesn’t really sound like a lot of money. In the update, Elkayam says just that: the funds were just not there to complete the project. To keep the wheels turning, he therefore reached into his own pockets – but this wasn’t sustainable.

Enter, then, the Plague Guitars. Boaz states that the idea to sell an additional run of early production guitars was “to help get more money to complete the project in order to supply the [backers] with their guitars sooner.” But, he also claims that he wanted to exercise caution: “My request from my team was to only make a waiting list, and not charge anyone until we will be able to ship those guitars – I didn’t want another commitment for something I wasn’t sure when I will be able to supply!”

This is where things get complicated. An update from Gordon Roberts, posted on the Kickstarter in August 2020, directed backers to the Plague Guitar website – which allowed backers to pre-purchase guitars. Not register their interest, or join a waiting list – purchase.

Apparently, however, Boaz didn’t read that update – not until January 2022.

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“To my surprise, about 8 months ago [from September 2022] I discovered that those Plague Guitar waiters were charged contrary to my request!” he writes in the latest update. This, then, raises a pretty big question: how, for a year and a half, did Elkayam manage to remain unaware that many backers had purchased a second run of guitars? The Plague Guitar website was promoted, publicly, on the Boaz One’s Kickstarter page. Multiple updates discussed the fact that backers were pre-purchasing the instruments. And as Boaz admits himself, the money was needed to help actually complete the entire project.

We had previously reported that Elkayam was having trouble accessing the funds from the Plague Guitar sales. He reiterates that he has been attempting to do so, or even just get the list of backers who did purchase a Plague Guitar, but he has been unsuccessful.

He then explains that he doesn’t know how many Plague Guitars were purchased, or if those who did buy them will be able to get their money back. But, he says he is at present trying to establish a way for people to be refunded.

This isn’t exactly a reassuring update for backers to receive. So onto the good news: the update is accompanied by a picture of the assembly line, where he has begun to work on fulfilling the backers’ guitars. This is reassuring, but questions still remain as to whether,  one way or another, the Boaz One will ever be available for general sale.

Who is “Mr G”?

But behind the curtain of the closed Facebook group, things appear even more chaotic. In an email to a backer, shared with Guitar.com, Boaz is asked what will happen with the Plague Guitars. He reiterates the difficulty he is having accessing the funds, and the details of those who purchased them. He also states that he’s not even sure of a ball-park figure for the number of Plague Guitars sold. This, he writes, is because of “Mr G” – presumably, Gordon Roberts, who is no longer working with Boaz’s company, and is allegedly refusing to give Boaz the information he needs to initiate refunds on the Plague Guitars.

Elkayam does stop short of outright accusing Roberts of wrongdoing. When asked by the backer in contact with him to clarify who “Mr G” is, he refuses, responding simply: “Don’t ask me again who is Mr G.”

Then, somewhat contradicting this, Boaz attempts to reassure the backer that: “I am [an] open book for every question you have, I have nothing to hide, feel free to ask me any question.”

Roberts refused to comment on the situation when contacted by Guitar.com. Boaz himself, and other members of the Boaz Innovative Stringed Instruments team, have not replied to our requests for comment. Whether legal action is being taken with regards to the Plague Guitar money, or the implication from Elkayam that Gordon is wrongfully withholding it, is also unclear.

What is clear is that, even if the Plague Guitars may not materialise, backers who put money down for a guitar in the first instance are a few steps closer to receiving their instruments. Elkayam has shown videos of boxes of parts ready to be assembled, and has presumably focused on that process over the last few weeks, rather than keeping social media updated. The last post in the group was a minor update regarding the logo on the guitars on 21 October.

Guitology

As we reported last time, Boaz’s decision to start making the guitars for the Kickstarter backers was spurred by a conversation with YouTuber Brad Linzy, AKA The Guitologist. The context surrounding the mention of the Guitologist in Boaz’s conversation with a backer was unclear, and perhaps implied that Linzy was officially advising

Following our coverage Linzy got in touch, and also made a video, to clarify that he made these remarks about starting to make the guitars to Boaz as personal advice, rather than in any official capacity. “As I said in my video, I am just a backer and enthusiast at the end of the day,” Linzy told us. He has been in contact with Boaz since he helped the project out early on, promoting it on his YouTube channel.

The situation regarding the Plague Guitar money is undoubtedly frustrating for the backers who were directed towards purchasing one via the project’s Kickstarter. However, the good news is that evidence of at least some Boaz guitars being made is starting to manifest, even if many huge questions remain unanswered.

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