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Post new topic Interesting article on the future of electric guitar
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Author Topic:  Interesting article on the future of electric guitar
Len Amaral


From:
Rehoboth,MA 02769
Post Posted 22 Jun 2017 3:45 pm     Reply with quote

This was on Facebook. Very interesting.
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Greg Cutshaw


From:
Corry, PA, USA
Post Posted 22 Jun 2017 5:36 pm     Reply with quote

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/lifestyle/the-slow-secret-death-of-the-electric-guitar/?utm_term=.3aaf7b8a4bf5
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 22 Jun 2017 6:07 pm     Reply with quote

I never thought I'd see such a sharp decline in electric guitar interest and sales in my lifetime. Gibson and Fender deep in debt. Guitar Center deep in debt. Electric guitar sales down 30% in recent years. Acoustics outselling electrics since 2010. No guitar heroes like in the 60s to generate excitement and interest. Younger folks listen primarily to electronic music. The world is changing. This is kinda like what happened to the steel guitar in the 1960s, no? The music changed, tastes changed, and guitar companies that also made steel guitars in the 1940s and 1950s stopped making steel guitars in the 60s.
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Brooks Montgomery


From:
Idaho, USA
Post Posted 22 Jun 2017 6:43 pm     Reply with quote

Are electric guitar sales in decline, or is the pie just cut into many more pieces because of all the imports, e-commerce, off-brands, and knockoffs?
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Bob Watson


From:
Champaign, Illinois, U.S.
Post Posted 22 Jun 2017 6:50 pm     Reply with quote

Another factor for the decline in the sale of new guitars is the fact that there are lots and lots of great used guitars out there. Websites such as Ebay, Craigslist, Reverb, etc. have made it a lot easier to find them too. It seems that there are probably more guitars on the market than there are guitar players.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 22 Jun 2017 8:07 pm     Reply with quote

Electric guitar, like any commodity, goes in cycles. I have witnessed at least 3 significant cycles like this in my lifetime. The first was after 'real' rock and roll essentially died in the early 60s. But it was a very young market, so it was more like a steadying out, but definitely not what it was. But Gibson stopped making its showstopper, the Les Paul, and replaced it with the SG because sales were declining. It's no accident that this was when the "great folk scare" was peaking, and Martin couldn't keep up with demand. Tastes change.

Then the Beatles hit and every young punk in the US (and many other places) had to have an electric guitar. And then things started sliding in the later 60s. Around 1967, Fender almost stopped making the Strat. It's a fickle business.

Into the 70s, disco, keyboards, horn bands, and early synths and dance mixes started cutting in. Still plenty of electric guitars, but the quality turned to crap into the early-mid 80s, and the prices skyrocketed. This is precisely the period that vintage guitars started to catch on, because "they truly weren't makin' 'em like they used to".

Then right around 1985, Fender got sold, Gibson got sold. Why? IMHO, which is shared by many, many in the industry, because CBS and Norlin got greedy and didn't have a clue about the pulse of real guitar players - it just wasn't working. Sorry, crappy guitars at skyrocketing prices is NOT a recipe for success. IMO, Martin never slid like that, but the general sense is that 70s Martins are not comparable to earlier production.

But the new owners (and Chris Martin IV took over Martin around this same time) started getting back to basics and their quality went up again. Vintage guitars were going crazy, but the new guitars were real competition. Even Gretsch ultimately started making electric guitars again after a period when they just stopped. These companies went back to basics, brought quality and prices back in line, and it was great through the 90s and early-mid 2000s. And the music followed - great instruments motivate great music.

But as always seems to happen, in the last 10 years, manufacturers kept on expecting everything - sales numbers, prices, profit margins - to go up ad infinitum. I also think the quality slid during this period too. Some import guitars are pretty good, but most are not up-to-snuff, IMO. Even a lof ot American guitars, although of pretty good quality, show a lot of automation and (again IMO) indifference. A lot of the custom shop stuff is very good, but out of the reach of all but the most affluent younger players (or any playres, for that matter).

And I don't think it's any accident that acoustic guitars and ukes are more popular at the expense of electric guitars. Like a 2nd great folk scare, in some ways.

So now, many manufacturers are again competing with their older models, which are (IMHO) better and less expensive. AND, they have to compete with ebay, reverb.com, guitar shows, and you name it. Bob is right - there are a helluvalotta good guitars out there now.

And amps. Why the hell should anybody buy a new mass-production amp with jacks, pots, and even tubes directly connected to thin, wave-soldered PC-boards, with a "replace, not repair" warranty policy that guarantees that as soon as the warranty is over, you have an expensive paperweight if something significant goes wrong? When you can still buy a nice silverface Fender or an 80s Marshall JCM 800 for about a grand. Plenty of great boutique makers out there, for sure. But like most of the custom shop guitars, out of reach for most players, especially young players. IMO, younger players have an attitude about the prices - a lot of the younger guys I know resent the fact that really good newer and vintage guitars are so expensive.

Of course, there are cultural changes. But I strongly believe that the lack of really good price/quality guitar options had a strong effect on the interest of young musicians in electric guitar.

Personally, I'm fine to see guitars go back to more of a "cottage industry" basis. Musically, the underground was almost always more interesting than the mainstream, so I really don't care what the hell they play on the radio. I see lots of younger players playing real instruments and doing their thing.

OK, this is not good for the "big-boys" of the industry. Maybe it's time for a downsize. When demand falls, production must fall. Get back to basics, stop acting like megalithic corporations. The guitar biz got really spoiled in the ca. 1988-2007 period - everything went up and up and up, and then crashed when the economy crashed. IMO, the big boys have refused to accept the change in the landscape, but it's been about 10 years now.

And seriously - this amount of whining over "only" 1 Million guitars a year? Sorry, the sky is not falling. In business, adapt and stay agile, or die. IMHO.
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Len Amaral


From:
Rehoboth,MA 02769
Post Posted 23 Jun 2017 3:53 am     Reply with quote

Greg, thanks for posting the link. I can't cut and paste from my tablet.

You have to wonder how Guutar Center stays in businesses. I heard someone that owns a local music store that they hope Guutar Center stays in business because if they went under, the market would be flooded with tons of gear at bargain basement prices.
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Darrell Criswell


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 23 Jun 2017 5:03 am     Reply with quote

Fiddle in country music died with the British invasion around 1964. Before the British invasion it was a prominent feature in country music and as Eddie Stubbs documents afterwards there weren't any fiddle solos or lead ins in any top ten country song. Most country artists took the fiddle out of their bands except for a few like Faron Young who understood its value.
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Mark Hershey


From:
New York, USA
Post Posted 23 Jun 2017 7:40 am     Reply with quote

I hope the guitar market does crash. I've been playing since the early 90's and the prices of amps and guitars are outrageous at this point and sooner or later the bubble should burst. I've seen Les Pauls, Strats, Fender Amps, Marshall Amps, Rickenbackers and so on inflate to outrageous prices.

I bought a Vox Tear Drop a while back. It was an anniversary model, and last time I had checked it looked like some Japanese guitar shop was buying them up to drive the prices up and selling them for insane prices on Ebay. That stuff is just so dumb. I can remember a time not too long ago when I saw a lot of gear going for $800 - $900 less than what people are charging these days.
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Mark Hershey


From:
New York, USA
Post Posted 23 Jun 2017 7:51 am     Reply with quote

Dave Mudgett wrote:
Electric guitar, like any commodity, goes in cycles. I have witnessed at least 3 significant cycles like this in my lifetime. The first was after 'real' rock and roll essentially died in the early 60s. But it was a very young market, so it was more like a steadying out, but definitely not what it was. But Gibson stopped making its showstopper, the Les Paul, and replaced it with the SG because sales were declining. It's no accident that this was when the "great folk scare" was peaking, and Martin couldn't keep up with demand. Tastes change.

Then the Beatles hit and every young punk in the US (and many other places) had to have an electric guitar. And then things started sliding in the later 60s. Around 1967, Fender almost stopped making the Strat. It's a fickle business.

Into the 70s, disco, keyboards, horn bands, and early synths and dance mixes started cutting in. Still plenty of electric guitars, but the quality turned to crap into the early-mid 80s, and the prices skyrocketed. This is precisely the period that vintage guitars started to catch on, because "they truly weren't makin' 'em like they used to".

Then right around 1985, Fender got sold, Gibson got sold. Why? IMHO, which is shared by many, many in the industry, because CBS and Norlin got greedy and didn't have a clue about the pulse of real guitar players - it just wasn't working. Sorry, crappy guitars at skyrocketing prices is NOT a recipe for success. IMO, Martin never slid like that, but the general sense is that 70s Martins are not comparable to earlier production.

But the new owners (and Chris Martin IV took over Martin around this same time) started getting back to basics and their quality went up again. Vintage guitars were going crazy, but the new guitars were real competition. Even Gretsch ultimately started making electric guitars again after a period when they just stopped. These companies went back to basics, brought quality and prices back in line, and it was great through the 90s and early-mid 2000s. And the music followed - great instruments motivate great music.

But as always seems to happen, in the last 10 years, manufacturers kept on expecting everything - sales numbers, prices, profit margins - to go up ad infinitum. I also think the quality slid during this period too. Some import guitars are pretty good, but most are not up-to-snuff, IMO. Even a lof ot American guitars, although of pretty good quality, show a lot of automation and (again IMO) indifference. A lot of the custom shop stuff is very good, but out of the reach of all but the most affluent younger players (or any playres, for that matter).

And I don't think it's any accident that acoustic guitars and ukes are more popular at the expense of electric guitars. Like a 2nd great folk scare, in some ways.

So now, many manufacturers are again competing with their older models, which are (IMHO) better and less expensive. AND, they have to compete with ebay, reverb.com, guitar shows, and you name it. Bob is right - there are a helluvalotta good guitars out there now.

And amps. Why the hell should anybody buy a new mass-production amp with jacks, pots, and even tubes directly connected to thin, wave-soldered PC-boards, with a "replace, not repair" warranty policy that guarantees that as soon as the warranty is over, you have an expensive paperweight if something significant goes wrong? When you can still buy a nice silverface Fender or an 80s Marshall JCM 800 for about a grand. Plenty of great boutique makers out there, for sure. But like most of the custom shop guitars, out of reach for most players, especially young players. IMO, younger players have an attitude about the prices - a lot of the younger guys I know resent the fact that really good newer and vintage guitars are so expensive.

Of course, there are cultural changes. But I strongly believe that the lack of really good price/quality guitar options had a strong effect on the interest of young musicians in electric guitar.

Personally, I'm fine to see guitars go back to more of a "cottage industry" basis. Musically, the underground was almost always more interesting than the mainstream, so I really don't care what the hell they play on the radio. I see lots of younger players playing real instruments and doing their thing.

OK, this is not good for the "big-boys" of the industry. Maybe it's time for a downsize. When demand falls, production must fall. Get back to basics, stop acting like megalithic corporations. The guitar biz got really spoiled in the ca. 1988-2007 period - everything went up and up and up, and then crashed when the economy crashed. IMO, the big boys have refused to accept the change in the landscape, but it's been about 10 years now.

And seriously - this amount of whining over "only" 1 Million guitars a year? Sorry, the sky is not falling. In business, adapt and stay agile, or die. IMHO.


Strongly agree.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 23 Jun 2017 8:10 am     Reply with quote

The independent music stores that I know of (very few nowadays) have reduced their inventory of big name guitars in recent years: Fender, Gibson, PRS... or dropped them completely, or have been dropped by the guitar companies. They're stocking more mid range and low end gear now because those are the items than sell. Ukuleles, hand drums, guitar accessories, tuners, straps, books, picks, etc... those items sell constantly, every day, and there is a greater profit margin in those items. A busy music store can sell 8 to 10 ukuleles a week and make more profit at the end of the month than they would selling an occasional USA Strat or Martin D-28.
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Mark Hershey


From:
New York, USA
Post Posted 23 Jun 2017 9:16 am     Reply with quote

Doug Beaumier wrote:
The independent music stores that I know of (very few nowadays) have reduced their inventory of big name guitars in recent years: Fender, Gibson, PRS... or dropped them completely, or have been dropped by the guitar companies. They're stocking more mid range and low end gear now because those are the items than sell. Ukuleles, hand drums, guitar accessories, tuners, straps, books, picks, etc... those items sell constantly, every day, and there is a greater profit margin in those items. A busy music store can sell 8 to 10 ukuleles a week and make more profit at the end of the month than they would selling an occasional USA Strat or Martin D-28.


Good observation. I think a lot of the smaller indie stores pretty much can't stock the big brand guitars anymore to reduce the competition for Guitar Centers. Last time I was at Elderly Instruments they only had Fenders and some one told me they were carrying Gibson's below MSRP and that caused Gibson to pull out from Elderly.

At any rate I hope GC goes under and it causes a lot of the over inflated prices to drop.
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post Posted 23 Jun 2017 1:11 pm     Reply with quote

I wouldn't worry too much about guitar decline. There are too many gear heads out there that wanna be guitar heroes. I don't believe sales of new guitars are ever going to suffer much.

Brooks makes a good point as well.
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Andrew Roblin


From:
Various places
Post Posted 23 Jun 2017 7:40 pm     Reply with quote

I haven't read the article.

But most electric guitar and most rock music is boring.

If you want to hear great electric guitar, listen to the Johnny Smith "Roost" sessions from the 1950s. Great chord melodies, great single-line electric guitar.

Or listen to some Joe Pass.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post Posted 24 Jun 2017 12:21 pm     Reply with quote

Tastes change over time. See any mandolin orchestras these days? Hard to say if the guitar is on the descent or not but I tend to think it's ease of start-up will keep it alive. I know that when my 20-something nice gets together with friends they often pull out a uke and take turns singing a song; kind of like I imagine it might have been in the 1920s. The Guitar Center experience generally sucks but I'm still glad they exist.
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Last edited by Andy Volk on 25 Jun 2017 2:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Chris Templeton


From:
The Green Mountain State
Post Posted 24 Jun 2017 6:18 pm     Reply with quote

Great analysis, Dave.
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Joachim Kettner


From:
Germany
Post Posted 25 Jun 2017 8:07 am     Reply with quote

Andrew Roblin wrote:

But most electric guitar and most rock music is boring.


The best guitar players are not necessarily the guitar heros!
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Les Cargill


From:
Oklahoma City, Ok, USA
Post Posted 25 Jun 2017 10:09 am     Reply with quote

If you hang out on various Reddit groups related to home recording and music, the majority seem to be into EDM.

500-bus modules and modular synths seem to be the current obsession.

And according to the handful of people I know who have an understanding of hip-hop, they don't even play that in time any more.
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Les Cargill


From:
Oklahoma City, Ok, USA
Post Posted 25 Jun 2017 10:12 am     Reply with quote

The issue of corporate debt is the elephant in the room that nobody is talking about. Google "Guitar Center Bain".

One hit is this ( style & bias are pretty bad, but it's a primer ):

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/02/eric-garland-seven-lessons-from-how-private-equity-wrecked-guitar-center.html
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Mike Schwartzman


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 25 Jun 2017 12:52 pm     Reply with quote

Very interesting article and very cool analysis by Dave. I couldn't help but thinking about learning my first few guitar chords back in the 60's. It was a rented Stella acoustic (5 bucks a month) that had strings about a half inch above the fret board. I only had it about 2-3 months, but I managed to learn a few cowboy chords with very sore fingers and no lessons.
It occurred to me while reading this post that if I was learning the same chords today on any guitar...I would need to place both hands on the instrument and practice, which means I could not operate my cell phone and learn guitar at the same time...and I might miss something "Really Important"! I know...that's pretty cynical. But thankfully, there are younger folks who are willing and happy to put in the time and patience to learn. Just probably not as many as when I was a kid. Heck...a MIM Tele. or Strat to buy new is what...500-600? But there seems to be plenty around used for a lot less.
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