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Author Topic: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP  (Read 1373 times)

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Offline Stuart

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The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« on: June 28, 2017, 04:16:45 PM »
FWIW, this was in the latest Fretboard Journal e-blurb--Here's the leadin:

"Last week, the Washington Post penned one of the longer mainstream pieces on the guitar industry we've seen in recent memory, entited "The Slow Secret Death of the Electric Guitar" [link below]. It went pretty viral, at least on our social media feeds. The piece used Guitar Center, Fender and Gibson sales figures (and some choice commentary from George Gruhn) to paint a pretty bleak picture of the industry's future: Fewer new guitarists taking up the hobby, no new guitar heroes and too many guitars available. Yes, we've heard this story before (and heard it disputed before, too).

But the reality isn't that simple.

It didn't take too long for many retailers (including Carter Vintage and Gruhn himself) to remind their followers that they're having some of their best years yet in terms of sales. Gruhn's exact statement said, "the guitar market is under stress from over-saturation [new manufacturers], but that by no means is the market for guitars simply dying." We tend to agree: I've seen numerous high-end and vintage shops flourish because they're selling instruments customers actually want. In our own backyard, a little shop called Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar just moved out of their garage and into a nice new brick & mortar shop; another Seattle shop (Thunder Road) just announced they're opening a new branch in Portland. This doesn't seem like a death knell... We also continue to see great new small-production electric and acoustic guitar makers (not to mention pedal builders, who are their own little universe) flourish. I just returned from the Vancouver International Guitar Festival, where the aisles were packed with customers of all ages.

Though changes in radio and pop music may have killed off any notion of future guitar heroes, on our end we'll continue to celebrate young musicians (and builders) who we think could inspire the next generation of players (or you). That's why faces like Blake Mills (FJ #34 cover story), Joan Shelley (appearing in the new FJ #39) and Julian Lage (also in #39) show up in our magazine alongside all the elder statesmen...
 
 -Jason"

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Offline DerZauberer

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2017, 04:58:50 AM »
The article is worth a read and currently sparks many discussions in a couple of forums I follow.

I also find the following YouTube reply quite interesting:


"The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are." - Son House

Offline Chezztone

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2017, 06:59:32 PM »
The article is worth a read and currently sparks many discussions in a couple of forums I follow.

I also find the following YouTube reply quite interesting:

RIP. It was a fad that finally is going away.

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Offline alyoung

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2017, 08:38:59 PM »
I got 2m 34s into the young fella's reply and turned off -- at that point I had found no argument except the old Farcebook standby of "I don't agree with this, so it's wrong" (also known as "these facts don't match my opinion, so they're wrong")... plus a bit of "us young people are being ignored by those bad ol' baby-boomers" and an undertone of the Trumpian whine, "mainstream media is deliberately distorting this". Sad, sooo sad. Maybe he had valid points further along .... I'll never know. 
« Last Edit: July 02, 2017, 10:17:19 PM by alyoung »

Offline DerZauberer

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2017, 04:01:55 AM »
The fair points he makes are:
- People today have the internet, which gives price and product transparency as well als lessons
- Hence people are well informed, know what they want, know the products via reviews, etc.
- As a result, music store salesmen have less power to influence decisions
- Also, customers today see through model policies that were previously shrouded in mystery
His point is: It's not the electric guitar that's dying, it's old-fashioned music stores and old-fashioned brands that don't adapt their sales and marketing and product policies to the changed demand situation.

In simple terms: When I bought my Fender "American Standard" Stratocaster back in 1994, I did so because I wanted the best Strat I could get for the money I had, went to the source, reliable quality, the brand, Fender. If I were to look for a new strat today, I would go onto the forums, websites, internet shops, ... browse around, read reviews, etc ... and likely NOT end up with an original Fender. So while I do believe that Fender and Gibson sales are down, I would doubt that electric guitar sales are plummeting - people are just not buying the "legendary" brands for a "legendary" price, unless (!) the quality is also legendary.

In "our" world - well, Martins are still considered really good instruments, for example - for a reason. Not because of the brand name and its history, but because they simply continue to build really good guitars.
"The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are." - Son House

Offline alyoung

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2017, 07:02:24 AM »
Thank you for that, DerZauberer, and I hail your patience and endurance, which obviously far exceed mine. I went back to have another look at the Post article, and if it is read without the preconceptions that influence the video response, it seems perfectly reasonable. The core of Edger's thesis is that electric guitar sales are down -- and he gives facts and figures to support this. The rest of his piece looks for reasons and provides analysis. And it turns out he's not an uninformed party -- I found this follow-up. .... http://medium.com/thewashingtonpost/how-much-did-this-guitar-story-cost-me-2-376-99-8f938d06f087 

Offline Stuart

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2017, 11:08:04 AM »
While there are certainly elements of truth in the WP article, I thought that the Fretboard Journal lead in was more insightful. There are many co-factors at work here and given the number of people who play--and don't play--I doubt that anyone could do a comprehensive analysis that would yield conclusive results. It's impossible, IMHO. But FWIW, I found it an interesting read.


Offline Mike Billo

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2017, 11:08:25 AM »
 Guitars are not commodities like food, or, gas for your car, where you need a steady, ongoing supply, that you buy often

  I believe I can safely say that members of this forum own guitars that they've had for decades and aren't, necessarily, in the market for any new ones

If manufacturers over produced, beyond what the public had a need for, then of course it's going to result in decreased sales.
  But to attribute the over-saturation of the market, to a lack of guitar heroes, or interest in electric guitars,simply doesn't fly IMO
  Everywhere you look people are playing electric guitars.

When the Government bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, following a couple of years of bad sales, I didn't hear any one say "Well, there ya' have it. People don't drive cars any more. They're dyin' out"

Offline outfidel

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2017, 12:02:57 PM »
IMHO "death" of the electric guitar is an exaggeration, but the downward trend is real. The WP article says that new electric guitar sales have gone from 1.5 million down to 1 million per year -- that IS a big, industry-wide drop. Sure, the niche manufacturers and niche retailers can still satisfy niche market segments -- but on the whole, fewer people are buying electric guitars these days.

My guess is that it's all cyclical. These days, I don't hear a lot of electric guitar in the music that my teenage sons listen to, or the popular radio stations in the area, or the songs on the Billboard pop charts, or the music used in movie soundtracks, etc. A lot of it seems computer- and synth-generated.  Right now, electric guitars are in a down cycle because it's not in line with listeners' tastes. But I wouldn't declare them "dead". It's just a matter of time before it makes a comeback in the style of music that youngsters want to listen to, which will then produce a few guitar heroes, which will then drive up electric guitar sales again. Someday.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2017, 12:06:08 PM by outfidel »
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Offline Rivers

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2017, 04:51:35 PM »
I agree with some bits of what everyone has said. I would add another aspect, seasonality. A "season" in musical fads & fancies is longer than a week, or a month, or a year. The so-called new romantic movement of the late seventies saw the keyboard gain prominence, although the punks kept going with guitars.

I think you really have to separate solid body guitars from acoustics, they are each on their own seasonal path. As for me, I've got that itch to start a band again, "strictly for fun". I guess I will never learn. I have enough gear already though.

I read that article when it first hit due to some filters I've set up in Google news. The graphics were good!

Offline harriet

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2017, 05:18:32 PM »
I wonder if the statistics would change if they added in Ebay (over 30,000) and Reverb (81,399) resold electrics as of this writing - that's just the US statistics for Ebay.  Thats also competition with newly made products.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2017, 05:35:07 PM by harriet »

Offline Rivers

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2017, 06:53:45 PM »
Cooler people play older guitars, it is true. Or should that read older people play cooler guitars? Both are true.

You can get too snobby about it though. I recently played a friend's fantastically loud Taylor OOO cutaway with tone to burn. That was something I never thought I'd experience. Just winding-up the millennials, you understand! :) 
« Last Edit: July 05, 2017, 06:58:02 PM by Rivers »

Offline Johnm

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2017, 09:02:48 PM »
I don't think trends mean much to individuals.  That is to say, if you enjoy the sound and capabilities of an electric guitar, you're not going to steer away from the instrument because of a market-wide trend away from the instrument (unless you're a sheep).  It's like those moronic taste tests they used to have--who cares if more people prefer Pepsi if you prefer Coke?  Everything that happens results in statistics.  That doesn't mean that the resulting statistics are particularly significant.  In today's current Pop music scene, I would say a factor working against electric guitars is that you have to play and practice on them to develop some degree of expertise.  You can't just play them using a computer keyboard. . . yet.

Offline Stuart

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2017, 10:08:59 AM »
After reading the article I imagined that a lot of people walked into Guitar Center, Gruhn?s or some other music store and said, ?I really love music and love playing the guitar (or would love to learn to play the guitar), but I?m not going to buy a new electric guitar because there just aren?t any guitar heroes anymore.?  ;)

Offline Rivers

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2017, 07:53:03 PM »
"Guitar hero" is such a weird concept. I guess sax players have sax heroes, mountain dulcimer players have... etc

Another, more interesting, article might have been "why guitar? And, now, why digital?" Pretty simple answer. We know from history the guitar caught on in the States because of its portability versus the piano, and shipping to everywhere via the Sears Roebuck catalog was cheap.

In modern times the same phenomenon is at work, in my opinion. Buy the base hardware & software and you can download all the patches and effects you want from anywhere on earth in seconds. Or half an hour if your internet connection is particularly rural like mine. Doesn't make it right though!

Proud to be a dinosaur, personally!

Offline harriet

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2017, 05:23:12 AM »
Proud to be a dinosaur as well! - IMHO difference between an electric guitar and digital one is like the difference between a gas and electric stove where you heat up in predefined programmed increments - hate to think of electric guitars being phased out...

Harriet

Offline alyoung

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #16 on: July 07, 2017, 07:05:38 AM »
Guitar heroes ... Blind Blake, Charley Patton, Lonnie Johnson, Gary Davis, Willie Walker, Tampa Red, Booker White (OK, maybe not to everyone, but to me....), Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson,  ... fill in the rest yourself. It ain't so strange, Mark. (Oh, BTW, excellent candidate for mountain dulcimer hero: Karen Mueller.)

Offline Stuart

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2017, 10:45:09 AM »
I hear you Al, but what I think the article was driving at was the lack of high profile guitarists who would cause a young person starting out to say to himself (I'll guess that the majority are younger males) "I want to be and play like so-and-so" and then buy a new Gibson or Fender electric. There may be an element of truth in it--after all, that's probably the main motivation for some people--, but I think that it is overly simplistic. It's a world of individuals and not everyone is the same. People do--and don't do--things for a wide variety of reasons and motivations.


Offline eric

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2017, 11:05:25 AM »
The guy in the video lost me when he said "people are so much smarter these days..." to which I respond: Facts not in evidence, Your Honor.  Also, I have done my best to avoid popular trends since about 1972, which is probably why I'm here.   ;D
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Offline Stuart

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #19 on: July 07, 2017, 12:19:38 PM »
That's great, Eric. Good for you. When someone points out some problem or shortcoming with what passes as modern, mainstream culture, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say, "Yeah, and I've been reacting against it since the late 60's (or whenever)."

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #20 on: July 07, 2017, 06:16:00 PM »
I know for a fact that the electric guitar is becoming extinct because I just bought my first one. Of course I bought it for my son who had started singing songs of a particular band he Likes (PigPen Theatre), and I thought "aha! Now he'll want to learn to play to accompany his singing. Nice voice he has too. Well it didn't quite work out that way and after remaining untouched in his closet for six months I repossessed it. It being a Black and pearl-oid pick guard Fender Sonorian, acoustic electric jobby.
My teaching job being shaky these days I'm preparing for old age busking and just bought a little Cube battery powered Amp as well. Maybe this will be the trend to float electric guitars into the next millennium.
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Offline Rivers

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #21 on: July 08, 2017, 05:29:06 PM »
Guitar heroes ... Blind Blake, Charley Patton, Lonnie Johnson, Gary Davis, Willie Walker, Tampa Red, Booker White (OK, maybe not to everyone, but to me....), Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson,  ... fill in the rest yourself. It ain't so strange, Mark. (Oh, BTW, excellent candidate for mountain dulcimer hero: Karen Mueller.)

Right Alan, good point, taken. We have so many guitar heroes, both simultaneously and also swapping them out as we hear something new from an artist we hadn't listened to for a while. It tends to have a smoothing effect on the hero worship. There was so much good stuff being played back before our parents were even born. Around here on this forum it's exceptionally rare for anyone participating to have an abiding fixation on one single player. After about 15 posts anyway.

Everyone coming up today has to find their own way back to it. I think they will, and for many generations into the future. If it's truly great it will always be inspirational and aspirational.

Stuart, yep. The fact that there is no Beatles, Buddy Holly or other superstar playing out today hurts sales. But Fender & Gibson sales graphs have nothing to do with music at an artistic, personal creativity level, obviously. Sales are an indicator and remain a transient, present day problem. Music isn't going anywhere, there are still billions of guitars in the world.

The article confuses sales trends with music, for whatever reason. Maybe a cry for help! Nobody influenced Buddy to play a Strat, or Lennon to play a Rickenbacker(!), or Hubert Sumlin to play an Eko (even more bizarre), and so on.

The article is totally on the wrong tack in my opinion. All it proves without a doubt is that Gibson and Fender need to find new ways to sell electric guitars. Good luck with that, I'd hate to be the senior VP in charge of sales strategy. Customer demand is not under the control of the companies, unless they can come up with something good enough to create its own demand.

So I think they should get right back to basics. A really good strat, a really good telecaster, for a really good price. I'm not really into Gibson electrics the way I play so have no suggestions there. If they favor instrument quality over availability; and people have to wait for it, that's good, the law of supply and demand. The way companies are structured though, where demand planning is based on sales growth, would require some major rethinking. The article does a good job of highlighting that times have changed. When do they ever not?
« Last Edit: July 08, 2017, 06:15:18 PM by Rivers »

Offline Stuart

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #22 on: July 08, 2017, 07:30:51 PM »
The wise-ass comment, "Statistics: How to be confused by numbers," also came to mind when reading the article.

But I'd like to see some detailed year-by-year stats going way back. Maybe that would tell us something. --But maybe not. I haven't paid much attention to Fender and Gibson electrics for several decades, other than the occasional news item that catches my eye.

Perhaps more people thinking of buying a Fender, Gibson or other electric are looking to the used market. People who bought one and don't stick with it can easily list it for sale. But what do I know?

I remember people in the business saying that Woodstock created a bump in the music world. I don't know if there's been anything that has equaled it since, though.

Offline Rivers

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #23 on: July 09, 2017, 12:14:46 AM »
If my memory serves me well the real boost was in R&B clubs across the UK and Europe in the mid Sixties. Chuck Berry would be the huge exception. But that was just my local scene. We've just spent a few hours here watching German TV's Beat Club videos, all live. Amazing stuff. If that level of energy and talent was happening today nobody would be talking about the death of the electric guitar.

I guess my point is that real music is out there for the kids with the taste, guts and energy to push it out into the world, it's just a matter of time before someone figures it out. Nature hates a vacuum after all. Guitar sales will follow. You can't create music by marketing instruments, it's exactly the other way around. The article is all about "why won't people buy my guitars, boo hoo". Sorry, that's not how it works, Mr Fender-Gibson. They need to pull their horns in, exercise patience and buckle down for the next upturn. Whining about it on WAPO is counterproductive and just prolongs the agony.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2017, 12:21:55 AM by Rivers »

Offline harriet

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #24 on: July 09, 2017, 04:16:48 PM »
Just remarking on Stuart's thought as to the used market - IMHO the used electrics and amps from bygone eras are of interest to players for tone and purist reasons same as buying a vintage acoustic - especially those played by their "guitar gods" whether they be rock or bluesmen like Elmore James, Robert Nighthawk, Junior Kimbrough.  Myself I have tried alot of modern electrics in stores around New York and went with a beat up one with a dearmond pickup. I think I mentioned earlier there are about 80,000 in Ebay and Reverb in the USA alone being recycled.  Be interesting to know the sales there.

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #25 on: July 10, 2017, 10:29:36 AM »
 Upon a second reading of the Washington Post article, I realize that they're relying on sales figures from Guitar Center, Gibson and Fender

  I wouldn't be at all surprised  if sales figures from the many, less expensive, Asian manufacturers and the online retailers that sold them (Musicans Friend, Amazon et al ), told a *very* different story

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #26 on: July 10, 2017, 07:01:29 PM »
There's the crux of the issue. Gibson & Fender are TOO BLEEPING EXPENSIVE and not better enough, if at all, than their much cheaper Asian competitors. Add to that the thriving second hand market and the dominating interest in electronically produced music, a-melodic "music", Lyric  & Beat heavy Raps without much singable and therefore Guitar accompaniable melodies (Guitar not needed) and you get a sales drop. Also this is happening at the same time that there is a major rise in interest in acoustically played music, and I'll bet sales of acoustic instruments are rising.
I'd also like to know how much the respective heads of Gibson and Fender pull in relative to what their workers make. Think there's some wiggle room at the top for price cuts? I'll bet so.
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Offline Mike Billo

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Re: The slow, secret death of the electric guitar... - From WP
« Reply #27 on: July 10, 2017, 07:21:57 PM »
 Right you are, O'Muck

Musicians Friend sells a new Gibson Les Paul for $3,100!
A perfectly good, Epiphone version ( I, personally, love Epiphones), from Sweetwater is $299

90% less!

  I think this is a far more likely explanation of Gibson's reduced profits, than a shortage of "guitar heroes"

 

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