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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 12:07 am 
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Anyone seen or read this article from a Washington Post writer about the supposed death of the electric guitar? I linked to the Houston Chronicle because the WaPo link kept trying to get me to subscribe.... Be forewarned, it's a long article - and it's just one person's opinion. Relevancy to the OLF? That's for you to decide. The only reason I mention it here is several people have sent me links to it, and they wanted my opinion on the subject.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/enterta ... 239682.php

I finally responded to those who sent me the links, but my response to them was nearly as long as the article - so I'll just give you the conclusion, OK?

"The guitar business has waxed and waned like the tides, mostly due to the vagaries of popular culture. In the 80's they complained about video games and keyboards taking away guitar sales. In the 90's home computers and rap music took the hit. Now it's something else killing the market.... according to those in the know.

Back when I had my shop in the music store, I was discussing the freshest copy of Musical Merchandise Review with store management, and the magazine had totaled up the latest money figures from the music industry for the year. It was an impressive amount of bread, no doubt. One of my clients who managed a nearby Target was in the office listening, and he popped out to his car and brought back this 6 inch thick printout of Target's sales figures. He flipped through a couple pages, and found an interesting amount. In the same year - Target sales of M&M/Mars Candy exceeded the ENTIRE year of the music industry that year. Does that give us any perspective? In the long run - does what we do financially count for anything? I say no."

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:04 am 
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That article is quite depressing. There are still some, what night be considered, guitar heroes in popular music, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley come to mind. (I suspect that Joe Bonamassa appeals to the older crowd, but I could be wrong.) But, it does seem that pop music has departed from guitar-based music. Now its all about autotune and what I call "slutty aerobics class". Playing any musical instrument, including guitar, requires dedication and unless there is real passion for it or, as it seems in many cases, a desire to impress girls, its more (quickly) rewarding for many to learn to play video games instead. I have noticed that (it seems) more guitars have showed up on TV lately. If a new exciting act shows up that feature guitars, perhaps things could start trending the other way...

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:13 am 
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That article is quite depressing.

Only if you believe the author knows WTH they are talking about. I give short shrift to him.

Quote:
a new exciting act shows up that feature guitars, perhaps things could start trending the other way


Thus my comment about the vagaries of popular culture.

The facts are this: About 10% of the population plays a musical instrument. About 3% play guitar. Our little segment of the financial world is just a drop in the bucket in the overall scheme of things.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:44 am 
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The article was light on empirical data so I thought that I would offer some for my own geographic location. This is gleaned from our web site and Google Analytics and shows the age group of people who hit our web site. Mind you we are not retailers and we ONLY repair instruments but this is a snap shot of who's willing to invest in upgrading or repairing an existing guitar.

55-64 34%
45-54 17%
35-44 15%
25-34 14%
18-24 11%
65+ 9%

NOTE: It's summer in Ann Arbor so the students (50,000) are mostly gone but they have never been much of our market..... Also worth noting this is an unusually musical town not unlike Austin Texas and others where music is big.

It should also be mentioned that A2 has one of the hottest economies in the midwestern US and it's growing quickly becoming hopefully the world leader in autonomous vehicle development (you know self-driving cars like Henry's stinkin G*bson robo tuners...).

What does disturb me though and again it's summer in Michigan and the Universities are not in full session is that folks up to 34 years old, perhaps half the market age wise only represent 25% of our sales. Folks 35 - dead... represent 65% of our market.... Not good.

But... on the other hand younger folks are less established, have less disposable income, again are on summer vacation and IIRC may be.... just may be chasing something else until they settle down. I seem to remember something about that....

Anyway I would not be overly concerned but I also would not be signing notes or borrowing money to expand a music store or Lutherie business. If I have one piece of advice for those considering a Lutherie business do it with incremental growth, don't take on debt the numbers are not indicating growth.....

Although it's way too early to be concerned with this money can be made in declining markets and it's done all the time. The trick is staying lean and mean, responsive, keeping overhead minimal, and most of all..... providing really top shelf value.

Lastly this is nothing new. Guitar sales have been declining for a while and there has been a glut of guitar makers in the market for at least a decade. We will see a thinning as we do and so too in my business some repair folks won't be able to meet commitments and will have to get a real job.

I'm 60 and not personally worried. My plan is to keep fixing guitars until I can't see or smell too bad for Dave to have me around. Ten years should do nicely....;)


Last edited by Hesh on Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:29 am, edited 2 times in total.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:22 am 
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Chris, thanks for the link, interesting article. Trends come and go and come back again. Guitar lovers are getting older, but the kids will come around, I'm sure of it.



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 12:26 pm 
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This is about ALL guitars, not just electric IMO...
I started building in the middle 70's, sold a few guitars and had to quit due to financial reasons. Started up again in the early '90's (a musician told me he thought I could make it as disco was dead). I had a pretty good run till GWB and saw the writing on the wall around 2003. Switched to building both mandolins and guitars, but could see it all sliding to the (need I say it?) wealthy.
Everything has just slid and slid, middle class is gone, and so is our blessed Podium premium guitar store, a Mpls fixture since the late '60's or early '70's. They closed in April or May. I talked to the owner and he and the repairperson there said no high end instruments were selling anymore, and there were just too many dang builders out there these days. He said they couldn't keep the store open on the "cheap foreign guitar" sales and no one was buying 5-10K instruments. On a side note, Hxxxxxx Guitars is also closing next month. Of course, I am done also and trying to figure out how to finish 3 guitars, why I should, and where to sell my "collection". Jim (owner of The Podium) told me that I probably got out at just the right time. Said what Hesh said, and that young folks would rather download tunes than learn how to play an instrument. Too much work.
In the '90's, folks still had enough $$ to buy an expensive instrument, but those days are DEAD. Regular folks today might have just enough to pay the rent, insurance and fill the tank plus get some beans and franks for the month.
I am 70 now and frankly, just don't care anymore...

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 1:25 pm 
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I saw this article over on a Jazz Gutiar forum (where I spend way too much time). It's interesting to see the different takes. There was a lot of blaming over there, more resignation here. Now, for those unfamiliar with that forum you should know that their unofficial moto is, "you kids get off my lawn!!!"

There, the consensus seemed to be that the problem was Millennials are all a bunch of weak minded, weak willed, unfocussed, pathetic drains on society that lacked the moral fiber of such baby boom paragons of discipline as Keith Richards, Jimmy Hendrix, and Jerry Garcia. If only the kids would stop listening to their Hippity-Hoppity music all would be well.

That provoked a rather untempered response on my part, which I won't repeat here. Suffice it to say that I find it frustrating that these articles confuse the survival of the actual instrument to the survival of the Mega Guitar Factories and their megalomaniacal CEO's. As far as the instrument is concerned, the Millennial Generation (which is not me) have created a new golden age of bluegrass, have inspired a revival of gypsy jazz in Europe, include such amazing jazz guitarist as Julian Lage and Pasquale Grasso, and number Ana Vidovic in classical guitar.

The guitar may not be the cultural icon that it was for the Baby Boom generation. The days of serious "air guitar" competitions may have passed. But there is little evidence that the Millennial generation is disinterested in serious musicianship or haven't the patience to play an instrument. It used to be you didn't have a serious home without a piano in it, regardless of whether anyone played. Piano as a cultural icon diminished, and giant piano stores died. That doesn't mean no one plays piano anymore.

For the Baby Boom generation it was you couldn't get laid if you didn't have a guitar in the corner of your bedroom, even if all you could play was the riff from "Smoke on the Water". To suggest that guitars aren't selling in the numbers they used to because of a general lack of musical discipline strikes me as completely off the mark. Literally millions of guitars were sold to people who never played, had no musical discipline, and saw no use for the guitar except as a fashion accessory. If that is passing, it only means that Guitar Center and the mega factories in Quing Dao have seen their day. Henry J. may have to retire and no longer rail at the unfairness that he may not make the million dollars a month he is used to while he shelved the lives of dozens of American craftsmen.

I hope the days of disposable guitars are numbered. God willing I will live long enough to build true artisanal instruments to the up and coming musicians from the Millennial Generation who actually will play the instrument.



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 25, 2017 10:58 am 
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I blame cheap ukes.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2017 9:31 am 
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I do know in my lifetime the electric guitar was invented and in about 6 decades players reached a level of simply "amazing".

I don't know if the "new has wore off" or there are factors such as the lack of interest in "guitar gods"...it does seem like those selling guitars are concerned about it though.

I think there will always be those that simply love to play guitar and that may obviously be a very low percentage. Low enough to concern guitar dealers it seems.



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2017 7:31 pm 
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I've been arguing that the market for high-end instruments has been dying a slow but steady death over the last 10+ years. One only has to look at the number of members of this forum to understand why. There are so many people who love both the guitar and woodworking, and when they see resources like this forum and others that willingly share the ins and outs of building instruments, they come to the same conclusion that many of us did - that it's not all that hard to do when you have the right skills, tools, and desire. Add to that fact that there is a huge glut of hand-made instruments on the market because many collectors get bored with their instruments after awhile and unload them on the market. Decades worth of high end instruments out there to be bought at often much lower than their original selling prices. There are of course exceptions to that rule, but in general... there is just too much competition and too many instruments readily available to the dwindling number of collectors. Let's face it. Most of the players out there can't afford these instruments, so they buy the inexpensive stuff, unless they've really made it big in their profession. Then they don't have to buy guitars as there are thousands of folks willing to give them one of their creations...

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 11:23 am 
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This is a depressing topic, and applies to many industries/issues besides luthiery.

Unfortunately, I share Haans' point of view - since 2008 (earlier of course, but that was a watershed) I think there's been seen a significant decrease in disposable income. (anecdotal evidence, but I have been a financial advisor for the past couple of years, so I've talked to a lot of folks about their financial situation.) Many families are simply struggling to make ends meet - not a lot of disposable income out there.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:55 pm 
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rlrhett wrote:
I saw this article over on a Jazz Gutiar forum (where I spend way too much time). It's interesting to see the different takes. There was a lot of blaming over there, more resignation here. Now, for those unfamiliar with that forum you should know that their unofficial moto is, "you kids get off my lawn!!!"

There, the consensus seemed to be that the problem was Millennials are all a bunch of weak minded, weak willed, unfocussed, pathetic drains on society that lacked the moral fiber of such baby boom paragons of discipline as Keith Richards, Jimmy Hendrix, and Jerry Garcia. If only the kids would stop listening to their Hippity-Hoppity music all would be well.

That provoked a rather untempered response on my part, which I won't repeat here. Suffice it to say that I find it frustrating that these articles confuse the survival of the actual instrument to the survival of the Mega Guitar Factories and their megalomaniacal CEO's. As far as the instrument is concerned, the Millennial Generation (which is not me) have created a new golden age of bluegrass, have inspired a revival of gypsy jazz in Europe, include such amazing jazz guitarist as Julian Lage and Pasquale Grasso, and number Ana Vidovic in classical guitar.

The guitar may not be the cultural icon that it was for the Baby Boom generation. The days of serious "air guitar" competitions may have passed. But there is little evidence that the Millennial generation is disinterested in serious musicianship or haven't the patience to play an instrument. It used to be you didn't have a serious home without a piano in it, regardless of whether anyone played. Piano as a cultural icon diminished, and giant piano stores died. That doesn't mean no one plays piano anymore.

For the Baby Boom generation it was you couldn't get laid if you didn't have a guitar in the corner of your bedroom, even if all you could play was the riff from "Smoke on the Water". To suggest that guitars aren't selling in the numbers they used to because of a general lack of musical discipline strikes me as completely off the mark. Literally millions of guitars were sold to people who never played, had no musical discipline, and saw no use for the guitar except as a fashion accessory. If that is passing, it only means that Guitar Center and the mega factories in Quing Dao have seen their day. Henry J. may have to retire and no longer rail at the unfairness that he may not make the million dollars a month he is used to while he shelved the lives of dozens of American craftsmen.

I hope the days of disposable guitars are numbered. God willing I will live long enough to build true artisanal instruments to the up and coming musicians from the Millennial Generation who actually will play the instrument.


I think you're absolutely right, thanks for chiming in. Growing up there was always a guitar or piano/organ in someone's house that no one was playing, that's how I got mine, that's how everyone did, I think. It took me years for my parents to buy me a decent one. As a computer guy who does occasional house calls I still see guitars, drums etc. lying around. It'll come back. I think the key is live music. That worries me more...the live venue, but others have confirmed that it's alive and well, perhaps only in pockets.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:12 pm 
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Go to any town in America that has a population of 100,000 or so. They have small time bar venues where live music is played. Guitars are always front and center. This skill will always be appreciated. Maybe ebb and flow. People thought CDs would be the end of live performance concerts. Wrong. Keep building.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 8:01 pm 
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I don't have any stats to back this up but it seems people of my generation (I'm 26) are very interested in the guitar. Especially in the metal/progressive scene and on the other end the folksy singer/songwriter scene. Is it the pop music of today? Not so much but you won't find a single 16-30 year old girl who doesn't know (and have a massive love affair) with Hozier. Ten minutes on YouTube and you'll find hundreds of killer metal guitarists with hundreds of thousands of subscribers doing things that 20 years ago were not even thought possible. Even check out legitimately popular bands like Scale the Summit, Periphery, and Animals as Leaders for some insane technical skill from sub 30 year olds or check out The Sword or All them Witches if more classic psychedelic stoner rock is your thing, or even in pop with Hozier or St. Vincent. The guitar (and bass for guys like me) is alive and well amongst the youth.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:52 am 
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Yeah I sure am glad to hear that the things are not dead yet or I will be spending my day today working in zombies.....;)


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:34 am 
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Thanks for all the replies, guys. As I pointed out in my first post, I don't agree with the writers assessment. In fact, he's full of poop. They say write what you know, and when you don't know anything.....

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:13 am 
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I know this is something of an older thread, but I thought I'd post this anyway. I've seen a similar article on a different forum, and there were a number of very interesting perspectives there, too.

Just a few thoughts, in no order of importance:

-There will always be someone, addicted to horror, that claims the sky is falling.

-There are ebbs and flows throughout history. So what if the electric guitar "dies" and the acoustic guitar takes over? Are we so stuck on one tree that we miss the forest- ie that music is alive and well, and that people like Tommy Emmanuel are inspiring countless young acoustic guitar players?

-Part of the market share of the over-priced guitars being lamented is being taken up by DIYers, people building or modifying/customizing their own guitars. This is very cool, as it is both an art form in itself, and a potential wake-up call to the bloated manufacturers.

-I am deeply interested in many types of instruments, but the guitar is the main one. However, I have not been able to get my sons into the guitar as I might have liked, even though I built a short-scale classical guitar for my older son when he was small. They both wanted violins. No problem. I bought violins, big enough to grow into for a while. They've taken to it like they took to riding bikes, even learning new songs on their own. By the way, the boys are 8 and 6.

-I'll be more concerned when Music dies. I'll have to hear it from a more credible source than this article, though.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 9:27 pm 
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You know - we lost about a generation to the recession.... Young folks graduating highschool/college in 2008-2016 got the rug pulled out from under them ... And they are just starting to "launch" now.... Everybody else lost 10 years worth of raises (assuming they didn't end up out of a job)....

Medical costs and the extent of government digging its way into your pockets have skyrocketed to unconscionable levels....

All that took a heavy toll on the industry.... But its not the end of the world. There is currently 1,000x more demand for hand made luthier instruments than in 1980.... People want quality...

And the good news appears to be - the economy is stabilizing... Jobs are being added... Wages are starting to tick up.. Thats all good news...


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:55 pm 
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Yea and choco rations are up! [:Y:]

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:29 pm 
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http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/09/07/the-guitar-is-dead-dont-tell-these-bay-area-jazz-cats/


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:57 am 
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Maybe guitar makers should implement a bastardized version of the gubmints "Cash for clunkers" program... Trade in your POS guitar on a new one, and periodically we'll hold bonfires to burn the old junk guitars. Or rent an industrial wood chipper so the last noise the crap guitars make is the best one they'll ever make?

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:46 pm 
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I belong to several electric forums.
The electric guitar ain't dead, it just moved from GC to independent builders.
There must be thousands of builders (and players) across the globe.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 6:12 am 
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I just picked up a new Fender Super-Sonic for my dead Strat....... ;)


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